If you’re looking to dip your toe into the varied cuisine of Georgia in Budapest, Aragvi, named after a Georgian river, is a good place to start. Due to its geographic location, Georgian cuisine reflects Persian, Turkish, and Levantine influences, so brace yourself for a sea of herbs (parsley, coriander, tarragon, dill, mint), vegetables (eggplants, spinach, beets), walnut paste, and pomegranate seeds. .
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a lively, deeply local, communist-era neighborhood bar that doubles as a breakfast joint, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó in Buda. What makes Bambi the real deal? It isn’t trying to show off an artificial (retro), unremembered past—it’s a genuine throwback..
Belvárosi Disznótoros is a wallet-friendly lunch destination for downtown office workers in Budapest. This self-service eatery with tall tables and standing counters offers a dizzying array of fully-prepared and to-be-prepared traditional Hungarian meat dishes. Think blood sausage, wild boar stew, chicken cutlets, and grilled pork chops, paired with pickled and marinated vegetables. "A field of dreams, a landscape of braised, and fried, and cured delights," said the late Anthony Bourdain of Belvárosi Disznótoros after his visit in 2015..
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end restaurant in Budapest's downtown, serving pan-European fine dining dishes and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, applies inventive techniques to locally-sourced ingredients and puts out colorful, almost artistically visual plates. .
If you're serious about your drinks, head over to Boutiq Bar. This upscale cocktail bar, which opened in 2008 and is hiding on a quiet side street near the city center, pioneered Budapest's craft cocktail movement under the helm of energetic owner Zoltán Nagy. With maroon-colored walls and dim lighting, speakeasy vibes fill this two-story drinking den. The skilled bartenders, each of whom go through a rigorous training process before being permitted behind the bar, serve the drinks with a laser-like focus and a bit of theatrics.
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants. Like Hanna, the other meat restaurant around the corner, it gets liveliest during Shabbat, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, each of which costs €25 per person..
Espresso Embassy is a paradise on earth for specialty coffee fans in Budapest. This lively, downtown café inside the city's financial district makes hand pour-overs with a Hario V60, espresso-based drinks with a fancy Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from organic ingredients you've likely never heard of. .
After training at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young, local chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, ventured out on their own, opening Fricska restaurant in 2014. Since then, Fricska has earned a reputation for serving tasty modern Hungarian dishes, and it also won a Bib Gourmand award. The restaurant is on the far end of the party district, inside a below-ground space that manages to be cozy despite the lack of natural light..
HILDA is a chic downtown restaurant on the increasingly fashionable Nádor Street. The area has come to life as a growing number of tourists and international students from the nearby Central European University pass through. HILDA has a perfect curb appeal: you will notice its Instagrammable interior even before entering the space. An oversized stained glass mosaic covers one of the walls in its entirety, and the bar is studded with rows of dark blue, glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons around the corner from here..
Opened in 1968, Ibolya Espresso is an iconic café and bar in Budapest's downtown. Ibolya is deeply anchored in Budapest's collective memory as two generations of local residents have been coming here for everything from first dates to business meetings over the past half-century. Ibolya's interior furnishings evoke the design items of the communist era: the Mid-century modern-inspired light fixtures feature orange plexiglass, while chairs are topped with sticky, red faux leather upholstery..
Hans van Vliet, the owner of Jedermann Café, is a legendary restaurateur in Budapest with a genius for creating atmospheric, all-inviting places for everyone to enjoy (hence "Jedermann", which translates to "everyone"). On any given day, tables might be filled with senior citizens fiercely debating Hungarian politics, students gossiping over a cup of coffee, and a theater director mapping out upcoming projects with the staff. Jedermann, which marries a café with a bar, is hiding in a quiet street in District 9, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the party district. .
Kadarka, whose moniker refers to the aromatic red grape variety indigenous to Hungary, is a lively wine bar in Budapest's Jewish Quarter. Despite the tourist-heavy area, Kadarka has somehow remained a mainly local haunt, especially for 30-plus Hungarians. Perhaps this is because prices haven’t shot through the roof and the service is attentive..
Part burger joint, part craft beer bar, Kandalló is a bustling space in the Jewish Quarter. Their burgers are among the best you will find in Budapest, although, as in other places, I'd prefer their buns to be smaller and squishier. Most patties are made from Grey Cattle, a local variety, while the more expensive ones use Angus (patties are 180 gram / 6.3 oz)..
Those looking to passionately debate Hungarian political history will find themselves at home in this bar, set along what used to be a quiet street in the bustling Jewish Quarter. Local artists, Budapest's left-wing intelligentsia, and international students from the Central European University comprise the regular customers. In addition to wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beer, rum fans can indulge in excellent top-shelf selections..
Komachi, a no-frills Japanese restaurant in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, is committed to proving that there's more to Japanese food than sushi. For a Central Europe-based restaurant, Komachi serves a refreshingly broad range of everyday Japanese dishes like ramen (miso, shio, and soy-based), tonkatsu, curry, karaage, and donburi..
Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story: Cheap drinks have been upgraded to cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to a range of trendy mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed, industrial-chic interior with sleek wood paneling..
In Budapest, Onyx comes closest to offering a classic European fine dining experience. It's the type of place where crystal chandeliers hang in the opulent dining room and white-glove-wearing waiters scurry about with beautifully sculpted plates in hand. The dishes feature playful textures, rare ingredients, and striking visuals. Onyx, which is located in the heart of Budapest's downtown, is the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Hungary currently.
The sleepy outer part of Budapest's District 9 is an unlikely place to boast an upscale French restaurant, so it's against the odds that here hides Petrus, the Bib Gourmand-awarded bistro of owner-chef Zoltán Feke. The menu occupies the territory between bistro fare and fine dining: the 7-course tasting menu approaches the latter, the a la carte offerings the former..
Pizzica was the first pizzeria in Budapest to specialize in pizza al taglio: the Roman invention where rectangular-shaped pies are sliced with a scissor and usually taken to-go. This tiny takeout joint in District 6 is run by the de Bartolomeo brothers, natives from Southern Italy, who can be found most days sliding cast-iron pans in and out of the electric oven. .
Rosenstein Restaurant, which is located a bit outside the city center, serves some of the best traditional Hungarian, and Hungarian-Jewish food in Budapest. Tibor Rosenstein opened this family-run operation in 1996, which is currently helmed by his son, Róbert. Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample expertly prepared goulash soup (€5), beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash (€12), and stuffed cabbage (€9)—traditional Hungarian foods that have changed little over the generations. .
Budapest’s sleepy Szondi Street in District 6, lined with Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants near one another, is a paradise of ethnic cuisine. One of them, Saigon Bistro, a humble, takeout-looking spot, is one of the few Southern Vietnamese places in Budapest (Hungary took immigrants from the communist north during the Vietnam War), meaning that the dishes pack more herbs, garnishes, and sweeter flavors than elsewhere. .
It’s usually a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is buried deep within the city’s Chinatown. You will need to journey out to Monori Center, a 15-minute cab ride from downtown, to find one of the best and priciest Chinese restaurants in Budapest: Spicy Fish. Spicy Fish's menu is divided between mouth-numbing Sichuan and milder Zhejiang dishes. The reason for the seemingly random gastronomic combination of two distant provinces is actually logical—Zhejiang is where most of Budapest's Chinese community hails from, and spicy Sichuan food is very popular currently..
In New York or London, this hip breakfast restaurant would be just another fashionable crowd-pleaser: the type of place where tattooed and bow-tied servers scurry around a sleek interior complete with vintage light bulbs and lots of greenery, and fresh R&B tunes set the musical background. In Budapest, many places have tried to emulate this concept, but STIKA, this pocket-sized restaurant in District 7, is the first to get it right. .
If you've spent at least 5 minutes researching the city's nightlife, then you may have come across Szimpla Kert, Budapest's iconic ruin bar. Likely you're also familiar with the ruin bar (romkocsma) concept: makeshift bars inside dilapidated pre-war buildings, furnished with quirky furniture assembled from clearance sales, and all in all exuding an inexplicably cool atmosphere..
Pomo D'Oro, which opened in 2002, is a wildly popular and beloved Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, marrying a red-sauce, old school Italian trattoria and a modern restaurant with gastronomic ambitions. This means it appeals equally well to middle-class Hungarian families looking for pan-Italian comfort food, foodies with more adventurous palates, business customers, and tourists. As a result, the ever-expanding space, which has retained a homey atmosphere, is packed to capacity with a mixed crowd every day of the week. While not cheap by Budapest standards—mains range from €10 to €20—price points aren't outrageous for its calibre.
If you're curious about Hungarian craft beers and what Budapest looks like a bit outside the city center, be sure to head to Élesztő. From a total of two hundred Hungarian craft beers, Élesztő has a rotating set of 25 on tap, including everything from light crowd-pleasers to sour IPAs. Hoppy-beer fans should go for Hara'Punk's tellingly named "Son of a Bitch," an imperial IPA with a hearty 8.5% ABV and an astringent finish..
Anker't is a ruin bar on a charming Budapest backstreet just a stone’s throw away from both the grand Andrassy Avenue and the gritty Jewish Quarter. As soon as you enter, you will recognize a ruin bar before you: the scaffolded, crumbling facade of the almost 200-year-old building—it was built in 1833—hides thick, skeletal brick and limestone walls..
Buja Disznó(k) is a food stall on the upper deck of the historic Hold Street Market Hall in downtown Budapest. Over the past few years, the market has transformed into a gourmet food court, where local celebrity chefs operate wallet-friendly fast casual eateries. The culinary focus of Buja Disznó(k) is simple enough: pork schnitzels..
