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 that doubles as a breakfast joint, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó in Buda. What makes Bambi the real deal? It isn’t trying to show off an artificial ("retro"), unremembered past – it’s a genuine throwback. .
Belvárosi Disznótoros is a popular lunch-only 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 blood sausage, wild boar stew, grilled pork chops, and pork knuckles, paired with a range of pickled and marinated vegetables. .
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end restaurant located in Budapest's downtown, serving a pan-European menu and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, takes traditional dishes and elevates them using inventive techniques and 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. Like Hanna, the other kosher meat restaurant around the corner from Carmel, it gets liveliest at Shabbat, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, each of which costs €25 per person..
Espresso Embassy is a paradise on earth for specialty coffee fans in Budapest. This lively, downtown café inside the city's financial district makes hand pourovers with a Hario V60, espresso-based drinks with a fancy Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from organic ingredients you've likely never heard of. .
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.
Opened in 1968, Ibolya Espresso is an iconic café and bar in Budapest's downtown. Ibolya is deeply anchored in Budapest's collective memory given that at least two generations of local residents have been coming here for everything from secret dates to business meetings over the past half-century. Ibolya's interior furnishings evoke the design items of the communist era: the Mid-century modern-inspired light fixtures feature orange plexiglass, while the chairs are topped with sticky, red faux leather upholstery..
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. .
Kadarka, whose moniker refers to the red grape variety indigenous to Hungary, is a lively wine bar in Budapest's Jewish Quarter. Despite the tourist-heavy area, Kadarka has somehow remained a mainly local hangout, especially for 40-plus Hungarians. Perhaps this is because prices haven’t shot through the roof and the service is very attentive. .
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..
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 Budapest, sushi is synonymous with Japanese food. Komachi, a no-frills Japanese restaurant in the city's old Jewish Quarter, is committed to proving otherwise. For a Central Europe-based restaurant, Komachi serves a refreshingly broad range of everyday Japanese dishes. Think: ramen (miso, shio, and soy-based), tonkatsu, curry, 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 classic European fine dining experience. It's the type of place where crystal chandeliers hang in the opulent dining room and white-glove-wearing waiters scurry about with beautifully sculpted plates in hand. The dishes feature playful textures, rare ingredients, and striking visuals. Onyx, which is located in the heart of Budapest's downtown, is the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Hungary currently.
The sleepy 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. .
Pizzica is the first pizzeria in Budapest specializing in pizza al taglio: the Roman invention where rectangular-shaped pies are sliced with a scissor and usually taken to-go. This tiny takeout joint not far from downtown is run by the de Bartolomeo brothers, natives from Southern Italy, who can be found most days sliding cast-iron pans in and out of the electric oven. .
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 helmed by his son, Róbert Rosenstein. .
Budapest’s sleepy Szondi Street in District 6 has been quietly transforming into a paradise of ethnic cuisine - adventurous locals can try Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors near one another. Saigon Bistro, which looks like a takeout-joint, 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 usually a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is buried deep within the city’s Chinatown. You will need to journey out to Monori Center, a 15-minute cab ride from downtown, to find one of the best, and priciest, Chinese restaurants in Budapest: Spicy Fish. Spicy Fish's menu is divided between mouth-numbing Sichuan and milder Zhejiang dishes. The reason for the seemingly random gastronomic combination of two distant provinces is actually logical - Zhejiang is where most of Budapest's Chinese community hails from, and spicy Sichuan food is 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 5 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. .
If you're curious about Hungarian craft beers and what Budapest looks like a bit outside the city center, be sure to head to Élesztő. From a total of two hundred Hungarian craft beers, Élesztő has a rotating set of 25 on tap on any given day. These include everything from light crowd-pleasers to complex sour IPAs. If you're unsure about which one to order, ask the bartenders who are usually happy to help.
Anker't ruin 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.
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. .
Step inside Café Kör, and the atmosphere will immediately transport you back to pre-war, middle-class Budapest. The inside of this homey downtown restaurant features bentwood Thonet chairs, a carpeted wooden floor, and densely packed tables. In a city that increasingly prizes international cuisine above its own, Café Kör is an essential Budapest restaurant that serves classic Hungarian food without twists or reinterpretations..
In 2010, Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to receive a Michelin star. Despite the fact that Budapest currently has four Michelin-starred restaurants, there remains a special cachet to Costes. It's the most expensive among the city's fine dining restaurants, meaning that few locals can afford to dine here, leaving most tables to well-heeled tourists - on some nights, there isn’t a single Hungarian patron in sight. .
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," 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.
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.
