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 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 will also find excellent "Jewish eggs" salad and even helzel at some of the restaurants below. There's always room for improvement though: a stronger showing of Ashkenazi favorites like pastrami sandwich, kugel, matzo brei, and babka would be a welcome development in Budapest.
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 being helmed by his son, Róbert Rosenstein. .
Kőleves is wildly popular, kosher-style restaurant in the center of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. Until 2002, the building, which was built in 1851, was 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, and uses leftover items to adorn the space. For example, watchful customers will notice a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a Talmud displayed as design pieces..
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.
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants (two of them are meat, one dairy). Like Hanna, the other kosher meat restaurant around the corner from Carmel, it gets liveliest during Shabbat meals, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch (here too, guests must prepay the meals; Friday's dinner at Carmel costs €25 per person)..
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)..
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 currently the center of the Budapest party scene teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. Orthodox Jews visiting Budapest, however, are often better informed and they fill the restaurant most nights..
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 lunch-time. .
Budapest’s only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953 when many 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.