Step inside Café Kör, and the atmosphere will immediately transport you back to pre-war, middle-class Budapest. The inside of this homey downtown restaurant features bentwood Thonet chairs, a carpeted wooden floor, and densely packed tables. In a city that increasingly prizes international cuisine above its own, Café Kör is an essential Budapest restaurant that serves classic Hungarian food without twists or reinterpretations..
In 2010, Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to win a Michelin star. Today, despite the fact that Budapest has four Michelin-starred places, a special cachet remains to Costes. It's also the only fine dining restaurant in Budapest helmed by a female chef, Eszter Palágyi. .
Excellent restaurants often turn up in the most unlikely places. Dang Muoi is situated on a noisy, car-saturated road in Buda with little foot traffic—not exactly a restaurateur's dream location. But against the odds, the place is usually mobbed by diners. In the 1990s, Dang Muoi started as a food stall in a now-demolished Asian street market on the other side of the Danube, and has since expanded into three locations across Budapest, having found the way to Hungarians' hearts and stomachs.
Most Iranian residents in Budapest claim that Darband is the city's best Persian restaurant. This below-ground space just off Budapest’s downtown, whose owner and head chef are both Iranian, is lined with dining booths, each named after an old Tehran street. There are mosaic tile tables and photos of Iran inside the otherwise modest interior. .
Does Budapest need more specialty coffee shops? The answer is not obvious to me, but if it’s a “yes," then more of them should be like Dorado Café. This 2018 newcomer occupies a large, plant-filled space on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street, inside the old Jewish Quarter. Unlike in the hole-in-the-wall cafés that are so common in Budapest, here patrons are welcome to linger with free wifi on the long communal table without feeling rushed..
Dzzs Bár, down the block from Kisüzem, attracts an eccentric and bohemian crowd of twentysomethings. Stopping by here on a late night can feel like being at the house party of your coolest friend. You can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this cozy space. The interior is a mishmash of worn-out furniture and walls crowded with an eclectic selection of provocative local artwork.
Run by a Chinese couple out of a bare, below-ground space, Ennmann restaurant offers some of the best Japanese food in Budapest. Ennmann’s strongest suit is seafood: besides chirashi, sashimi, and regular sushi (nigiri and maki), they serve a host of maki variations. I went with the six-piece nigiri plate (€9), packing a pair of tuna, salmon, and sea bass each, and it didn’t disappoint. The shrimp tempura—seafood dressed in a thin layer of batter and quickly deep-fried—has a crispy crust and juicy meat.
In retrospect, it's strange that it took so long for someone to finally open a traditional Hungarian restaurant in Budapest's party district (also known as the old Jewish Quarter). After all, most tourists are after local dishes before they hit the neighborhood bars. Gettó Gulyás' moniker makes its culinary priorities clear - the short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash (€4), chicken paprikash (€7), and beef stew (pörkölt). These Hungarian classics are updated with small twists, like the baked cottage cheese noodles rolled into bacon, which accompany the veal paprikash (€11).
Hanna is a glatt kosher meat restaurant operated by the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Since the restaurant is buried within the fortress-like edifice of the congregation, most locals have never encountered Hanna, even though the surrounding area is currently the center of Budapest's nightlife, teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. .
Hopaholic, located inside Budapest's party district, is a snug craft beer bar famed for its dizzying range of international craft beers. They source bottled beers from over 250 microbreweries across the world, supplemented by 10 rotating beers on tap. Do you feel like downing a cloudy, yeasty hefeweizen? Perhaps an imperial stout from Denmark sporting a 10% ABV? Or, rather, a tarty and fruity Moldavian-Hungarian lambic beer? Not a problem..
Hotsy Totsy is a dimly-lit, below-ground craft cocktail bar in Budapest's party district. Instead of a fixed menu, bartenders prepare bespoke drinks based on customers' taste preferences. For example, if you tell them you like Fernet-Branca, they’ll offer up a Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet) without a moment’s hesitation, along with a complementary shot of Fernet’s Menta line. .
Kiosk is a hip restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trendy locals and plenty of tourists. Kiosk has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of the Danube and the Elisabeth Bridge from its outdoor patio, and a dramatically high-ceilinged, industrial chic interior. (Interestingly, the building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact, there's a chapel right above Kiosk.) .
Kőleves is a wildly popular restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. The building, which was built in 1851, used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, so it’s fitting that they honor the building’s past with dishes like matzo ball soup, and cholent, the typical Sabbath dish. They also use leftover articles from the meat plant as design pieces, including a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a weathered Talmud..
You step into Little Italy Pizzeria, and an oversized photo of Naples and the Mount Vesuvius will face you from the opposite wall. Around it hang a myriad of blue-and-white soccer scarves with “solo Napoli” signs. The waitstaff and much of the clientele consists of Italian natives. It really feels like being in a Neapolitan restaurant, but instead of the Tyrrhenian coast, this pizzeria is actually in an indistinct Budapest neighborhood, a bit outside the city center..
Head to Lumen Café if you'd like to avoid the tourist-heavy streets of the Jewish Quarter, but still get a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer in a hip neighborhood. With egg-based breakfast dishes (served until noon), a full-service kitchen, and a sleek interior featuring concrete and wood finishes, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café and bar. But it's the patrons, artists and neighborhood bohemians, who give soul to the place..
Wenzhou-born owner of Milky Way Seafood Restaurant knows a thing or two about crustaceans. Not only because any self-respecting man from this seaside Chinese city can make a decent fish soup, but also since he worked at a fish market for 15 years before venturing into the restaurant business. Accordingly, Milky Way specializes in what he knows best: whole steamed lobsters, crabs, tiger prawns, shrimps, and carps. They cook live animals and use little seasoning to let the meats speak for themselves.
Mélypont is a cavernous, below-ground bar situated on a quiet backstreet in downtown Budapest. The interior, which features highly amortized pieces of communist-era furniture, usually fills to capacity with students from the neighboring law and political science colleges of Eötvös Loránd University. Every time I visit Mélypont I'm amazed that this wallet-friendly student bar can continue to exist in an otherwise elite and highly-priced neighborhood—let's hope it stays that way. .
Owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo, an Italian native from Lombardy, opened Krizia back in 1997. It's an elegant, below-ground restaurant hiding in a quiet street off the grand Andrássy Avenue in Budapest's District 6. The snug space has less than a dozen tables—all of them covered in white linen—and adorably ceremonial servers, especially the older of the two long-time waiters..
St. Andrea Wine & Skybar is an upscale, year-round rooftop bar perched atop Budapest's downtown. St. Andrea is a Hungarian success story: starting as a small winery in northeastern Hungary's Eger wine region, they've become a nationally recognized wine label, now also involved with a fine dining restaurant in Budapest, St.
When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced that they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. The idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that traditional Hungarian fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local office crowd and tourists fill Stand25's small tables inside the Hold Street market-hall-turned food-court in downtown. In 2018, the restaurant won a Bib Gourmand by Michelin..
W35 is a small burger joint on the far end of Budapest's party district. They break down the hamburger-making process into meticulous, scientific steps: a patty forming machine shapes the Angus into uniform sizes, a timer achieves consistent char, and a meat thermometer ensures that all patties are cooked to a juicy, pink-centered, medium-rare doneness. The result is a compact patty exuding a wonderful beefiness and framed by two crisped sesame buns (although the overly aromatic truffle oil doesn't do any favors here). .
Börze is a sleek, downtown restaurant serving traditional Hungarian food from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. Börze's moniker is a hat-tip to the enormous, 1907 building across the street that used to be the Budapest Stock and Commodity Exchange. With red banquettes and a chic interior designed to the minute detail, it reminds me of a Keith McNally restaurant. Börze is a 2017 offshoot of Menza, and like its sister restaurant, it's a well-oiled machine with reliable dishes and a professional waitstaff.
Costes Downtown is a 2015 offshoot of Costes, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest. Downtown is a slightly more casual version of its sister location: instead of a typical fine dining decor, here a sleek, modern design sets the tone with an open kitchen and wooden tables stripped of tablecloths. The restaurant, which has had its own Michelin star since 2016, is helmed by Portuguese chef Tiago Sabarigo. .
When I want to impress my friends that Budapest has restaurants as hip as those in the East Village, I take them out to DOBRUMBA. With a chic crowd, effortlessly cool design, and a Middle Eastern menu, DOBRUMBA is one of the trendiest restaurants in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter currently. The place is especially enjoyable in the warmer months when the oversized windows swing open and the ear-catching electronic music wafts into the street. .
Hiding in an elite part of downtown Budapest near the Hungarian Parliament Building, Drop Shop is a boutique wine bar doubling as a wine store. Unlike most wine bars in the city that stack only local bottles, Drop Shop serves carefully curated international wines anywhere from Austria to Australia, from natural to orange wines. There's also an ample selection of local Hungarian vinos that are somewhat pricier and more premium than elsewhere..
Curious where the top 1% of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve when in 2007 they opened this chic restaurant featuring a Balthazar-like interior straight out of the Keith McNally playbook. Back then, few places in Budapest offered this type of hip-but-classy ambiance. Déryné has managed to remain popular for all these years, even as similar restaurants have sprouted up in Pest with comparable offerings at lower prices..
If you want to escape the annoyingly rowdy bachelor-party crews in Budapest's party district but remain in the area, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near Kazinczy Street, the main artery of the neighborhood, Fekete Kutya has somehow managed to remain an unpretentious bar frequented by artistically-minded locals in their 20s and 30s. Feel free to mingle with them—the vibes are very laid-back. .
