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.)
The dishes are far from memorable here, but you can find fresh and fluffy pitas — most Levantine restaurants in Budapest serve awfully bland discs of flatbread — and tasty mezzes like hummus, baba ghanoush, and matbukha (all €3). Also good is the falafel (€5), and the shish taouk (€7). I wish the lamb kebabs came out a bit more charred. For fans of baklava: these dessert pastries are perfectly moist and flavorful here (€1 apiece). Al-Amir doesn't serve alcohol, but a range of teas and coffee are available.
At Al-Amir, the food isn't so much the main attraction as is the Middle Eastern atmosphere, in part thanks to the Arab patrons and the ever-present outdoor tables (they’re heated in the winter).