Where to eat with the locals: The 38 Best Cheap Restaurants In Budapest

Be it self-service eateries, standing-only food stalls, or sit-down restaurants, the places below serve reliable and wallet-friendly dishes in Budapest. Note that many of them are lunch-only venues, open only on weekdays. Keep a special eye out for étkezdes: unfussy, mom-and-pop neighborhood greasy spoons that have been around for almost a century but are now nearing extinction — people with a lingering nostalgia for times past should be certain to visit them.

#1 Belvárosi Disznótoros (Károlyi Street)

"A field of dreams, a landscape of braised, and fried, and cured delights," said the late Anthony Bourdain of Belvárosi Disznótoros after his visit in 2015. This wallet-friendly self-service sausage shop in Budapest's downtown does serve a dizzying array of ready-made and to-be-prepared traditional meat dishes. Think paprika and blood sausage, grilled pork chop, wild boar stew, and schnitzel. I usually go for a simple and delicious snappy sausage with a side of mustard and a slice of bread (there's no seating, only high-top tables and standing counters).

#2 Buja Disznó(k)

Buja Disznó(k) is a food stall on the upper deck of the historic Hold Street Market in downtown Budapest. Over the past few years, this market has transformed into a gourmet food court, where local celebrity chefs operate fast casual restaurants. The culinary mission of Buja Disznó(k) is simple enough: serve delicious, made-to-order pork schnitzels. Hungarians have grown so fond of this breaded cutlet, which originates in northern Italy, not Austria, that schnitzels have become nothing less than a national dish alongside the goulash soup and the chicken paprikash.

#3 Frici Papa Kifőzdéje

Frici Papa is a tourist-heavy restaurant in Budapest favored by visitors and locals looking for low-priced Hungarian food and old-school vibes. With main dishes rarely exceeding €5-6, the prices are truly rock-bottom, even by local standards. The humble two-story interior features cheap wood paneling, tablecloths covered with sticky plastic, and waiters dressed as if parachuted here from the '80s.

#4 A Séf utcája

In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a Hungarian celebrity chef, opened a fast casual lunch eatery inside the practically empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has since transformed into a thriving food court where prominent local chefs operate low-key restaurants and the area swarms with people at lunchtime.

#5 Kívánság Étkezde

For a deeply local lunch experience in Budapest, it’s hard to think of a better place than Kívánság Étkezde. The continued existence of this modest eatery, which opened in 1985, is evidence that there’s still lingering love for old-school family-run restaurants. After all, they’re quick, cheap, and some of them, like Kívánság, serve homestyle Hungarian classics that have otherwise disappeared from the city.

#6 Öcsi étkezde

Opened in 1981, Öcsi étkezde is a teeny-tiny, lunch-only eatery in Budapest's outer District 8, a bit away from the city center. The engine of this modest mom-and-pop restaurant is Erzsi, who runs the kitchen all by herself and occasionally pops into the dining area with flour-dusted hands to ask a regular patron whether he wants a schnitzel with his lecsó. Feri, her husband, sporting a white lab coat, multitasks by taking orders, serving food, and chatting with customers, most of whom he knows by name. Despite pushing 70, he retains a youthful presence and handsome features.

#7 Pinczi hús-hentesáru bolt

Part butcher shop, part ready-to-eat meat paradise, Pinczi hús-hentesáru is an iconic sausage shop in Budapest exhibiting a fast-disappearing side of the city. This low-priced, bare-bones lunch destination, which opened in 1991, specializes in meat dishes that have traditionally been dear to Hungarian stomachs — sausages, meatballs, pork ribs. No matter the time of day — in Budapest, many people, still, start the day with a hearty roasted sausage — Pinczi swarms with customers, who're a cross-section of local residents, with a noticeable concentration of middle-aged men carrying protruding bellies.

#8 Városház Snack

Low prices, homestyle Hungarian dishes, a pared-down interior, no English menu, let alone an Instagram page: these are promising signs that you've stumbled on a truly local eatery. Városház Snack, which opened in 1985, is a shoebox-sized counter-service restaurant in Budapest's downtown that's popular among emplyees of the Mayor's Office across the street.