Although Frici Papa opened after the fall of the iron curtain, this eatery has rightfully become a darling for tourists who're looking to experience a piece of communist-era dining—prices are rock-bottom, cheap wood panelings decorate the walls, tablecloths are covered with sticky plastic, waiters are dressed as if parachuted here from the '80s. .
Budapest’s one and only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953, when more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became the party center. Instead of "Jewish cakes," Frőhlich specializes in low-priced, traditional Hungarian tortes, pastries, and strudels, including Esterházy, Dobos, and krémes. Sure, some other places in Budapest make tastier stuff, but I enjoy coming to Frőhlich for the homey ambiance—little has changed inside this family-run operation over the decades.
Located on a quiet side street in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the neighboring party district. The quaint environment is just one of the things to like about this family-run restaurant, which opened in 2000 and specializes in Hungarian-Jewish food. .
Grinzingi, an unpretentious downtown wine tavern, has a simple formula: serve cheap drinks in the center of Budapest that's otherwise teeming with overpriced, tourist-oriented bars. But what gives Grinzingi its native spirit is its longevity, the variety of its patrons, and the “interior design.” .
Hops Beer Bar is a divey-looking craft beer bar in the heart of Budapest's party district. The moment you realize this isn't your average dive bar is when you get a glimpse of the more than 200 types of bottled craft beers stacked in the fridge. It's this extensive beer selection, and the witty, loud-mouthed, and charismatic owner-operator, which make Hops Beer Bar a pilgrimage-site for craft beer fans in Budapest. .
Instant & Fogas Ház isn't so much a ruin bar as a massive club featuring 18 bar counters and seven dance floors. This enormous venue in Budapest's party district is inside a landmark-protected building fom 1861 with a crumbling facade. Instant & Fogas Ház may not be the best place to experience the ruin bar ambience, but head over here if you're in the mood for dancing as other ruin bars offer little space for moving your feet..
Some pockets of Buda can be as lively as Pest, but they're few and far between. Bartók Béla Boulevard is one such revitalized Buda neighborhood, featuring art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet, which is a snug all-day café, was one of the early birds here, helping to breathe new life into the area..
Kino is a laid-back, breakfast-all-day restaurant set along Budapest's Grand Boulevard. The interior is draped in movie posters as Kino occupies the ticketing area of an independent movie theater. The low-priced and tasty breakfast dishes are served seven days a week—when in doubt, go for the hearty "Hungarian" scrambled eggs packing bacon, sausage, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of grated cheese (€3). Also, the ever-changing selection of cakes taste just as good as they look..
Kollázs Brasserie & Bar, which occupies the ground floor of the opulent, Art Nouveau building of the Four Seasons Hotel, is a fine dining restaurant and cocktail bar with prime views onto Budapest's Castle Hill. It's the type of place where dark-suited waiters scurry around with tableside carts and pricey bottles of wine. The interior is furnished in a tasteful neo-Art Deco style, complete with marble, dark wood, and brass finishes. .
Simple enough: Lámpás is a a dimly-lit, labyrinthine, below-ground bar where you can find live rock/jazz/blues performances almost every night of the week. Oddly, this gritty, and by no means mainstream bar is opposite Gozsdu Udvar, a tourist-heavy area teeming with pricey restaurants and wine bars. Lámpás, where you can get a beer and a fröccs for €3, feels a world away—a little gem in the midst of it all. The crowd is usually a good mix of local and foreign twentysomethings..
Okuyama no Sushi, one of Budapest’s best sushi restaurants, is buried in the basement of a strip mall, doesn’t have a functional Facebook page, and its website looks as if it hasn’t been updated in a decade. With a humbe, bare-bones interior, it's far from a fancy-shmancy sushi restaurant. Owner and sushi chef, Sachi Okuyama, ran the sushi restaurant inside the Hilton Budapest before opening Okuyama in 2001. His signature is the oversized nigiri sushi, where fresh pieces of salmon, tuna or prawn sit atop the warm, perfectly vinegared rice.
You will need to trek out to the outer part of District 7, a working class Budapest neighborhood, to experience the elaborate meals prepared by chef Ádám Csaba at Olimpia Restaurant. Instead of a fixed menu, they use a blackboard to present the daily-changing dishes, which vary based on seasonal ingredients. The result? Absolutely superb..
Pizza Manufaktura is a hip, tiny, always-crowded, counter-service pizzeria in Budapest’s District 9. The place makes no secret about its coolness: hipster twentysomethings scurry between the counter and the kitchen while loud music pipes through the speakers. Their pies, made with an electric oven, fall between a Roman and Neapolitan style: the crust is soft, doughy, and has some air pockets with charred spots, but the texture is firm enough to hold the slice in your hand..
A sleek dining space, trilingual menus, and a prime downtown location are not usually hallmarks of Budapest's normally humble, mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurants. Not so with Quán Nón. .
The farther from downtown, the better the food—this is the rule of thumb about Chinese restaurants in Budapest. Taiwan Restaurant, which opened in 1991, was one of the first elegant places to serve authentic Chinese flavors in the city. Nearly three decades later, it's still going strong, and worth leaving the city center (it's easy to get to by subway: take the M3 line to Nagyvárad tér). Taiwan's food is slightly adjusted to local tastes, but not so much to deter local Chinese residents, which is manifested by a full house most evenings with Asian patrons accounting for at least half of the crowd..
TG Italiano (Tom George) is a pricey Italian restaurant on a tourist-heavy downtown street in Budapest. The spacious restaurant features a chic interior complete with an outdoor terrace that's heated and covered in the colder months, making it a perfect spot for people watching..
Unhurried groups of elderly Arab regulars tend to socialize at Al-Amir, a good sign for a Syrian restaurant in downtown Budapest. Al-Amir marries a counter-service with a sit-down restaurant. (Most upscale is the downstairs section, usually taken up by hookah-smokers during the cold months; note that hookahs aren't allowed in the summer for business reasons.).
Even among the numerous speakeasy-themed cocktail dens in Budapest, Black Swan tops the list for being the darkest and most exclusive. It’s one of those uppity places where heavy red drapes block the view from outside and whose private room draws the local elite, but if you enjoy a swanky experience it will be right up your alley. Black Swan has some of the broadest drink selections in Budapest—bartenders have to use a sliding ladder to retrieve bottles from the top shelves. .
In 2018, Scottish craft beer giant, BrewDog, expanded to Budapest with a massive space inside the city's party district. The decor looks as if it came straight out of a “trendy interior” design book: there are leather banquettes, reclaimed wood table tops, Edison bulbs, and a vintage sign board listing the 25 tap beers available. BrewDog's own beers flow from ten of those, with the remainder coming from a rotating set of local—Mad Scientist and Horizont during my visits—and foreign breweries..
If Jedermann Café had a sister location on the Buda side, it would be a lot like BÉLA. This atmospheric space is part café, part restaurant, and part bar, with an eclectic interior featuring wooden floors, Persian carpets, and greenery hanging from the high ceiling. There are plenty of nooks and crannies—look upstairs and in the back—meaning that BÉLA works well for dates nights, too. In fact, it works well for pretty much anything, as evidenced by a full house of locals most evening.
Known to every local resident, Gerbeaud is an iconic café and pastry shop in Budapest's downtown. It was Swiss patissier Emil Gerbeaud, who in 1884 transformed the space into a confectionery famed for its inventive sweets like the konyakmeggy, a brandied sour cherry enclosed by a chocolate shell, and “macskanyelv,” a milk chocolate shaped like a cat’s tongue (both of them are still produced). Gerbeaud also makes some of the best traditional Hungarian (or Austro-Hungarian) pastries such as Dobos, Esterházy torte, krémes, and the namesake Gerbeaud cake. If you order them to go, all cakes are half-priced..
Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was a pioneer of Hungary's contemporary food revolution. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned the ins and outs of haute cuisine under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era practices reigned supreme in Budapest kitchens. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in the five-course dinner tasting menu..
Csiga is a popular café and restaurant in the increasingly trendy outer District 8, a bit outside the city center. The neighborhood, situated just beyond the Grand Boulevard, is rising to cool-status as locals are starting to eschew the throngs of the party district. .
Digó, which is an open-air pizza stand by Deák Square, the epicenter of Budapest, makes some of the best Naples-style pies in Budapest. The competence and passion of Digó's pizzaiolos shone through as they enthusiastically explained the benefits of using “double-zero” flour and a two-step dough fermentation, and also the technical challenges of a wood-burning oven (the individual logs burn differently), which is what they use here. .
Ellátó Kert is a ruin bar buried deep within Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, inside a U-shaped, brick skeleton that used to be a meat processing facility. The best part of Ellátó is its expansive outdoor courtyard, which feels like a charming oasis away from the throngs of the busy Kazinczy Street. During the colder months, head all the way to the back, where there's everything from comfortable sofas, a pool table, a makeshift Virgin Mary shrine (!), and a food vendor slinging Mexican food. For a Budapest ruin bar, both the beef tacos (€1.5 each) and the chicken burrito (€5) are surprisingly tasty.
Fausto’s Ristorante, which opened in 1994, is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest specializing in northern Italian fare. Forget pizza and Caprese salad and think of meticulously plated dishes made from expensive ingredients like foie gras, scallops, flatfish, and venison loin. For those into simpler Italian food, a couple of pasta and risotto options are also available, made with rich sauces..
