In part thanks to foreign-trained local chefs, the past decade has brought a gastronomic revolution to Budapest. Inventive recipes, healthier ingredients, and slimmer restaurant menus are replacing the forlorn-looking, carbs-heavy plates of the communist era. The restaurants below push the boundaries of the new Hungarian cuisine while also respecting traditions. A word to the wise: many of them offer a weekday lunch prix fixe for a fraction of the regular prices.
If you'd prefer to stick to old-school, traditional Hungarian dishes, try these restaurants instead.
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end restaurant in Budapest's downtown, serving a pan-European menu and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, takes traditional dishes and elevates them using inventive techniques and packing plenty of unexpected ingredients and colors on the plates. .
When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced that they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. From the start, the idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that Hungarian peasant fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local crowd from near and far has been flocking to the crammed tables of Stand25, which is located in the popular market-hall-turned food-court in downtown's Hold Street. In 2018, the restaurant was awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin.
You will need to trek out to the outer part of District 7's working class neighborhood to experience the surprisingly delicious and elaborate meals prepared by chef Ádám Csaba at Olimpia Restaurant. Olimpia doesn't have a fixed menu. Instead, they use the blackboard on the wall to present the daily-changing dishes, which vary based on seasonal ingredients. The result? Absolutely superb..
After apprenticing at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young, local chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, decided to venture out on their own in 2014. The fruit of their labor is Fricska, a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant specializing in updated Hungarian dishes. Fricska is located in a remote part of the city's party district, inside a subterranean space that feels cozy and inviting despite the lack of windows. .
Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was one of the chefs who pioneered Hungary's contemporary food revolution. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned the ins and outs of haute cuisine under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era kitchen practices reigned supreme. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in his eight-course dinner tasting menu at Csalogány 26. .
The term “modern Hungarian food” has been thrown around haphazardly over the last few years in Budapest. It’s a catch-all phrase that too many restaurants relegate to an excuse for charging higher prices. At its best, however, it’s a delicious coming-together of traditional recipes, local ingredients, visual dishes, and a nod to the 21st century. Thankfully, this is the case at Paletta, a restaurant in Budapest’s District 9, a bit outside the city center.
In 2004, Bock Bistro was among the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian food. Executive chef Lajos Bíró proved that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can bring more out of centuries-old national recipes than what had been the standard. .
You will need leave the heart of Budapest to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French cuisine and revamped Hungarian classics. La Perle Noire is located on a quiet section of Andrássy Avenue, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies in District 6. The quirky modernist building from 1937 that houses the restaurant, now also a hotel, stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. .
Zeller is a wildly popular restaurant in Budapest's downtown. Upon arrival, all guests are handed a complimentary Prosecco - albeit slightly flat and presented without much enthusiasm - before being led to one of the four indoor dining rooms. The best place to sit is in the light-filled interior courtyard topped with a sky window and featuring plenty of greenery. All tables are covered with doodle-inspiring paper and colored pencils..