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The 11 Best Hungarian-Jewish Restaurants & Pastry Shop in Budapest

When it comes to food, few traces remain of Budapest’s rich Jewish history. Just a hundred years ago, 23% of the city’s residents were Jewish, and today, still, 80 thousand or so Jewish people live in Budapest. Yet only three kosher restaurants (Hanna, Carmel, Tel Aviv Café), two kosher grocery stores, and just a single kosher pastry shop and bakery operate in Budapest.

Driven by booming tourism in Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, however, Hungarian-Jewish dishes are beginning to reappear on restaurant menus. Most common are cholent and flódni (a layered cake), but these days diners can also find excellent "Jewish eggs" salad and even helzel at some of the restaurants below. There's always room for improvement: a stronger showing of Ashkenazi favorites like pastrami sandwich, gefilte fish, matzo brei, and babka would be a welcome development in Budapest.

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#1 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein is the most prominent restaurant in Budapest that features traditional Hungarian as well as Hungarian-Jewish food. Opened in 1996 by Tibor Rosenstein, a by now legendary figure in Budapest's culinary scene, this family-run restaurant has many endearing qualities. One of them is the way they prepare cholent, the signature Sabbath lunch dish with characteristic, rich flavors thanks to hours of slow-cooking. The baked beans are topped with three types of beef here: sausage, brisket, and tongue.
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#2 Kőleves Restaurant

Kőleves is a kosher-style, Hungarian-Jewish restaurant in the very center of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, and today’s party district. The building, constructed in 1851, was long home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, until as recently as 2002. So it’s fitting that the current restaurant, which opened in 2012, honors the building’s past with popular Hungarian-Jewish dishes and adorns the space with leftover paraphernalia from previous owners. For example, a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a Talmud is displayed for watchful guests to detect..
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#3 Fülemüle Restaurant

Located on a serene side street surrounded by grand residential homes in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the boisterous party town that its neighbor, District 7, has become. There are things to like about Fülemüle, most of all the snug place and offbeat location of this family-run restaurant founded in 2000 and specialized in Hungarian-Jewish cuisine. The cholent, this knockout of a Shabbat dish is advertized as the specialty of the house. If it wasn't for the stuffed goose neck (helzel) perching atop the slow-cooked beans and pearl barley, it wouldn't leave much of an impression.
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#4 Carmel Restaurant

Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s two glatt kosher restaurants. Similar to Hanna Orthodox Restaurant, the other such establishment just around the block, the best time to visit Carmel is during Shabbath, that is, for a Friday dinner and/or a Saturday lunch (here too, guests must prepay their meals by Friday afternoon). At those times, groups of orthodox Jews from around the world can be seen celebrating Shabbath over kosher wine served in Kiddush cups and wonderfully soft challah breads. To ensure that Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) are abided by, an official supervising rabbi (mashgiach) is on premise at all times at Carmel.
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#5 Macesz Bistro

One would be hard-press to believe that in the first half of the 20th century the streets of District 7, today the party central of Budapest, were swarming with Jewish people. Macesz Bistro, a Jewish-Hungarian fusion restaurant, pays homage to the neighborhood’s history (the edifice across the street is still home to the Hungarian Orthodox Jewish Community). The menu at Macesz Bistro includes most Hungarian-Ashkenazi Jewish staples alongside classic Hungarian food offerings (in Hungarian macesz means matzo). The culinary highlight and the most economical choice in this slightly overpriced bistro is the “Jewish Traditional” tasting menu for HUF7,990 or €27 (€40 with wine pairing)..
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#6 Hanna Orthodox Restaurant

Hanna is a glatt kosher restaurant operated by the Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community of Hungary in District 7. Since it's buried within the fortress-like edifice of the congregation, most locals have never encountered Hanna, even though the surrounding area is the center of the current Budapest party scene with countless cafés, bars, and restaurants. Orthodox Jews visiting Budapest, however, are often better informed and they fill the restaurant most nights. The food selection consists of traditional Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup alongside Hungarian staples like chicken paprikash.
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#7 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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#8 Babka Budapest

Babka occupies a prominent corner along the upscale Pozsonyi Road in Újlipótváros. The restaurant is named after an Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake from Eastern Europe, and is perhaps a tip of the hat to the neighborhood as well, home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish community. The snug space, featuring hardwood floors and dim lighting, feels pleasant and cozy despite its unoriginal vintage decor (old radio and TV equipment are scattered throughout)..
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#9 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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#10 Frőhlich Kosher Pastry Shop

Budapest’s only kosher pastry shop is right in the heart of the former Jewish Quarter. Normally flódni is the way to go, which is a classic Hungarian Jewish cake with layers of earthly goods packed onto one other, like walnut and poppy seed spread, apple, and plum jam filling. To please all tastes, Frőhlich, which set up shop in 1953, also makes popular Hungarian cakes like Esterházy, Dobos, krémes, and various strudels. The best time to visit Frőhlich is during the Jewish holidays, particularly Purim, which usually falls on March, when an array of exotic, filled pastries emerge behind the glass counter such as hamantash.
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#11 Tel Aviv Café

Operated by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Tel Aviv Café is Budapest’s one and only kosher dairy restaurant. Being a dairy restaurant, don’t go searching for meat here. And, unfortunately, you won’t find any of the traditional Ashkenazi non-meat staples either, like matzo brei, blintz, or latke. This is somewhat surprising, because Tel Aviv Café is located in the heart of Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, right across the orthodox synagogue, so an homage to Central European Jewish food traditions would have been fitting.
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.