If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde may be able to give you the answer. Or at least that used to be the case before tourists descended on the place in the last few years. Kádár, which opened in 1957, started out as a wallet-friendly neighborhood joint feeding the mainly Jewish local residents—it's inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter—with unfussy traditional Hungarian foods like stuffed cabbage and beef stew (pörkölt), and also Jewish staples like matzo ball soup and cholent (note that Kádár isn't kosher). The dishes were passable, prices rock-bottom.
Madal is a popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest with three locations across the city. Although the one near the Parliament building is the biggest and has the shortest wait times, this one, at Ferenciek tere, feels more homey..
In the early aughts, Liszt Ferenc Square in District 6 was a popular hangout for trendy, well-heeled locals. But then, as the wheel of trends turned, the hoopla tapered off and people moved on to other neighborhoods. Today, you will find plenty of "Hungarian cuisine" and "tourist menu" signs, and it’s also here that Hungary's only Hooters operated until recently. You don't need me to tell you: proceed with caution..
In the likely event that you've never been to a Chinese restaurant designed as a hunting lodge, here is your chance to do so. Momotaro Ramen's former occupant decorated the space with taxidermy and animal antlers redolent of a countryside estate's interior, and the current owner seems to find it a fitting theme to accent their Asian cuisine as well..
MÁK Bistro, helmed by 28-year-old head chef János Mizsei, is one of Budapest's leading fine dining restaurants. The fact that Mizsei trained in Denmark and Sweden shines through in the dishes: In line with the New Nordic Cuisine, MÁK's plates pack intense, vibrant flavors despite the seemingly everyday ingredients. Mizsei is known to go out of his way to scout for unlikely suppliers; most recently he found a local farmer who collects birch sap in a Hungarian village..
Opened in 1948, Mátra Borozó is one of the oldest and most eccentric wine bars in Budapest, a genuine throwback (Gábor Abendschein, the current owner, has been in charge since 1983). Apart from the constant presence of the amiable, graying regulars, Mátra's communal spirit stems from the unique layout of the space: instead of a bar counter splitting up the room, just a simple metal box stands in the middle which contains the wines. .
Thanks to a well-connected Hungarian businessman, Budapest is home to a Nobu, the world’s fanciest chain restaurant. Even more impressively, it's the one and only Nobu in Central Europe (the closest one is in Milan). This upscale Japanese-Peruvian restaurant is located inside the five-star Kempinski hotel in Budapest's downtown. .
Oriental Soup House is a bustling Vietnamese restaurant in Újlipótváros, a residential neighborhood a bit outside the city center. As soon as you enter, you will note the Asian cooks scurrying behind the open kitchen, always a good sign for a Vietnamese restaurant. The slim menu features 11 types of soups, of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo; €6), with a shimmering, flavorful broth and golden hue, is among the best I've had in Budapest, especially if you get it with thinly sliced tenderloins that quickly cook through in the steaming broth. .
Just a few minutes from the tourist-heavy streets of Pest, across the Danube, lies Palack, a popular neighborhood wine bar in Újbuda. Sure, there are other wine bars in Budapest with a more premium wine offering or knowledgeable staff, but those places often end up being the playgrounds of wine snobs..
Pesti Burger is a chic burger joint on the campus of Semmelweis University, near the Basic Medical Science Center’s glass-curtained building in Budapest's District 9. You might think that slinging pricey burgers on a college campus isn't the savviest of business ideas, but Pesti Burger tends to get at least half full at midday (granted: the wallet-friendlier pasta joint next door is usually mobbed with students). .
Szimply is a tiny, cluttered breakfast-all-day restaurant in the cobble-stoned courtyard of a pre-war downtown building. Partly thanks to The New York Times, which featured Szimply (Budapest is #50), it's next to impossible to find an open table at this closet-sized breakfast nook. .
Located across Budapest's main orthodox synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter but operated by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Tel Aviv Café is Budapest’s one and only kosher dairy restaurant. So, don't go searching for meat-based dishes here. In fact, you won’t find any of the typical Ashkenazi non-meat classics like matzo brei, blintz, and latke either..
Trapéz is a hidden college bar that students and recent graduates of the nearby Corvinus University frequent. It's a small miracle that the tiny pre-war building, just a stone's throw away from hotels and major tourist attractions like the Great Market Hall, hasn't yet become the victim of real estate developers. Let's hope it stays that way. .
À la Maison Grand is a chic and highly popular downtown breakfast restaurant in Budapest, occupying the ground floor of a 1906 art nouveau building. (Note: take a glance at the oversized glass mosaic perched atop the building.) A fashionable, tourist-heavy crowd tends to flock here for the breakfast-all-day and brunch offerings that include reliably-prepared croque madame (€5), eggs Florentine (€7), a range of waffles, and also zeitgesty items such as acai bowl and avocado toast (€7). The only letdowns are the the undersized and forlorn-looking English (€10) and Hungarian breakfast plates (€12). .
Never mind the black-and-white photos of Italy on the walls, little of Alessio’s interior will remind you of an Italian restaurant. Instead, the densely carpeted space with crammed tables feels like a charming neighborhood joint tailored to the tastes of the middle- and upper-class residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. If you need a break from the bustle of the city center, Alessio is a perfect hideaway, offering excellent food and a homey atmosphere. .
Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Budapest named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake originating in Eastern Europe, perhaps as a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. Babka's dimly-lit, homey interior, featuring vintage decor and hardwood floors, will make you want to enter. .
Let’s get the annoying part out of the way: the co-owner of Bamba Marha fashions himself as Hungary's “burger pope,” a curiously narcissistic title, especially in a country where hamburgers don't run very deep. This shouldn’t necessarily deter you from visiting Bamba Marha, a small burger chain in Budapest, as their €5 cheeseburgers offer some of the best value for money in the city’s artisan burgerland: a nicely charred 130 gram / 4.6 ounce patty enclosed by a sesame bun and garnished with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and a slathering of sauce. .
It’s not easy to find specialty coffee on the Buda side, so when Barako, a closet-sized café, opened in 2014, it filled a gaping void in Buda’s barely-existent craft coffee scene. This is thanks to Filipino owner, Ryan Andres, who eschewed the tourist-heavy areas of downtown Pest, setting up shop here instead. .
Dobló, which opened in 2010, was one of the first wine bars in Budapest. Being in the center of the Jewish Quarter (aka party district) means that more than half of the patrons are usually tourists, but here you don't need to worry about a rowdy stag party spoiling your fun. In fact, with a dimly lit, cozy interior and live music most evenings, Dobló is one of the more atmospheric wine bars in Budapest that also works well for a date night. .
It's tough to beat the location of Esetleg Bistro, a trendy, partially outdoor bar and restaurant situated on the Danube's bank, inside a dramatic, whale-shaped contemporary building in District 9. Esetleg offers sweeping views onto several Budapest landmarks, including the Liberty Bridge, Gellért Hill, and the imposing building of the Budapest University of Technology right across. This lively space is best for winding down with an afternoon drink during the warm months. .
Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly restaurant and bar just a stone's throw away from the Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means that students of all ages come here to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer. .
Hú Lù Lu, a modest-looking Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s party district, is the type of place where the food speaks louder than the decor (always the better combination). Two Vietnamese-Hungarian twentysomethings originally from Nghệ An, in north-central Vietnam, set out to serve up dishes from their home region alongside Vietnamese classics..
As Neapolitans like to say, “when it comes to clothes and pizza, it’s always Naples over Rome." This proverb is taken to heart at Igen, a spacious pizza joint on the Buda side, churning out Naples-style pies all day long inside a wood-burning oven fueled by beech to achieve high heat and a smokey flavor. The Naples variety is known for an airy crust with splotches of char, and a soupy center. As customary, Igen uses a refined, type "00" flour to ensure a soft pizza dough. .
Due to bad urban planning, cars have better access to the Danube than city residents in Budapest. A handful of bars, however, can boast a precious river panorama, and Jónás Craft Beer House is one of them. So, while sipping your citrusy pale ale, you can marvel at Gellért Hill and the stately building of the Budapest University of Technology on the opposite bank. If you come from the city center, take tram #2 for a scenic ride along the Danube, and get off at Zsil utca, which drops you almost right outside Jónás.
For a deeply local lunch experience in Budapest, it’s hard to think of a better place than Kívánság Étkezde. The continued existence of this eatery, which opened in 1985, is evidence that there’s still lingering love in Budapest for communist-era, family-run restaurants. After all, they’re quick, cheap, and some of them, like Kívánság, serve delicious home-style dishes..
Located near the arched, red-bricked edifice signaling the entry of the old Jewish Quarter, Központ is a popular haunt of Budapest's thirtysomething liberal establishment. During the day, Központ functions as a specialty café, drawing hipster foreigners who linger with their MacBooks for hours on end. Come night-time, the crowd turns more local as journalists, musicians, and people from the fashion industry appear. Note that drinks are a bit more expensive here than at other places on this list..
Macesz Bistro is a trendy Jewish-Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Part of the restaurant's menu is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, featuring dishes that were once popular among its Ashkenazi residents. (The building across the street from Macesz Bistro is still home to the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community). .
Padron is a tiny tapas bar in Budapest's Palace Quarter, situated on a cute side street. The restaurant exhibits the usual signs of a busy family-run enterprise, with the mother taking orders, the son serving food, and the father behind the bar on most days. .
A Chinese businessman from Shanghai set out to open Budapest’s best sushi restaurant. The result is Sushi Ocean, a pricey, below-ground spot on a quiet downtown side street. Upon entry, don't be surprised when the entire staff, wearing traditional outfits, cheerfully greets you in Japanese..
