A swanky restaurant inside the downtown, five-star Buddha-Bar Hotel serves up the best Middle Eastern food in Budapest. The hotel is owned and operated by Jordanian investors, likely the reason why Baalbek Restaurant has become something of a gathering place for well-heeled local Arab businessmen. .
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a lively, communist-era neighborhood bar in Buda, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó. What makes Bambi the real deal? While it doesn't follow contemporary trends, it isn’t showing off an artificial ("retro"), unremembered past either – it’s a genuine throwback. .
Belvárosi Disznótoros is a popular lunchtime eatery for downtown office workers in Budapest. This self-service food vendor with tall tables and standing counters offers a dizzying array of fully-prepared and to-be-prepared selection of traditional Hungarian meat dishes. Think wild boar stew, blood sausage, grilled pork chops, and pork knuckles paired with a range of pickled or marinated vegetables. My favorite is the simple and excellent fried sausage with braised red cabbage, mustard, horseradish, and a slice of bread.
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end bistro located in Budapest's downtown, serving a pan-European menu and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, begins with traditional dishes and adds contemporary, inventive techniques, while packing plenty of unexpected ingredients and colors on the plates. .
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants (two of them are meat, one dairy). Like Hanna, the other kosher meat restaurant around the corner from Carmel, it gets liveliest during Shabbat meals, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch (here too, guests must prepay the meals; Friday's dinner at Carmel costs €25 per person)..
HILDA is one of the restaurants lining downtown's 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. With a perfect curb appeal, you will notice HILDA's 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.
Hans van Vliet, the owner of Jedermann Café, is a legendary figure in Budapest's restaurant and bar scene with a genius for creating all-inviting places for everyone to enjoy (hence "Jedermann", which translates to "everyone"). On any given day, tables at Jedermann 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 is located in a quiet District 9 street, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the more popular Jewish Quarter. .
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. Kisüzem is popular among local artists, Budapest's left-wing intelligentsia, and international students from the Central European University. In addition to a range of wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beer, rum fans can indulge in excellent selections from the top shelf. .
For most people in Hungary, sushi is synonymous with Japanese food. Komachi, a no-frills Japanese restaurant in the outer part of the Jewish Quarter, is committed to proving otherwise. For a Central Europe based restaurant, it serves a refreshingly broad range of everyday Japanese staples. Everything from miso-, shio-, and soy-based ramen to curry, tonkatsu, karaage, and donburi.
Mazel Tov is for people who like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant in 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 fancy cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to a range of trendy Middle Eastern 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 traditional European fine dining experience. The opulent interior with two enormous crystal chandeliers hanging in the dining room along with white-glove-wearing waiters somewhat predetermines the dishes that can realistically be served inside this fancy space. The pan-European menu features playful textures, beautiful visuals, and elaborate plating at this two Michelin-starred downtown restaurant (Onyx is the only Hungarian restaurant currently with two stars). .
The sleepy and still somewhat gritty outer part of District 9 is the least likely of places to boast a fancy restaurant. Lying in the corner of a quiet park, Petrus is a hidden gem of a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant specialized in contemporary French cuisine. The food occupies the territory between bistro fare and fine dining: the 7-course tasting menu approaches the latter, the a la carte offerings the former. .
Opened in 1997, Ristorante Krizia is an iconic Italian restaurant in Budapest. Owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo hails from the Lombardy region, which means that the menu features fish- and meat-heavy, northern-Italian dishes aside from the more typical pasta-based offerings. For example, Krizia is the only restaurant in Budapest where you can have a filet mignon paired with porcini mushrooms and a side of creamy polenta that's infused with a stracchino cheese (€22). It's as delicious as it sounds.
Hands down, Rosenstein Restaurant serves the best traditional Hungarian, and Hungarian-Jewish food in Budapest. Tibor Rosenstein, a legendary figure in Budapest's gastronomy, opened the restaurant in 1996. Today, it's still run by the family, with the kitchen currently being helmed by his son, Róbert Rosenstein. .
Budapest’s sleepy Szondi Street in District 6 has been stealthily transforming into a paradise of ethnic cuisine - adventurous locals can try Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors near one another. The Vietnamese restaurant sporting an undecorated dining room, Saigon Bistro, is one of the few Southern Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest (it was from the communist north that Hungary took immigrants during the Vietnam War). This means that the dishes here pack more herbs, garnishes, and sweeter flavors than elsewhere. .
It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is buried deep within the city’s Chinatown, and Budapest is no exception. You will need to trek out to Monori Center, a 15-minute cab ride from downtown, to find Spicy Fish, one of the leading ambassadors of Chinese food in Budapest. Spicy Fish's menu is divided between spicy 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 simply very popular currently.
In New York or London, this hip breakfast restaurant would be just another fashionable, industrial chic crowd-pleaser: the type of place where tattooed servers run around a sleek, wood-lined interior complete with vintage light bulbs and exposed galvanized steel pipes, and semi-alternative R&B tunes set the musical background. In Budapest, many places have tried to emulate this concept. But STIKA, this pocket-sized space in District 7, is the first to get it right. .
If you've spent at least five minutes researching the city's nightlife, then you will already have come across Szimpla Kert, Budapest's iconic ruin bar. Likely you're also familiar with the ruin bar (romkocsma) concept, but for those who remain unaware, here's a quick refresher: ruin bars are makeshift bars located inside dilapidated pre-war buildings, furnished with quirky furniture assembled from clearance sales, and all in all exuding a inexplicably cool atmosphere. .
Opened in 2002, Pomo D'Oro is a well-known and beloved Italian restaurant in Budapest's Downtown. Pomo D'Oro isn't easy to categorize: it marries a red-sauce old school Italian trattoria and a modern restaurant with gastronomic ambitions. This means it caters equally well to middle-class Hungarian families looking for Italian comfort food, foodies with more adventurous palates, business customers, and tourists. As a result, the ever-expanding space, which has managed to retain an intimate atmosphere, is packed to capacity with an eclectic crowd every night of the week.
W35 is a fast casual burger restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. They break down the hamburger-making process into meticulous, scientific steps: a patty forming machine shapes the Angus beef 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 burgers are compact with a delicious beefiness of the meat, although the aromatic truffle oil feels like a non sequitur here. Framing the burgers are two perfectly crisped sesame buns.
If you're curious about Hungarian craft beers and what Budapest a bit outside the city center looks like, be sure to head out to Élesztő. From a total of two hundred Hungarian craft beers, Élesztő serves a rotating set of 25 on draft on any given day which include everything from light crowd-pleasers to complex sour IPAs with notes of citrusy hops. If unsure about which one to get, ask the bartenders, some of whom are usually happy to help. Hoppy-beer fans should look for Hara'Punk's tellingly named "Son of a Bitch," an imperial IPA with a hearty 8.5% alcohol and an astringent finish.
Anker't bar is located 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. .
Despite a small Georgian community, Budapest can boast of two Georgian restaurants. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the varied cuisine of this Caucasian country, 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. In general, brace yourself for a vegetarian-friendly menu featuring a sea of herbs (parsley, coriander, tarragon, dill, mint), vegetables (eggplants, spinach, beets), walnut paste, and pomegranate seeds.
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..
Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to receive a Michelin star in 2010. And even though Budapest now has four Michelin-starred restaurants, Costes remains in a league of its own. The same is true when it comes to prices, making the restaurant prohibitively expensive for locals; on many nights, there isn’t a single Hungarian patron in sight (the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairing comes out to over €150 per person). .
Sometimes excellent restaurants turn up in the most unlikely places - Dang Muoi is situated along a noisy Buda road teeming with cars but not many pedestrians. Not exactly a restaurateur's dream location. So it's all the more promising that the place-against the odds-is usually packed with customers. Dang Muoi started out in the 1990s as a food stall on the now-demolished Asian street market on the other side of the Danube River.
Like many other cities, Budapest is swarming with specialty coffee shops. You know - tattooed baristas, minimalist interiors, and pricey pourovers. Does the city need more new-wave cafés? The answer is not obvious to me, but if it’s a “yes” to you, then more of them should be like Dorado Café. This 2018 newcomer is located on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street inside the old Jewish Quarter.
Espresso Embassy embodies the fantasy of the new-wave coffee world. This lively café inside Budapest's financial district makes hand pourovers with a Hario V60, espresso-based drinks with a fancy Victoria Arduino machine, and a bunch of delicious cakes of organic ingredients you've never heard of. The beautifully repurposed neoclassical building (see the landmark plaque on the facade) has a vaulted exposed brick ceiling and a meticulously minimalist interior. The core clientele consists of yuppie bankers as well as trendy grad students from the nearby Central European University who can be observed tirelessly typing away on their Macs.
After apprenticing at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young local chefs (Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy) in 2014 decided to venture out on their own. The result is Fricska, now a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant specializing in updated Hungarian dishes. Fricska is located in a remote part of the city's party district, inside a subterranean space that manages to feel inviting despite the lack of windows. .
