The 12 Best Goulash in Budapest

Hungary's most famous food, the goulash, is a crimson-hued beef soup laced with vegetables and imparting the sweet-sharp flavor of fresh paprika. The dish is named after the herdsmen in eastern Hungary — the gulyás — who prepared this hearty soup in large cast-iron kettles. Few people cook it over open fire these days, but the goulash is still a beloved staple across households in Hungary. In restaurants, prices usually range €6-10 for a bowl.

Gettó Gulyás is a cozy Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's party district, also known as the old Jewish Quarter. The short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash, chicken and veal paprikash (€11-15), and various seasonal vegetable stews called főzelék. "Gettó" refers to the Jewish ghetto, what this neighborhood became during the winter of 1944, the darkest time in Budapest's history.

Don't sleep on the desserts, of which the ground walnut-filled crepes (Gundel palacsinta) and the cottage cheese dumplings (túrógombóc) are both excellent. Hungarian wines are available for pairing.

My only issue with Gettó Gulyás is also a compliment: these reliable Hungarian dishes have become so popular among visitors that the absence of Hungarian patrons can detract from the experience. Advance reservation is an absolute must (forget about scoring a same-day booking). Before your meal, you could grab a drink at Szimpla Kert, the famous ruin bar just steps away in Kazinczy Street.

Kiosk is a hip restaurant in the heart of Budapest, favored by trendy locals and tourists in the know. The restaurant has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of the Danube and the Elisabeth Bridge from its outdoor patio, and a dramatically high-ceilinged, industrial-chic interior. (The historical building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact, there's a chapel right above Kiosk.)

Kiosk aims to please all tastes with a diverse menu that includes everything from salads to burgers, from pastas to steaks to Hungarian classics. Despite the wide reach, the dishes are tasty and reliable, with mains in the €12-16 range. The goulash soup is especially good, as is the updated mákosguba, a traditional bread pudding soaked in vanilla custard and laced with poppy seeds. In the warmer months, follow the throngs to the outdoor terrace, where the action shifts to. Advance booking is a must.

Located a bit outside downtown, near the City Park, Szaletly is a destination restaurant, one worth trekking out to. At least if you're curious to try traditional Hungarian dishes transformed with a deft hand by head-chef Dániel Bernát. The whole menu is a celebration of dishes people in Hungary are used to eating, but these beautiful plates are hardly what appear on most dining tables at home.

There's of course goulash, but also the local fish soup (halászlé), foie gras, fogas (pike-perch), Mangalica pork, schnitzel, and túrós palacsinta (túró-filled crepes). And Stefánia vagdalt: a meatloaf named after Stéphanie, the Habsburg Crown Princess of Austria (1864-1945), after whom Szaleltly's elegant street was named. The service is excellent not pushy but alert and knowledgeable, and there's a full wine list of local options. Mains are €15-20. Reservations are recommended.

In the early aughts, Liszt Ferenc Square in Budapest's District 6 was a popular hangout for chic locals, but as the wheel of trends has turned, people moved on to other pockets of town. Today, you'll find restaurants emblazoned with "tourist menu" signs and it’s also here that Hungary's only Hooters operated until recently. You don't need me to tell you proceed with caution.

So it's against the odds that you'll find here one of Budapest's best destinations for Hungarian food: Menza. This lively modern restaurant churns out traditional local dishes with a level of consistency that would make any Hungarian grandmother blush (there are also pastas and burgers but keep your eye on the prize). I usually order the beef broth soup (húsleves), the wonderfully soft pork schnitzel, or the hearty veal paprikash paired with egg dumplings. Mains are €12-18. Desserts are also excellent, especially the poppy seeds-blanketed mákos guba, and the Kaiserschmarrn, a Habsburg-era shredded pancake topped with apricot jam.

Menza is usually mobbed by tourists but locals also come here, especially for the two-course lunch prix fixe. The service staff is among the best you'll find in Budapest informed, kind, and efficient. Reservations are an absolute must.

Rosenstein is a well-known restaurant in Budapest serving traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes. Tibor Rosenstein, currently eighty, started this family-run operation which is located a bit outside the city center and currently helmed by his son Róbert (at lunchtime, Rosenstein senior is often seen chatting away with regulars). Though pricey by local standards – mains are €17-25 – Rosenstein shows off the brightest side of Hungarian cuisine.

Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample tasty goulash soup, beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash, and stuffed cabbage here – traditional foods that have changed little over the generations. The catfish paprikash is another standout, arriving sprinkled with crispy bits of pork fat (Rosenstein isn’t kosher). Or the goose liver, whose best expression is the pan-fried foie gras paired with potato croquettes and drenched in a Tokaji sauce.