One of Budapest’s oldest and most atmospheric wine bars is hidden below ground on a quiet downtown street otherwise known for its antique stores selling expensive chinaware. Like other unchic, communist-era bars that have survived to the present day, this holdout from the 1960s—no one seems to know the exact opening year—draws mainly long-time regulars from the neighborhood..
Wang Mester Kínai Konyhája is an authentic Sichuan restaurants in the residential Zugló neighborhood, a bit outside the city center. The Chinese owner, Wang Qiang, was among the first restaurateurs in the early '90s to introduce unadjusted Chinese food to locals. He is also a shrewd businessman and self-promoter, who adopted "Maestro" as his stage name, which earned him more legitimacy than any stellar resume could—to this day, his name is synonymous with top Chinese food in Budapest..
WARMUP is a small craft cocktail bar in Budapest’s party district. What differentiates it from the other drinking dens nearby is that there’s no menu here; instead, customers have to put themselves in the hands of the bartenders—you give them a few hints, and they take care of the rest. Do you enjoy rum with a spicy kick? A Dark 'n' Stormy (€7) is calling for you. Are you a Negroni fan but don't mind a little creativity? They'll swap the gin for silky Unicum Riserva (€11), a local liqueur.
Babel is one of a small number of classic fine dining restaurants in Budapest: it's a dinner-only tasting menu venue in the heart of downtown, featuring a dimly-lit dining room with only a dozen tables, all set with white tablecloths. Babel prides itself on serving dishes inspired by Transylvania. The proof that this is more than empty marketing slogan is Babel's young head chef, István Veres, who hails from the Carpathian Mountains and is one of the most gifted culinary talents of his generation..
Biwako is advertised as a ramen house, but I find their non-ramen Japanese dishes—donburi, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki—to be their strongest suit. The restaurant, which is pricey, is across the street from The Japan Foundation inside a plain, very humble below-ground space. .
Breakfast places in Budapest are few and far between, and the ones that do exist are mostly in downtown, catering to tourists. This isn't the case with Café Panini, a chic neighborhood breakfast restaurant inside the secluded world of Újlipótváros. .
Cintányéros isn’t so much a posh wine bar as a charming neighborhood wine tavern. In other words, this is where local residents gather for banter and wallet-friendly house wine. The area, inside the once seedy outer District 8, is currently undergoing large-scale real estate development, perfectly symbolized by Nokia’s gleaming headquarters towering over the streets..
Csendes is a popular ruin bar in downtown Budapest, tucked away on a quiet backstreet. Unlike some other ruin bars with party vibes, Csendes is a mellower, sit-down venue best for conversations. This high-ceilinged space used to be a grand coffee house during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which makes the current ruin bar decor, featuring creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls, all the more bizarre. Try to book ahead of time as Csendes fills up to capacity in the evenings with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists.
Hanoi Xua is a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest best known for its extensive soup varieties, above-average fried rice plates, and some Vietnamese dishes that rarely appear in other restaurants like the chè dessert. It occupies the ground floor of a residential apartment building in the outer part of District 9, once a seedy neighborhood, but now rapidly transforming thanks to moneyed international medical students at the nearby Semmelweis University. .
If you’re looking for tasty and wallet-friendly Chinese food in Budapest, HeHe is one of your best bets. They serve an array of authentic Chinese dishes from a relatively modest, undecorated space in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center), which takes about 25 minutes to get to by public transport from the city center. .
KEG is a spacious craft beer bar in Budapest’s increasingly trendy Újbuda neighborhood. The place is just off Bartók Béla Boulevard, the artery of the area, inside a remodeled brick-arched basement. Digital flap displays show the 32 (!) types of draft beers available, most of them sourced from local breweries. But you can also run into foreign beers such as a 15% ABV imperial stout from Denmark’s hyped-up Mikkeller brewery.
If you’re serious about your pizza and are spending more than a few days in Budapest, grab your hiking boots and trek out to Kemencés Pizza, which makes some of the best pies in all of Budapest. It takes about an hour to get to from downtown by public transport, but think of it as part of the experience of discovering Budapest. .
Kontakt is a specialty coffee shop nestled inside a charming, cobble-stoned courtyard of a downtown building. With a radically minimalist interior, heavily-bearded staff, and customers glued to their smartphones, Kontakt could easily be mistaken for a hipster café in Brooklyn..
You will need leave the city center to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French and revamped Hungarian dishes. It's on a quiet section of Andrássy Avenue, Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies inside District 6. The cute modernist building from 1937 that houses the restaurant (and also a hotel upstairs) stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. .
Many contemporary Budapest restaurants claim that they serve “modern Hungarian food,” but often that's just a catch-all phrase to justify their inflated price points. At its best, modern Hungarian fare is a coming-together of traditional recipes, local ingredients, and a 21st century approach to plating and flavor combinations. This is pretty close to what you will find at Paletta, a family-owned restaurant in Budapest’s District 9, a bit outside the city center. .
For an authentic, traditional Hungarian meal, leave the touristed streets of downtown and head to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő. Located in the hopping residential neighborhood of Újlipótváros, red-and-white checkered tablecloth and an exhaustive menu spanning across 12 categories (soups, stews, ready-made, etc.) will await you at this popular, no-frills neighborhood restaurant. .
Ristorante Millennium da Pippo is a reliable Italian restaurant on Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most famous street that’s often compared to the Champs-Élysées. The place's interior pulls inspiration from the century-old subway stations located underneath Andrássy (not that you will need a reminder: on the outdoor terrace you can feel the ground slightly shake every time a train passes). .
Telep is a hopping Budapest bar in the heart of it all in District 7, the city's main party area. Telep's crowd will satisfy any hipster cravings you may be harboring—beards, fixie bikes, tote bags, and plenty of good-looking people abound here. The interior features low-lying sofas, and a massive varnished table top that serves as the bar counter, and makes you feel like you're at the house party of your coolest friend. DJs are in charge of the tunes on Friday and Saturday nights.
Tuk Tuk is a tiny craft cocktail bar on the ground floor of the Casati boutique hotel. Being on a quiet street just outside Budapest's party district, Tuk Tuk is a perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle a few blocks away. Inside this dark drinking den old photos and heavy crimson drapes evoke the hedonistic culture of the 1920s Shanghai. .
Tuning is a tourist-heavy burger joint in the heart of the bustling Jewish Quarter. Their burgers are pricey, and often feature non-traditional ingredients like eggs, sliced avocado, or grilled zucchini. Although some of the pricier ones use Angus, most patties, which are 180 gram / 6.3 oz., are made from Hungarian Grey Cattle. I enjoyed the “classic street food” cheeseburger (€8), where the main ingredients—bun, patty, cheddar sauce—were clearly detectable.
That this unfussy, communist-era neighborhood bar right across the street from one of Budapest's most visited tourist destinations—the Dohány Street Synagogue—still exists is a small miracle. Despite its moniker, Turiszt Büfé, which opened in 1982, has never gained much of its business from tourists. .
Opened in 1981, Öcsi étkezde is a teeny-tiny, lunch-only eatery in outer District 8, a bit away from the city center. The engine of this mom-and-pop restaurant is Erzsi, who runs the kitchen by herself, and occasionally pops in to the dining area with cilantro-covered hands to ask a regular whether he wants a schnitzel with his lecsó. Feri, her husband, sporting a white lab coat, multitasks by taking orders, serving food, and chatting with customers, most of whom he knows by name. Despite pushing 60, he has a youthful presence and handsome features..
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood restaurants in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. It's an osteria-type casual eatery in Budapest's charming Palace Quarter, serving Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the head chef is from Bari in southern Italy; you will note the Italian chatter wafting from the open kitchen through the dining room, always a good sign for an Italian restaurant). .
For a deeply local experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger in the south of Budapest, a half-hour bus ride away from downtown. Flanked by grey, communist-era high-rises lies this not particularly inviting, flimsy wooden shack, painted in red, white and blue. The cheap, kitschy 'Merican decor (I couldn't be sure that they're being ironic) features decorative license plates from Texas, Florida, and Missouri and plenty of other tchotchkes. .
In 2004, Bock Bistro was among the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian food. Executive chef Lajos Bíró proved that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt into the 21st century some centuries-old national dishes. For example, that crumbs of celery roots add a welcome freshness to the goulash soup (€5). That the paprikash is just as good when made with beef tenderloins.
DiVino is a trendy wine bar in the heart of Budapest's downtown. You can sip a glass of Hungarian red or white here while enjoying the picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest's biggest church. Touristy it may be, still, it’s a sight to behold.
Most Japanese restaurants in Budapest serve higher-end fare like sushi, even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets are more compatible with simpler dishes. Perhaps this is what Mr. Tomoki and his wife, a young couple from Tokyo, thought when in 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant. It's a small, counter-service place with a few tables, located near the city center.
In present-day Budapest, listening to live gypsy music is mainly a tourist activity. Overpriced downtown restaurants tend to hire gypsy bands to play traditional songs, thereby enhancing the “Hungarian vibes.” The reality is that except for the occasional wedding parties when such songs may be performed, most locals, especially those below 50, are seldom exposed to this type of music..
This self-service, modest eatery (“étkezde”) a bit outside the city center in District 9 may not be for everyone. Even within Budapest’s low-priced eatery genre, Gyuri bácsi konyhája is positioned towards the lower end when it comes to comfort and interior design. But the food is excellent, and the place represents the type of everyday dining that most tourists are unlikely to experience in Budapest..