Ennmann restaurant offers a no-frills, but authentic Japanese dining experience in Budapest. It's actually a Chinese couple who runs the place with the husband managing the kitchen and the wife serving food. Ennmann’s strongest suit is the the seafood selections: besides chirashi, sashimi, and regular sushi (nigiri and maki), they serve a host of maki variations (uramaki, futomaki, hosomaki). I went with the six-piece nigiri plate (€9), consisting of a pair of tuna, salmon, and sea bass each, and it didn’t disappoint..
After apprenticing at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young, local chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, decided to venture out on their own in 2014. The fruit of their labor is Fricska, 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 feels cozy and 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 meat restaurant operated by the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Since the restaurant is buried within the fortress-like edifice of the congregation, most locals have never encountered Hanna, even though the surrounding area is currently the center of the Budapest party scene and is teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. Orthodox Jews visiting Budapest, however, are often better informed and they fill up Hanna most evenings..
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. These 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..
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. .
Kőleves is a wildly popular restaurant in the center of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. The building, which was built in 1851, used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, so it’s fitting that Kőleves restaurant honors the building’s past with several Hungarian-Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup and cholent. They also use leftover items from the kosher meat plant to adorn the interior. For example, a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a Talmud are displayed as design pieces..
You step into Little Italy Pizzeria, and an oversized photo of Naples with the Mount Vesuvius in the background will face you from the opposite wall. Around it hang a myriad of blue-and-white soccer scarves with things like “solo Napoli” written on them. The waitstaff consists of Italian natives, who don’t speak any Hungarian. It feels like being in a neighborhood restaurant in Italy.
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, and carps. They cook live animals and use little seasoning to let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Mélypont is a cavernous, below-ground bar situated on a quiet backstreet in downtown Budapest. The interior, which features highly amortized pieces of communist-era furniture, usually fills to capacity with students from the neighboring law and political science colleges of Eötvös Loránd University. Every time I visit Mélypont I'm amazed that this wallet-friendly student bar can continue to exist in an otherwise elite and highly-priced neighborhood - let's hope it stays that way. .
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. From the start, the idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that Hungarian peasant fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local crowd from near and far has been flocking to the crammed tables of Stand25, which is located in the popular market-hall-turned food-court in downtown's Hold Street. In 2018, the restaurant was awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin.
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.
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. Downtown is a slightly more casual version of its sister restaurant: instead of a classic fine dining setting, here a sleek, rustic design sets the tone with an open kitchen and no tablecloths. Although they try to separate Costes Downtown from the posh Prestige Hotel whose ground floor it occupies, the dining area closest to the lobby can feel a bit like a hotel restaurant. Try asking for a table by the windows..
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.
Drop Shop is a boutique wine bar doubling as a wine store. Not far from the Hungarian Parliament Building, it hides in an elite part of downtown Budapest. Unlike most wine bars in the city that stack only local bottles, Drop Shop specializes in carefully curated international wines ranging everywhere from Austria to Australia, from natural to orange wines. There's also an ample selection of Hungarian vinos that are somewhat pricier and more premium than elsewhere.
Curious where the top 1% of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve 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. .
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. .
Although Frici Papa opened after the fall of the iron curtain, this eatery has rightfully become a darling for tourists who're looking to experience a piece of communist-style dining. Cheap wood panelings decorate the walls, tablecloths are covered with transparent plastic, and waiters are dressed as if they were parachuted here from the '80s - those in search of a journey back in time are unlikely to be disappointed by Frici Papa. .
Budapest’s one and only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953, when more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became Budapest's party center. .
Located on a quiet side street in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the boisterous party town its neighboring Jewish Quarter has become. The serene environment is just one of the things to like about this family-run neighborhood restaurant, which opened in 2000 and specializes in Hungarian-Jewish food. .
Grinzingi, which is an unpretentious downtown wine tavern, has a simple formula for success: serve cheap drinks in the center of Budapest that's otherwise teeming with overpriced, tourist-oriented places. But what really 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 get a glimpse at the more than 200 types of craft beers stacked in the fridge. It's this extensive beer selection and the funny, loud-mouthed, and charismatic owner-operator which make Hops Beer Bar a pilgrimage-site for craft beer fans in Budapest. .
Instant & Fogas Ház isn't so much a ruin bar as a massive club featuring 18 bar counters and 7 dance floors. This enormous venue is inside Budapest's party district, in an 1861 landmark-protected building with a crumbling facade. Instant & Fogas Ház isn't the best place to experience the ruin bar ambience, but visiting it can be worthwhile if you're in the mood for dancing as most other ruin bars have little space for breaking it down..
Some pockets of Buda can be as lively as Pest, but they're few and far between. The area around Bartók Béla Boulevard is one such revitalized Buda neighborhood, featuring art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet, an all-purpose, all-day café, was one of the early birds here, and has helped breathe new life into the street..