Of the Jewish-Hungarian dishes, cholent, the signature sabbath dish of slow-cooked beans and pearl barley topped with brisket, is served on Fridays and Saturdays. Don't plan on doing much else the rest of the day after this hearty meal. Reservations are a must.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for or simply interested in visiting a restaurant with gypsy music – Romani musicians performing lighthearted traditional Hungarian melodies – head to Kéhli in Budapest. Located in Óbuda, the restaurant earned its fame as the haunt of Gyula Krúdy (1878-1933), a famous gourmet-writer who lived around the corner in what is now the Museum of Hospitality (with a wonderful collection, consider it a post-meal treat).

Kéhli serves all signature Hungarian dishes, from goulash to catfish paprikash with túrós csusza. Apart from the stuffed cabbage, the winner at my table turned out to be the Gundel palacsinta dessert: a thin crepe filled with ground and sweetened walnuts and dunked in chocolate cream (arriving in flames for visual flourish). Despite the restaurant's fame and steep price points (€15-22 mains), Kéhli is no tourist trap and most tables are filled by local Hungarians. Live music schedule: every evening plus Sunday lunchtime.

When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. The idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that Hungarian fare can be more than a gut-busting, high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-to-do local crowd fills Stand25's tables each day.

Although not ground-breaking, the dishes are very good. The crimson-hued goulash soup is exactly as it should be, strewn with crusted cubes of beef and brightened with chopped celery. The layered potatoes come with crisped-up sausages, eggs, and sour cream. Both the somlói galuska, a sponge cake coated in whipped cream and chocolate syrup, and the túrógombóc, cottage cheese dumplings with foamed sour cream and cherry preserves, are worth any sugar-induced guilt that might overcome you.

Note that price points are steep: a two-course meal with a glass of wine will set you back by €45-50 per person. Nonetheless, Mr. Széll’s disciplined approach, which can occasionally be observed through the open kitchen, sets a new standard in Budapest – other restaurants would do well to take cues from Stand25's concept, hospitality, and execution.

Over the years, Chef Szabolcs Nagy has won many fans for his brand of cooking, which isn't confined to goulash and all things paprika yet Hungarian in spirit. Szabolcs, who currently oversees the kitchen of N28, a casually elegant restaurant off Andrássy Avenue, finds inspiration in the food of Transdanubia in western Hungary. There, dishes reflect the influence of sizable German communities that settled down in the 18th century.

The daily changing menu might feature delicious stewed gizzards, foie gras, or lamb fries. Not into offals? How about roast sausages stuffed with yeast bread (instead of rice, as in eaastern Hungary)? Or perhaps marbled mangalica from a small farm in the Zala region? Pure-tasting catfish? Lots of seasonal vegetables and winter preserves play more than supporting roles. Be sure not to miss the poppy-seeds based desserts.

The owners deal also in wines, meaning that pairing options abound, sourced from the major wine regions in Hungary (for example Tokaj, Eger, Balaton). There's a two and three-course lunch prix fixe and a focused dinner menu with €15-20 mains.

When the hunger for affordable Hungarian food hits you in Budapest's downtown, Tüköry restaurant is one of your best bets. Opened in 1958, Tüköry serves affordable – mains are €10-15 local classics in an adorably weathered space fitted with wooden booths and red-and-white checkered tablecloths.

Tüköry is far from the top restaurants in Budapest, but the beef stew (pörkölt), the made-to-order schnitzel-dishes (frissensültek), and the Hungarian crepes (palacsinta) are unlikely to disappoint. Patrons are a mix of tourists and locals from the area. On weekdays, office workers swarm the place for the two-course lunch prix fixe. Hungarian wines, beers, and pálinka (the local fruit brandy) are also available.

Opened in 1994, Király 100 is a traditional Hungarian restaurant a bit outside the city center, lining the historical Király Street. Exposed beams and rafters evoke chalet vibes inside the snug two-story space, perhaps as a legacy of the beer hall that first occupied the premises in 1893 (even today, many people come for beers only).

In addition to classics such as a liver dumpling soup, goulash, and stuffed cabbage made from Managlica pork, the restaurant specializes in roasted duck, fried chicken, and homemade pastas. Mains are €13-18. Also here: dozens of pálinka, the local distilled fruit brandy. Patrons consist of tourists and middle-class Hungarian families who prefer a neighborhood stalwart to a trendy establishment in the city center.

Bestia is a fashionable restaurant located right by Saint Stephen's Basilica, one of Budapest's most visited attractions. With prime views onto the Renaissance Revival church and crowd-pleasing hits blasting through the speakers, Bestia has quickly become a tourist-favorite. The lively restaurant specializes in pricey Josper-grilled steaks and barbecued pork in addition to the usual suspects of city-center restaurants (burgers, goulash, mac & cheese). A full-service bar serves craft beers, bespoke cocktails, and Hungarian wines.

Located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Udvar, Spíler is one of the most popular restaurants within Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. The massive space features three Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings (also at full noise level). The menu comprises reliably made international bistro and diner fare – nachos, wings, salads, burgers — alongside traditional Hungarian classics (goulash soup, paprika sausages). Local wines and craft beers are available to pair. Mains are €15-20.