Hanoi Pho’s moniker is misleading as their unremarkable pho soup is hardly the reason to visit this Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s downtown, near the Parliament building. With a chef duo representing both ends of Vietnam (one is from Hanoi, the other Saigon), their claim to fame is the under-the-radar Vietnamese dishes rarely found elsewhere in Budapest. For example, it's only in Hanoi Pho where they make banh xèo (€7), a sizzling savory pancake of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, folded and stuffed with shrimp, lettuce, and bean sprouts. Don’t miss it.
For the past decade, Akácfa Street in Budapest's party district was only known for Fogas ruin bar. That has changed with the opening of the wildly popular Mazel Tov restaurant, and also Hops Beer Bar, one of the best craft beer bars in the city. And now here's also Kaptafa, a hip breakfast-all-day restaurant. .
When it opened in 2013, Léhűtő craft beer bar was an early bird in Gozsdu Courtyard, a tourist-heavy area now teeming with bars and restaurants inside Budapest's party district. The below-ground space seats approximately 30 people, on high wooden stools. A set of 11 rotating beers flow from the taps, and plenty more from the bottles, including Californian and New England IPAs, porters, stouts, and even sour beers. Most of the Hungarian beers are sourced from Horizont, a local brewery in charge of Léhűtő..
MANU+ is the second branch of Pizza Manufaktura, a popular pizza joint near Corvinus University. The good news is that this one doesn't usually get as mobbed by people as the original venue, meaning that you won't have to wait longer than a few minutes before devouring a Naples-style pizza, which is what MANU+ specializes in. .
If you ever wondered what a Chinese breakfast was like, Hong Kong Büfé in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center) offers a chance to find out. For less than €5, you can try classic Chinese breakfast staples here including cong you bing, congee, and youtiao. .
Flaky pecan croissants, fresh orange juice, and specialty coffee are just three of the reasons to visit Műterem Kávézó, an adorable café a bit outside the city center in District 8. Kudos to the owners for walking the less trodden path and opening a coffee shop in a less privileged slice of the city. Rather than bringing a "downtown attitude" along with their pour-overs, Műterem welcomes everyone, in fact, there are many neighborhood residents among the customers. .
Pagony is the product of a creative idea: what was formerly the children's section of the historic Gellért Bath has been transformed into an atmospheric outdoor bar. This means, for example, that the bar counter is inside the former sauna building, and tables occupy the now empty swimming pools. The original wrought-iron lamps illuminate the space at night, and next to the entrance, you can still see the underpass that connects to the main, still functional wing of Gellért Bath across the street..
San Guo Zhi is a Dongbei-style barbecue restaurant in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center). The food of Dongbei, which is located in the northeastern part of China and was formerly known as Manchuria, reflects Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian influences and the cold climate, featuring hearty soups, lots of lamb, and more corn than rice. San Guo Zhi restaurant offers a fun DIY barbecue experience, where you cook your own skewers of raw ingredients over hot charcoal. Note that the interior is split into two, with the other side (on the right) operating as a hot pot restaurant, but you're best off sticking to their specialty, which is barbecue..
Shahrzad is a Persian restaurant buried deep within Budapest's District 8, near Corvin-negyed where many Iranian students live. The short menu comprises traditional Iranian stew dishes (khoresh) and the classic kebab variations. Shahrzad’s chef, originally from Isfahan, isn’t satisfied with the quality of beef in Budapest—he doesn’t think it’s tender enough—so he uses lamb in most meat dishes instead. Of the stews, try the ghormeh sabzi herb stew (€7) and the split pea-based gheymeh (€7).
St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar is an upscale restaurant near Budapest's city center, occupying the ground floor of a luxury office building. Unlike other elite chefs in Budapest who hesitate to put pricey peasant fare in front of discerning foreign diners, St. Andrea's executive chef, Ádám Barna, doesn't shy away from serving traditional Hungarian dishes through a fine dining prism..
Filled with colorful, eclectic furniture, Szatyor Bar looks like your typical ruin bar, but it's actually different from those swarming Budapest's party district on the other side of the Danube. This being Buda, instead of scruffy students sipping low-priced beers, Szatyor draws an over-25 crowd where shirts and skirts outnumber hoodies and backpacks. Duck confit and sous-vide venison leg are rarely part of the ruin bar culinary repertoire, but here, you will find them alongside pricey craft beers..
If the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food hits while you’re visiting downtown's tourist sites near the Parliament building and Liberty Square, Tüköry restaurant is your best bet. Since its opening in 1958, Tüköry’s been serving reasonably-priced and reliable traditional Hungarian staples in a red-and-white-checkered-tablecloths-style setting. Although there exists better Hungarian food in Budapest, I find Tüköry’s pörkölt, made-to-order schnitzel-like dishes (frissensültek) such as the cordon bleu, and the palacsinta desserts (Hungarian crepes) their strong suits. Most of the main dishes are in the €6-8 range.
If you want to hang out with the next generation of Hungarian actors and actresses and sip dirt-cheap drinks while doing so, look no further than Úri Muri. Plenty of students from the nearby University of Theatre and Film Arts like to unwind at Úri Muri, which is conveniently located inside Budapest's party district. Be sure to check the lower level, too, which boasts another bar counter, and it's also where you can run into high-energy live music concerts..
Run by three Italians, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop in Budapest with a simple mission: serve fresh, made-to-order pastas quickly and well. Customers are invited to pair a variety of pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with an often-changing list of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces listed on the blackboard. The good news is that you can't go wrong with any of them.
Tucked away on a steep side street in the Castle Hill lies one of Budapest's most expensive, special-occasion restaurants: Arany Kaviár (Golden Caviar). As you'd expect from a place that specializes in high-priced caviars, the exquisite dining rooms, lined with maroon and golden tapestry-like walls and heavy drapes, exude an air of opulence. Apart from fish roe, Arany Kaviár offers two tasting menus - a “Hungarian Fish” and a “Traditional” Russian - and plenty of chilled vodka and premium wines for pairing. .
Borpatika (“Wine pharmacy”) is a neighborhood watering hole in Újbuda. Not much has changed inside since it opened in 1986, which is, of course, part of its charm. Customers are a blend of students from the nearby Budapest University of Technology and downtrodden neighborhood regulars who come here for spirit-lifting liquors and friendly banter..
Fahéj is a cute café and bar on a quite backstreet in Budapest's downtown. Fahéj eschews the trendy vibes and the tourist-targeting approach of many other places in the neighborhood, relying instead on a loyal group of regulars, both young and old. This they do by serving low-priced drinks inside an atmospheric space that features two high-ceilinged rooms with wooden floors, bookshelves, and small round tables. .
If you’re looking for quick and affordable Middle Eastern food in Budapest's party district, Falafel Bar is your best bet. This unfussy place, offering both takeout and sit-down options, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel plate (€6), where the deep-fried chickpea balls are exactly as they should be: crunchy and creamy. They’re the best ones I’ve had in Budapest.
When it opened in 1991, Fuji was one of the first Japanese restaurants in Budapest. From a tastefully upscale venue they served pricey Japanese fare to well-heeled locals and expats looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades later—an eternity in restaurant years—Fuji is still around..
While Budapest's party district has long been teeming with specialized cocktail bars, downtown was a wasteland when it came to discerning drinking dens. Good Spirit Bar, which opened in 2017 on a quiet, cobblestoned side street, filled this gaping void in downtown's lackluster bar landscape..
For a truly, deeply local experience, make your way to this bare-bones food stall inside the Rákóczi Market Hall in Budapest's District 8. Hiding in the back of the building is JóKrisz Lángos Sütöde, a mom-and-pop, standing-only eatery that specializes in lángos, a traditional, deep-fried Hungarian flatbread. I usually visit Jókrisz early in the mornings when the colorful cast of characters flock here from the mainly working-class neighborhood..
Hungarian countryside fare can be intimidating for those who aren’t used to eating high-calorie, heavy dishes like pork knuckles or wild boar stew. But if you’re up for the challenge, Kispiac Bistro is the best place in Budapest to acquaint yourself with these hearty, traditional dishes (expect low post-meal productivity). While Kispiac doesn’t try to reimagine old recipes or add new ingredients, it moves past socialist-era kitchen practices and uses high-quality ingredients. .
The refurbished Klauzál Market Hall in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter is a far cry from the thriving food court inside its sister location at the Hold Street Market Hall. Amid shuttered storefronts and bland grocery store chains, however, you will find a couple of self-service eateries that can make a visit worthwhile. One of those places is Mangalica Mennyország (the other is Marika Lángos Sütője on the upper deck)..
Neked Csak Dezső is a craft beer bar inside the spacious, high-ceilinged ground floor of a pre-war building, near Budapest's party district. For now, the gleaming white, brightly-lit room feels too polished despite attempts to spruce up the decor with patches of red brick and exposed fermentation tanks. .
Buda is better known for its rolling hills and quiet streets than its bustling party scene. Even the denser, urban sections are noticeably short of remarkable bars with a unique character. One of the few exceptions is Nemdebár. This dark, charmingly grungy neighborhood bar is filled to capacity most nights, drawing an eclectic local crowd of hip college students, office workers, and favorite-uncle-type bohemians pushing 50..
Törökméz is a cute breakfast-all-day restaurant perched on the foot of Buda's Rose Hill. It being in Buda means that most of the customers are local Hungarians, and also that you'll need to cross the Danube to get to it from Pest. .
Vietnami Speciális Melegkonyha, a bare-bones Vietnamese restaurant outside the city center, serves some traditional dishes you won't find elsewhere. Location is the only downside: it takes about 20-minutes by car to get to from downtown, but at least you will get to discover the less-traveled parts of Budapest. They took over the space from an Italian restaurant without redoing the interior, resulting in a surreal decor featuring Gothic-windows and a Tuscan countryside..
