Mátra Borozó is one of the oldest and most eccentric wine bars in Budapest, a genuine throwback. It opened in 1948. The current owner, Gábor Abendschein, has been in charge since 1983. The communal spirit doesn’t just stem from the amiable, graying regulars who come here, but also the unique layout of the space: instead of a bar counter splitting up the room, a simple metal box stands in the middle containing the four kinds of wines.
You order, Gábor schleps over to prepare your fröccs (a wine spritzer, the most popular order) using a measuring ladle that’s more likely to appear in a museum than a wine bar these days. The classic fröccs, which is two parts wine, one part seltzer water, costs less than €1. If you’re looking to knock yourself out with a Hungarian brandy, try a couple of the 26 types of pálinka.
Mátra Borozó’s customers tend to socialize in the front of the space, by the TV that’s murmuring in the background. The dimly-lit back section offers a more intimate refuge, not to mention the “secret room” in the very back, attached to the kitchen. As for food, the toasted sandwich blanketed in creamy mushroom, melted cheese, and slices of crispy bacon is excellent (€1.3), as is the grilled-and-fried sausage with a side of mustard and grated horseradish (€3).
There’s also artwork at Mátra Borozó. The drawings on the wood-clad walls ricochet between darker (a crucified Jesus) and lighter themes. Regular customers gifted them to Gábor, and some are available for sale.