4 Excellent 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. Kosher restaurants are few in number because hardly anyone keeps kosher, but there do exist several Jewish-style establishments that serve up Hungarian-inflected Ashkenazi favorites such as cholent, matzo ball soup, and flódni.

#1 Macesz Bistro

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 delicious Hungarian-Jewish layered pastry.

#2 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein is a well-known restaurant in Budapest serving traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes. Tibor Rosenstein, over eighty now, 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 very pricey by local standards – mains are €18-25 – Rosenstein shows off the bright 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. Also here: flódni. Reservations are a must.

#3 Kőleves Restaurant

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 past 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.

#4 Carmel Restaurant

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. Carmel gets liveliest during Shabbat meals, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch when joyful orthodox and ultraorthodox Jews from around the world, both Sephardis and Ashkenazis, congregate here. Guests must prepay the meals, which costs €35 per person.

The meals feature both Middle Eastern and Ashkenazi dishes: there are mezze plates of matbucha, 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 kosher Hungarian dishes such as a goulash soup and a beef stew (pörkölt).