Step inside Café Kör, and the atmosphere will immediately transport you back to a pre-war, middle-class dining room in Budapest. The inside of this homey downtown restaurant features bentwood Thonet chairs, a carpeted floor, and densely packed tables. In a city that increasingly prizes international cuisine above its own, Café Kör is a Budapest essential, serving classic Hungarian dishes without twists or updates.

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

Café Kör's success is in large part thanks to owner Gábor Molnár, who's been supervising every aspect of the restaurant with a 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 Saturdays (it's closed on Sunday).