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 a strip mall, it doesn’t have a functional Facebook page, let alone an Instagram handle, and its website looks like it hasn’t been updated in a decade. Perhaps Okuyama no Sushi's obscurity is a marketing tool itself? After all, who doesn’t enjoy an unexpected discovery? Know before you go that Okuyama's interior is puritan at best - this isn't a fancy shmancy sushi restaurant, but it's very good..
You will 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 Restaurant. Olimpia doesn't have a fixed menu. Instead, they use 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. .
Excellent pizza and a slice of contemporary Budapest come together at Pizza Manufaktura, a small, always-crowded, counter-service pizzeria in Budapest’s District 9. The place makes no secret about its coolness: hipster twentysomethings scurry between the counter and the kitchen while loud music pipes through the speakers. .
The farther from downtown, the better the food - this is the rule of thumb in Budapest about Chinese restaurants. When Taiwan Restaurant opened in 1991, it was one of the first places to serve authentic Chinese flavors. Nearly three decades later, it's still among the best of the more elegant Chinese restaurants in Budapest, and worth leaving the city center (it's easy to get to by subway - take the M3 line to Nagyvárad tér). Taiwan's food is slightly adjusted to local taste preferences, but not so much as to deter local Chinese residents from coming here.
TG Italiano (Tom George) is an upper-middle priced Italian restaurant situated on a tourist-heavy downtown street in Budapest. Thanks to its central location and reliable dishes, TG is a favorite of tourists and local businessmen. The restaurant features a chic, spacious interior which comes complete with an outdoor terrace that's heated and covered in the colder months and is perfect for people watching..
Trapéz is a hidden college bar that students and recent graduates of the nearby Corvinus University like to frequent. It's a small miracle that the tiny pre-war building that houses Trapéz and which is just a stone's throw away from major tourist destinations like the Great Market Hall hasn't yet become the victim of real estate developers. Let's hope it stays that way. .
Vietnami Speciális Melegkonyha is a bare-bones Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest, and one of the best of its kind in the city. It also serves many traditional dishes you won't 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..
In 2018, Scottish craft beer giant, BrewDog, opened a bar in Budapest too. The place looks as if it came straight out of a “trendy interior” design book: there are leather banquettes, reclaimed wood table tops, Edison bulbs, and a vintage sign board listing the 25 types of tap beers. Usually ten of those serve BrewDog's own beers, with the remainder coming from a rotating set of local (like Mad Scientist and Horizont) and other foreign breweries..
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.
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.
Digó started out as a pop-up pizzeria before finding a permanent home in the very epicenter of Budapest by Deák Square. They haven’t entirely shed their nomadic past, as the current venue, a small container-looking rectangular space, still feels like a temporary home. But what matters more is that Digó, which specializes in Naples-style pies, makes some of the best pizza in Budapest. .
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. .
Ellátó Kert is a ruin bar buried deep within Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. It's inside a U-shaped, brick skeleton building that used to be a meat processing facility. The best part of Ellátó is its expansive outdoor courtyard, which feels like a charming oasis away from the throngs of the busy Kazinczy Street. During the colder months, head all the way to the back of the space, where there's everything from comfortable sofas, a pool table, a makeshift Virgin Mary shrine (!), and a Mexican food stall.
Fausto’s Ristorante, which opened in 1994, is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest that pays respect to northern Italian cuisine. Instead of a Caprese salad- and pizza-dominated menu, they serve meticulously plated dishes made from a host of expensive ingredients like scallops, flatfish, and venison loin. For those looking for simpler Italian fare, a couple of pasta options are also available: tagliatelle and risotto plates with rich, heavy sauces. .
Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly restaurant and bar just a stone's throw away from the Ervin Szabó Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means that students of all ages come here to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer. .
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 communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde may be able to give you the answer. This traditional eatery, which opened in 1957, will immediately transport you back to a different epoch. Or, at least that used to be the case until recently. .
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. The company operates two additional locations in Budapest, and while the one near the Parliament building is bigger and has shorter wait times, this one, at Ferenciek tere, feels more intimate. .
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 been to a Chinese restaurant designed as a hunting lodge, here is your chance to do so. Momotaro Ramen's former occupant decorated the space with taxidermy and animal antlers redolent of a countryside estate's interior. Surprisingly, the current owner seems to find it a fitting theme to accent their Asian cuisine as well..
MÁK Bistro is one of the leading fine dining restaurants in Budapest. The restaurant's head chef is 28-year-old János Mizsei, who trained in Denmark and Sweden. In line with the New Nordic Cuisine he is so fond of, Mizsei's genius is to extract intense flavors from seemingly simple ingredients. He is known to go out of his way to scout for 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.