#9 Kürtös Ételbár

Here’s a little secret: there’s a tiny eatery next to and sharing a kitchen with Rosenstein, one of the top Hungarian restaurants in Budapest. In fact, Rosenstein itself grew out of this mini space back in 1989, before hoisting itself into an elegant sit-down venue. In other words, at Kürtös Ételbár you can enjoy the same goulash soup (€2), beef stew (€5), and schnitzel (€5) they serve next door, but at much friendlier price points.

#10 Gyuri bácsi konyhája

This modest self-service eatery (“étkezde”) a bit outside the city center in District 9 may not be for everyone: Even among Budapest’s low-priced establishments, Gyuri bácsi konyhája is positioned toward the lower end when it comes to comfort and interior design. But the food is notably excellent and the place embodies the type of unfussy diner where many Hungarians go for lunch. In other words, here's your chance to dine elbow-to-elbow with locals.

#11 HeHe Chinese Restaurant (和和美食)

If you’re looking for tasty and wallet-friendly Chinese food in Budapest, HeHe is one of your best bets. The restaurant serves an array of excellent Chinese dishes from a modest, undecorated space in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center), reachable in 25 minutes from the city center by public transport.

#12 Saigon Bistro

Lined with Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants near one another, Budapest’s sleepy Szondi Street in District 6 is a paradise of international food. Saigon Bistro, a humble, takeout-looking spot, is one of the few Southern Vietnamese places in Budapest — Hungary took immigrants from the communist north during the Vietnam War — which means that the dishes here are more gussied up with garnishes and sweeter flavors than elsewhere.

#13 JóKrisz Lángos Sütöde (Rákóczi Market Hall)

For a truly, deeply local experience, make your way to this bare-bones food stall inside the Rákóczi Market Hall in Budapest's District 8. Hiding in the back of the building is JóKrisz Lángos Sütöde, a mom-and-pop standing-only eatery specializing in lángos, a traditional Hungarian deep-fried Hungarian flatbread. I usually visit Jókrisz early in the mornings when the colorful cast of characters flock here from the mainly working-class neighborhood.

#14 Norbi Étkezde Budapest

Norbi Étkezde is a tiny self-service eatery in Budapest's Újlipótváros neighborhood, not far from the city center. Every morning, they freshly prepare a host of Hungarian dishes, mostly soups and fried and breaded meats, so that by lunchtime they can feed the crowds with incredible efficiency. The line at midday can stretch outside the building — a sure sign of impending deliciousness.

#15 Pocakos Lakatos

Pocakos Lakatos is a popular lunch-only eatery on the outskirts of Budapest. Since it takes about 25 minutes to get to from downtown by public transport, I especially recommend this place for people who're looking for a truly local dining experience in Budapest (I promise you'll be the only tourist here).

#16 Csirke Csibész

Open since 1992, Csirke Csibész is an iconic chicken sandwich shop in Budapest's District 6. As with pizza joints, good poultry vendors tend to be democratic establishments, bringing together people from all walks of life. This is also true for Csirke Csibész, where construction workers and office employees alike line up for the flavorful fried and roasted birds here at lunchtime.

#17 Monori Center Hong Kong Büfé (港式茶餐厅)

Hong Kong Büfé is a small decor-deprived eatery within Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center). For the longest time, the place was best known for its Chinese breakfast foods like cong you bing, congee, and youtiao, but they've shifted to lunch and dinner-only service.

#18 2 Spaghi Pasta Bar

Run by three Italian natives, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop in Budapest with an endearingly simple mission: serve fresh, made-to-order pasta dishes quickly and well. You're invited to pair a variety of pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with a rotating set of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino listed on the blackboard. You can't go wrong with any of them and they each cost around €10. Of the stuffed pastas, the ravioli with spinach and ricotta is especially good. If you have some stomach space left, round out your meal with a light panna cotta topped with strawberry sauce (€2).