At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. They were the haunts of penniless artists from all walks of life, the center of social life, the place to discuss politics, romance, and missed rent payments, while nursing precious cups of coffee. Today, however, the area paints a gloomy picture—second-hand clothing stores and fluorescent-lit gyro joints swarm this once truly grand boulevard..
In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a well-known Hungarian chef, opened a fast-casual lunch eatery inside the then practically-empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has transformed into a thriving food court where several local celebrity chefs operate casual restaurants, and the area swarms with people at lunchtime. .
It’s easy to miss Altair, a homey, below-ground teahouse on a sleepy side street in Budapest's Palace Quarter, but you shouldn't. Defying space limitations, they've squeezed myriad tiny nooks and crannies that are separated from one another by curtains, pillows, and wooden beams..
Escape the noisy downtown street, and enter through the yellow ceramic tiles into the 19th century courtyard of Fekete, a hip café and all-day-breakfast restaurant. The marble well in the center of the tranquil courtyard is one of those Budapest surprises hiding behind many sooty facades. Weather permitting, enjoy your morning coffee in the open-air courtyard..
Funky Pho is a teeny-tiny soup shop hiding in a quiet side street off Andrássy Avenue in District 6. The place makes some of the best pho soups in Budapest, which is saying a lot in a city flooded with pho joints. The small space, which has only two tables and less than 10 counter seats, goes for a chic street-food look featuring pop art wall paintings and conical hats as design pieces..
Gyergyó restaurant, which opened in 1991, disguises itself as a typical greasy spoon (étkezde in Hungarian). In reality, it’s closer to a semi-upscale restaurant when it comes to food, plating, and, unfortunately, prices too. The place’s moniker is a hat-tip to the Transylvanian city where the owner/chef, Árpád Gyurka, hails from. The restaurant is located in an elite, residential Buda neighborhood, which explains why main dishes run €10-15, and why big-time lawyers, businessmen, and retired, upper-middle class regulars fill this small, lunch-only restaurant.
Három Tarka Macska is an artisan bakery on the tastefully upscale Pozsonyi Road in Újlipótváros, a well-heeled area I think of as the “West Village of Budapest.” Step in, and a paradise of aromatic and still-steaming sourdough, whole wheat, and rye breads, brioches, and rolls in all shapes and sizes await you. The two must-try local favorites are the túrós batyu (a sweet-tart cottage cheese-filled laminated pastry) and the kakaós csiga (a snail-shaped chocolate pastry roll), which go down especially well with flavored yogurts that Három Tarka Macska sources from a local family-owned producer..
Opened almost 20 years ago, Két Szerecsen is a fixture in the Budapest restaurant scene. It's located between the stately Andrássy Avenue and the Jewish Quarter’s main artery, Király Street, occupying a precious piece of no man’s land. The bright space is crammed with tables that receive plenty of natural light through the oversized windows..
Opened by a Lebanese-Estonian couple in 2018, Leila’s Authentic Lebanese Cuisine is located on a quiet backstreet in District 6, near downtown. With Lebanese and Syrian cooks in the kitchen, Leila’s is indeed an authentic restaurant, using traditional recipes and spices (most plates are abundantly dressed in parsley, sumac, thyme, and lemon juice). Unfortunately, the dishes are a bit overpriced and still a work-in-progress. .
Printa was one of the first stores in Budapest to figure out that selling high-quality coffee alongside Hungarian designer products can be a winning combination. Think limited edition prints, clothes, tote bags, and purses made by the local designers—no tchotchkes here. Being in the center of the trendy Jewish Quarter, it was only a matter of time before tourists would discover it. Accordingly, today Printa mainly caters to visitors with somewhat inflated price tags.
You may say that Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most inviting of places, after all, who gets excited about decor-deprived restaurants amid rows of boring wholesale stores far outside the city center? (The answer: fans of Chinese food.) Shandong Restaurant is located on a particularly rundown section of the area, but I urge you not to turn your back on it. Similar to HeHe, this unpretentious space serves up some of the best and lowest-priced Chinese fare in Budapest. .
Spíler, located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard, is one of hottest restaurants in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. It's a massive space with three, highly-Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. The menu features popular international fare (nachos, wings, burgers) alongside Hungarian classics, of which my favorite was the túróscsusza, baked noodles topped with cottage cheese, sour cream, and specks of fried pork fat (€7). Hungarian wines, and almost 30 types of local bottled craft beers are available for pairing.
Sushi Sei is an upscale Japanese restaurant a bit outside the city center in Buda. Popular types of raw seafood dominate the menu: sashimi, maki (cut sushi rolls), nigiri (mounds of rice topped with fish filet), and chirashi (fish scattered over vinegared rice in a bowl). Apart from the typical tuna, salmon, and prawn options, Sushi Sei's impressively broad fish selections also include eel, sea bass, octopus, squid, and salmon roe..
Szlovák Söröző ("Slovak beer hall") is an old-school bar located on a gray side street near Budapest's Nyugati Railway Terminal. The main appeal of this unfashionable haunt with weathered wooden booths is its longevity—the place has been drawing throngs of beer-loving men of all ages for over four decades. When I say men, I mean it: on some nights, not one woman is in sight, save for the waitress..
A restaurant on Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but Trattoria Venezia serves outstanding Italian dishes at somewhat lower prices than places in downtown. The seafood dishes—not the strongest suit of landlocked Hungary—are especially good here..
Zeller is a wildly popular restaurant in Budapest's downtown. Upon arrival, all guests are handed a complimentary Prosecco—albeit slightly flat and presented without much enthusiasm—before being led to one of the four indoor dining rooms. The best place to sit is in the light-filled interior courtyard topped with a sky window and featuring plenty of greenery. All tables comes with doodle-inspiring paper and colored pencils..
Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee, the pioneering California-based specialty coffee company, Blue Bird is a Hungarian coffee roaster and specialty coffee shop inside Budapest's tourist-heavy Jewish Quarter, opposite the 1872 synagogue designed by the famous Austrian architect, Otto Wagner. .
Da Mario is a spacious, upscale Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, set on a precious piece of real estate between the Parliament building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. Instead of a trattoria-look, the high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes, dark furnishings, and has a bit of corporate feel to it. .
There are many theories about why it was China's Sichuan Province of all places where the gastronomic use of chili peppers was taken to a whole new level. Whatever the reason, Sichuan food has become synonymous with spicy and mouth-numbing flavors thanks to chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Apart from the places in Chinatown, Hange Restaurant serves some of the best Sichuan dishes in Budapest (Hange is also a bit outside the city center in District 9, but it's not as far as Chinatown). .
For a journey back in time, stop by at this hole-in-the-wall food stall on the upper deck of the Klauzal Market Hall in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Marika Lángos Sütője is hidden from plain sight, meaning that most visitors to the market, tourists and locals alike, remain unaware of its existence. Marika is the driving force behind the kitchen, while her husband, Csaba, sources the ingredients and decides the dishes. Marika's home-style Hungarian classics are tasty and cheap (the two-course daily special runs €3)..
Budapest's bars generally fall into two categories: on the one hand are myriad ruin bars offering an informal atmosphere and cheap drinks inside run-down premises, with posh cocktail bars on the other, where bartenders with chiseled jawline mix pricey cocktails of ingredients you've never heard of. The in-between territory is noticeably thin. You know, a laid-back bar to pop into after a long day’s of work for a well-deserved highball of scotch and soda. And this is where Nappali ("living room") comes into play..
Trust me, the address is accurate—persist in your search and you will be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs is a hidden bar, nestled inside a former light engineering workshop in Budapest's District 6. Once you find the nondescript entrance, proceed through Pótkulcs' expansive, leefy patio to its adorably gritty, art-laden interior. Attached to the main section is a cavernous performance hall where they host live music performances almost every evening (including lots of Hungarian folk music).
Before long, all visitors to Budapest will notice the countless, painfully overlit gyro vendors swarming the city, hawking cheap chicken and lamb gyros to drunk bachelor party tourists. At first, San Da Vinci, located along the highway-like Rákóczi Road near the city center, looks like just another gyro joint, but it turns out it’s a worthier venue. .
If you're craving good sushi but don't feel like going for a long, sit-down dinner, head over to Sushi VIBES. It's a teeny-tiny counter service restaurant in a District 6 side street, within walking distance from Andrássy Avenue. The owner-chef lady, who hails from Fukuoka in southern Japan, set up shop in Budapest in 2018, after stints in the Netherlands and Germany. She imports both the nori (seaweed) and the rice from Japan..
Budapest has too few restaurants located along the Danube River. And even the existing few are often content with offering vistas, rather than gastronomic delights. Flanked by endless rows of docked Viking river cruises, Szegedi Halászcsárda isn't a promising sight, but the restaurant is actually a positive surprise. As its moniker suggests, their specialty is the Hungarian fisherman’s soup, halászlé, especially its famed version from the south-Hungarian city of Szeged.
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, as an overpriced pan-Asian eatery serving takeout food with little to show for its hype. Whichever side you're on, the fact is that Sáo operates at capacity every night of the week. Sure, €9 for a simple plate of fried rice with a few morsels of beef is excessive by Budapest standards, but there’s more to Sáo than food..
For a bit of time travel, you don’t even need to leave Budapest's downtown. The “Villány” in the name of this grungy, run-down neighborhood bar is tongue-in-cheek, because the wine they serve here is hardly the premium stuff from the Villány region. But that is beside the point. Places like this will soon be extinct, so take your chances before it’s too late.
