In part thanks to foreign-trained local chefs, the past decade has brought a gastronomic revolution to Budapest—slimmer menus, inventive recipes, and healthier ingredients are replacing the gut-busting plates of the communist era. A word to the wise: many of these places offer a weekday lunch prix fixe for a fraction of the regular prices. And if you prefer to stick to old-school, traditional Hungarian dishes, try these restaurants.
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end restaurant in Budapest's downtown, serving pan-European fine dining dishes and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, applies inventive techniques to locally-sourced ingredients and puts out colorful, almost artistically visual 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. The idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that traditional Hungarian fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local office crowd and tourists fill Stand25's small tables inside the Hold Street market-hall-turned food-court in downtown. In 2018, the restaurant won a Bib Gourmand by Michelin..
You will need to trek out to the outer part of District 7, a working class Budapest neighborhood, to experience the elaborate meals prepared by chef Ádám Csaba at Olimpia Restaurant. Instead of a fixed menu, they use a blackboard to present the daily-changing dishes, which vary based on seasonal ingredients. The result? Absolutely superb..
Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was a pioneer of 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 practices reigned supreme in Budapest kitchens. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in the five-course dinner tasting menu..
After training at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young, local chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, ventured out on their own, opening Fricska restaurant in 2014. Since then, Fricska has earned a reputation for serving tasty modern Hungarian dishes, and it also won a Bib Gourmand award. The restaurant is on the far end of the party district, inside a below-ground space that manages to be cozy despite the lack of natural light..
Many contemporary Budapest restaurants claim that they serve “modern Hungarian food,” but often that's just a catch-all phrase to justify their inflated price points. At its best, modern Hungarian fare is a coming-together of traditional recipes, local ingredients, and a 21st century approach to plating and flavor combinations. This is pretty close to what you will find at Paletta, a family-owned 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 jolt into the 21st century some centuries-old national dishes. For example, that crumbs of celery roots add a welcome freshness to the goulash soup (€5). That the paprikash is just as good when made with beef tenderloins.
You will need leave the city center to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French and revamped Hungarian dishes. It's on a quiet section of Andrássy Avenue, Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies inside District 6. The cute modernist building from 1937 that houses the restaurant (and also a hotel upstairs) 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 comes with doodle-inspiring paper and colored pencils..