Opened in 1986, Róma Ételbár is one of the few remaining communist-era “osteria” in Budapest: cheap, no-frills, lunch-only eateries once common in Hungary. The dishes at Róma still exclusively revolve around Hungarian classics, as if the kitchen has been vigilantly guarding against lurking intruders of contemporary gastronomy.
The signature dishes like the goulash soup, the beef stew, and the stuffed cabbage are passable, but you may be better off opting for the daily specials, which often have more character as was the case with the roast duck leg with parsley potato during my visit. Prices are somewhat higher at Róma than at other similar eateries (some aspect of capitalism did slip through the cracks), but they're still wallet-friendly: a 2-course meal comes out to less than the equivalent of €10. Service is quick, the portions hearty.
Part of the experience of dining at Róma Ételbár is meeting Cica, the peripatetic, loud, and raspy-voiced owner lady who runs around with an oversized wallet and handles the payments (cash only). The framed photos on the walls depict Hungarian celebrities and politicians who've patronized Róma over the years, including the country's current prime minister.