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The 15 Best Everyday Hungarian Restaurants In Budapest

Italians have their osterias, the French their brasseries. In Hungary, no-frills, small restaurants whose main purpose is to fill your stomach with familiar flavors at affordable prices are called "étkezde". Many étkezde opened in the communist-era and are now nearing extinction (usually for good reason). But a few are still around, serving outstanding homemade Hungarian dishes at almost ludicrously low prices.

In Budapest's increasingly international dining scene these eateries are some of the most indigenous to the city: people with a lingering nostalgia for times past should be certain to visit them. Note that most étkezde are closed on the weekend and accept cash only. Check out also the best traditional Hungarian restaurants in Budapest.

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#1 Róma Ételbár

Róma Ételbár is one of the few remaining communist-era “osteria”: cheap, no-frills, lunch-only eateries once common in Hungary. The dishes at Róma still exclusively revolve around Hungarian classics, as if the kitchen has been vigilantly guarding against lurking intruders of contemporary gastronomy. The Hungarian signature dishes are passable (goulash, beef stew, etc.), but you’re usually better off opting for the daily specials, like the roast goose leg with parsley potato, which often have more character. Prices are somewhat higher at Róma than at other similar eateries, likely due to the crowds that line up during lunchtime (some aspect of capitalism did slip through the cracks).
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#2 Belvárosi Disznótoros

Belvárosi Disznótoros is one of those rare places that sustain their quality even after they become tourist favorites. Let’s see how long it will last, but as of this writing this bustling self-service type eatery (standing only at the counters along the wall) offers a dizzying array of fully-prepared and to-be-prepared selection of traditional Hungarian dishes. Think of wild boar stew, blood sausage, grilled pork chops, and pork knuckles paired with a range of pickled or marinated vegetables. A favorite is the simple and delicious fried sausage with braised red cabbage, mustard, horseradish, and sliced bread.
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#3 Buja Disznó(k)

Buja Disznó(k) has the same owner/executive chef as A Séf utcája down a few doors. They're both located on the upper deck of the stunning Hold Street market hall dotted with outstanding fast casual eateries frequented by a moneyed local office crowd. The culinary focus of Buja Disznó(k) is pork schnitzel. Make sure you come hungry otherwise the odds of you finishing these oversized pieces of crispy, and wonderfully juicy meats with a side of cold potato salad are not in your favor (they are about the size of an adult's forearm).
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#4 Kívánság Étkezde

For a truly local lunch experience, it’s hard to think of a better place than Kívánság Étkezde. The continued existence of this eatery, which opened in 1985, is evidence that there’s still lingering love in Budapest for communist-style small, family-run restaurants. After all, they’re quick and cheap. Their bad rep is primarily because people associate them with stale and greasy food, but this doesn’t have to be so at a time when fresh ingredients are abundantly available.
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#5 Kádár Étkezde

If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communism, search no longer. This traditional Hungarian étkezde/eatery in the old Jewish Quarter has been around since 1957, and both the food and the atmosphere still transmit an aura of a different epoch. The stuffed cabbage or the beef stew with egg barley is unlikely to blow your mind, but that's not even the point - you should visit Kádár for the ambiance, rather than the food. The servers wear outfits that could rival the wardrobe collection from Soviet movies in the 1950s.
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#6 Öcsi étkezde

Öcsi étkezde, a lunch-only eatery in District 8, has flourished since 1981, in part due to the familial environment created by married owners Erzsi and Feri. Erzsi, the driving force behind the kitchen, occasionally pops into the dining area with cilantro-covered hands to check with regulars whether they would like a schnitzel with their lecsó. Feri, a comforting presence with a white lab coat and handsome features, multitasks between taking orders, bringing out food, and chatting with patrons, most of whom he knows by name. The daily-changing, handwritten menu consists of many Hungarian staples, of which the made-to-order dishes ("frissensült") are usually the best.
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#7 Frici Papa Kifőzdéje

