Punjab Tandoori Indian Restaurant

Your likely first impulse will be to turn around as soon as you step inside the unassuming, decor-deprived Punjab Tandoori restaurant in Budapest’s Újlipótváros neighborhood, a bit away from the center city. But you shouldn’t. Instead, climb the steep stairs that lead to the low-ceilinged, cluttered dining room, where you will sit elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners. Somehow this humble and sweltering space manages to be also cozy, almost intimate.

It's here that many locals tasted Indian food for the first time—Punjab Tandoor opened back in 2005 when few Indian places existed in Budapest—and it's still the go-to restaurant for curries to a lot of people, which explains the Hungarian-heavy crowd. The north Indian menu has some hits (the chicken tikka masala with a perfectly layered pungency; €6), some misses (the painfully dry tandoori chicken; €7) and plenty of reliable dishes, including the chicken hara masala (moist cubes of meat cooked with spinach and green spices; €6) , the biryani (mixed rice dish; €6), the saag paneer (spinach with morsels of cheese; €5), and the dal makhani (bean and lentil stew; €4).

Punjab Tandoori isn't the best Indian restaurant in Budapest, but it's a bit homier and cheaper and quirkier than most of the others.