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, chicken paprikash, and beef stew (pörkölt). These Hungarian classics are updated with small twists, like the baked cottage cheese noodles rolled in bacon that accompany the veal paprikash.
Hanna is a glatt kosher restaurant operated by the Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community of Hungary in District 7. Since it's 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 the Budapest party scene teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. Orthodox Jews visiting Budapest, however, are often better informed and they fill the restaurant most nights..
Hopaholic is a craft beer bar in Budapest famed for its dizzying range of international craft beers. They source bottled beers from over 250 microbreweries across the world that are supplemented by ten 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. Hopaholic's bartenders are helpful and will provide samples to taste if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options.
Opened in 1968, Ibolya Espresso is an iconic café and bar in Budapest's downtown. Ibolya is anchored in Budapest's collective memory as at least two generations of local residents have been coming here for everything from secret dates to business meetings over the past half-century. The place's interior pieces evoke the design items of the communist era - chairs are topped with sticky, red faux leather upholsteries, and Mid-century modern-inspired light fixtures feature orange plexiglass..
Part burger joint, part craft beer bar, Kandalló is a bustling space in the Jewish Quarter where locals looking for a taste of 'Merica can flock to. Kandalló’s burgers are among the best you will find in Budapest, although, as with other burgers in the city, I would prefer their buns to be smaller and squishier (Kandalló uses a 125 gram wheat bun with 180 gram / 6.3 ounce patties). Most patties are made from Grey Cattle beef, a local variety, while the more expensive burgers come with Angus chuck..
Budapest is undersupplied when it comes to relaxed, unpretentious breakfast and brunch spots, mostly because locals generally eat breakfast at home. One of the exceptions is Kino, this breakfast-all-day café along the Grand Boulevard. .
For a truly local lunch experience, 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 and cheap, and in the case of Kívánság, it's all about delicious home-style dishes. .
Kőleves is wildly popular, kosher-style restaurant in the center of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. Until 2002, the building, which was built in 1851, was home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop. So it’s fitting that Kőleves restaurant honors the building’s past with several Hungarian-Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup and cholent, and uses leftover items to adorn the space. For example, watchful customers will notice a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a Talmud displayed as design pieces..
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 is expected to make a decent fish soup, it’s also that 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, carps, and more. They cook live animals and use little seasoning to let the ingredients speak for themselves (Sichuan spices haven’t crept up here).
Mélypont is an impossibly cool, cavernous underground bar situated along a charming downtown backstreet in Budapest. The interior features highly amortized pieces of communist-era furniture, which usually fill to capacity with students from the neighboring law and political science colleges of Eötvös Loránd University. Despite the occasionally rowdy college crowd (expect some waiting for the foosball table) Mélypont's overall setting is intimate, with cute hideaway corners that work well for date nights as well. While drinks are cheap overall, whiskey fans can indulge in a broad selection of top-shelf varieties..
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. Since Stand25 Bistro, this attractive luncheonette, opened in the popular Hold Street market-hall-turned-food-court, people have flocked to its crammed tables from near and far..
A Chinese man from Shanghai set out to open Budapest’s best sushi restaurant. To that end, he recruited Yoshihito Hiro, an experienced Japanese sushi chef to oversee the entire operation. .
Buja Disznó(k) is a food stall located on the upper deck of the impressive Hold Street Market Hall in downtown Budapest. Over the past years, the market has transformed into a gourmet food court, where leading local chefs operate wallet-friendly, excellent fast casual eateries. .
If Jedermann had a sister location on the Buda side of the city, I bet it would look and feel a lot like BÉLA. This indefinable establishment is part café, part restaurant, and part bar. The interior, a high-ceilinged space with a wooden floor, Persian carpets, hanging plants, and a sleek bar, feels cozy despite the mishmash of styles. They managed to squeeze in some nooks and crannies (look upstairs and in the back), so BÉLA works well for dates too.
Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving uncomplicated 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, Börze recalls a Keith McNally restaurant. .
Breakfast places in Budapest are still far and few between, and the ones that do exist are mostly located in downtown and cater to tourists. This isn't the case with Café Panini, a stylish neighborhood breakfast restaurant inside the secluded world of the hip Újlipótváros. There isn’t anything profoundly unique about Café Panini’s croque madams, frankfurters, or ham and eggs, but they’re tasty, reasonably priced, and they exist! Breakfast and brunch is served all day on weekends and until noon on weekdays, with a range of Hungarian beer and wine selections to help lift the mood. The crowd is easy-going, and mostly a cross section of the neighborhood.
Costes Downtown is a 2015 offshoot of Costes, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest. It's a slightly more casual version of its sister restaurant: instead of a formal setting with white tablecloths, here a sleek, rustic look complete with wood finishes and an open kitchen dominate the atmosphere. Although they try to separate the restaurant from the posh hotel whose ground floor Costes Downtown occupies, the dining area closest to the lobby does feel a bit corporate, so try to ask for a table by the windows. .
Csendes is a popular ruin bar in downtown Budapest. 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 complete with creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls all the more bizarre. Csendes tends to get jam-packed by the evening with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists. Rather than the raucous drinking joint of its peers, Csendes is a mellower, quieter, sit-down café.
Most Iranian residents in Budapest claim that Darband is the city's best Persian restaurant. That Darband’s owner and one of its chefs are both Iranians inspires further confidence. The subterranean space just off Budapest’s Downtown is lined with dining booths, each named after an old Tehran street. The mosaic tile tables and photos on the walls of Iran try to spruce up the otherwise puritan interior.
Curious where the top 1% of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve in 2007 when they opened this sleek bistro featuring a Balthazar-like interior straight out of the Keith McNally playbook. Back then, Déryné was a novelty in Budapest because this type of hip-but-classy restaurants didn't exist yet. .
Budapest’s only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953 when many more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became Budapest's party center. .
Located on a serene side street surrounded by grand residential homes in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the boisterous party town that its neighbor, District 7, has become. There are things to like about Fülemüle, most of all the snug place and offbeat location of this family-run restaurant founded in 2000 and specialized in Hungarian-Jewish cuisine. The cholent, this knockout of a Shabbat dish is advertized as the specialty of the house. If it wasn't for the stuffed goose neck (helzel) perching atop the slow-cooked beans and pearl barley, it wouldn't leave much of an impression.
The formula for success at Grinzingi, an unpretentious downtown wine bar, is simple: serve cheap drinks in the center of Budapest that's otherwise heavy on overpriced, tourist-oriented places. But what gives Grinzingi soul is its longevity, the variety of its patrons, and the “interior design.” .
Hops Beer Bar is a divey-looking craft beer bar located in the heart of Budapest's party district. The moment you realize that this isn't your average dive bar is when you enter the space and get a glimpse at the more than 200 types of top-tier craft beers stacked in the fridge. This extensive beer selection and the charismatic owner-operators make Hops Beer Bar a pilgrimage-site for craft beer fans in Budapest. .
Some pockets of Buda are similarly lively as Pest, but they are few and far between. The area around Bartók Béla Way is one such revitalized neighborhood, featuring a concentration of art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet Café, an all-purpose café, is one of the reasons that new life is breathing into the street. The Middle Eastern-infused food selections alone may not be worth the trip from the other side of the Danube, but Kelet’s claim to fame is their coffee, which comes from Colombia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and is served in espresso-based, filter, and Turkish coffee forms.
Independent restaurants located inside luxury hotels face a common challenge: they need to juggle between satisfying the not-always-so-sophisticated palates of the hotel residents while also luring discernible diners looking for a fine dining experience. KOLLÁZS - Brasserie & Bar, occupying part of the ground floor at the exquisite Four Seasons Hotel Budapest, meets the challenge. The tastefully designed neo-Art Deco interior seamlessly blends a grill bar with a bistro, a fine dining restaurant, and a cocktail bar. Don't be surprised by besuited waiters scurrying around with tableside carts, carving fine meats like chateaubriand and Dover sole.
One of Budapest’s best sushi restaurants is buried in the basement of an unremarkable strip mall. It doesn’t have a functional facebook page, let alone an instagram handle, and its website looks as if it hasn’t been updated in a decade. Perhaps the obscurity of Okuyama no Sushi is itself a marketing tool, and if that’s the case, it works well: after all, who doesn’t like the sense of satisfaction that follows an unexpected discovery? To avoid any disappointments, know before you go that the interior is utilitarian at best, and verges on grungy..
You need to trek out to the outer part of District 7’s working class neighborhood to experience the surprisingly delicious and elaborate meals prepared by chef Ádám Csaba at Olimpia Étterem. The restaurant does not have a fixed menu, instead using the blackboard on the wall to present the daily-changing dishes, which vary based on seasonal ingredients. The result? Absolutely superb..
Padron is a tiny, family-run tapas bar in Budapest's Palace Quarter in District 8, situated on a quiet side street. The restaurant exhibits all the usual signs of a busy family-run enterprise with the mother taking orders, the son serving food, and the father behind the bar. .
St. Andrea Wine & Skybar is a 2017 addition to a growing lineup of year-round rooftop bars in Budapest. St. Andrea is a Hungarian success story: from a small winery in the countryside of Eger they have grown into a nationally recognized wine label, while also successfully dipping their toes into Budapest's restaurant scene, first with a fine dining restaurant (St.