Thanks to a well-connected Hungarian businessman, Budapest is home to a Nobu, the world’s fanciest chain restaurant. Even more impressively, it's the one and only Nobu in Central Europe (the closest one is in Milan). This upscale restaurant is located inside the five-star Kempinski hotel in Budapest's downtown. .
Across the Danube, just a few minutes away from the tourist-heavy streets of Pest, lies Palack, a popular neighborhood wine bar in Újbuda. Sure, there are other wine bars in Budapest with a more premium wine offering and more knowledgeable staff, but those places often end up being the playgrounds of wine snobs..
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 of 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. If you feel like you need a break from the bustle of the city center, Alessio is a perfect hideaway, offering excellent food and a cozy atmosphere. .
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. .
It’s not easy to find specialty coffee shops 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, eschewed the tourist-centric commercial areas of downtown Pest and set up shop here instead. .
Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was one of pioneers behind Hungary's current food revolution. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned the ins and outs of haute cuisine under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era kitchen practices reigned supreme. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in his eight-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). .
DiVino is a trendy wine bar situated in the heart of Budapest's downtown. You can sip a glass of Hungarian red or white here while enjoying the picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest's biggest church. Touristy it may be, still, it’s a sight to behold.
Dobló, which opened in 2010, was one of the first wine bars in Budapest. Being in the center of the Jewish Quarter (aka party district) means that more than half of the patrons are usually tourists, but here you don't need to worry about a rowdy stag party spoiling your fun. In fact, with a dimly lit, cozy interior and live music most evenings, Dobló is one of the more atmospheric wine bars in Budapest that also works well for a date night. .
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..
Many pizzas in Budapest’s Italian restaurants feel like afterthoughts, added to the menu for the sake of completeness. This isn’t the case at Igen, a spacious pizza joint located in an unremarkable part of Buda, but not far from the city center. .
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.
For a truly local lunch experience in Budapest, it’s hard to think of a better place than Kívánság Étkezde. The continued existence of this eatery, which opened in 1985, is evidence that there’s still lingering love in Budapest for communist-era, family-run restaurants. After all, they’re quick, cheap, and some of them, like Kívánság, serve delicious home-style dishes..
Központ is a bar that's popular among Budapest's 30s and 40s liberal establishment. The place is located at the entry of the old Jewish Quarter, near the arched, red-bricked group of buildings you've likely already come across. .
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). .
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. .
Macesz Bistro is a Jewish-Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Part of the restaurant's menu is a hat-tip to the neighborhood's Jewish history, featuring dishes that were once popular among Budapest's Ashkenazi population. (The building across the street from Macesz Bistro is still home to the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community). .
A Chinese businessman from Shanghai moved to Budapest and set out to open Budapest’s best sushi restaurant. The result is Sushi Ocean, a pricey, subterranean restaurant located on a quiet downtown side street. Sushi Ocean's menu is among the broadest for Japanese food in Budapest. .
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 takeouts that serve questionable food, you aren't that far from the truth. The good news is that Wang Mester Kínai Konyhája isn't one of those places. Instead, it's an authentic Sichuan restaurants, located in the residential Zugló neighborhood, a bit outside the city center. .
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, which is conveniently located inside Budapest's boisterous Party District. .
Budapest has only a few good Japanese restaurants, and even those serve a limited range of Japanese fare, primarily sushi and ramen. Biwako is a welcome exception. It’s advertised as a ramen house, but I find their other Japanese dishes - donburi, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki - to be their strongest suit. The restaurant is located across the street from The Japan Foundation in a very puritan, subterranean space.
Cintányéros isn’t so much an elaborate wine bar as a charming neighborhood wine tavern. In other words, this is where local residents come for banter and wallet-friendly house wine. The area, inside the once seedy outer District 8, is currently undergoing large-scale real estate development/gentrification, perfectly symbolized by Nokia’s new gleaming headquarters towering over the streets. .
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. This makes the current ruin bar decor, featuring creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls, all the more bizarre. Csendes tends to fill up in the evenings with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists.
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.
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. .
If you’re looking for tasty and wallet-friendly Chinese food, HeHe is one of your best bets in Budapest. The restaurant serves authentic Chinese dishes from a relatively modest, undecorated space in Monori Center in Budapest's Chinatown, which takes about 25 minutes to get to by public transport from the city center. .
It's worth visiting Kontakt simply for its location. This specialty coffee shop is nestled inside a 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. .
You will need leave the heart of Budapest to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French cuisine and revamped Hungarian classics. La Perle Noire is located on a quiet section of Andrássy Avenue, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies in District 6. The quirky modernist building from 1937 that houses the restaurant, now also a hotel, stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. .
Léhűtő was an early bird on the Budapest craft beer scene when it opened in 2013. It's located inside Gozsdu Courtyard, a passage now teeming with bars and restaurants. Léhűtő has benefited from the spectacular revival of this area, meaning that it currently occupies one of the most central spots inside Budapest’s party district. .