#19 Rim Thanonh Thai Food

In 2018, three Thai ladies, two of whom had been working in Thai kitchens in Budapest, decided to strike out on their own. Their restaurant, Rim Thanonh, is a pocket-sized space on the edge of the city's party district, near the Grand Boulevard. With a bare-bones, undecorated interior, Rim Thanonh isn’t the type of place where you'd go for birthday celebrations or business dinners, but if tasty and reasonably priced home-style Thai food is what you’re after, I can’t think of a better place in Budapest.

#20 Hús-hentesáru (Budafoki út)

This neighborhood institution, which opened in 1969, is still mainly a butcher shop but the longest lines form at midday before the steam table containing mounds of freshly made cuts. The atmosphere is part of the charm here: senior neighborhood residents often drop by to pick up whatever they dreamed up to cook that day, while students from the nearby University of Technology wolf down low-priced porcine delicacies.

#21 Little Italy Pizzeria

You step into Little Italy and an oversized image of Naples and the Mount Vesuvius face you from the opposite wall. Around it hang blue-and-white soccer scarves emblazoned with “solo Napoli” slogans and nearly all servers are Italian natives. But instead of being on the Tyrrhenian coast, this pizzeria hides in an indistinct Budapest neighborhood a bit outside the city center. Little Italy isn’t the type of place that appears on thematic toplists nor does it draw a trendy crowd, but it is the type of a place that gets mobbed by people who come here for delicious and affordable pizzas made with lightning speed by the Hungarian owner-chef, who spent years working in Naples.

#22 Hari Kebab

You don't need me to tell you: döner kebabs are among the most rewarding street foods — these nutritious umami bombs wrapped in a pita impart the succulent taste of roast lamb or chicken, ideally both. Unfortunately, the stuff Budapest’s countless döner and gyro shops serve hardly does justice to this Ottoman invention that has since been refined by Germany's Turkish street vendors.

#23 Gyros Kerkyra

After spending a few days in Budapest, you might also notice the countless gyro joints dotting the city center. Unfortunately, most of these painfully overlit shops serve the kind of low-priced gyros that are best relegated to late-night nourishment after a long evening of drinking.

#24 Shandong Chinese Restaurant (山东饭店)

Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most fashionable place, after all, who gets excited about decor-deprived rows of warehouses far outside the city center? The obvious answer: fans of Chinese food. Shandong Restaurant is located on a particularly rundown section of the area, but I urge you not to turn your back on it. Similar to HeHe, this unpretentious space serves up some of the best and lowest-priced Chinese fare in Budapest.

#25 Dabao Jiaozi (大宝饺子)

There's near consensus within the local Chinese community that Dabao Jiaozi is the place to head to for home-style dumplings in Budapest — quite a statement in a city where more than 30,000 Chinese people live. Dabao makes Shandong-style dumplings, which means that the wrappers are a bit thicker and chewier. There's only two versions; both with a base filling of ground pork and shrimp, with one of them packing napa cabbage, the other shredded Chinese chives. I'm slightly in favor of the chive-version, but there isn't much of a flavor difference and they're both very good.

#26 Namgyal Momo Tibetan Eatery

Think Budapest is too small to find here delicious Tibetan food? Think again. On a District 9 side street hides Tsewang Namgyal’s tiny eatery, Namgyal Momo, where he serves up some seriously tasty Tibetan classics. Tsewang, a gregarious political refugee from Tibet who came to Budapest in 2005, speaks fluent Hungarian and appears to know each customer by name.

#27 Húsimádó

Húsimádó, which translates to "meat lover," is a beloved neighborhood butcher shop in Budapest's Újlipótváros neighborhood. The place is piled so high with meats that bricks of fatback and rows of smoked salami can block the view of the other side of the counter. The main draw here is the ready-made sausages: paprika-laced, liver, and blood varieties. I also enjoy the fried chicken liver with a tender piece of pork belly and a side of sauerkraut and a slice of bread.