The farther from downtown, the better the food - this is the rule of thumb in Budapest when it comes to finding good Chinese restaurants. When Taiwan Restaurant opened in 1991, it was one of the first places to serve authentic Chinese flavors. Nearly three decades later Taiwan is still among the best Chinese restaurants in Budapest, so don't be discouraged by the odd location of this destination restaurant. It's worth leaving the city center for, and it's easy to get to by subway (take the M3 train to Nagyvárad tér).
TG Italiano is an upper-middle priced Italian restaurant located on a highly-touristed downtown street in Budapest. The chic, spacious interior complete with an outdoor terrace (heated and covered in the colder months) is a tourist-favorite thanks to its central location and reliable dishes. .
It's a miracle that Trapéz, this tiny, inconspicuous pre-war building a stone's throw away from the Great Market Hall hasn't yet become the victim of real estate developers. Don't be fooled by the relative calm and quiet of the ground floor, it's the attic upstairs where the action is. Trapéz is a lively, bustling college bar, mainly frequented by students and recent graduates from the nearby Corvinus University. Although the bar food won't knock you off your feet, the burgers are decent and the prices more than reasonable.
Vietnami Speciális Melegkonyha is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest serving many traditional dishes that you won't be able to find elsewhere in the city. The only downside is that it's a 15-minute cab ride from the city center, but at least you will get to discover the less-traveled parts of Budapest too. Having taken over the space from an Italian restaurant without redoing the interior, the wallpapers still sport Gothic-windows and a verdant Tuscan countryside, lending a bizarre decor to the dining room..
Known to every Budapest resident young and old, Gerbeaud is a legendary café and pastry shop in Budapest's downtown. Swiss patissier, Emil Gerbeaud, took over the business in 1884 and turned it into the leading confectionery of the city with a line of inventive sweets. They included the konyakmeggy, a brandied sour cherry enclosed by a chocolate shell, and the “macskanyelv”, a milk chocolate shaped like a cat’s tongue (both of them are still produced). Café Gerbeaud also makes a dizzying array of classic Hungarian (or Austro-Hungarian) pastries, such as Dobos and Esterházy torte, krémes, and the namesake Gerbeaud cake.
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. Think: artfully chipped pale-yellow walls, oversized windows that are swung open in the summer months, and ear-catching electronic music piping through the speakers. .
Dzzs Bár, down the block from Kisüzem, attracts an eccentric and bohemian crowd of 20-somethings. Stopping by here on a late night feels like being at the house party of your rowdiest friend. You can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this cozy space, where walls are crowded with an eclectic selection of provocative local artwork. The interior is a mishmash of worn out furniture where nothing matches but everything belongs.
Opened in 1994, Fausto’s Ristorante is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest with some nods to northern Italian cuisine. Fausto's claims that its dishes are “sprinkled with the latest arts of contemporary cuisine.” What this means is that instead of the standard caprese- and pizza-driven menu, Fausto's prepares meticulously plated dishes made with a host of fancy ingredients that include scallops, flatfish, and venison loin, and served in a classic fine dininig setting. Those looking for simpler Italian fare, a couple of pasta options are also available: tagliatelle and risotto plates made with rich, heavy sauces. .
Fecske Presszó is a cheap, laid-back bar just a stone's throw away from the stunningly beautiful Szabó Ervin Library within Budapest's Palace Quarter. Students of all ages like to take study breaks at Fecske of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer. Weather permitting, go for an open table by the expansive outdoor terrace, canopied by the overhanging tree (otherwise find a charming nook in the underground space). Go for the fixed-price lunch menu if you happen to be around Fecske at midday and want to chow down some cheap comfort food.
Kiosk is a hip restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trend-conscious locals and plenty of tourists. Kiosk has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of 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.) .
If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communism, search no longer. Kádár Étkezde, a traditional Hungarian eatery in the old Jewish Quarter, around since 1957, will immediately transport you back to a different epoch. Note that Kádár is open for lunch only..
You will enjoy Lumen Café if you prefer to avoid the heavily-touristed streets of the Jewish Quarter, but still get a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer in a hip neighborhood. With egg-based breakfast offerings (served until noon on weekends) and a thoughtful interior design featuring concrete and wood finishes, Lumen Café is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons, artists and neighborhood bohemians, who give a soul to the place..
Madal is a rightfully popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest. In general, they make excellent coffee (espresso-based, filter, and cold brews), have a friendly staff and sleek wood-paneled interiors. The company operates two other locations in Budapest, and while the one near the Parliament building is much bigger with shorter wait times, this one at Ferenciek tere has the most charm. If you get there early enough, a selection of flaky (whole wheat) croissants can accompany your morning coffee.
At some point in the early 2000s, Liszt Ferenc Square in District 6 was a popular hangout for trendy and moneyed locals. Then, as the wheel of trends turned, the excitement began to taper off and people moved on to other pockets of the city. Today, you will find signs prominently advertising "Hungarian cuisine" and "tourist menus," and it’s also here that Hungary's lone Hooters operated. You don't need me to tell you: proceed with caution..
In the likely event that you've never frequented 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 Hungarian countryside estate, and, surprisingly, the current owner seems to find it a fitting theme to accent their Asian cuisine as well..
Overseen by 28-year old head-chef János Mizsei, MÁK Bistro is one of the best restaurants in Budapest. Mizsei, who trained at restaurants in Denmark and Sweden, extracts intense flavors from seemingly simple ingredients, in line with the New Nordic Cuisine he is so fond of. He is known to go out of his way to find unlikely suppliers, such as the local farmer who collects birch sap in a Hungarian village. .
Mátra Borozó is one of the oldest and most eccentric wine bars in Budapest, a genuine throwback. It opened in 1948. The current owner, Gábor Abendschein, has been in charge since 1983. The communal spirit doesn’t just stem from the amiable, graying regulars who come here, but also the unique layout of the space: instead of a bar counter splitting up the room, a simple metal box stands in the middle containing the four kinds of wines.
Neked Csak Dezső craft beer bar occupies a spacious and high-ceilinged ground floor of a pre-war building located just a block from Budapest's party district, in the mellower District 8. The white-walled interior feels a bit sterile despite attempts to jazz up the decor with patches of red bricks and exposed fermentation tanks. .
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). The upscale restaurant is located inside the five-star Kempinski hotel in Budapest's downtown. Visitors familiar with Nobu restaurants elsewhere in the world should rest assured that, in Budapest too, they will find all of Mr.
Pesti Burger and Bar is a chic burger joint located on the campus of Semmelweis University, near the Basic Medical Science Center’s glass-curtained building in Budapest's District 9. The place occupies the ground floor of an indistinct, gleaming white dormitory high-rise. 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 (the wallet-friendlier pasta joint next door is usually mobbed with students). .
Leather banquettes, trilingual menus, and a prime Downtown location are not usually hallmarks of Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest. Not so with Quán Nón Restaurant. The spacious dining room isn’t so much tastefully decorated as more formal than the Vietnamese takeout places that otherwise monopolize the genre..
Szimply is a tiny breakfast-all-day restaurant in the cobble-stoned courtyard of a pre-war downtown building. Thanks to The New York Times, which mentioned Szimply in an article (Budapest is #50), it's next to impossible to find an open table at this closet-sized breakfast nook. They specialize in on-trend, contemporary breakfast and brunch food, like the generously packed avocado toast topped with arugula, figs and goat cheese. Szimply also has 4 types of vegetable/fruit juices, but, unfortunately, they don't serve alcohol.
Operated by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Tel Aviv Café is Budapest’s one and only kosher dairy restaurant. Being a dairy restaurant, don't go searching for meat-based dishes here. In fact, you won’t find any of the traditional Ashkenazi non-meat classics either, like matzo brei, blintz, and latke. This is somewhat surprising, because Tel Aviv Café is located across Budapest's main orthodox synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter, so a hat tip to Central European Jewish food traditions would have been fitting.
À la Maison Grand is a chic downtown café in Budapest located on the ground floor of a 1906 art nouveau building (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 classics like croque madame (€5), Eggs Florentine (€7), and a range of waffles. I recommend that you avoid the "breakfast plates" in general, as I was let down by the undersized and forlorn-looking English (€10) and Hungarian breakfasts (€12). .
Never mind the black-and-white photos of Italy on the walls, little of Alessio’s interior will remind you that you’re in an Italian restaurant. Instead, the densely carpeted space with crammed tables and white linen tablecloths feels more like a charming neighborhood joint tailored to the tastes of the local middle- and upper-class residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. .
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 Budapest’s artisan burgerland: a nicely charred 130 gram / 4.6 ounce patty is enclosed by a sesame bun and garnished with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and a slathering of sauce. .
Budapest has a small supply of Japanese restaurants, and those that exist serve a limited range of Japanese fare (primarily sushi- or ramen-only spots). Biwako is a welcome exception. It’s advertized as a ramen house, but they make all sorts of everyday Japanese dishes like donburi, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki. The restaurant is located across the street from The Japan Foundation in a bare-bones, underground space.