MANU+ is the second location of Pizza Manufaktura, a wildly popular pizza joint near Corvinus University. The good news is that this one doesn't usually get as mobbed as the original venue, meaning that you won't have to wait longer than a few minutes before devouring a Naples-style pizza, which is what MANU+ specializes in..
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. .
The term “modern Hungarian food” has been thrown around haphazardly over the last few years in Budapest. It’s a catch-all phrase that too many restaurants relegate to an excuse for charging higher prices. At its best, however, it’s a delicious coming-together of traditional recipes, local ingredients, visual dishes, and a nod to the 21st century. Thankfully, this is the case at Paletta, a restaurant in Budapest’s District 9, a bit outside the city center.
For an authentic, traditional Hungarian meal, leave the touristed streets of downtown and head to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő. Located in the hopping residential neighborhood of Újlipótváros, red-and-white checkered tablecloth and an exhaustive menu spanning across 12 categories (soups, stews, ready-made, etc.) will await you at this popular, no-frills neighborhood restaurant. .
Ristorante Millennium da Pippo is a reliable Italian restaurant located on the elite Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most famous street that’s often compared to the Champs-Élysées. The restaurant is on the section farther from the city center, away from the noisy downtown. The place's interior pulls inspiration from the century-old subway stations located underneath Andrássy (not that patrons need much of a reminder: on the outdoor terrace they can actually feel the ground slightly shake every time 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..
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.
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..
Öcsi étkezde, this tiny, lunch-only eatery in the seedier part of District 8 has flourished since 1981. The restaurant's success is mainly thanks to the owner-couple, 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 to come with their lecsó, which is a Hungarian ratatouille. Feri, a comforting and still youthful presence despite pushing 60, sports a white lab coat and handsome features.
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood restaurants in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. The place is an osteria-type casual eatery serving Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the chef is from Bari, the capital city of Puglia in southern Italy; you will note the Italian chatter wafting from the open kitchen through the dining room - always a good sign fo an Italian restaurant). Al Dente is located in a pretty and 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.
In 2004, Bock Bistro was among the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian food. Executive chef Lajos Bíró proved that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can bring more out of centuries-old national recipes than what had been the standard. .
Most of Budapest's Japanese restaurants serve higher-end Japanese fare like sushi, even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets are more compatible with the simpler dishes. Perhaps this is what Mr. Tomoki and his wife, a young couple from Tokyo, thought when in 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant. It's a small, counter-service restaurant with a few tables, and located in the heart of the city near Kálvin Square.
Fahéj is a cute 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 low-priced drinks inside an atmospheric space that consists of two high-ceilinged rooms complete with wood flooring, bookshelves, and small round tables, all of which lend the space an intellectual air. .
If you’re looking for quick and affordable Middle Eastern food in Budapest's party district, Falafel Bar is your best bet. This unfussy place, offering both takeout and sit-down options, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel plate (€6), where the deep-fried chickpea balls are exactly as they should be: crunchy and creamy. They’re the best ones I’ve had in Budapest.
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..
This self-service, utilitarian eatery (“étkezde” in Hungarian) a bit outside the city center in District 9 may not be for everyone. Even within Budapest’s affordable eatery genre, Gyuri bácsi konyhája is positioned toward the lower end when it comes to comfort and interior design. In fact, the “decor” could only be alluded to in ironic terms. I’m nonetheless including Gyuri bácsi here because the food is excellent, and it's an authentic representation of the type of everyday dining that most tourists are unlikely to experience in Budapest..
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. .
For the past decade, Akácfa Street in Budapest's party district was known for Fogas ruin bar. That has changed with the opening of the wildly popular Mazel Tov restaurant, and also Hops Beer Bar, one of the best craft beer bars in the city. And now here's Kaptafa, a chic all-day breakfast restaurant. .
KEG is a spacious craft beer bar in Budapest’s increasingly hip Újbuda neighborhood. The place is just off Bartók Béla Boulevard, the artery of the neighborhood, inside a remodeled brick-arched basement..
If you’re serious about your pizza and are spending more than a few days in Budapest, grab your hiking boots and trek out to Kemencés Pizza. It’s especially commendable when a restaurant so far from downtown decides to do what few restaurants do: aim to be the best in their craft. Both of Kemencés’ location are about an hour away from downtown by public transport, but think of it as part of the experience of discovering Budapest. .
If you ever wondered what Chinese breakfast was like, Hong Kong Büfé in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center) offers a chance to find out. For less than €5, you will be able to taste classic Chinese breakfast staples here like jianbings, congee, and youtiao. .
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. .
