Gyergyó Árpi kisvendéglője

This lunch-only restaurant, which opened in 1991, masks itself as a greasy spoon, but it's actually one of the top destinations in Budapest for homestyle Hungarian fare. The restaurant's moniker is a hat-tip to the Transylvanian city where the owner-chef, Árpád Gyurka, hails from. Note that the place is located away from the city center in an elite, residential Buda neighborhood, which explains why main dishes cost €10-15, and why big-time lawyers, businessmen, and upper-middle class regulars fill this tiny space at lunchtime.

Instead of a fixed menu, they chalk the daily specials on a blackboard. The dishes here are unabashedly Hungarian—I’ve had excellent lecsó, a Hungarian ratatouille of sorts, various paprika-laced stews, and vargabéles, which is a cottage cheese-based strudel cake here. Heads-up to adventurous eaters: there are offal plates on Thursdays, usually a tripe stew with boiled potatoes (pacal pörkölt). A couple of expensive steaks are also available to satisfy this upscale lunch crowd. For the liveliest atmosphere, come on a weekday after 1 p.m. Note that Gyergyó is open from Tuesday through Saturday.

We visit all places incognito, pay for our own meals and drinks, and write independent reviews.