The 13 Best Middle Eastern Restaurants in Budapest

I've compiled Budapest's best Middle Eastern, Northern African, Persian, and Georgian restaurants, so you can gorge yourself on creamy hummus, crunchy falafel, fresh fattoush salad, herby ghormeh sabzi, Moroccoan chicken tagine, and traditional khachapuri Adjaruli. 'Nuff said!

Byblos is an elegant Middle Eastern restaurant tucked away on a quite side street just minutes from the heart of downtown Budapest. Syrian natives Osama and Mohamad Kutaini, brothers who previously worked at a nearby five star hotel restaurant, oversee the operations. The extensive menu features cold and hot mezze, salads, grilled meats, desserts, and there's also water pipes for hookah fans on the upstairs level (Byblos does serve alcohol, too).

The standout mezzes were the smoky mutabbal (eggplant dip similar to baba ganoush), the thick labneh (strained yogurt), and the makanek (spicy lamb sausage). Also good are the falafels, and the kibbeh, fried lamb meatballs made with bulgur and spices. Most mezzes are priced €6-7 apiece. I was less impressed by the grilled meats and the chicken musakhan, a Palestinian sumac-spiced chicken dish. For dessert, the kanafeh and the baklava — sporting vanilla ice cream — are the tastiest choices for a serious sugar-high.

Not everything is a hit here, but for an all-around, comfortable Levantine dining experience in Budapest's city center, Byblos is one of the top choices currently.

When I'd like to impress my friends that Budapest has restaurants as hip as those in New York's East Village, I take them out to Dobrumba. With a chic crowd, effortlessly cool design, and a Middle Eastern menu, Dobrumba is a wildly popular place inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. It's especially enjoyable in the warmer months when the oversized windows swing open and the ear-catching electronic music wafts into the street.

Unfortunately, the food can fall short. I've had a couple of unremarkable meals here, but most of the hot and cold mezze and the tender chicken tagine are unlikely to disappoint. The basbousa is also good, a rich and sugary semolina cake blanketed in a tangy yogurt.

Also here: a deep drinks menu with cocktails and local wines, and breakfast service Thursday to Sunday. Reservations are an absolute must. The owners have another popular restaurant on the Buda side of the Danube, Pingrumba, run in a similar vein.

Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story: Cheap drinks have been upgraded to cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and weathered furnishings to modern fittings with lush greenery.

Mazel Tov's Israeli and other Mediterranean dishes are reliable and arrive without delay to ensure that tables turn over quickly in this wildly popular restaurant. I enjoyed the shawarma plate (€10) and also the spicy merguez (€12), a North African sausage made from beef here and paired with beets, tahini, and matbucha (skip the undersized and underseasoned beef kebab). Cocktails and plenty of Hungarian wines are also available. Reservations are an absolute must as the place gets mobbed by people every day of the week. Fogasház, a more traditional ruin bar, is next door if you'd like to compare and contrast.

Unhurried groups of elderly Arab regulars tend to socialize at Al-Amir, surely a good sign for a Syrian restaurant in downtown Budapest. Al-Amir marries a counter-service with a sit-down restaurant (most upscale is the downstairs section, usually taken up by hookah-smokers during the cold months; hookahs aren't allowed in the summer).

The dishes are far from memorable here, but you can find fresh and fluffy pitas — most Levantine restaurants in Budapest serve bland discs of flatbread — and tasty mezzes including hummus, baba ghanoush, and matbukha. Also good is the falafel, and the shish taouk. Baklava fans heads-up: these dessert pastries are perfectly moist and flavorful here. Al-Amir doesn't serve alcohol, but a range of teas and coffee are available.

Iranian residents in Budapest would tell you that among the half a dozen options, Darband is the city's top Persian restaurant. The nondescript entrance and the modest below-ground space belie some of the wonderful dishes that come out of the restaurant's kitchen, whose head chef is an Iranian native.

The two must-have starters are the kashk e bademjan, a warm, creamy eggplant spread, and the zeytoon parvardeh meze, an olive oil dip marinated in pomegranate molasses and walnuts. The mains comprise Iranian homestyle stews (khoresh) and kebabs. The ghormeh sabzi stew is often considered to be the national dish of Iran. It consists of sauteed herbs mixed together with morsels of stewed beef. I was a bigger fan of Darband's kebabs, especially the koobideh — long strips of juicy, flavorful blend of ground beef and lamb paired with buttery rice and grilled tomatoes. In Iranian fashion, order a glass of doogh with your meal, a popular Iranian carbonated yogurt (alcohol isn't served).

If you’re looking to dip your toe into the varied cuisine of Georgia in Budapest, Aragvi, an adorably old-school restaurant, is a good place to start. Georgian cuisine reflects Persian, Turkish, and Levantine influences, so brace yourself for a sea of herbs (parsley, coriander, tarragon, dill, mint), vegetables (eggplants, spinach, beets), walnut paste, and pomegranate seeds that somehow manage to be almost unfailingly tasty. Aragvi is occasionally home to traditional Georgian supra festivities so don't be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a lively dinner banquet celebration with copious amounts of food and alcohol. The restaurant is located in Buda, reachable from downtown Pest by public transport within 20 minutes.

