Where to eat with the locals: The 40 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)

Belvárosi Disznótoros is a wallet-friendly sausage shop in Budapest's downtown drawing nearby office workers. This self-service lunch destination features high-top tables and standing counters and offers a dizzying array of ready-made and to-be-prepared traditional meat dishes. Think blood sausage, grilled pork chop, wild boar stew, schnitzel, and the like. As locals do, pair your main order with a side of pickled vegetables. "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.

#2 Buja Disznó(k)

Buja Disznó(k) is a food stall on the upper deck of the historic Hold Street Market Hall 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.

#3 Frici Papa Kifőzdéje

Frici Papa is a tourist-heavy restaurant in Budapest favored by price sensitive visitors who're 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 Kádár Étkezde

If you wonder what everyday dining was like in communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter will give you the answer. Kádár opened in 1957 as a wallet-friendly neighborhood joint feeding the mainly Jewish local residents with unfussy Hungarian and Jewish-Hungarian classics like matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbage, beef stew, sweet noodles, and, on Saturdays, cholent (Kádár isn't kosher). The dishes were passable, prices rock-bottom.

#5 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.

#6 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.

#7 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.

#8 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, no-frills lunch destination, which opened in 1991, specializes in meat dishes that have traditionally been dear to Hungarians’ stomachs—sausages, meatballs, pork ribs, and the like.

#9 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.

#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 Gyuri bácsi embodies the type of unfussy diner where many Hungarians go to for lunch. In other words, here's your chance to dine elbow-to-elbow with locals.

#11 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.

#12 Marika Lángos Sütője

For a journey back in time, stop by at this hole-in-the-wall on the upper deck of the Klauzal Market Hall 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.

#13 Városház Snack

Low prices, homestyle Hungarian dishes, a pared-down interior, no English menu, let alone an Instagram page: these are favorable 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, popular among emplyees of the Mayor's Office across the street.

#14 Kürtös Ételbár

Here’s a little secret: there’s hole-in-the-wall right next to and sharing a kitchen with Rosenstein, one of the top traditional Hungarian restaurants in Budapest. In fact, Rosenstein itself grew out of this tiny 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.

#15 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.

#16 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 traditional 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.

#17 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).

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

If you've ever wondered what a Chinese breakfast was like, head to Hong Kong Büfé in Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center). For less than €5, you can try classic Chinese breakfast staples here including cong you bing, congee, and youtiao.

#19 Csirke Csibész

Open since 1992, Csirke Csibész is an iconic chicken sandwich shop in Budapest's District 6. As in the case of pizza, 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.

#20 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 an often-changing list of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces listed on the blackboard. You can't go wrong with any of them. They each cost around €10.

#21 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, two-floored 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 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.

#22 Hús-hentesáru (Budafoki út)

This neighborhood institution, which opened in 1969, is still mainly a butcher shop with an array of raw pork, poultry, and beef dominating the display, but the longest lines form by the steam table in the corner containing a mound of ready-made meats. 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 (on my last visit, and elderly lady ordered three pork feet for a dinner-to-be of braised pig trotters). Many students from the nearby Budapest University of Technology are also repeat customers thanks to the low prices.

#23 Gyros Kerkyra

After spending a few days in Budapest, you might also notice that local residents have a weird fixation with gyros judging by the myriad gyro joints that dot 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 of places; 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 Retro Lángos Büfé

Retro Lángos Büfé is not your flawlessly designed place complete with brand-new Mid-century modern fittings and misleadingly advertising itself as "retro." Instead, this pocket-sized food stall on the ground level of an '80s Budapest subway station is a real communist-era holdover. Perhaps this sense of no-frills authenticity has made it a tourists-favorite.

#26 Dabao Jiaozi (大宝饺子)

There's near-universal 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. Before moving into Budapest's Chinatown, Dabao was a takeout-only venue hidden in a beaten-down commerical building.

#27 Namgyal Momo Tibetan Eatery

Think Budapest is too small to find delicious Tibetan food in it? 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.

#28 Húsimádó

Húsimádó, which translates to "meat lover," is a neighborhood butcher shop in Budapest's Újlipótváros neighborhood. The place is so chuck-full of meats that sometimes it's hard to even see the proprietor on the other side of the counter through bricks of fatback and rows of smoked salami. The main draw here is the ready-made sausages: paprika-laced, liver, and blood varieties. I also enjoy the fried chicken liver with a perfectly tender piece of pork belly and a side of sauerkraut and a slice of bread.

#29 Jin Yi Shu Shi (金毅熟食)

If you’re serious about your Chinese pancake, head straight 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 then proceed to freshly prepare it on a cast iron griddle before you. There are myriad variations 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 (be sure to eat it while it's hot).

#30 San Da Vinci

Before long, all visitors to Budapest will notice the countless, painfully overlit gyro vendors swarming the city, hawking cheap chicken and lamb gyros to drunk bachelor party tourists. At first, San Da Vinci, located along the highway-like Rákóczi Road near the city center, looks like just another gyro joint, but it turns out to be a lot worthier venue.

#31 Falafel Bar

If you’re looking for quick and affordable Middle Eastern fare in Budapest's party district, Falafel Bar is your best bet. This unfussy place, with both takeout and sit-down options, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel plate (€6), where the deep-fried chickpea balls are exactly as they should be: crunchy on the outside, creamy inside. They’re the best I’ve had in Budapest.

#32 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.

#33 Hú Lù Lu

Hú Lù Lu is a modest-looking 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 typical Vietnamese classics.

#34 Bánh Mì

Budapest’s District 7 may be known as the city’s party district, but its burgeoning and increasingly diverse food scene may give that title a run for its money. A young Vietnamese couple—one of them first, the other a second generation Vietnamese-Hungarian—set up shop in 2018, after seeing locals' fondness for Vietnamese food. But instead of yet another pho shop, they launched a bánh mì joint, specializing in the iconic French-Vietnamese sandwiches, the first of its kind in Budapest.

#35 Happy Panda

Good news! Regional Chinese restaurants are opening in Budapest at an increasing rate. Instead of the bland sameness of Chinese takeouts, you can now taste dishes that would hold their own even in their places of origin. The la zi ji chicken, a Sichuan classic, at Yu Man Tang, and the steamed dumplings at Dabao come to mind first.

#36 Mangalica Mennyország

The refurbished Klauzál Market Hall 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 and bland grocery store chains, there are a couple of self-service eateries here serving low-priced and tasty Hungarian food. One of those places is Mangalica Mennyország (the other is Marika Lángos Sütője on the upper deck).

#37 Hús Hentesáru (Hajós utca)

This homey butcher and sausage shop has been around for almost a hundred years, with the current owner in charge since 1991. It's a small miracle that this old-school, unpretentious place still exists today, hiding beside the Budapest Opera House, one of the city's main tourist attractions. Being here feels like a travel back in time, both in terms of the interior and the service—evidently, the brusque lady behind the counter comes from a generation when customers were not always right, and there's something deeply authentic about her attitude.

#38 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 the shrinking number of local residents (Airbnb, I'm looking at you).

#39 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, including both over-80 senior citizens and trendy hipsters. What brings them together are the low prices and the reliable homestyle dishes.

#40 Kao Niaw Ping Kai Restaurant

I'll start with the bad news: 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 and pollution of car traffic has all but cleared the area of pedestrians. But don't despair. A quick bus-ride from downtown (take #5, #7, #110, #112, or #178) will drop you right outside the restaurant, so you won't need to inhale any exhaust fumes.

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.