If you asked around within Budapest's gastronomic circles about the key figures of the city's contemporary food revolution, one of the names invariably dropped will be Balázs Pethő, executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant. 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 kitchen practices were still the norm. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in his 8-course dinner tasting menu at Csalogány 26. .
Csiga is a popular café located in the increasingly trendy outer part of District 8, a bit outside the city center. The neighborhood, situated just beyond the Grand Boulevard, is rising to cool-status as people become fed up with the crowds swarming the bars of the Jewish Quarter (two lively bars, Kék Ló or Hintaló Iszoda, are both just around the corner from Csiga). .
If you don't mind a touristy experience in Budapest, stop by at DiVino Wine Bar, situated in the heart of Budapest's downtown. You can sip a glass of Hungarian red or white in this popular wine bar, 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.
Ellátó Kert is a ruin bar inside a brick skeleton of a U-shaped, former meat processing facility buried deep within the old Jewish Quarter. The best part of Ellátó Kert is its atmospheric outdoor courtyard, which is sufficiently secluded from the busy Kazinczy Street to feel intimate. Being in the heart of it all, however, Ellátó Kert, like other ruin bars in Budapest, is especially popular among tourists, and, unfortunately, binge-drinking and rowdy groups of bachelor party crews who come here for the relatively cheap alcohol. You will find more locals and less of a testosterone-fueled crowd if you visit outside of peak hours (basically not on a Friday or Saturday night)..
If you find yourself in the center of Budapest's party district and you've already been to too many bars where rowdy groups of bachelor-party tourists spoiled the mood, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near the main party street (Kazinczy Street), Fekete Kutya has managed to retain a local crowd and exudes laid-back, unpretentious vibes. .
Hú Lù Lu, a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s party district, is the type of place where the food speaks louder than the decor (always a better combination than reversed). Two Vietnamese-Hungarian 20-somethings originally from Nghệ An in north-central Vietnam run this 2018 newcomer and in addition to a few excellent dishes it's the adorably “mom and pop” feel of Hú Lù Lu’s that draws me back..
Opening a Lebanese restaurant is a brave venture in a country where, triggered by government propaganda, negative sentiments about the Middle East are running high. So kudos to Lebanese-Estonian owners for swimming against the current with the 2018 launch of Leila’s Authentic Lebanese Cuisine, located on a quiet backstreet in District 6. 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). .
Léhűtő was an early bird on the Budapest craft beer scene when it opened in 2013 at Gozsdu Courtyard, a passage now teeming with bars and restaurants. Léhűtő has benefited from the spectacular revival of the area, meaning that currently it occupies one of the central spots inside Budapest’s party district. .
Above-average food, laid-back vibes, a chic crowd, tiny tables crammed into a small space, and waitresses speaking fluent English - are we in Brooklyn or Budapest? Budapest, because service isn't rushed and diners are welcome to linger. .
One would be hard-press to believe that in the first half of the 20th century the streets of District 7, today the party central of Budapest, were swarming with Jewish people. Macesz Bistro, a Jewish-Hungarian fusion restaurant, pays homage to the neighborhood’s history (the edifice across the street is still home to the Hungarian Orthodox Jewish Community). The menu at Macesz Bistro includes most Hungarian-Ashkenazi Jewish staples alongside classic Hungarian food offerings (in Hungarian macesz means matzo). The culinary highlight and the most economical choice in this slightly overpriced bistro is the “Jewish Traditional” tasting menu for HUF7,990 or €27 (€40 with wine pairing)..
Printa was one of the first design stores in Budapest that figured out that selling high-quality coffee alongside Hungarian designer products can be a winning combination. Think limited edition prints, clothes, bags, and purses made by the local designers - no tchotchkes here. Being good at what they do, and being located in the center of it all, it's inevitable that they now mainly cater to tourists with somewhat inflated price tags. Nevertheless, there's plenty of cool stuff, and great espresso-based coffee, which is sourced from Blue Bird coffee roastery next door.
One of Budapest’s oldest and most atmospheric wine bars is hidden underground on a quiet downtown street otherwise known for its antique stores hawking expensive chinaware. In line with 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 longtime regulars from the neighborhood. .
If you get the impression that Budapest is swarming with alarmingly cheap, Chinese take-out places serving questionable food, you aren't that far from the truth. But Wang Mester Kínai Konyhája isn't one of those places. Instead, it's one of the better Sichuan restaurants of Budapest, located in the peaceful Zugló neighborhood a bit outside central Budapest and near the City Park. .
Öcsi étkezde, a tiny lunch-only eatery in District 8, has flourished since 1981, in part due to the homey environment created by married owners Erzsi and Feri. Erzsi, the driving force behind the kitchen, occasionally pops in to the dining area with cilantro-covered hands to check with regulars whether they'd like a schnitzel with their lecsó. Feri, a comforting presence with a white lab coat and handsome features, multitasks between taking orders, bringing out food, and chatting with patrons, most of whom he knows by name. .
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 bar, conveniently located inside Budapest's boisterous Party District. Be sure to also pop into the basement venue, where another bar, and often live music concerts await well-informed guests..
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 creativity can bring more out of centuries-old national recipes than what had been the standard. For example, that crumbs of celery roots can add a welcome crunch and freshness to the goulash soup (€5). Or that the paprikash tastes better when paired with breaded beef tenderloins.
The few Japanese restaurants that exist in Budapest focus on higher end Japanese fare like sushi, even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets would be more compatible with the simpler Japanese dishes. Perhaps this is what Mr. Tomoki and his wife, a young couple from Tokyo, thought when in January 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant. .
It's tough to beat the location of Esetleg Bistro. It's a partially outdoor bar and restaurant situated along the bank of the Danube River inside a dramatic, whale-shaped contemporary building in District 9. Esetleg offers stunning views onto several Budapest landmarks including the Liberty Bridge, Gellért Hill, and the imposing building of the Budapest University of Technology across the river. The lively venue is best for winding down with an afternoon drink in the summer months.
Fogas Ház is an enormous ruin bar located in Budapest's party district, inside a 1861 landmark building with a crumbling facade. Although it started out as a cheap ruin bar for locals, Fogas Ház has become somewhat pricier over the years, meaning that these days it's mostly an international crowd that comes here. In fact, know before you go that Fogas is particularly popular for alcohol-fuled bachelor parties, in case that's not (or it is!) the crowd you care to mingle with. .
Although Frici Papa opened after the fall of the iron curtain, this eatery has become a darling for tourists looking to experience communist-style dining. Tablecloths covered with transparent plastic, cheap wood panelings decorating the walls, waiters dressed as if having been parachuted here from the '80s - those in search of a journey back in time won't be disappointed. .
Fáma is a 2016 venture of Hungarian celebrity-chef Krisztián Huszár. It was a bold move to open a fine dining restaurant in a residential Buda neighborhood, away from the well-trodden tourist paths of downtown Pest and the Castle Hill. The owners spared no expense to create a tastefully chic interior, featuring a dimly-lit dining room and grey-painted walls accented by industrial pipes overhead. .
Due to bad urban planning, cars have better access to Danube River views than city residents in Budapest. A handful of Budapest bars, however, can boast a precious river panorama, and Jónás Craft Beer House is one of them. So, while sipping a 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 Craft Beer House.
The location itself is worth the visit to Kontakt, this specialty coffee shop nestled inside the charming cobble-stoned courtyard of a downtown building. With a radically minimalist interior, a heavily bearded staff, and customers glued to their smartphones, Kontakt could easily be mistaken for a hip Brooklyn café. Kontakt's policy is not to add any sugar to the coffees, nor any milk to the drip coffees, so that the rich coffee flavors can be fully appreciated. If you're looking to eat something, walk a few steps across the ally to Szimply, a popular all-day-breakfast joint run by the same owners in a similarly fashionable vein.
Központ, located in the Jewish Quarter, is a popular bar among Budapest's early-30s liberal establishment. The crowd mainly comprises journalists, musicians, people from non-profits and the fashion industry. The best night tends to be Friday - it's not unusual that the crowd overflows to the sidewalks until the wee hours. Drinks here are a bit more expensive than at other bars on this list, but for most foreigners they will still feel affordable.
You will need to escape the heart of Budapest to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French flavors along with revamped Hungarian classics. It's located on a peaceful section of the grand Andrássy Avenue in District 6, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies. The quirky modernist building from 1937 that houses La Perle Noire, now also a hotel, stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. With a green terrace overlooking Andrássy, La Perle Noire offers a unique dining experience in the warmer months.
Oriental Soup House is a chic and affordable Vietnamese fusion restaurant in the cool-but-under-the-radar Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. I'm always happy when I see Asian cooks scurry behind the open kitchen in a Vietnamese restaurant and this place is no exception. The slim menu centers around 11 types of hearty soups of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo), flaunting a flavorful broth with a golden hue, is among the better representatives of the pho genre in Budapest, especially if you order it with raw loin that cooks in the hot broth. .
