Budapest is far removed from the global capitals of burgerdom, so if you grew up eating In-N-Out Double Doubles or ShackBurgers, you may feel underwhelmed by the local offerings. But several Budapest burger joints are nonetheless working hard on perfecting their burger games, and if you keep your expectations in check, you might be in for a positive surprise.
Part burger joint, part craft beer bar, Kandalló is a bustling space in the Jewish Quarter. Their burgers are among the best you will find in Budapest, although, as in other places, I'd prefer their buns to be smaller and squishier. Most patties are made from Grey Cattle, a local variety, while the more expensive ones use Angus (patties are 180 gram / 6.3 oz)..
W35 is a small burger joint on the far end of Budapest's party district. They break down the hamburger-making process into meticulous, scientific steps: a patty forming machine shapes the Angus into uniform sizes, a timer achieves consistent char, and a meat thermometer ensures that all patties are cooked to a juicy, pink-centered, medium-rare doneness. The result is a compact patty exuding a wonderful beefiness and framed by two crisped sesame buns (although the overly aromatic truffle oil doesn't do any favors here). .
Kollázs Brasserie & Bar, which occupies the ground floor of the opulent, Art Nouveau building of the Four Seasons Hotel, is a fine dining restaurant and cocktail bar with prime views onto Budapest's Castle Hill. It's the type of place where dark-suited waiters scurry around with tableside carts and pricey bottles of wine. The interior is furnished in a tasteful neo-Art Deco style, complete with marble, dark wood, and brass finishes. .
Pesti Burger is a chic burger joint on the campus of Semmelweis University, near the Basic Medical Science Center’s glass-curtained building in Budapest's District 9. You might think that slinging pricey burgers on a college campus isn't the savviest of business ideas, but Pesti Burger tends to get at least half full at midday (granted: the wallet-friendlier pasta joint next door is usually mobbed with students). .
Let’s get the annoying part out of the way: the co-owner of Bamba Marha fashions himself as Hungary's “burger pope,” a curiously narcissistic title, especially in a country where hamburgers don't run very deep. This shouldn’t necessarily deter you from visiting Bamba Marha, a small burger chain in Budapest, as their €5 cheeseburgers offer some of the best value for money in the city’s artisan burgerland: a nicely charred 130 gram / 4.6 ounce patty enclosed by a sesame bun and garnished with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and a slathering of sauce. .
Tuning is a tourist-heavy burger joint in the heart of the bustling Jewish Quarter. Their burgers are pricey, and often feature non-traditional ingredients like eggs, sliced avocado, or grilled zucchini. Although some of the pricier ones use Angus, most patties, which are 180 gram / 6.3 oz., are made from Hungarian Grey Cattle. I enjoyed the “classic street food” cheeseburger (€8), where the main ingredients—bun, patty, cheddar sauce—were clearly detectable.
For a deeply local experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger in the south of Budapest, a half-hour bus ride away from downtown. Flanked by grey, communist-era high-rises lies this not particularly inviting, flimsy wooden shack, painted in red, white and blue. The cheap, kitschy 'Merican decor (I couldn't be sure that they're being ironic) features decorative license plates from Texas, Florida, and Missouri and plenty of other tchotchkes. .