Al Amir Arabic Restaurant

Unhurried groups of elderly Arab regulars tend to socialize at Al-Amir, a good sign for a Syrian restaurant in downtown Budapest. Al-Amir marries a counter-service with a sit-down restaurant. (Most upscale is the downstairs section, usually taken up by hookah-smokers during the cold months; note that hookahs aren't allowed in the summer for business reasons.)

Unlike the bland pitas they serve in most Levantine restaurants in Budapest, at Al-Amir they're of the fluffier kind. I also enjoyed the hummus, baba ghanoush, and matbukha mezzes (all €3), the falafel (€5), and the shish taouk (€7). I wish the lamb kebabs came out a bit more charred. For fans of baklava: they’re perfectly moist and flavorful here (€1 a piece). They don't serve alcohol, but a range of teas and coffee are available.

Overall, Al-Amir's dishes are far from memorable, but the restaurant’s main appeal isn’t so much the food as the Middle Eastern atmosphere, in part thanks to the ever-present outdoor tables (they’re heated in the winter), and the Arab customers.