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 located on Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most famous street that’s often compared to the Champs-Élysées. It's on the farther and quieter section, away from the noisy downtown. The trattoria-like interior pulls inspiration from the century-old subway stations located underneath Andrássy (not that patrons need much of a reminder: at the outdoor terrace they can actually feel the ground slightly shake when a train passes). .
Shahrzad is a Persian restaurant buried deep within District 8, near Corvin-negyed where many Iranian students live in Budapest. Shahrzad‘s menu is shorter than that of Darband, Budapest’s most well-known Iranian restaurant, but its gleaming interior with comfortable chairs feels more welcoming than the dimly-lit premises and wooden booths of Darband..
Tuning Burger is a tourist-heavy burger joint in the heart of the bustling Jewish Quarter. Tuning's burgers are a bit too busy for my taste: each comes with several non-traditional burger ingredients that, depending on your order, might be eggs, sliced avocado, or grilled zucchini. The over-the-top burger architecture comprises a sizeable, 180 gram / 6.3 ounce patty. .
That this unfussy, communist-era neighborhood bar right across the street from one of Budapest's most visited tourist destinations (Dohány Street Synagogue) still exists, and hasn't become the victim of commerce is a small miracle. Despite its moniker, Turiszt Büfé, which opened in 1982, has never gained much of its business from tourists. I can't tell if the name was meant to throw sand in tourists' face or this was the best they could come up with at the time..
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood joints in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. Customers will note the Italian chatter wafting from Al Dente's open kitchen through the dining room - always a good sign fo an Italian restaurant. The place is an osteria-type casual eatery serving many of the Italian classics supplemented by regional food from Puglia (the chef is from Bari, the capital city of Puglia in southern Italy). As for Al Dente's location, you couldn't ask for a prettier setting than this quiet side street flanked by high-ceilinged pre-war buildings in Budapest's former Palace Quarter.
Babel is one of a small number of classic fine dining restaurants in Budapest. It's a dinner-only tasting menu venue located in the heart of downtown with a dimly-lit dining room that has only a dozen tables, all set with white tablecloths. Babel prides itself on delivering dishes inspired by Transylvania. Although this is more of a catchy soundbite than a real commitment to Transylvanian cuisine, Babel's young head chef, Istvan Veres, delivers some of the best food in Budapest.
For a deeply offbeat Budapest experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger Bár in the south of the city, a half-hour bus ride from downtown. Flanked by grey, communist-era high-rises lies this unlikely and not particularly inviting, flimsy wooden shack. The kitschy decor aims to evoke American vibes. As if Big Daddy’s moniker and decorative license plates from Texas, Florida, and Missouri wouldn’t sufficiently convey the Americanness of the place, they painted red, white and blue stripes on the building’s exterior.
Ennmann delivers a no-frills but authentic Japanese experience to Budapest diners. Opened in 2016, the place is actually run by a Chinese couple with the husband managing the kitchen and his wife taking care of the dining area. They have extensive sushi and sashimi selections that on some days are prepared better and fresher than on others (seafood deliveries are three to four times a week). Of the non-raw fish dishes the shrimp tempura is among the better ones: the seafood dressed in a thin layer of batter receives a quick deep-fry, which makes for a crispy crust and juicy flavors beneath it.
Fahéj is a charming café and bar located on a quite backstreet in Budapest's downtown. Fahéj eschews the overly trendy vibes and tourist-oriented approach of many places in the neighborhood, relying instead on a loyal group of regulars, both young and old. This they do by serving cheap drinks inside an atmospheric space that consists of two high-ceilinged rooms complete with wood flooring, bookshelves, archived newspaper cutouts on the walls, and small round tables surrounded by Thonet chairs, all of which lend the space a cute, intellectual feel. .
If you’re looking for quick and affordable Middle Eastern food in the Jewish Quarter, 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, 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.
In present-day Budapest, gypsy music has been largely relegated to a phony tourist activity. Overpriced downtown restaurants tend to hire gypsy bands to perform traditional Hungarian songs in an effort to create “Hungarian vibes” for unsuspecting tourists. The reality is that except for the occasional wedding parties when such songs may be performed, most locals, especially those below 50, are as unfamiliar with these songs as the tourists being subjected to them..
Hanoi Xua is a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest that’s popular among local Hungarians. The place is best known for its extensive soup varieties, above-average fried rice plates, and a few Vietnamese foods that rarely appear in other restaurants like the chè dessert. Hanoi Xua is located in 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 international medical students who study at the nearby campuses of Semmelweis University. .
Opened almost 20 years ago, Két Szerecsen is a chic restaurant 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 bustling space is crammed with tables which receive plenty of natural light thanks to the oversized windows. .
For a journey back in time, stop by at this hole-in-the-wall food stall on the upper deck of the Klauzal tér market hall in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. The place is hidden from plain sight, meaning that not only tourists to the market remain unaware of its existence, but even most locals miss it. Marika, the engine behind the operation, and her husband prepare a range of home-style Hungarian classics at bizarrely low prices (the two-course daily special runs the equivalent of €3). .
If you ever wondered what Chinese breakfast was like, Hong Kong Büfé in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center) is your chance to find out. For less than HUF1,500 (€5), you will be able to taste classic Chinese breakfast staples here like jianbings, congee, and youtiao. .
Flaky almond croissants, fresh orange juice, and specialty coffee (both pour overs and espresso-based) are just three of the reasons to visit this cute café in the “Harlem of Budapest”, a bit outside the city center in District 8. Kudos to the owner for walking the less trodden path and having created something great in this slice of the city. Wander the streets nearby to get a glimpse of the lives of less privileged Budapest residents (the neighborhood is very safe during the day). Local attractions include an enormous late-Baroque church, a former telephone exchange in a beautiful art nouveau building, the country's best high school, as well as a playfully eclectic residential building with a non-matching top floor added during communism..
Buda is better known for its green hills and quiet streets than its bustling party scene. Even the denser, urban sections are noticeably short of drinking spots that have a unique character and enduring appeal. Nemdebár is a notable exception. This dimly lit, charmingly grungy neighborhood bar is filled to capacity most nights, drawing an eclectic local crowd consisting of everyone from hip college students to office workers, and uncle-type bohemians pushing 50.
Pagony bar is the product of an ingenious idea: what was formerly the children's section of the historic Gellért Baths has been transformed into this delightful outdoor venue. This means, for example, that the bar counter is inside the former sauna building, several of the tables have been lowered into the empty swimming pools, and still the bath’s original wrought-iron lamps illuminate the space each night. Next to Pagony's entrance, you can see the underpass that used to connect to the main, and still functional wing of Gellért Baths on the other side of the street. .
Although Szatyor Bar looks like a regular ruin bar complete with communist-era light fixtures and vehicles hanging from the walls, it's actually different from the ruin bars that swarm District 7. Instead of scruffy students sipping dirt-cheap beers, it draws an over-30s 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 you will find them at Szatyor Bár, 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.
2 Spaghi’s mission is simple: prepare made-to-order fresh pasta simply and well. Customers are invited to pair a variety pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with an often-changing list of popular sauces and toppings. For example, on any given day the Italian chefs at 2 Spaghi might make cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Unhurried groups of elderly Arabic regulars tend to socialize at Al-Amir, an encouraging sign for a Syrian restaurant in downtown Budapest. Al-Amir marries a counter-service and a bare-bones sit-down format. (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.).
It’s easy to miss Altair Teahouse, a lovable underground tea house located along a sleepy side street behind the National Museum in Budapest's Palace Quarter. Defying space limitations, they've managed to squeeze three floors of tiny nooks separated from each other by curtains and pillows, and sitting on inserted wooden platforms. The dimly lit, labyrinthine indoor makes for an ideal date spot or for a bit of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of city center, just minutes away. Besides the endless tea options, Altair also offers a selection of (hot) wines, beers, spirits, as well as hookahs (water pipes).
Tucked away on a steep Castle Hill side street lies one of Budapest’s most expensive fine dining restaurants, Golden Caviar. Furnished with maroon and golden tapestry-like walls and heavy drapes, the exquisite dining rooms exude an air of opulence. In addition to a range of high-priced caviars, Golden Caviar offers two types of tasting menus: a “Hungarian Fish” and a “Traditional” Russian. Plenty of chilled vodka and premium wines are also available for pairing.
Borpatika (“Wine pharmacy”) is an iconic neighborhood watering hole in Újbuda. Not much has changed in the inside here since Borpatika 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. .
Hanoi Pho’s name is misleading because the bland pho soup they make is hardly the reason to visit this Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s Downtown near the Parliament building. (Like in other parts of the Western world, they use this iconic Vietnamese dish as a signifier for Vietnamese food in general.) .
If you’re looking for tasty and affordable Chinese food, HeHe is one of your best bets in Budapest. The restaurant serves real Chinese dishes from a relatively modest, undecorated space in Monori Center, inside Budapest's Chinatown, a 20 minute tram ride from the city center. .
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. .
