There is no doubt that Budapest is experiencing a gastronomic revolution: carbs- and meat-heavy traditional Hungarian dishes are giving way to smaller portions, inventive recipes, and healthier ingredients (and slimmer restaurant menus). The restaurants below push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian cuisine by creatively combining contemporary food techniques with centuries-old national dishes like goulash and chicken paprikash. The results are often magical. A word to the wise: many of these restaurants offer an exceptional lunch prix fixe for a fraction of the regular price.
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end bistro located 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 spins them with contemporary, inventive techniques, while packing plenty of unexpected ingredients and colors on the plates. A longtime favorite is the duck liver terrine with poppy seeds and basil-infused apple chutney, an impossibly flavorful starter with a smooth texture. Whatever you do, don’t miss the ever-changing mangalica ("the Kobe beef of pork") dishes that at Borkonyha taste like the finest cuts of beautifully marbled steaks.Read more
You need to trek out to the outer part of District 7’s working class neighborhood to experience the surprisingly delicious, unique, elaborate meals prepared by 26-year-old executive chef Ádám Garai at Olimpia Étterem. The restaurant does not have a fixed menu, instead using the blackboard on the wall to present the daily-changing dishes, which vary based on seasonal ingredients. The result? Absolutely superb..Read more
In 2014, two young chefs, after apprenticing at well-known Budapest restaurants, decided to venture out on their own. They opened Fricska, a laid-back restaurant in a remote part of District 7 with a culinary focus on re-imagined traditional dishes, many of them Hungarian. Think roasted duck liver with figs, mangalica pork shoulders with lentil and bok choy, or goulash soup. But what goulash it is.Read more
When 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 last year, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. Since this attractive luncheonette opened in the popular Hold Street market-hall-turned-food-court, people have flocked to its crammed tables from near and far..Read more
You will need to escape the heart of Budapest to unearth La Perle Noire, a restaurant serving refined French flavors infused with a couple of Hungarian classics. It's located on a peaceful section of the grand Andrássy Avenue in District 6, peppered with residential villas and embassies. The quirky modernist building from 1937 that houses La Perle Noire, now also a hotel, stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. .Read more
TÁBLA is a small, lunch-only restaurant located at the edge of Budapest's Jewish quarter, occupying the territory between fine dining and a casual restaurant. TÁBLA targets a gastronomically discerning local office crowd, who doesn’t mind shelling out twice what the dime a dozen places nearby charge for a no-frills lunch prix fixe. And tourists, who happily munch away for a fraction of what these elaborate dishes would cost at home. .Read more
If you manage to find this lunch-only restaurant, buried in the basement of an abandoned inner courtyard, you will be generously rewarded for your perseverance. Chablon Bistro's chef learned the tricks of the trade at some of the finest restaurants in the city, including MÁK bistro. Not only that, but diners can treat their taste buds at very reasonable prices with the ever-changing daily prix fixe written on the chalkboard (the three-course meal costs HUF1790, or about €6). The uniqueness of Chablon Bistro partially lies in the sharp contrast between the less-than-inviting underground premises and the unexpectedly superb, aesthetically pleasing dishes that come out of the tiny kitchen.Read more
For many years Zeller was located in a most impossible basement venue in the outer part of Budapest. Yet they became so popular among visitors that scoring a reservation was one of the biggest challenges facing Budapest tourists. In 2017 they moved to a bigger, trendier, posher venue in downtown, but seem to have remained loyal to their founding principles: serving locally produced, updated Hungarian dishes with a cheerful service staff. Rather than the over-promoted goulash, Zeller's creative Hungarian cuisines include the delicate rose duck served with celery and baby carrots, and the tender pork cheek that comes in a paprika sauce.Read more
If a gastronomic revolution hadn't taken place in Budapest over the last 10 years, Csalogány 26 would still be ruling the city's restaurant scene. But times have changed. And while Csalogány's kitchen is still churning out visually pleasing, delicious Hungarian classics with a twist, so do many other restaurants in Budapest. And as competition increases, factors like customer service, atmosphere, and interior design, all somewhat lacking at Csalogány 26, can tip the balance.Read more
In 2004, Bock Bisztró was among the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian cuisine and prove that contemporary food techniques and some creativity can be successfully combined with centuries-old national dishes. Think of a plate of paprikash, that's been made with veal neck and breaded beef tenderloins, before showering them with the signature creamy paprika sauce. Or a pork schnitzel that's wonderfully tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. Bock Bisztró's other claim to fame is its wine list, which comprises an exhaustive offering of all-Hungarian bottles.Read more
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.