Földes Józsi vendéglője
At a time when modern renditions of traditional food reign supreme across the culinary world in Budapest, it can be difficult to unearth a good ol' traditional Hungarian restaurant. Notwithstanding the plethora of goulash options in the tourist-heavy downtown streets, you're often better off leaving the city center if old-school, rustic fare is what you're after.
Földes Józsi vendéglője is a case in point. Mr. Földes, a renowned head chef of five-star Budapest hotels throughout the '80s and '90s, passed away in 2012, but his family and former colleagues carry on his legacy at the foot of the Buda hills inside a Baroque building that dates back to the 18th century (reachable from downtown in 10 minutes by taxi). That legacy translates into flavorful local classics prepared with care and attention. The menu changes seasonally, but you can't really go wrong with most dishes.
I've had excellent vegetable stews (főzelék) here made from fresh peas and spinach, and paired with meatloaf (€6). The traditional beef stew with egg barley (pörkölt) arrives with unusually soft pieces of meat (€11). The unforgettable dish is the vadas (€11): slices of fall-apart-tender beef shoulder topped with a signature, orange-hued, tart-sweet sauce, and served with a side of bread dumplings. It's a special treat.
Being outside the typical tourist zones, Földes Józsi's customers consist of longtime regulars and office workers from nearby (there's a weekday two-course lunch prix fixe for €7). In the warmer months, head straight to the outdoor tables (but be sure to book in advance). Note that Földes Józsi is mainly a lunch-destination—try going at midday for the best experience.