The 6 Best Burgers in Budapest

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 have been perfecting their craft, so you may be in for a surprise if you keep your expectations in check.

I’m usually lukewarm about places in Budapest and Vienna that simply imitate a big international trend without much forethought or a local angle. With Smashy, a burger joint in downtown Budapest that specializes in smashed burgers, I have to make an exception because the burgers are so delicious. What differentiates smashed burgers from regular burgers is the flattened patty, which makes a greater surface area of the meat nicely charred and crunchy. That’s exactly what Smashy does, then simply enclosing it in a soft bun layered with melted cheese and a homemade sauce. Yum!

A strange and bizarre America-worship imbues Simon’s burgers, complete with an English-only menu and the founder's manifesto written on wall in all-caps: “Accoding to Simon, there’s just one hamburger, what he ate in America.”

But: the burgers are the best I've had in Budapest. Far from Shake Shack-level, but a very enjoyable burger with a juicy and crunchy patty, enclosed by a soft bun. Simon's has several locations; be sure to go to the one in Vitkovics Mihály utca, one of the most charming streets of downtown Budapest. Note: prices are high by local standards.

Let’s get the awkward part out of the way: one of the co-owners 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 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.

Also good is the double-bacon burger, layering strips of crisped-up bacon, but I wasn’t a fan of the namesake Bamba Marha burger, where the BBQ-forward sauce didn't leave room for other flavors to shine through. For a small premium, you can upgrade any burger to be made with an Angus patty.

Part burger joint, part sports bar, part craft beer bar, Kandalló wears many hats. The burgers at this popular joint within Budapest's Jewish Quarter are among the best you'll find in the city (although I wish they used smaller and squishier buns). From the dozen or so options, I recommend you stick to the classic cheeseburger or, if you'd like to splurge, try the grilled foie gras-studded "Kandalló" burger.

The 16 beer taps feature leading Hungarian microbreweries, including Monyo, Horizont, Brew Your Mind, and Reketye. On Sunday evenings, Kandalló becomes a haven for NFL fans, displaying games on big screens; advance booking is a must if you'd like to join the throngs of local American football fans.

Bölcső may not have the deepest craft beer selections in Budapest, nor does it sling In-N-Out-level Double-Doubles, but the combination of above-average beers and burgers makes this lively neighborhood joint a worthy destination. Once here, you'll also get to experience a charming Buda neighborhood on the less-traveled side of the city. Being in Buda means that the patrons are mainly locals, especially thirty-plus millennials with a taste for craft beers.

There are 16 rotating beers on tap, sourced mainly from top Hungarian microbreweries and featuring everything from IPAs to lagers, porters, and sour beers. The burgers are tasty but they tend to undercook the patties so go a notch above your desired degree of doneness: ask for medium-well if you’re looking for medium.

For a deeply local experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger in the south of Budapest, located a half-hour away from downtown by bus. Flanked by drab communist-era high-rises lies this flimsy wooden shack, painted in red, white and blue. The kitschy 'Merican decor — I'm not sure whether it's meant ironically — features plenty of tchotchkes and decorative license plates from Texas, Florida, and Missouri.

Big Daddy's burgers are very tasty, in part because they come in smaller and squishier buns than elsewhere in Budapest, making for an ideal patty-to-bun ratio. The default doneness level is just over medium, but you can specify how you want yours cooked. Of the 28 options, I usually go for the “Még egy kis hús - bacon burger” packing cheddar and strips of crispy bacon. Another reason to journey out to Big Daddy is the price points, which are about half of what you'll need to cough up in downtown.