Printa was one of the first design stores in Budapest to figure out that selling high-quality coffee alongside Hungarian designer products can be a winning combination. Think limited edition prints, clothes, bags, and purses made by the local designers - no tchotchkes here. Being good at what they do, and being located in the center of the trendy Jewish Quarter, it was only a matter of time before tourists would discover it. Accordingly, today they mainly cater to visitors with somewhat inflated price tags.
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..
Szatyor Bar looks like a typical ruin bar: it's filled with eclectic furniture and there are even old vehicles hanging from the walls. But it's actually different from the ruin bars that swarm Budapest's party district on the other side of the Danube. This being Buda, instead of scruffy students sipping low-priced beers, Szatyor draws an over-25 crowd where shirts and skirts outnumber hoodies and backpacks. Duck confit and sous vide venison leg are rarely part of the ruin bar culinary repertoire, but here you will find them alongside pricey craft beers..
If the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food hits while you’re visiting downtown's tourist sites near the Parliament building and Liberty Square, Tüköry restaurant is your best bet. Since its opening in 1958, Tüköry’s been serving reasonably-priced and reliable traditional Hungarian staples in a red-and-white-checkered-tablecloths-style setting. Although there exists better Hungarian food in Budapest, I find Tüköry’s pörkölt, made-to-order schnitzel-like dishes (frissensültek) such as the cordon bleu, and the palacsinta desserts (Hungarian crepes) their strong suits. Most of the main dishes are in the €6-8 range.
Run by three Italians, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop with a simple mission: prepare fresh, made-to-order pasta plates quickly 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. On any day, 2 Spaghi might list cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces on its blackboard. The good news is that 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, which is a homey, below-ground teahouse on a sleepy side street in Budapest's Palace Quarter, but you shouldn't. Defying space limitations, they've squeezed three levels of tiny nooks and crannies in here that are separated from one another by curtains, pillows, and wooden beams. .
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. .
When Fuji opened in 1991, it was Budapest’s first Japanese restaurant. From an elite, residential Buda neighborhood it served pricey Japanese food that included everything from sushi to soba, from tempura to teppanyaki. Fuji quickly found a loyal following among well-heeled locals who were looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades later, Fuji is still around, which in restaurant years is an eternity..
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.) .
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. .
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. .
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..
The restored, 19th century Klauzál Market Hall in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter is a far cry from the thriving food court inside its sister location at Hold Street. Amid shuttered storefronts and bland grocery store chains, however, you will find a couple of self-service eateries that can make it worth popping in here. One of those is Mangalica Mennyország (the other Marika Lángos Sütője on the upper deck)..
Flaky almond croissants, fresh orange juice, and specialty coffee are just three of the reasons to visit this adorable café in the “Harlem of Budapest," a bit outside the city center in District 8. Kudos to the owner of Műterem Kávézó for walking the less trodden path and opening a specialty coffee shop in the slice of the city where no one has before. Rather than bringing a "downtown attitude" along with pour over coffee, Műterem feels open and welcoming to anyone. In fact, neighborhood residents can often be observed among the customers.
Neked Csak Dezső craft beer bar is inside a spacious and high-ceilinged ground floor of a pre-war building. It's located just a block away from Budapest's party district, in the mellower District 8. For now, the white-walled, brightly-lit interior feels a bit sterile despite attempts to jazz up the decor with patches of red bricks and exposed fermentation tanks. .
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..
In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a leading Hungarian chef, opened a fast-casual lunch eatery inside the then practically empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has transformed into a bustling food court where several local celebrity chefs operate casual restaurants, and the area swarms with people at lunchtime. .
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. .
Gyergyó restaurant, which opened in 1991, disguises itself as a typical greasy spoon (étkezde in Hungarian). In reality, it’s closer to a semi-upscale restaurant when it comes to food, plating, and, unfortunately, prices too. The place’s moniker is a hat-tip to the Transylvanian city where the owner/chef, Árpád Gyurka, hails from. The restaurant is located in an elite, residential Buda neighborhood, which explains why main dishes run €10-15, and why big-time lawyers, businessmen, and retired, upper-middle class regulars fill this small, lunch-only restaurant.
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.
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. .
Yes, you 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 boring warehouses that are far outside the city center? The answer is, of course, that fans of Chinese food do. Shandong Restaurant is located in a rundown section of the area, but I urge you not to turn your back on it. Similar to HeHe, this modest, unpretentious space serves up some of the best and most wallet-friendly Chinese fare in Budapest.
Sushi Sei is an upscale Japanese restaurant located a bit outside the city center in Buda. Popular types of raw seafood dominate the menu: sashimi, maki (cut sushi rolls), nigiri (mounds of rice topped with fish filet), and chirashi (fish scattered over vinegared rice in a bowl). Besides the usual tuna, salmon, and prawn options, the impressively broad fish selections also include raw eel, sea bass, octopus, squid, and salmon roe. .