#28 Jin Yi Shu Shi (金毅熟食)

If you like Chinese pancake and are curious about an offbeat part of the city, head to this tiny takeout shop buried deep within the Kőbányai Piac, one of Budapest’s two Chinatowns. Known as jianbing and originating in northern China, these savory crepes are a beloved street food across China. Here, a Chinese lady will help you customize your order and freshly prepare it on a cast iron griddle before you. Many versions exist but eggs, fried crackers, hoisin sauce, and a drizzle of cilantro and scallions are standard ingredients. I also like to add pork floss and sausage for a protein boost. The result is a crispy bundle of flavor bomb (eat it while it's hot).

#29 San Da Vinci

Before long, all visitors to Budapest will notice the countless, painfully overlit gyro vendors swarming the city and hawking low-priced sandwiches of mediocre quality. At first glance, San Da Vinci, located along the highway-like Rákóczi út near the city center, looks like one of those but it turns out to be a lot worthier venue.

#30 Falafel Bar

Falafel Bar is your best bet for quick and affordable Middle Eastern fare in Budapest's party district. This unfussy place, which does both takeout and sit-down, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel platter (€6) sporting deep-fried chickpea balls that are crunchy on the outside and creamy inside. For a quick snack, I usually order the sabich (€3), an Israeli vegetarian pita packing fried eggplants, vegetables, tahini sauce, and a hard-boiled egg.

#31 Fecske Presszo

Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly restaurant and bar just a stone's throw away from the Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means that students of all ages tend to gather here throughout the day to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer.

#32 Hú Lù Lu

Hú Lù Lu is a small Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s party district, the type of place where the food speaks louder than the decor (always the better combination). Two Vietnamese-Hungarian twentysomethings, originally from Nghệ An in north-central Vietnam, set out to serve up dishes from their home region alongside Vietnamese classics.

#33 Happy Panda

Regional Chinese restaurants are opening in Budapest at an increasing rate: Instead of the bland sameness of Chinese takeouts, you can now taste dishes in the city that would hold their own in their places of origin (for example Yu Man Tang's la zi ji chicken and Dabao's steamed dumplings). Now, we can add jianbing to that list, available at Happy Panda, a small takeout shop on a District 8 side street.

#34 Mangalica Mennyország

The refurbished Klauzál Market in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter is a far cry from the thriving food court inside its sister location on Hold Street, but amid the shuttered storefronts there are a couple of self-service eateries here that serve low-priced and tasty Hungarian food. One of those places is Mangalica Mennyország (the other is Marika Lángos Sütője, a lángos vendor on the upper deck).

#35 Balla-Hús

Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining standalone butcher shops in downtown Budapest. Balla's business model has evolved over the decades: instead of raw meat, today they mainly serve low-priced breakfast and lunch dishes to a shrinking number of local residents (Airbnb, I'm looking at you). In the mornings, go for the scrambled eggs, which arrive sprinkled with crisped-up sausages and red paprika powder — expect an especially generous portion if the owner himself prepares it.

#36 Tera Magyar Konyhája

Tera Magyar Konyhája ("Tera's Hungarian Kitchen") is an affordable self-service eatery in Újlipótváros, a charming and unusually tranquil Budapest neighborhood. At lunchtime, a cross section of local residents show up here that include 80+ senior citizens and trendy hipsters alike. What brings them together are the low prices and the reliable homestyle dishes.

#37 Kao Niaw Ping Kai Restaurant

Kao Niaw Ping Kai Restaurant is located on one of the least inviting stretches of Budapest, the multi-lane Rákóczi Road, where the constant stream of car traffic has all but cleared the area of pedestrians. But don't despair. A downtown bus (take #5, #7, #110, #112, or #178) will drop you right outside the restaurant so you won't need to inhale any exhaust fumes.

#38 Marika Lángos Sütője

For a journey back in time, stop by this hole-in-the-wall on the upper deck of the Klauzal Market in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Marika is the driving force behind the kitchen, while her husband, Csaba, sources the ingredients and decides on the daily-changing Hungarian classics. Many people come here for lángos, a deep-fried flatbread topped with sour cream and grated cheese (€2). The daily homestyle specials usually include a goulash, paprika-laced stews, and seasonal dishes like stuffed cabbage during the cold months.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.