The 13 Best Goulash in Budapest

Hungary's most famous food, the goulash ("gulyás") is a rich, crimson-hued beef soup laced with vegetables and pinched egg noodles, and imparting the sweet-sharp flavor of fresh paprika. The dish is named after the shepherds in eastern Hungary who used to prepare this hearty soup in iron cauldrons. Few people cook it over open fire these days, but the goulash is still a beloved staple across households in Hungary. Prices usually range €4-7 for a bowl.

#1 Gettó Gulyás

In retrospect, it's weird that it took so long for someone to finally open a traditional Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's party district, also known as the old Jewish Quarter. After all, most tourists want local dishes before they hit the neighborhood bars. Gettó Gulyás's moniker makes its culinary priorities clear — the short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash (€5), chicken paprikash (€7), and túrógombóc (€4). ("Gettó" refers to the Jewish ghetto, into which this neighborhood was turned during the winter of 1944, the darkest time of WWII in Budapest).

#2 Kiosk

Kiosk is a hip restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trendy locals and tourists. Kiosk 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 building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact, there's a chapel right above Kiosk.)

#3 Stand25 Bistro

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.

#4 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein is an iconic restaurant in Budapest serving traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes. Tibor Rosenstein, nearing 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, Rosenstein shows off the brightest side of Hungarian fare.

#5 Menza Restaurant

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 turned, people moved on to other pockets of the city. 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.

#6 Fricska Gastropub

Following stints at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, struck out on their own, opening Fricska in 2014. The place has since earned a reputation for reliable and tasty dishes, drawing a well-off office crowd from near and far to its buzzing below-ground premises in Budapest's party district.

#7 Bock Bisztro

In 2004, Bock Bisztró was one of the first Budapest restaurants to give new meaning to Hungarian food following the decades-long decline during the communist era. Owner and executive chef Lajos Bíró showed that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt the local favorites into the 21st century. That crunchy bits of celery root add welcome freshness to the goulash soup; that paprikash can be wonderful when enclosed in a delicate pastry crust; that a beautifully plated lecsó tastes better than one served carelessly.

#8 Bestia

Bestia is a buzzing restaurant in the heart of Budapest specializing in pricey grilled meats. With a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, an edgy industrial chic decor, and loud music blasting through the speakers, it has quickly become a favorite among trendy tourists and locals alike. If you’re feeling adventurous, start your meal with the roasted bone marrow and toast: silky, jiggly white stuff arriving inside two massive slabs of veal shanks. Scoop out the rich fat and spread it on the whole wheat toast (€10).

#9 HILDA

HILDA is a chic downtown restaurant lining the increasingly fashionable Nádor Street, an area that has come to life as a growing number of tourists and international students from the nearby Central European University pass through. HILDA boasts curb appeal and an Instagrammable interior, featuring an oversized stained glass mosaic that covers one of the walls in its entirety and glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons around the corner from here.

#10 Börze Budapest

Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving classic Hungarian fare from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. With red banquettes and a chic interior designed to the minute detail, the vibes evoke a Keith McNally restaurant. Börze's moniker is a hat-tip to the enormous pre-war building across the street that used to be the Budapest Stock and Commodity Exchange. Börze is a 2017 offshoot of Menza, and like its sister restaurant, it's a well-oiled machine with reliable dishes and a kind waitstaff.

#11 Tüköry Étterem

When the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food hits while you’re in downtown, Tüköry restaurant is one of your best bets. Opened in 1958, Tüköry serves reasonably priced local classics in an adorably weathered space fitted with wooden booths and red-and-white checkered tablecloths.

#12 Király 100 Restaurant

Opened in 1994, Király 100 is a traditional Hungarian restaurant a bit outside the city center, lining the historic 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).

#13 Spíler Bistro

Located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard, Spíler is one of the most popular restaurants within Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. The massive space features three, highly-Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. The menu comprises reliably made international staples — think nachos, wings, burgers — and also traditional Hungarian classics like goulash (€6), chicken paprikash (€9), and pörkölt (€13), which is a paprika-laced beef stew with egg barley. Local wines, and almost 30 kinds of bottled craft beers are available for pairing. With most dishes below €10, prices are reasonable for this prime location.

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.