La nube is a café/tapas bar in the increasingly hip Újbuda neighborhood. The main appeal of this Hungarian-Spanish, family-run operation is the warm and welcoming atmosphere and the diverse crowd which mainly comes from the neighborhood. On a typical day, patrons might comprise parents with young children (there's a kids' corner), hipsters typing away on their iPhones, and aging locals sipping glasses of San Miguel that comes straight from the tap..
San Guo Zhi is a Dongbei-style barbecue restaurant that opened in 2017 in the increasingly diverse food paradise of Budapest's Chinatown in Monori Center. Dongbei is the northeastern part of China, formerly known as Manchuria. The region's food reflects Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian influences, as well as the cold climate - it's heavy on lamb, hearty warm soups, and corn and wheat instead of rice..
Spíler has been reliably one of the hottest restaurants in Budapest since its opening in 2012. It's located in the heart of the buzzing Jewish Quarter, inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard dotted with restaurants and bars. Spíler occupies a massive space that includes three stylish, highly Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. .
Location is unfortunately a challenge for St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar, a fine dining Budapest restaurant. It occupies the ground floor of a luxury office building, just off the reception area. As a result, high-power executives from the offices upstairs make up the core of the patrons, which leads to an overly corporate atmosphere, particularly at lunchtime..
Raw seafood takes center stage at this oversized Buda restaurant. Three popular sushi variations dominate the menu along with sashimi cuts: maki (cut rolls), nigiri (mounds of rice topped with fish filet), and chirashi (fish over vinegared rice in a bowl). The fish selections are impressively broad, besides the usual tuna, salmon, and prawn options, raw eel, sea bass, octopus, squid, and salmon roe are also prevalent. The chirashi bowl (HUF6,900 or c.€23) is the best and least expensive way to sample a cross section of the most interesting cuts.
No English menu, let alone a Facebook page: these are good signs that you've stumbled on something uniquely local. Városház Snack belongs to the bare-bones, self-service lunch venues that were popular during communist times and are now nearing extinction usually for good reason. Városház Snack, however, is still standing, since 1985, and so are plenty of people in line at lunchtime for cheap and tasty Hungarian dishes served inside a shoebox-sized downtown location. .
At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. Penniless artists and people of all backgrounds hung out there day and night, discussing politics, romance, and missed rent payments while nursing their precious cups of coffee. Cafés were the center of social life. Today, however, second hand clothing stores and uninviting gyro vendors paint a sad picture of this once truly grand boulevard.
For the longest time Budapest didn't used to have many places specialized in breakfast food, even though we all know what a difference a plate of well-prepared scrambled eggs can make to start your day off on the right foot. Part of this gaping void was filled in 2014 when Zoska opened. Zoska is a breakfast-all-day restaurants nestled in a quite downtown backstreet and featuring a shabby-chic interior. Their offerings include international breakfast staples spanning from cold plates to ham & eggs and bundás kenyér, a Hungarian version of the French toast.
A leading Hungarian chef, Lajos Bíró, opened a fast casual lunch eatery at the Hold Street market hall and we should all celebrate that decision. At A Séf utcája (trans. "Chef's Street") you will find wallet-friendly traditional Hungarian dishes prepared with a twist, which in this case means better-than-average ingredients and an attention to the visual aesthetics. Like it or not, these reconfigured Hungarian plates are in a different league than grandma's cooking.
The places around Szabadság tér (Liberty Square) and the Parliament tend to be overrun by tourists, which usually brings the worst out of the local service industry. Farger café/restaurant, however, isn't in the rip-off business. It's located on the ground floor of a grand, although somewhat faded building commissioned by the Adriatic Hungarian Royal Maritime Company (!) during the glorious days of the Austro Hungarian Empire. .
Escape the noisy downtown street and enter through the yellow ceramic tiles into the 19th century courtyard of Fekete Café. The marble well located in the center of the tranquil courtyard is one of those turn of the 20th century Budapest surprises that hide behind many sooty facades. Weather permitting, enjoy your morning coffee in the open air courtyard..
Funky Pho is a closet-sized eatery hiding in a quiet side street just off Andrássy Avenue in District 6. The place makes some of the best pho soups in Budapest, and that’s saying a lot in a city flooded with restaurants specializing in pho. The small space, with only two tables and less than ten counter seats, goes for a chic Vietnamese street food look with pop art wall paintings, and conical hats hanging from the ceiling. .
I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants lining Váci Street, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. When hostesses dressed in folk outfits try to lure unsuspecting passersby with traditional Hungarian tourist menus, the right thing to do usually is to swiftly move on. La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because parts of it mimic the neighboring restaurants, meaning that goulash tops the menu and the interior features the stereotypical bric-a-brac decor complete with red and white checkered tablecloths.
Mesterbike is a charming bike repair shop sharing a space with a specialty café. Unlike most new-wave coffee shops in Budapest that’re set along the downtown tourist paths, Mesterbike is located away from the city center on a residential street in Budapest’s up-and-coming District 9. Accordingly, most customers consist of neighborhood regulars popping in for a coffee, often with bikes in hand. In addition to bikes, and light-roast cups of espresso-based and filter coffee (V60) options, Mesterbike also sells a range of Hungarian designer products that’re tangentially related to bicycles, like the impossibly cool Blind Chic multifunctional cotton canvas backpacks.
There’re many things to like about Ramenka, this shoe-sized ramen shop in the heart of Budapest’s party street (Kazinczy). The beautifully tender and flavorful pork belly is one of them. Each of the classic ramen soups come with about half a dozen pieces, which is as generous a meat serving as one will find in a ramen. .
Before long, all visitors to Budapest will notice the countless gyro vendors swarming the city. Every major street is flanked by brightly lit, uninviting spots hawking cheap chicken and lamb gyros of which about the best that can be said is that they’re a satisfying drunk food. At first, San Da Vinci, located along the highway-like Rákóczi Road near Astoria station, looks like just another gyro joint, but it turns out it’s a worthier venue. .
One could argue that Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most inviting of places - after all, who gets excited about strip mall-like rows of modern(ish) warehouses far outside the city center? Dedicated Chinese food fans, is the answer of course. Even though Shandong Restaurant occupies a modest space and is located in a rundown section of the area, I urge you not to turn your back on it because similar to HeHe, it serves up some of the best and most wallet-friendly Chinese fare in Budapest. On any given evening, Chinese families fill Shandong to near capacity, always a good sign, while Chinese TV murmurs from several screens in the background. .
Budapest has too few restaurants located along the Danube River. And even the ones that exist are often content with offering vistas, rather than gastronomic delights. Flanked by endless rows of docked Viking river cruises, Szegedi Halászcsárda (“Fisherman’s restaurant from Szeged”) is one of the exceptions. As its moniker suggests, the restaurant’s specialty is the Hungarian fisherman’s soup, halászlé, especially its famed version from the Southern city of Szeged.
Szlovák Söröző ("Slovak beer hall") is an old-school bar located on a grey side street near Budapest's Nyugati Railway Terminal. The main appeal of this unfashionable place, which is decked out with weathered wooden booths, is its longevity - the place has been drawing throngs of beer-loving local 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..
Telep is a bustling Budapest bar in the heart of it all in District 7, the city's main party area. The crowd at Telep will satisfy any hipster cravings you may be harboring - beards, fixie bikes, drawstring 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.
It’s not easy to find specialty coffee places on the Buda side, so when Barako, a closet-sized café, opened in 2014, it filled a void in Buda’s barely-existent craft coffee scene. The Filipino owner, Ryan Andres, intentionally eschewed the tourist-centric commercial areas of downtown Pest and set up shop here instead. He imports the Barako coffee beans (a variation of the Liberica species) from land he cultivates in the Philippines. One of Barako’s specialties is siphon coffee, which involves an elaborate preparation process reminiscent of a high school chemistry class experiment.
Da Mario is an Italian restaurant in Budapest set on a precious piece of real estate in-between the Hungarian Parliament Building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. The high-ceilinged space with leather banquettes and an industrial-chic decor kicks it up a notch compared to the trattoria-type rustic furniture so common in other Italian restaurants of the city. Da Mario’s extensive menu features Italian staples from North to South, from grilled meats to wood-oven pizzas and home made pasta plates. .
When Fuji opened in 1991, it was Budapest’s first Japanese restaurant. Accordingly, people embraced it with that unbounded positivity that surrounded post-communist novelties at the time. Located in an elite Buda neighborhood, it quickly became the pan-Japanese restaurant that catered to Budapest’s wealthiest residents with all tastes of Japan: from sushi to noodles, fried, and skewered dishes. Almost two decades later Fuji is still around, which in restaurant years is an eternity.
Many theories exist as to why it was China's Sichuan Province of all places that elevated the gastronomic use of chili peppers to a whole new level. Whatever the reason may be, Sichuan's name has become synonymous with spicy and mouth-numbing flavors. Sichuan food has always had its fans outside of China, but these fiery dishes currently enjoy an unprecedented popularity around the world. In Budapest, Hange Restaurant ("Han Pavilion" in Chinese) is one of the best representatives of the genre.