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..
A restaurant located on Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but Trattoria Venezia serves outstanding Italian dishes at somewhat lower prices than places in downtown. I've found that the seafood-based dishes - not the strongest suit of landlocked Hungary - are especially good here. .
At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. Penniless artists and locals of all backgrounds hung out in coffeehouses day and night, discussing politics, romance, and missed rent payments, while nursing precious cups of coffee. Cafés were the center of social life. Today, however, the area paints a gloomy picture - second hand clothing stores and uninviting gyro vendors swarm this once truly grand boulevard.
Zeller is a wildly popular restaurant in Budapest's downtown. Upon arrival, all guests are handed a complimentary Prosecco - albeit slightly flat and presented without much enthusiasm - before being led to one of the four indoor dining rooms. The best place to sit is in the light-filled interior courtyard topped with a sky window and featuring plenty of greenery. All tables are covered with doodle-inspiring paper and colored pencils..
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.
Da Mario is an Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, 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. Instead of a trattoria-look, the high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes and an industrial-chic decor. Da Mario’s extensive menu includes Italian staples from North to South, from grilled meats to wood-oven pizzas, from pasta carbonara to risotto. .
There are many theories about why it was Sichuan Province in China of all places where cooking with chili peppers was taken to a whole new level. Whatever the reason, Sichuan food has become synonymous with spicy and mouth-numbing flavors thanks to both chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Apart from the places in Budapest's Chinatown, Hange Restaurant serves some of the best Sichuan dishes in the city (Hange is also situated a bit outside the city center in District 9, but it's not as far as Chinatown). .
Like it or not, Budapest’s booming tourism is inspiring local business owners to profit off well-heeled visitors. Overpriced restaurants hawking “authentic goulash” the dime a dozen, indistinct “Irish pubs” are the evidence of this business savvy, which is especially apparent in Budapest’s downtown. Három Holló bar, right in the heart of the city, is the fruit of an entirely different philosophy. .
For a journey back in time, stop by at this hole-in-the-wall food stall on the upper deck of the Klauzal Market Hall in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Marika Lángos Sütője is hidden from plain sight, meaning that most visitors to the market, tourists and locals alike, remain unaware of its existence. Marika is the driving force behind the kitchen, while her husband, Csaba, sources ingredients and decides the daily specials. Marika's home-style Hungarian classics are tasty and sold at bizarrely low prices (the two-course daily special runs €3)..
Mesterbike is a cute bike repair shop sharing a space with a specialty coffee shop. 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 of the customers are neighborhood regulars who pop in for coffee, often accompanied by their bikes. .
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.
If you're craving good sushi but don't feel up for the fuss that comes with a long, sit-down dinner, Sushi VIBES can be a good option. It's a teeny-tiny counter service restaurant in a District 6 side street, within walking distance from Andrássy Avenue. The owner-chef lady hails from Fukuoka in southern Japan, and set up shop in Budapest in 2018, after stints in the Netherlands and Germany. .
Budapest has too few restaurants located along the Danube River. And even the existing few are often content with offering vistas, rather than gastronomic delights. Flanked by endless rows of docked Viking river cruises, Szegedi Halászcsárda isn't a promising sight, but the restaurant is actually a positive surprise. As its moniker suggests, their specialty is the Hungarian fisherman’s soup, halászlé, especially its famed version from the south-Hungarian city of Szeged.
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, 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..
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. .
Chinatown Restaurant, which opened in 1991, was one of the first Chinese restaurants in Budapest. Although not in the city center, it's closer to downtown than most other authentic Chinese restaurants that are in Budapest's Chinatown (Chinatown Restaurant's name is misleading, because it isn't located in Chinatown) . .
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..
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. A brick vaulted ceiling, rustic wooden furniture, and an oversized wood-burning oven help evoke Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest side street. The restaurant's moniker is a reference to Dante's third circle of hell, which is where gluttons were punished. .
For a truly, deeply local experience, make your way to this food stall inside the Rákóczi Market Hall in Budapest's District 8. Hiding in the back of the building is JóKrisz lángos sütöde, a mom-and-pop, standing-only eatery that specializes in lángos, a traditional, deep-fried Hungarian flatbread. .
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. .
Mantra is a specialty coffee shop located on a quaint downtown backstreet in Budapest. The street is lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps. Ironically, it's just a block away from the tourist-heavy Váci Street. From the ever-changing light-roasted coffee beans Mantra might use Ethiopian, Brazilian, and Honduran selections on any given day for their filter and espresso-based coffees.
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.
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). .
