The favorite Budapest spots of a cultural maverick

Photo: István Huszti

Balázs Pándi wears many hats: he’s a world-touring jazz drummer, a noted journalist, a skilled chef, and a record collector. Many people locally know him as the colorful fixture of Budapest’s nightlife, with a seemingly endless inventory of witty anecdotes. You can catch Balázs every Tuesday evening at Központ bar, where he spins selections from his precious vinyl collection, and by following him on Instagram or Facebook.

Which neighborhood do you like to hang out in?

I enjoy the 5th district, where I have lived for the past three years. From my apartment, I can walk over to the Buda side and grab a snack or a drink at the many bars at Bartók Béla Avenue, or walk up to the Gellért Hill for a spectacular view over the city. If I stay on the Pest side, the street I live in, Veres Pálné, has many options for coffee and brunch, but the Great Market Hall is where I head mostly as I enjoy cooking my own food.

Where do you usually go for coffee or a drink?

I usually like to make my own coffee, but when not, I often visit Double Shot, which is literally down the stairs from my apartment. But as said, Veres Pálné Street likely has the most coffee spots per square meter in Budapest.

Is there a lowkey restaurant you like to drop in for a quick meal?

Grinzingi is most likely the place I go to. It’s close, low budget, the food is greasy enough to absorb even the Death Star, and they have all the classic Hungarian pub foods. Recommended though only if you take nostalgia and authenticity over quality. For quality, I'd recommend Róma Ételbár on the Buda side, where the pork loin bone soup (orjaleves) is by far the best I’ve had.

How about for a sitdown dinner? 

Biang is most likely the best place to go to in my hood. Their homemade noodles remind me of my better Asian meals in the U.S., and you have the option of a full feast. Or, if you are on a budget, you can just grab a serving of noodles that will get you through most of the day. Also, a bit of a hike from where I live, but Butchers Kitchen, located within the craft beer bar Élesztő, is an excellent choice. Their pork shank is from another galaxy.

Favorite architecture in the city?

Probably the former Danubius Hotel (Körszálló) building on the Buda side. Mainly because as a kid, when we used to go hiking with my mom and older brother, we would always pass the building so it's connected to my first memories. Because of the pandemic, it doesn’t operate as a hotel anymore, before anyone is wondering why it's impossible to make a reservation.

Favorite museum or art gallery?

The Hungarian National Gallery in the Castle District is mainly the place I go to as their collection has the best Hungarian art can offer. For the most interesting of the current artists, I'd recommend checking out the roster of Galeria Neon or Erika Deak Galeria

Where do you go to listen to jazz in Budapest? 

My taste in jazz is pretty specific and narrow I would say, so I’d rather recommend my weekly Tuesday nights at Központ bar, where I spin jazz from vinyl from 8 pm to midnight. Always happy to chat about music and happy to help with further directions.

Where can people see you perform?

At Központ for sure, but I also spin or play live music regularly at other places. The best is to hit me up on the known social media platforms, where I post about my activities quite frequently.