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, 80,000 or so Jewish people live in Budapest. Yet only a few kosher restaurants have remained (they're also included in the list below).
But thanks to the booming tourism in Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, Hungarian-Jewish dishes are beginning to reappear on restaurant menus. Most common are cholent and flódni (a layered cake), but diners can also find excellent "Jewish" egg salad and even helzel. There's always room for improvement: a stronger showing of Ashkenazi favorites like pastrami sandwich, kugel, matzo brei, and babka would be a welcome development.
Hands down, Rosenstein Restaurant serves the best traditional Hungarian, and Hungarian-Jewish food in Budapest. Tibor Rosenstein, a legendary figure in Budapest's gastronomy, opened the restaurant in 1996. Today, it's still run by the family, with the kitchen currently helmed by his son, Róbert Rosenstein. .
Kőleves is a wildly popular restaurant in the center of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. The building, which was built in 1851, used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, so it’s fitting that Kőleves restaurant honors the building’s past with several Hungarian-Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup and cholent. They also use leftover items from the kosher meat plant to adorn the interior. For example, a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a Talmud are displayed as design pieces..
Located on a quiet side street in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the boisterous party town its neighboring Jewish Quarter has become. The serene environment is just one of the things to like about this family-run neighborhood restaurant, which opened in 2000 and specializes in Hungarian-Jewish food. .
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants. Like Hanna, the other kosher meat restaurant around the corner from Carmel, it gets liveliest at Shabbat, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, each of which costs €25 per person..
Macesz Bistro is a Jewish-Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Part of the restaurant's menu is a hat-tip to the neighborhood's Jewish history, featuring dishes that were once popular among Budapest's Ashkenazi population. (The building across the street from Macesz Bistro is still home to the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community). .
Hanna is a glatt kosher meat restaurant operated by the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Since the restaurant is buried within the fortress-like edifice of the congregation, most locals have never encountered Hanna, even though the surrounding area is currently the center of the Budapest party scene and is teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. Orthodox Jews visiting Budapest, however, are often better informed and they fill up Hanna most evenings..
If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde may be able to give you the answer. This traditional eatery, which opened in 1957, will immediately transport you back to a different epoch. Or, at least that used to be the case until recently. .
In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a leading Hungarian chef, opened a fast-casual lunch eatery inside the then practically empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has transformed into a bustling food court where several local celebrity chefs operate casual restaurants, and the area swarms with people at lunchtime. .
Budapest’s one and only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953, when more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became Budapest's party center. .
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-based dishes here. In fact, you won’t find any of the traditional Ashkenazi non-meat classics either, like matzo brei, blintz, and latke. This is somewhat surprising, because Tel Aviv Café is located across Budapest's main orthodox synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter, so a hat tip to Central European Jewish food traditions would have been fitting.