Although Frici Papa opened after the fall of the iron curtain, this eatery has become a darling for tourists looking to experience communist-style dining. Tablecloths covered with transparent plastic, cheap wood paneling on the walls, waiters dressed as if having been parachuted here from the '80s - those in search of a lost epoch won't be disappointed. The menu includes all the traditional Hungarian staples from goulash to beef stew, chicken paprikás, and túrós csusza. Don't expect a Michelin star kitchen here, but most of the dishes are passable.
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#8 Városház Snack

No English menu or even a Facebook page, these are good signs that you've stumbled into something uniquely local. Városház Snack belongs to the bare-bones self-service/takeout lunch venues popular during communist times, which are now nearing extinction, usually for good reason. However, Városház Snack is still standing, since 1985, and so are plenty of people in line at lunchtime for cheap and tasty traditional Hungarian dishes served inside a shoebox-sized downtown location. .
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#9 Norbert Étkezde Budapest

This shoebox sized, partially takeout eatery (or “étkezde” in Hungarian) represents the best of the étkezde genre: it’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious. In the mornings they freshly make a range of popular Hungarian dishes like stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikás, and pork schnitzels so that by lunchtime they can feed the seemingly endless crowd with incredible efficiency. A line stretching outside of Norbert Étkezde at midday is a sign that good things lie ahead. A couple of soup options are usually available, of which the reviving orja leves (pork bone soup) is a must.
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#10 Tera Magyar Konyhája

Tera Magyar Konyhája (trans. "Tera's Hungarian kitchen") is located in Újlipótváros, a charming section of Budapest. The neighborhood is a city within the city, where the cultural upper crust and young families with baby strollers form a strong local community and make for a lively area. Many of the local residents eat lunch at Tera Magyar Konyhája, this self-service diner with a broad selection of traditional Hungarian dishes.
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#11 A Séf utcája

A leading Hungarian chef, Lajos Bíró, decided to open a fast casual lunch eatery at the Hold Street market hall and diners should all celebrate that decision. At A Séf utcája (trans. "Chef's Street") you will find wallet-friendly traditional Hungarian dishes prepared with a twist, which in this case means better-than-average ingredients and an attention to the visual aesthetics. Like it or not, these reconfigured Hungarian plates at A Séf are in a different league than grandma's cooking.
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#12 Mangalica Mennyország

The recently renovated market hall at Klauzál Square is a far cry from the gastro-paradise food court of its sister location in Hold Street. Amid closed storefronts and bland grocery store chains, however, you will find an eatery, Mangalica Mennyország, which makes it worth popping in here..
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#13 Csirke Csibész

Csirke Csibész is a fast casual eatery in Budapest's District 6 serving delicious chicken sandwiches since 1992. This standing-only eatery is the ultimate melting pot of Budapest: construction workers and white collar employees alike line up for unexpectedly flavorful fried and roast chicken here at lunchtime. .
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#14 Akácfa Étkezde

Neighborhood Roma and office workers alike line up for home-made Hungarian flavors at Akácfa Étkezde, a bizarrely decorated diner in a District 7 backstreet. The interior includes a hodgepodge of items spanning from nature-themed wall paintings to faux-Biedermeier living room furniture. The checkered tablecloths covered with transparent plastic evoke nostalgia of the 1980s' Hungarian dining scene. Here you can indulge in classic Hungarian dishes including goulash, chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage, schnitzel, and főzelék (a popular type of vegetable stew).
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#15 Balla-Hús

Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining independent butcher shops downtown. No longer specialized only in raw meat, Balla-Hús also serves delicious sausage omelettes for breakfast for the equivalent of €2 (occasionally prepared by the owner himself, resulting in enormous portions). For lunch, various meat-heavy dishes dominate, like blood sausage and fried chicken liver with a selection of side dishes. The rock-bottom prices draw an eclectic crowd from nearby spanning from construction workers to bureaucrats from the mayor's office around the corner.
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.