There’s good reason why khachapuri Adjaruli has become the best-known export of Georgian cuisine — it's crispy and doughy, and its boat shape, which encloses a tangy mush of melted cheese topped with a just-cracked egg, is an Instagrammer's dream. If you like Chinese soup dumplings, go for their Georgian sisters, the herb-infused pork and beef-filled khinkalis. I also enjoyed Aragvi's kharcho soup, a reviving and spicy broth with cubes of tender brisket and a mound of coriander. For three people or more, order the shkmeruli, a pressed roast chicken sitting in a milk and garlic sauce and served sizzling in a terracotta pot. Mains are €14-20.

25 types of Georgian wines are also available, as are Georgian lemonades (try the bright-green colored one flavored with tarragon). Aragvi’s self-righteous and adorably formal service staff evoked in me memories of the ‘90s with part nostalgia, part relief that’s it’s now behind us.

Mozata is a modern Lebanese restaurant hiding on a charming downtown side street, just minutes from the throngs of Váci Street. The airy, two-floored interior is fitted with comfortable chairs and mid-century modern furnishings, though I wish the lighting was a bit more subdued and the atmosphere more intimate (try the tables upstairs). The comprehensive Levantine menu features all the classic salads, hot and cold mezzes, grilled meats, and deliciously sugary desserts.

The highlights include the reviving fattoush, the creamy red lentil soup, the smoky eggplant spread (moutabal), the walnut-spiked strained yogurt called labneh. From the dessert list, don't miss the pistachio and strawberry infused milk pudding (festkiye). Herbal teas, beers and (Lebanese) wines are all available. Mains are €12-18.

Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Budapest named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake originating in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the restaurant's moniker is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. The snug, dim interior complete with vintage furnishings and hardwood floors is very inviting.

The Israeli and Middle Eastern dishes are pricey and a bit hit-or-miss. On my most recent visit, the lamb kofta (€18) arrived with a distractingly sour side of parsley salad, and the namesake Babka dessert is a far cry from the moister, richer, and softer versions that catapulted this baked good into cult status around the world. All this at prices that are high by Budapest standards: mains are €15-20. Thanks to the prime location and the inviting interior, Babka could become a perfect neighborhood restaurant, but the kitchen has room to improve currently.

Looking for a tasty falafel sandwich while in the city center? Avoid the myriad bland gyro joints scattered everywhere, and head instead to Tahina Bite: a modern, vegan take-out shop operated by a Lebanese family and located across the street from the Dohány Street Synagogue.

Crunchy discs of falafels fried to a golden brown anchor these sandwiches, which come with beautiful and fresh vegetables (beets, radish, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley), a generous glug of tahini sauce, and a drizzle of sesame seeds. All this wrapped in toasted, crackly flatbread; even better: served as a platter. There's other Middle Eastern classics, too: hummus, baba ganoush, muhammara, and tabbouleh and fattoush salads. Open every day!

Hummusbar is a chain of Middle Eastern fast casual restaurants across Budapest. I live near and hence a regular customer at the Nagymező utca location where I’ve yet to be disappointed (variations exist among the branches; I can't speak for the others). My go-to is the sabich sandwich: a pita piled high with cooked egg, roast eggplant, sauerkraut, crispy potatoes, and all of it drenched in tahini. Filling, delicious, and affordable.

Shakshuka, hummus platters, and salads are also available, both vegetarian and meat-based. The cherry on top: watching the laser-focused Israeli manager prepare your order while he's feeling one with the ear-catching electronic music oozing from the speakers.

Falafel Bar is your best bet for quick and affordable Middle Eastern fare in Budapest's party district. This unfussy place, which does both takeout and sit-down, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel platter sporting deep-fried chickpea balls that are crunchy on the outside and creamy inside. For a quick snack, I usually order the sabich, an Israeli vegetarian pita packing fried eggplants, vegetables, tahini sauce, and a hard-boiled egg.

Before long, all visitors to Budapest will notice the countless, painfully overlit gyro vendors swarming the city and hawking low-priced sandwiches of mediocre quality. At first glance, San Da Vinci, located along the highway-like Rákóczi út near the city center, looks like one of them, but it turns out to be a worthy venue.

The owner, a Turkish native from the seaside city of Cesme, is committed to bringing the flavors of street food from the Aegean Region to Budapest. You're here for the kumru sandwich, a specialty of Cesme, consisting of a sesame-seeded demi baguette layered with melted cheese, crisped pepperoni, sweet tomatoes, and pickles. It's very good. Get the “atom” version to top it off with a fried egg. The köfte meatball and the chicken sandwiches are also good.

San da Vinci’s baklava, moist and buttery and rich with pistachio nuts, is among the best I’ve had in Budapest. Turkish coffee and ayran, the yogurt-based beverage, are also available. If you don’t take your sandwich to go, you can sit at the flimsy tables upstairs.

Budapest is flooded with a sea of takeout gyro, döner kebab, and shawarma shops. Wallet-friendly though they are, the food is generally far from memorable. So I was glad to discover Laziza, located just off the tourist-heavy Váci Street in downtown. While chicken shawarma is the main act, on Thursdays and Sundays the rotating spit is reserved for lamb meat. Both are tender and nicely crunchy on the outside. Price-wise, Laziza is slightly above the city’s street food average, but not unaffordable. Pita and platter options are both available.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I never accept money in exchange for coverage. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider supporting me by making a one-time payment (PayPal, Venmo).