#1 - Restaurants in the city center (District 5), especially the pricier establishments, are mainly frequented by tourists and expats. You will find more locals and lower prices in Districts 7, 8, 9, and 13.
#2 - In Hungary, it's customary to eat breakfast at home, but this tradition is changing with a rising number of tourists and foreign students. These days, you easily track down an eggs Benedict, both in casual cafés and trendier restaurants. For brunch, try these places.
#3 - Except for fine dining restaurants, most places in Budapest don't employ hosts to greet and seat people, meaning that you're free to choose a table. At the same time, it’s nearly impossible to find open tables for walk-ins at peak hours in the hottest restaurants, so try booking in advance.
#4 - A wallet-friendly prix fixe lunch is available in many restaurants on weekdays, usually ranging between €5-7. Before choosing à la carte, it's worth inquiring about a set meal.
#5 - Free water and free refills are largely unknown concepts in Budapest and greater Hungary—you should specifically ask your server for tap water (to which they may react with mild annoyance), otherwise they will serve and charge you for bottled water.
#6 - In Hungary, people usually eat dinner between 7 and 9 p.m., and it's the biggest meal of the day. For the best experience, try booking a table for 8 p.m. Most fine dining restaurants turn only one table an evening, meaning that should be able to score an 8 p.m. reservation.
#7 - Many Budapest restaurants are closed on Sundays, sometimes even for the whole weekend, so be sure to double-check the opening hours before you trek across town. Fine dining restaurants are usually closed on Sundays and Mondays.
#8 - In Budapest's ever-more-international restaurants, étkezdes are some of the last bastions of local dining. These no-frills, lunch-only eateries—similar to osterias in Italy—serve low-priced everyday dishes to local residents. Note that étkezdes are closed on weekends.
#9 - You're best off avoiding the dime-a-dozen restaurants in downtown advertising their tourist menus, goulash soup, and paprika-laced dishes. Go for these traditional Hungarian restaurants instead.
#10 - Unlike in Western Europe and the US, very few long-standing, century-old restaurants or cafés exist in Budapest. Due to the Holocaust and the ensuing communism, most restaurants ceased to exist or were nationalized by the state. Today, some of the oldest dining or drinking establishments include Café Gerbeaud, Bambi, and Ibolya.
#11 - For historical reasons, Budapest has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe, meaning that excellent Chinese food abounds. The best Chinese restaurants are in Chinatown (Monori Center), on the outskirts of the city.
#12 - Most of Budapest's fine dining restaurants specialize in contemporary French fare, with nods to Hungarian classics and zeitgeisty trends like Scandinavian and Asian techniques. Foie gras, sturgeon, mangalica pork, and vegetable purées are likely to appear in some form on their menus.
#13 - The celebrity chef culture hasn’t taken off yet in Budapest. Few locals would be able to name the chefs of the city’s best restaurants, and most chefs don't have a massive social media presence.
#14 - Main dishes in Budapest's restaurants usually range from €7-15. You can find both meaningfully cheaper and pricier alternatives. Tasting menu price points at fine dining restaurants start from €55 and go up to €140 per person, not including tip and wine pairing.
#15 - Despite being part of the EU, Hungary hasn't yet switched to the euro currency, instead still using the Hungarian forint. Given the weakness of the forint, most prices run into the thousands, ten thousands, so be sure to double-check the zeros on your bill before paying.
#16 - As for tipping, 10 percent is the standard and expected in Hungarian restaurants and bars, with up to 20 for exceptional service. Lately some places have begun to add an automatic service charge to the bill (10-15 percent), and your server may or may not draw your attention to that.
#17 - Some cafés, restaurants, and bars are still cash-only establishments, so it’s generally a good idea to carry money with you.
#18 - Thanks to the late Hungarian businessman with Hollywood connections, Andy Vajna, Budapest boasts the only NOBU in Central Europe, the world's fanicest chain restaurant co-owned by Robert De Niro.
#19 - Mentally prepare yourself for brusque service in Budapest. Waitstaff with an attitude is a general Eastern European phenomenon, and while things have improved a lot, this is still an issue in Hungary (and due to a shortage of waiters, it's unlikely to change).
#20 - Uncomfortable and undersized chairs and tables are too common in Budapest restaurants and cafés. Otherwise excellent places often reduce their furnishing choices to flimsy tables and folding chairs, thereby detracting from the dining experience. Notable offenders include Al Dente, Csendes Társ, Szimply, and Fekete.
#21 - We all know how rewarding a late-night meal can be, be it after a long shift in the office or a night of debauchery. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find places in Budapest that serve quality hot food past 10 p.m. Almost no sit-down restaurants cater to night-owls, and even the street food options are few and far between.
#22 - Smoking has been banned since 2012 in all public and commercial indoor spaces in Hungary, including restaurants and bars.
#23 - Finally, let me kindly ask that you don't double-book to multiple restaurants without canceling in advance. Unfortunately, this is a common practice, and people don't always realize how badly it hurts a restaurant's bottom line when a table is kept open during peak business hours.
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