Traditional Hungarian food is a reflection of the local climate as well as Austrian, Ottoman, Slavic, Jewish, and Romanian influences. While the importance of the goulash soup hasn't diminished since Hungarian shepherds cooked it in cast-iron kettles hundreds of years ago – although the ingredients did change – new dishes have entered the culinary mainstream along the way. The places below serve some of the most reliable traditional fare in Budapest, some also with modern twists on the classics.
Rosenstein is a well-known restaurant in Budapest serving traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes. Tibor Rosenstein, currently eighty, 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 pricey by local standards – mains are €17-25 – Rosenstein shows off the brightest 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. Reservations are a must.