For the longest time, Budapest had only a few breakfast restaurants, even though we know what a difference a plate of creamy scrambled eggs can make to start the day off on the right foot. Part of this gaping void was filled when Zoska, a breakfast-all-day, counter-service restaurant, opened in 2014. It's nestled in a quite, downtown backstreet, featuring a gleaming white, shabby-chic interior. .
Budapest’s District 7 may be known as the city’s party district, but its burgeoning and increasingly diverse food scene may give that title a run for its money. A young Vietnamese couple—one of them first, the other a second generation Vietnamese-Hungarian—set up shop in 2018, after seeing locals' fondness of Vietnamese food. But instead of yet another pho soup shop, they launched a bánh mì joint, specializing in the iconic French-Vietnamese sandwiches, the first of its kind in Budapest. .
Chinatown Restaurant, which opened in 1991, was one of the first Chinese restaurants in Budapest. Although not in the city center, it's closer to downtown than other authentic Chinese places (the restaurant's name is misleading, because it isn't in Budapest's Chinatown). Be sure to take the main entrance, else you might end up in the takeout section, where cheaper, but watered-down dishes cater to local tastes and wallets. .
Like it or not, Budapest’s booming tourism is inspiring local business owners to profit off well-heeled visitors. Overpriced restaurants hawking “authentic goulash” and dime a dozen “Irish pubs” in Budapest’s downtown are all too common. Három Holló bar, located right in the city center, is the fruit of an entirely different philosophy..
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. A brick vaulted ceiling, rustic wooden furniture, and a wood-burning oven help evoke Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest side street. The restaurant's moniker is a reference to Dante's third circle of hell, where gluttons were punished. .
The outer part of the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) is much different than the inner side. The Jewish Quarter’s stag-party apocalypse doesn’t reach this far - the streets quiet down as night falls and residents are still mainly locals rather than Airbnb guests. The neighborhood’s mom-and-pop stores and dilapidated buildings remind me of what much of Budapest was like in the 1990s. .
La nube is a café and tapas bar tucked away in a side street in the increasingly hip Újbuda neighborhood on the Buda side. The main appeal of this Hungarian-Spanish, family-run operation is the welcoming, homey atmosphere and mixed group of patrons. On a typical day, customers might comprise parents with young children, hipsters typing away on their iPhones, and aging locals sipping glasses of draft San Miguel..
When it opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first specialty coffee shops in Budapest. It quickly gained a cult following, and My Little Melbourne continues to be one of the most recognized coffee brands in Budapest, today operating four branches across the city. It also helps business that their original location is in the heart of Budapest's bustling, touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter..
Since it opened in 1997, Piccolo has been the go-to watering hole for many left-wing artists from Újlipótváros who enjoy low-priced Unicum and beer. For an outsider, Piccolo may feel intimidating at first as everyone seems to know one another, but don't let that hold you back—patrons are easy-going, open-minded, and often entertaining. .
Ramenka is a chic, shoe-box-sized ramen shop right on Kazinczy Street, Budapest’s party central, a stone's throw away from the famed Szimpla ruin bar. This tourist-heavy location means that Ramenka is constantly filled to capacity with a foreign crowd, often with a line forming outside the building. Guests eat at the elongated communal table in the middle of the small space, and thanks to the backless, uncomfortable tree stumps used as stools, there's little post-meal lingering—tables turn over quickly. .
Low prices, home-style cooking, no English menu, let alone an Instagram page: these are signs that you've stumbled on a truly local eatery. Városház Snack, which opened in 1985, is a bare-bones, shoebox-sized, counter-service restaurant in Budapest's downtown that's popular among emplyees of the Mayor's Office across the street..
Opened in 1964, Alabárdos is an iconic fine dining restaurant perched on Budapest's Castle Hill, just a stone’s throw away from the imposing Matthias Church. The restaurant is located within a medieval residential home complete with Gothic tracery and ogee curves. The dining room, which has less than a dozen tables, is startlingly impressive: they serve dishes on Herendi porcelain plates set with real silverware..
There is consensus within the local Chinese community that Dabao Jiaozi is the place to go for home-style dumplings in Budapest. This is quite a statement in a city where more than 30,000 Chinese people live. Before moving to its current location in Budapest's Chinatown, Dabao was a takeout-only venue hidden on in a beaten-down commerical building. .
Hai Nam Pho Bistro is what happens when ethnic cuisine becomes a victim of too much "localization." The Vietnamese owners here believe that the food must be adjusted to local tastes, a perfectly reasonable theory that may spawn inventive dishes, but at Hai Nam they simply avoid flavorful cuts of fatty meats and traditional Vietnamese dishes that they don't deem palatable to Hungarians. For example, the bun cha (€6), normally a mound of flavorful pork belly, is a forlorn-looking affair of lean meat; the spring roll (€2), another Vietnamese staple, lacks the coveted porky flavor and crunchy crust. .
Huszár, named after the famed Hungarian light cavalry soldiers, is the type of restaurant where everyday local Hungarian families may go to for lunch on a Sunday. The restaurant prepares Hungarian dishes without “modern twists” or “updates” to traditional recipes. I enjoy going to Huszár because this unchic restaurant doesn’t try to be more than what it is - an unfussy neighborhood joint. Huszár also satisfies my occasional nostalgia for the type of gruff service and weathered interior that defined Budapest restaurants in the 1990s.
Here’s a little secret: there’s hole-in-the-wall eatery right next to, and sharing a kitchen with Rosenstein, one of the best traditional Hungarian restaurants in Budapest. In fact, Rosenstein itself grew out of this tiny, smoke-filled space back in 1989, before hoisting itself into an elegant sit-down venue. In other words, at Kürtös Ételbár you can enjoy the same goulash soup (€2), beef stew (€5), and schnitzel (€5) that they serve next door at steeper price points. .
M is a tiny, dinner-only restaurant on the far (and quieter) side of Budapest's Jewish Quarter, but within walking distance of the neighborhood's famed ruin bars. The cozy space is crammed with tables so expect to sit elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners. While waiting for your food, let your creative side run wild using the pencil and doodling paper provided on each table. .
Mantra is a specialty coffee shop in Budapest, located on a quiet downtown backstreet lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps. Ironically, it's just a block away from the tourist-heavy Váci Street. From the ever-changing light-roasted coffee beans, Mantra might use Ethiopian, Brazilian, and Honduran selections for their filter and espresso-based coffees. AeroPress, Chemex, V60, and Gina are just some of their available equipment.
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant on Rózsadomb (Rose Hill), the most exclusive neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city. Accordingly, grand, secluded villas line the streets that surround the restaurant. Porcellino serves reliable, pan-Italian fare, but I’m hard-pressed to single out an unforgettable dish that would make it worth crossing the Danube from Pest. So, it’s fitting that most patrons are well-heeled local residents at this spacious, two-story restaurant boasting a sizeable outdoor patio and even a private playground for small children..
Head to Tóth Kocsma if you're looking to immerse yourself into everyday Hungarian life. The main appeal of this unpretentious bar, which opened in 1987 and is located in a pricey gallery district in downtown, is that it isn't trying to be more than what it is: a no-frills, low-priced bar. Tóth Kocsma is especially popular among groups of middle-aged locals, who tend to fill the space in the evenings. .
Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining standalone butcher shops in downtown Budapest. Balla's business model has evolved over the decades: instead of meat, today they mainly serve low-priced breakfast and lunch dishes to the shrinking number of local residents (Airbnb, I'm looking at you). .
Daohuaxiang fuses two contemporary Chinese food trends: spicy food and hot potting. The restaurant draws inspiration from the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, known as the birthplace of spicy hotpot, the communal cooking experience whereby people sit around a boiling broth and cook various meats and vegetables for themselves. Daohuaxiang is a 10-minute cab ride from Budapest's city center, located inside an oversized, utilitarian dining room. .
In Hungarian "hintaló" means rocking horse, of which you will find plenty inside this charmingly grungy bar a bit outside the city center in District 8. The lively atmosphere inside Hintaló is in stark contrast to the deserted backstreet the bar is situated on. Hintaló gets packed most evenings with a lively crowd of German and other international students. .
In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design launched a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Encouraged by Sáo's success, they opened KHAN, another chic, Instragram-friendly venue, situated in the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood, a bit outside the city center. .
The Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) doesn't only separate the city center from outer Pest, it's also a boundary between the polished and the gritty, the predictable and the mysterious. As a result, bars along here draw eclectic crowds from all walks of Budapest life. Krúdy Söröző, an unpretentious, all-welcoming, communist-era neighborhood bar, is one of them. Despite the wifi and flat screen TVs, the space feels distinctly 1980s, as do the prices.
I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants on Váci Street, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. You know it's time to move on when hostesses, dressed in folk outfits, try to lure you with "traditional Hungarian tourist menus." La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because part of the restaurant mimics the neighboring places, serving goulash soup amid a rustic Hungarian countryside decor complete with red-and-white tablecloths..
If you’re looking to try traditional Hungarian food in a restaurant away from the crowded downtown streets, Regős Vendéglő can be a good option. Despite its offbeat location, however, the crowd here actually consist mainly of tourists who’ve discovered Regős through TripAdvisor and concierge recommendations, leading to higher prices and less “local vibes” than at similar neighborhood restaurants (main dishes run €8-10). The restaurant, which opened in 2002, occupies a brick-arched underground space decked out in wooden banquettes and kitschy decor. .