The 5 Best Hungarian-Jewish Restaurants in Budapest

Just a hundred years ago, more than twenty percent of Budapest’s residents were Jewish, and today, still, 80,000 or so Jewish people live in the city. Despite this, kosher restaurants are few because hardly anyone keeps kosher. But there do exist several Jewish-style restaurants serving up Hungarian-inflected Ashkenazi favorites such as cholent, matzo ball soup, and flódni.

Macesz Bistro is an elegantly chic restaurant smack in the middle of the city’s old Jewish Quarter and today’s party district. The menu, which isn't kosher but free of pork, is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, featuring dishes that were once popular among Budapest’s numerous Ashkenazi residents. (The building across the street is still home to the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community). Macesz Bistro's high-traffic location and relatively steep price points – mains are €15-20 – make the restaurant especially popular among tourists.

The menu features matzo ball soup, of course, but also cholent, the classic shabbat stew of slow-cooked beans with eggs, and ludaskása, a plate of risotto normally sprinkled with duck gizzards but here also topped with roast goose leg and foie gras. Be sure to finish your meal with flódni, a rich and incredibly delicious Hungarian-Jewish layered pastry.

Rosenstein is a well-known restaurant in Budapest serving traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes. Tibor Rosenstein, currently 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 – mains are €17-25 – Rosenstein shows off the brightest side of Hungarian cuisine.

Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample tasty goulash soup, beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash, and stuffed cabbage here – traditional foods that have changed little over the generations. The catfish paprikash is another standout, arriving sprinkled with crispy bits of pork fat (Rosenstein isn’t kosher). Or the goose liver, whose best expression is the pan-fried foie gras paired with potato croquettes and drenched in a Tokaji sauce.

Of the Jewish-Hungarian dishes, cholent, the signature sabbath dish of slow-cooked beans and pearl barley topped with brisket, is served on Fridays and Saturdays. Don't plan on doing much else the rest of the day after this hearty meal. Reservations are a must.

Kőleves is a popular restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, inside an 1851 building once home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop. Leftover objects are used as design pieces, including a leather-bound ledger book and a weathered Talmud. Kőleves pays homage to the building’s with a few Jewish-Hungarian dishes, such as a matzo ball soup and cholent, the typical Sabbath bean stew.

As other busy and tourist-heavy restaurants, Kőleves aims to please all tastes with a hybrid menu. Hungarian bean goulash, roast duck, ribeye steak, and a New York cheesecake appear side-by-side on the menu. Almost all dishes are reliably good, if not memorable. More locals appear for the lunchtime two-course prix fixe. In the summer, the backyard of Kőleves, Kőleves Kert, transforms into an all-welcoming outdoor bar.

Hanna is a glatt kosher meat restaurant in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter operated by the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community. 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 Budapest's nightlife, teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants.

The menu comprises both traditional Ashkenazi and Hungarian classics such as matzo ball soup and goulash. Although you can run into an excellent "Jewish" egg salad here — egg spread with onions, goose fat, and goose liver — most dishes are prepared in that typical 1980s Hungarian style where quantity trumps flavor and presentation. Hanna's adorably cranky waiters are also holdouts from a previous generation, but these elements together offer a journey back in time that's worth experiencing.

For the liveliest atmosphere, go for a Friday Sabbath dinner. It's a set four-course meal with complimentary challah bread and Kiddush wine, enlivened by chants of blessings and singing by the orthodox Jewish patrons who come here after the service in the neighboring synagogue. Note that guests must prepay the meal before 2 p.m. on Friday and it costs €30 per person.

Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s few glatt kosher meat restaurants. During the meal a mashgiach — an official supervising rabbi — is present at all times to ensure that the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) are observed. As with Hanna, the other meat restaurant around the corner from here, Carmel gets liveliest for Shabbat meals, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, which costs €35 per person.

During Shabbat, Carmel fills up with joyful orthodox and ultraorthodox Jews from around the world, both Sephardis and Ashkenazis. The meals feature both Middle Eastern and Ashkenazi dishes: there are mezze plates of matbukha, eggplant, hummus, tahini, and also “Jewish" egg salad, gefilte fish, slow-cooked beef shank, cholent, and babka. On regular days, Carmel serves traditional, although unremarkable Hungarian dishes such as a goulash soup and a beef stew (pörkölt).