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. If you keep your expectations in check, you might be in for a positive surprise.
W35 is a fast casual burger restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. They break down the hamburger-making process into meticulous, scientific steps: a patty forming machine shapes the Angus beef 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 burgers are compact with a delicious beefiness of the meat, although the aromatic truffle oil feels like a non sequitur here. Framing the burgers are two perfectly crisped sesame buns.
Part burger joint, part craft beer bar, Kandalló is a bustling space in the Jewish Quarter where locals looking for a taste of 'Merica can flock to. Kandalló’s burgers are among the best you will find in Budapest, although, as with other burgers in the city, I would prefer their buns to be smaller and squishier (Kandalló uses a 125 gram wheat bun with 180 gram / 6.3 ounce patties). Most patties are made from Grey Cattle beef, a local variety, while the more expensive burgers come with Angus chuck..
Independent restaurants located inside luxury hotels face a common challenge: they need to juggle between satisfying the not-always-so-sophisticated palates of the hotel residents while also luring discernible diners looking for a fine dining experience. KOLLÁZS - Brasserie & Bar, occupying part of the ground floor at the exquisite Four Seasons Hotel Budapest, meets the challenge. The tastefully designed neo-Art Deco interior seamlessly blends a grill bar with a bistro, a fine dining restaurant, and a cocktail bar. Don't be surprised by besuited waiters scurrying around with tableside carts, carving fine meats like chateaubriand and Dover sole.
Pesti Burger and Bar is a chic burger joint located on the campus of Semmelweis University, near the Basic Medical Science Center’s glass-curtained building in Budapest's District 9. The place occupies the ground floor of an indistinct, gleaming white dormitory high-rise. 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 (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 Budapest’s artisan burgerland: a nicely charred 130 gram / 4.6 ounce patty is enclosed by a sesame bun and garnished with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and a slathering of sauce. .
Tuning Burger is a tourist-heavy burger joint in the heart of the bustling Jewish Quarter. Tuning's burgers are a bit too busy for my taste: each comes with several non-traditional burger ingredients that, depending on your order, might be eggs, sliced avocado, or grilled zucchini. The over-the-top burger architecture comprises a sizeable, 180 gram / 6.3 ounce patty. .
For a deeply offbeat Budapest experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger Bár in the south of the city, a half-hour bus ride from downtown. Flanked by grey, communist-era high-rises lies this unlikely and not particularly inviting, flimsy wooden shack. The kitschy decor aims to evoke American vibes. As if Big Daddy’s moniker and decorative license plates from Texas, Florida, and Missouri wouldn’t sufficiently convey the Americanness of the place, they painted red, white and blue stripes on the building’s exterior.
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.