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.

Before you order, scan the oversized cardboard paper clipped to the wall and listing the daily specials. It's hard to go wrong with any dish here, but among my favorites are the daily-changing vegetable soups (€3), the veal paprikash stew paired with egg dumplings (€12), and the oversized veal schnitzel (€12). Vegetable stews (főzelék) eaten as a main dish is a Hungarian specialty, and Café Kör makes some of the best főzelék in Budapest. For the best experience, order a side of meatballs with them.

Café Kör's success is in large part thanks to owner Gábor Molnár, who's been supervising every aspect of the restaurant with cheerful demeanor since the opening in 1995. The waitstaff, donning a formal outfit, is friendly and professional. On weekdays, Café Kör is the see-and-be-seen lunch spot for Hungarian executives from the nearby financial district, in case that’s a crowd you care to mingle with. More families come here on Saturday (it's closed on Sunday).