In Hungarian "hintaló" means rocking horse, of which you will find plenty inside this retro-designed bar located in the outer part of District 8. The tucked away, deserted backstreet where Hintaló is located stands in a stark contrast with the lively atmosphere inside. .
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. .
The renewed 19th century Klauzál Market Hall is a far cry from the thriving food court that its sister location in Hold Street has become. Amid shuttered storefronts and bland grocery store chains, however, you will find a couple of eateries that will make it worth popping in here. One of those is Mangalica Mennyország (the other is Marika Lángos Sütője on the upper deck)..
Since its opening in 1997, Piccolo has been the go-to watering hole for many left-wing artists who live in Újlipótváros. The neighborhood is a fertile ground for creative types, many of whom are fond of affordable Unicum and beer. For an outsider, at first Piccolo can feel intimidating as everyone seems to know one another. But don't let that hold you back - patrons are easy-going, open-minded, and often entertaining.
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, a pan-Asian eatery serving overpriced 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, paying the equivalent of €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 many years Zeller was located in a most impossible basement venue in the outer part of Budapest. Yet they became so popular among visitors that scoring a reservation was one of the biggest challenges facing Budapest tourists. In 2017 they moved to a bigger, trendier, posher venue in downtown, but seem to have remained loyal to their founding principles: serving locally produced, updated Hungarian dishes with a cheerful service staff. Rather than the over-promoted goulash, Zeller's creative Hungarian cuisines include the delicate rose duck served with celery and baby carrots, and the tender pork cheek that comes in a paprika sauce.
Opened in 1964, Alabárdos is the longest-serving restaurant in the Castle Hill and one of the most famous fine dining establishments in Budapest. A stone’s throw away from the famous Matthias Church, the restaurant is located within a medieval residential home, featuring original Gothic tracery and ogee curves. With about a dozen tables, the dining room is startlingly impressive: they serve dishes on Herendi porcelain plates paired with silver cutlery. .
Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant located at the entry of the trendy Újlipótváros neighborhood. The restaurant is named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake from Eastern Europe, perhaps as a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. Babka's interior features a vintage decor with old radio and TV equipment scattered throughout, complete with hardwood floors and dim lighting. .
Of the top Chinese restaurants in Budapest, Chinatown Restaurant is one of the closest to the city center. It’s still some ways away, and it’s located on the not-exactly-inviting Népszínház Street, but at least you don’t need to trek out to one of the two Chinatowns of Budapest, an additional 20 minutes by tram, for a proper plate of laziji (spicy chicken). .
Here’s the good news: I’ve tried almost all dishes at Good Morning Vietnam, a tiny Downtown restaurant, and without fail they were very good. The summer roll was light and fresh; the spring roll porky; the pho rich and flavorful with tender slices of cooked beef shank; the bun bo nam bo varied in its textures; the bun cha intensely smokey. None of them were the best I’ve had, but the food at Good Morning Vietnam is the most consistently reliable across the whole menu..
Huszár restaurant, named after the famed Hungarian light cavalry soldiers, is the type of restaurant where everyday local Hungarian families may go to for a Sunday lunch. 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 brusque service and weathered interior that defined Budapest restaurants in the 1990s.
Most of the pizza you will find in Budapest’s countless Italian restaurants feel like afterthoughts, added to the menu for the sake of completeness. This isn’t the case at Igen, a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint located at the entrance of Budapest’s Party District. .
For a truly, deeply local experience, make your way to this tiny food vendor inside the Rákóczi Market Hall. Hiding in the back of the building is JóKrisz lángos sütöde, a mom-and-pop, standing-only eatery that specializes in lángos, a traditional Hungarian flatbread. .
Mantra is a specialty café located on a magically pretty and quiet downtown backstreet in Budapest lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps (ironically, it’s located just a block away from the touristy Váci Street). From the ever-changing light-roasted coffee beans they might use Ethiopian, Brazilian, and Honduran selections on any given day for the filter and espresso-based coffees. AeroPress, Chemex, V60, and Gina are just some of the instruments available for filter coffees. If you prefer tea, go for the chai or matcha latte.
Budapest's bars generally fall into two categories. On the one hand are the myriad of ruin bars offering an informal atmosphere and cheap drinks inside run-down premises. On the other are the posh cocktail bars where bartenders with chiseled jawline mix pricey cocktails of ingredients you haven't heard of. The in-between territory is noticeably thin.
Norbi is a shoebox sized, partially takeout eatery (or “étkezde” in Hungarian) that represents the best of the étkezde genre: it’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious. In the mornings they freshly make a range of popular Hungarian dishes like stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikás, and pork schnitzels, so that by lunchtime they can feed a seemingly endless crowd with incredible efficiency. The line stretching outside of Norbi Étkezde at midday is a sign that good things lie ahead. .
Trust me, the address is accurate - persist in your search and you will be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs is a hidden local bar nestled inside a former light engineering workshop in Budapest's District 6. It’s worth walking around this mostly working class neighborhood to appreciate the extent to which Budapest's once grand housing stock was left to decay during communism and, in areas like this, even after that (in downtown, many buildings have recently been refurbished). .
Sarki Fűszeres is a tiny café located on a quiet corner of Újlipótváros, one of Budapest's unique neighborhoods. Situated along the upscale Pozsonyi Road on the ground floor of a 1940s modernist building, Sarki Fűszeres is best for coffee or breakfast during the warm weather months. That's when the charming outdoor tables are canopied over with greenery. Their breakfast offerings include croissants, ham & eggs, English breakfast, and meat and cheese platters.
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.
Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee (a pioneering California-based specialty coffee company), Blue Bird is one of Hungary’s top coffee roasters. They sell 11 types of premium Arabica sourced from nine countries, in both ready-to-drink and packaged form, out of an impossibly cool storefront in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. The tiny, multipurpose space serves as their roasting, storage, and coffee making facility, all in one. Blue Bird’s filter coffee (includes everything from V60 to Chemex, Aeropress, Frenchpress, Siphon, and cold brew options) is on par with the best specialty coffees in New York or San Francisco.
Budapest’s District 7 is 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) opened Bánh Mì in 2018, after realizing locals’ fondness of Vietnamese food. But instead of yet another pho-centered eatery that Budapest already bristles with, they decided to go for a bánh mì food stall, specializing in the iconic French-Vietnamese sandwiches, the first such place in Budapest. .
Csirke Csibész is a fast casual eatery in Budapest's District 6 serving delicious chicken sandwiches since 1992. This standing-only venue is the ultimate melting pot of Budapest: construction workers and white collar employees alike line up for unexpectedly flavorful fried and roast chicken here at lunchtime. .
Dabao Jiaozi is widely regarded by the local Chinese community as the best place 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 in 2018, Dabao was a takeout-only venue hidden on the upper floor of a beaten-down commerical building. .
Fruccola was one of the pioneers behind the healthy food and salad-for-lunch movement in Budapest in the late-aughts. Their timing was perfect, and diners' enthusiasm hasn't waned since. Besides salads, smoothies, and fresh juices, Fruccola also makes excellent breakfast omelets, which come with salmon or spinach & goat cheese. On weekdays, they serve an ever-changing two course lunch prix fixe heavy on vegetables, but they usually aren't strictly vegetarian.
Many countries put their own twists on the fish soup, reflecting locally available fish species and ingredients. The fisherman’s soup (halászlé) is Hungary’s take on the bouillabaisse. It has a myriad of permutations across the country, but its most classic version uses carp fillets, and a generous portion of spicy paprika seasoning, which lends it the famed deep-red hue. Oddly, few Budapest restaurants serve fisherman’s soup at all.
Pizzica is Budapest’s first pizzeria that serves pizza al taglio: it’s a Roman invention where rectangular shaped pies are sliced with scissors and usually taken to-go. The tiny takeout space is run by Italian-native Paolo de Bartolomeo and his brother, who can be found most days sliding the cast-iron pans in and out of the electric oven at Pizzica. .
Visit 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 me more than what it is: a no-frills, subterranean bar where conversations take center stage. Tóth Kocsma is especially popular among larger groups of middle-aged locals, who tend to fill the space in the evenings. .
Neighborhood Roma and office workers alike line up for home-made Hungarian flavors at Akácfa Étkezde, a bizarrely decorated self-service diner in a District 7 backstreet. The interior includes a hodgepodge of items spanning from nature-themed wall paintings to faux-Biedermeier living room furniture. The checkered tablecloths covered with transparent plastic evoke nostalgia of the 1980s' Hungarian dining scene. .
Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining independent butcher shops in downtown Budapest. Balla-Hús' business model has evolved over time: instead raw meat, it now serves freshly prepared and affordable breakfast and lunch dishes to a mainly local crowd, who find it increasingly difficult to have an affordable lunch in the tourist-satured downtown streets..
Daohuaxiang Restaurant fuses two popular contemporary Chinese food trends: spicy food and hotpotting. The restaurant was inspired by the Southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, known as the birthplace of spicy hotpot. The oversized dining room is devoid of design elements, as if to ascertain that all attention is paid to the raw ingredients lined up in the oversized fridges standing in the center of the space. Unless specified differently, they will bring a split pot for the broths.
