Kívánság Étkezde

For a truly local lunch experience, it’s hard to think of a better place than Kívánság Étkezde. The continued existence of this eatery, which opened in 1985, is evidence that there’s still lingering love in Budapest for communist-style small, family-run restaurants. After all, they’re quick and cheap. Their bad rep is primarily because people associate them with stale and greasy food, but this doesn’t have to be so at a time when fresh ingredients are abundantly available.

Kívánság is oblivious to “new Hungarian cooking”, the trend that’s sweeping the country, and instead sticks to well-proven Hungarian classics. One of the standout dishes is the pork tenderloin which comes with wonderfully crispy potatoes that were roasted in a little lard and paprika to deliver a slight kick. The other is the mátrai borzaska, which is a pork cutlet with a potato-based breading, topped with sour cream and grated cheese (the menu changes every two days, so you might not always find them on the menu).

The interior of Kívánság is an authentic representation of the ‘80s: red and white checkered tablecloths covered with transparent plastic, a sticky, faux leather-bound menu, fading posters on the walls of the owner’s favorite soccer team, and so on. And the owner himself, with a sizeable belly and a kind, cheerful face. The icing on the cake is the lively atmosphere and banter between Józsi, the waiter, and longtime regulars.

Try to get there by twelve-thirty at the latest, because they fill up quickly.