The 14 Best Goulash in Budapest

Hungary's most famous dish, the goulash — "gulyás" in Hungarian — is named after the nomadic herdsmen who used to prepare this hearty soup in iron couldrons (using a bit different ingredients). Few people cook it over open fire these days, but the goulash is still a beloved staple across households in Hungary.

Myriad goulash variations exist, but when done well, it's a rich, crimson-hued beef and vegetable soup laced with pinched egg noodles (csipetke) and imparting the sweet-sharp flavor of fresh paprika. Prices usually range from €4 to €7 for a plate.

#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 pörkölt, which is a beef stew. ("Gettó" refers to the Jewish ghetto, into which this neighborhood was turned during the winter of 1944, the darkest time of WWII in Budapest).

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#2 Kiosk Pest

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

#3 Kiosk Buda

Many people are automatically turned off by restaurants set inside hotels, and usually for good reason: food rarely takes center stage. Not so with Kiosk Buda, a hip restaurant on the ground floor of the chic Hotel Clark with panoramic views onto the Danube and the Chain Bridge. The place is the project of local restaurateur Hubert Hlatky Schlichter, the "Danny Meyer of Budapest," also in charge of Kiosk Pest and Michelin-starred Babel.

#4 Stand25 Bistro

When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced that 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 traditional 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 and in 2018 they picked up a Bib Gourmand from Michelin.

#5 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein is an iconic restaurant in Budapest, serving some of the best traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes in the city. Tibor Rosenstein started this family-run operation, which is located a bit outside the city center and is currently helmed by his son Róbert (at lunchtime, you'll likely see the senior Rosenstein chatting away with regulars). Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample expertly prepared goulash soup (€7), beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash (€12), and stuffed cabbage (€9) here—traditional foods that have changed little over the generations.

#6 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 plenty of tourist trap restaurants here emblazoned with "Hungarian cuisine" and "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.

#7 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. Fricska has since earned a reputation for tasty dishes, and it also picked up a Bib Gourmand award in 2017. The restaurant is located on the far end of Budapest's party district, inside a buzzing below-ground space.

#8 Bock Bisztro

In 2004, Bock Bisztró was one of the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian food: Executive chef Lajos Bíró showed that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt local favorites into the 21st century. That crunchy bits of celery root add a welcome freshness to the goulash soup, that the paprikash is also wonderful when enclosed in a delicate pastry crust, that a beautifully plated lecsó tastes better than one served carelessly.

#9 Bestia

Bestia is a buzzing restaurant in the heart of Budapest specializing in grilled meats. With a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, an edgy industrial chic decor, and loud music piping through the speakers, it has quickly become a favorite among trendy tourists and locals alike.

#10 HILDA

HILDA is a chic downtown restaurant on 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 a perfect curb appeal and Instagrammable interior: An oversized stained glass mosaic covers one of the walls in its entirety, and the bar is studded with dark blue, glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons around the corner from here.

#11 Börze Budapest

Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving traditional 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.

#12 Tüköry Étterem

When the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food hits while you’re near downtown's tourist sites like the Parliament building and Liberty Square, Tüköry restaurant is your best bet. Opened in 1958, Tüköry serves reasonably priced local classics in an adorably weathered space featuring wooden booths and red-and-white checkered tablecloths.

#13 Király 100 Restaurant

Király 100, which opened in 1994 and lines the outer part of the historic Király Street, is a traditional Hungarian restaurant a bit outside the city center. The cozy two-story space, outfitted with exposed beams and rafters, evokes chalet vibes, perhaps as a hat-tip to the beer hall that first occupied the space in 1893. (Even today, many people come for beers only, of which four lagers are available on draft.)

#14 Spíler Bistro

Located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard, Spíler is one of the hottest restaurants in 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 paprika-laced beef stew with egg barley (pörkölt; €13). 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.