Budapest has too few restaurants located along the Danube River. And even the existing few are often content with offering vistas, rather than gastronomic delights. Flanked by endless rows of docked Viking river cruises, Szegedi Halászcsárda isn't a promising sight, but the restaurant is actually a positive surprise. As its moniker suggests, their specialty is the Hungarian fisherman’s soup, halászlé, especially its famed version from the south-Hungarian city of Szeged.
One of the distinguishing features of the Szeged fish soup is the thick, almost creamy broth. It’s accomplished by a laborious process of pressing the fish-laden liquid through a sieve, thereby maximizing its concentration. The soup at Szegedi Halászcsárda’s is very near a textbook version. The paprika's pungency rounds out and balances out the fresh fish broth. The maroon-hued broth, which is spicy, but not distractingly so, comes with soft fillets of oily carp (the “small” portion for €5 is still generous). For apps, order the fried bits of catfish with onion rings and fresh slices of bread (€6). If you have some stomach space left, the cottage cheese noodles blanketed in pork cracklings (túrós csusza; €6) is the traditional way to finish the meal.
While the fisherman’s soup is keeping you busy, remember to occasionally look up and enjoy the picture-postcard views of Budapest. Due to its location near the tourist-heavy river cruises, most patrons at Szegedi Halászcsárda are foreigners. This also explains why there is a live gipsy band performing Hungarian songs Wednesday to Sunday, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.