Ramenka is a chic, shoe-box-sized ramen shop located on Budapest’s party street (Kazinczy). They serve six types of ramens, of which the classic "ramenka" is the one you should go for (€6). It comes with half a dozen pieces of beautifully tender and flavorful slices of pork belly. The portions are generous and the pork-based broth is flavorful and gleaming with grease.
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.
Low prices, home-style cooking, no English menu, let alone an Instagram page: these are signs that you've stumbled on a truly local eatery in Budapest. Városház Snack, which opened in 1985, is the type of bare-bones, self-service lunch restaurant that was popular during communist times. Most of those places are now nearing extinction, and usually for good reason. Városház Snack, however, is still standing, and so are plenty of people in line at lunchtime for the cheap and tasty Hungarian dishes that are served in this shoebox-sized downtown space..
Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee, the pioneering California-based specialty coffee company, Blue Bird is one of Hungary’s leading coffee roasters and specialty coffee shops. It's located inside Budapest's hopping and increasingly tourist-heavy Jewish Quarter. .
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. .
There is an overwhelming consensus among the local Chinese community that Dabao Jiaozi is 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. .
Huszár, named after the famed Hungarian light cavalry soldiers, is the type of restaurant where everyday local Hungarian families may go to for lunch on a Sunday. The restaurant prepares Hungarian dishes without “modern twists” or “updates” to traditional recipes. I enjoy going to Huszár because this unchic restaurant doesn’t try to be more than what it is - an unfussy neighborhood joint. Huszár also satisfies my occasional nostalgia for the type of gruff service and weathered interior that defined Budapest restaurants in the 1990s.
Here’s a little secret. There’s hole-in-the-wall eatery right next to, and sharing a kitchen with Rosenstein, the restaurant I ranked as the best for traditional Hungarian food in Budapest. In fact, Rosenstein itself grew out of this tiny, smoke-filled space back in 1989, before hoisting itself into an elegant sit-down venue. So, welcome to Kürtös Ételbár..
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 tourists with "traditional Hungarian tourist menus," the correct reaction is to move on swiftly. La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because parts of the restaurant mimic the neighboring places: goulash soup tops the menu, and the interior, featuring red-and-white checkered tablecloths and rustic wooden banquettes, is an uninspired attempt to recreate a Hungarian countryside ambiance..
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.
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. .
Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining standalone butcher shops in downtown Budapest. Its business model has evolved over the decades: instead of selling meat, today they mainly serve low-priced breakfast and lunch dishes to the shrinking number of local residents (Airbnb, I'm looking at you). .
Daohuaxiang Restaurant fuses two popular contemporary Chinese food trends: spicy food and hot potting. The restaurant draws inspiration from the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, known as the birthplace of spicy hotpot. Daohuaxiang is a 10-minute cab ride from Budapest's city center, located inside an oversized, utilitarian dining room devoid of design elements. .
Gerlóczy is a café and restaurant tucked away in an unusually quiet and charming pocket in the heart of Budapest's downtown. The tiny little plaza outside Gerlóczy features a massive elm tree and is surrounded by elegant pre-war buildings, conjuring images of a Paris backstreet. Perhaps that's also why the interior, sporting a high ceiling, small round tables and leather banquettes, feels like a French bistro. .
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. .
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.
When it opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first specialty coffee shops in Budapest. A cult following quickly ensued, and My Little Melbourne has remained one of the most recognized coffee brands in Budapest (yes, notwithstanding the irony of it). It also helped business that they're located in the heart of Budapest's trendy and increasingly touristy Jewish Quarter..
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant on Rózsadomb (Rose Hill), the most exclusive neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city. Accordingly, grand, secluded villas line the streets that surround the restaurant. Porcellino serves a range of reliable, pan-Italian dishes, but I’m hard-pressed to single out an unforgettable plate that’s worth crossing the Danube from Pest. So it’s fitting that most patrons are local residents at this spacious, two-floor restaurant, boasting a sizeable outdoor patio and even a private playground for small children..
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.
As soon as you enter, Caffe Gian Mario will conjure 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 Italian, scurry around and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. But despite the seeming chaos, food arrives quickly at Caffe Gian Mario.
Csirke Csibész is a fast-casual chicken joint in Budapest's District 6. The place has been serving chicken sandwiches since 1992, meaning that they know a thing or two about preparing poultry. As is the case with pizza, good chicken has a democratizing force - it brings together people from all facets of life. This is certainly true for Csirke Csibész.
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.
Vittula comes closest to delivering a dive-bar experience in Budapest. With an adorably grungy subterranean interior and labyrinthine layout, the space is actually cooler than your average dive bar. The well-worn walls are blanketed in graffiti and witty scribbles. It would be a stretch to characterize Vittula as cozy, but if you enjoy bohemian vibes, you will like its grimy nooks and crannies.