Hai Nam Pho Bistro is what happens when ethnic cuisine becomes a victim of excessive "localization." The Vietnamese owners here believe that Vietnamese food must be adjusted to local Hungarian tastes - a reasonable theory that may lead to inventive dishes, but at Hai Nam it simply means they eschew flavorful cuts of meats and avoid traditional Vietnamese dishes they don't deem palatable to Hungarians. .
Három Tarka Macska (“Three calico cats”) is an artisan bakery located on the tastefully upscale Pozsonyi Road in Újlipótváros, sometimes referred to as the “West Village of Budapest.” The place is a paradise of aromatic and often still steaming sourdough, whole wheat, and rye breads, brioches, and rolls that come in all shapes and sizes while bakers scurry around behind the glass partition. Butter croissants and two must-try local favorites, túrós batyu (a sweet cottage cheese filled laminated pastry) and kakaós csiga (a snail-shaped chocolate pastry roll) are also available, which go down especially well with flavored yogurts that at Három Tarka Macska are sourced from a local family-owned producer. .
In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design opened an Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Sáo turned out to be a success story. Encouraged, the owners opened another restaurant, KHAN, this time in the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. Here too a chic, Instagram-friendly interior awaits customers complete with sleek wood finishes, concrete columns, contemporary art, and Asian collectibles..
The Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) is not only a dividing line between inner and outer Pest, but also between the pristine and the gritty, the predictable and the mysterious. As a result, bars along here draw eclectic crowds from all facets 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.
Opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first cafés to bring specialty coffee to Budapest, which resulted in a cult following that still continues to surround them. Leveraging the rightful success, they opened a brew bar next door focusing on cold brews and filter coffee (using V60, AeroPress, and French press brewing devices), while the original premise continues to serve espresso based drinks like cappuccino and latte. My Little Melbourne is located in the heart of Budapest's trendy and increasingly touristy old Jewish Quarter, so the somewhat inflated prices aren't surprising - for most foreigners they will still feel like a bargain..
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. .
Salon is one of Budapest’s few true fine dining restaurants. It occupies a corner inside the historic and jaw-droppingly ornate New York Café, a top tourist attraction in Budapest. Chef András Wolf oversees the kitchens of both the New York Café and Salon, which are separate. The dishes at Salon feature the usual suspects of Hungarian fine dining, with an emphasis on French-influenced cuisine that was once popular among the Hungarian nobility.
A restaurant located along Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but diners who come to Trattoria Venezia will find outstanding Italian dishes at somewhat lower prices than those served in downtown. .
Zsivago is a cute café and bar nestled on a quiet side street in District 6. I love that just a short block away from the tourist-saturated Andrássy Avenue there exists this secluded place, under the radar of most people. Despite having been to Zsivago plenty of times, I still feel a sense of discovery whenever I go. The eccentric interior is adorned with maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small roundtables.
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. The exposed brick vaulted ceiling and rustic wooden furniture attempt to evoke the Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest sidestreet. .
TÁBLA is a small breakfast-only restaurant located in Budapest's trendy Jewish quarter. It's one of the two restaurants run by chef Gábor Fehér, a local young gun (the other, next door to TÁBLA, is ESCA, a fine dining studio restaurant). The designed space features white brick walls, sleek wooden tables, and the type of couch often found in the lobbies of boutique hotels. The highlight of the interior is the floor-to-ceiling window, which swings open in the summertime..
A landlocked country isn’t kind to chefs with seafood ambitions. Particularly one where the fish and seafood consumption is the lowest in the EU. Yet a Chinese couple originally from Wenzhou, the port city along the East China Sea coast, set out to open a restaurant in Budapest's Chinatown specializing in saltwater fish. Their goal is to bring the nuanced flavors of their native land to Budapest’s sizeable Wenzhounese community and the occasional Hungarian customers.
A Polish native from Gdansk, a port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband opened this shoebox-sized bar in Bupapest in 2014. An Eastern European, bohemian-intellectual spirit fills the space. Think dimly lit, cozy nooks with rickety tables, shelves packed with Polish books, and a range of cheap vodka selections (they also serves Polish and Hungarian craft beers). The highlight at Gdansk Café is the pickled herring plate - the fish, delivered straight from the Baltic Sea, wraps around a serving of caramelized onion chutney and comes with thick slices of rye bread and pickles.
A spirit of healthy anarchy radiates from this bar/community center located a bit outside the city center in a gritty part of District 8. They hold weekly panel discussions on a range of relevant topics like industrial interest vs. environmental protection or gentrification. The talks are in Hungarian but most people will also speak English.
Liberté is a chic breakfast restaurant located in an elite section of Budapest's downtown peppered with banks and near the Parliament building. The expensive interior design complete with Mid-century modern furniture marries a high-end American diner and a French bistro. No doubt with an intent to draw in tourists, the menu at Liberté includes on-trend international breakfast dishes along with Hungarian classics, meaning that you could very well pair a Hungarian goulash soup with an avocado toast or a tonkatsu sandwich. Unfortunately, however, some of the plates fall short.
Újlipótváros, Budapest’s version of the West Village, is undoubtedly the hopping scene for stylish locals. Accordingly, plenty of new-wave coffee shops line Pozsonyi Road, the main artery of this neighborhood. While you can’t go wrong with any of them, My Green Cup stands out from the rest with a spacious interior as well as an outdoor terrace for the warmer months. Their espresso-based coffees are prepared with a sleek Synesso machine (hand made in the United States), while they use a Kalita dripper for the hand pour-over filter coffee.
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant tucked away on the serene Rózsadomb hill. The neighborhood is the most exclusive residential area on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city..
Those looking for an interactive, communal dining experience should consider Wang Fu (Mimóza), a longstanding Chinese hot pot restaurant in Budapest, a bit outside the city center. The system works like this: guests need to walk up to and choose from the oversized fridges standing by the entrance and containing a countless variety of skewered raw ingredients including mutton, chicken, beef, crustaceans and fish, vegetables, and noodles. Once you return to your table, servers will prepare the cooking broths where go the ingredients for anywhere from a few seconds (raw beef) to several minutes (noodles). .
As soon as you enter Caffe Gian Mario, it will conjure the images of a stereotypical family-owned Italian restaurant. A charming man in his 70s, wearing a finely cut wool jacket and a smile on his face that hints of a life well lived, is usually in charge of greeting and seating guests. The service staff, most of whom are also Italians, peripatetically rotate and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. .
ESCA is a tiny, 16-seat restaurant offering a dinner-only tasting menu in a quiet backstreet of District 7, also known as Budapest’s party district. The intimate, dimly lit space, which features sleek, dark wood finishes and plain walls, couldn’t be more different from the kitsch ruin bars nearby. This open-kitchen studio restaurant is run by young chef/owner Gábor Fehér, who gained experience in Copenhagen and at leading Budapest restaurants before setting up shop here. He is a skillful cook..
Kilenc Sárkány Étterem (“Nine Dragons Restaurant”) is a long-established Chinese restaurant in Budapest, opened over two decades ago. They carry two sets of menus, so make sure the waitstaff hands you the one for the Chinese patrons, otherwise you’re in for watered-down dishes adjusted to “European tastes”. Most items on the long menu originate from China’s Zhejiang province, more specifically Wenzhou, the home to many Chinese immigrants in Hungary. .
Don't be confused by the name of this cute little café: this isn't Szimpla Kert, the world-famous ruin bar (that's a few doors down from here, across the street, run by the same owners). Szimpla Háztáji is an organic café serving breakfast all day, fruit juices, and home-made syrups. The mantra is fresh-fresh-fresh - all ingredients come from local farmers whose produce can also be found in Szimpla Kert's farmer's market on Sunday mornings. Accordingly, the interior has a shabby-chic look complete with reclaimed, rustic furniture.
Tera Magyar Konyhája ("Tera's Hungarian kitchen") is an affordable, no-frills eatery located in Újlipótváros, a charming Budapest neighborhood. The area is a city within the city, where the cultural upper crust and young families with baby strollers form a strong local community and make for a lively area. Many local residents flock to Tera Magyar Konyhája for a quick lunch of traditional Hungarian flavors. .
What's this bustling café full of foreign students doing in the sleepy, mostly working class part of the outer District 7? This question will occupy your mind as soon as you step into The Goat Herder. The answer literally lies across the street in the form of the 19th century stately buildings of The University of Veterinary Medicine, where most of the students come from Western Europe. The owner of The Goat Herder not only presciently recognized this gaping market opportunity, but also ensured that the foreign students would be served premium espresso-based coffee. Besides coffee and free wifi, they serve pastries, snacks, salads, and fresh fruit juices all day (but, unfortunately, no egg-based or other cooked breakfast food).
Bring with you a healthy dose of skepticism when you go to Gozsdu Udvar, also known as the tourist and party central of Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Most restaurants and bars here look to make money off the foreign crowds without offering much in exchange. Vicky Barcelona, a lively tapas bar, is one of the few exceptions. .