Restaurants outside the city center tend to draw a more diverse set of patrons than those in downtown. Tasty lunch can bring together grandmas, office workers, local thugs, and tourists alike. The democratizing force of food is apparent at lunch time in Rákóczi restaurant, located in the outer part of Budapest’s District 8.
The restaurant overlooks Rákóczi Square, an area once known for rampant prostitution, and low-life characters who swarmed the grimy streets. Today, there’s a new, glitzy subway stop beneath the square and the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying (pop in to Csiga Café across the street for evidence).
Rákóczi is far from serving the best goulash soup (€2) or beef stew (€6) in Budapest, but thanks to the local patrons the place feels more authentic than restaurants advertising themselves as “traditional Hungarian” in downtown. You can’t go wrong with the crispy veal schnitzel (€9), and I always finish my meal here with a couple of the túrós palacsinta dessert, crepes filled with sweet cottage cheese (€1).
During the warmer months, try to score a table on the outdoor terrace. Before your meal, visit the Rákóczi Market Hall across from the restaurant. It’s one of Budapest’s five historic indoor markets, and one where time stopped in around the 1980s.