Tokaji Borozó

One of Budapest’s oldest and most atmospheric wine bars is hidden below ground on a quiet downtown street otherwise known for its antique stores selling expensive chinaware. Like other unchic, communist-era bars that have survived to the present day, this holdout from the 1960s—no one seems to know the exact year of opening—draws mainly long-time regulars from the neighborhood.

Although the wines are indeed from the famed Tokaj region, they're far from the premium stuff commanding steep prices. But that’s almost beside the point—you should visit Tokaji Borozó for ist ambiance and cast of colorful characters. The interior features an elaborate wood carving from 1977, which runs around the arched-brick walls and depicts a wine harvest.

The food offerings are miles ahead of what you might find at similar drinking joints. Both the soft and crispy meatballs (€1) and the körözött sandwich, a paprika-laced cottage cheese spread (€1), are excellent. They also serve tócsni, a made-to-order fried potato dish that can turn out a bit too oily. Two final notes of caution: Tokaji borozó is closed on weekends and, true to its mission of being a winery, no beers are served.

We visit all places incognito, pay for our own meals and drinks, and write independent reviews.