The 16 Best Traditional Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest (Ranked)

Traditional Hungarian food reflects the local climate in Hungary, as well as regional and ethnic influences. While the importance of the goulash soup hasn't diminished since nomadic Hungarians cooked it in large cast-iron kettles a thousand years ago—although the ingredients did change—new dishes have entered the culinary mainstream along the way. The restaurants below serve some of the best, often rib-sticking traditional fare in Budapest.

If you prefer updated takes on the classics, try these modern Hungarian restaurants, too.

#1 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein is an iconic restaurant in Budapest, serving some of the best traditional Hungarian and Hungarian-Jewish dishes in the city. Tibor Rosenstein started this family-run operation, which is located a bit outside the city center and is currently helmed by his son, Róbert (at lunchtime, you'll likely see the senior Rosenstein chatting away with regulars). Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample expertly prepared goulash soup (€7), beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash (€12), and stuffed cabbage (€9) here—traditional foods that have changed little over the generations.

#2 Café Kör

Café Kör will make you feel like you're in a pre-war, middle-class Budapest restaurant. This homey downtown place features bentwood Thonet chairs, a carpeted floor, and tightly crammed tables. In a city that increasingly prizes international food above its own, Café Kör is a Budapest essential, serving unadulterated, classic Hungarian dishes without twists or updates.

#3 Gettó Gulyás

In retrospect, it's weird that it took so long for someone to finally open a traditional Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's party district, also known as the old Jewish Quarter. After all, most tourists are after local dishes before they hit the neighborhood bars. Gettó Gulyás's moniker makes its culinary priorities clear—the short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash (€4), chicken paprikash (€7), and pörkölt, which is a beef stew. ("Gettó" refers to the Jewish ghetto, into which this neighborhood was turned during the winter of 1944, the darkest time of WWII in Budapest).

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#4 Menza Restaurant

In the early aughts, Liszt Ferenc Square in District 6 was a popular hangout for trendy, well-heeled locals. But as the wheel of trends turned, local people moved on to other pockets of the city. Today, you'll find plenty of tourist trap restaurants here emblazoned with "Hungarian cuisine" and "tourist menu" signs, and it’s also here that Hungary's only Hooters operated until recently. You don't need me to tell you: proceed with caution.

#5 Börze Budapest

Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving traditional Hungarian fare from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. With red banquettes and a chic interior designed to the minute detail, the vibes evoke a Keith McNally restaurant. Börze's moniker is a hat-tip to the enormous, 1907 building across the street that used to be the Budapest Stock and Commodity Exchange. The restaurant is a 2017 offshoot of Menza, and like its sister restaurant, Börze is a well-oiled machine with reliable dishes and a kind waitstaff.

#6 Földes Józsi vendéglője

At a time when modern renditions of traditional food reign supreme across the culinary world in Budapest, it can be difficult to unearth a good ol' traditional Hungarian restaurant. Notwithstanding the plethora of goulash options in the tourist-heavy downtown streets, you're often better off leaving the city center if old-school, rustic fare is what you're after.

#7 Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő Restaurant

For an unpretentious, traditional Hungarian meal, leave behind the tourist-heavy streets of downtown and head to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő inside the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths and an exhaustive menu spanning across 12 categories (soups, stews, ready-made, etc.) will await you at this popular, no-frills neighborhood restaurant.

#8 Tüköry Étterem

If the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food strikes while you’re near downtown's tourist sites like the Parliament building and Liberty Square, Tüköry restaurant is your best bet. Since its opening in 1958, Tüköry has been serving reasonably priced and reliable traditional Hungarian staples on red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Although there exists better Hungarian food in Budapest, Tüköry’s pörkölt (beef stew; €6), made-to-order schnitzel-dishes like the cordon bleu (frissensültek; €6), and the palacsinta desserts (Hungarian crepes; €3) can hold their own against most restaurants in Budapest. Most of the mains are €6-8.

#9 Kispiac Bistro

Rib-sticking Hungarian countryside fare can be intimidating if you aren’t used to eating high-calorie, heavy dishes like pork knuckles or wild boar stew. But if you’re up for the challenge, Kispiac Bistro is the best place in Budapest to acquaint yourself with these hearty, traditional dishes; just be sure to expect low post-meal productivity. Kispiac doesn’t try to reinvent old recipes, but it moves past communist-era kitchen practices and uses high-quality ingredients.

#10 Gyergyó Árpi kisvendéglője

Gyergyó restaurant, which opened in 1991, masks itself as a typical greasy spoon, but it’s closer to a semi-upscale restaurant when it comes to food, plating, and, unfortunately, prices too. The place’s moniker is a hat-tip to the Transylvanian city where the owner-chef, Árpád Gyurka, hails from. The restaurant is located in an elite, residential Buda neighborhood, which explains why main dishes run €10-15, and why big-time lawyers, businessmen, and retired, upper-middle class regulars fill this tiny, lunch-only restaurant.

#11 Szegedi Halászcsárda

Budapest has only a few restaurants right along the Danube River, and even the ones that exist are usually more about vistas than gastronomic delights. Flanked by endless rows of docked Viking river cruises, Szegedi Halászcsárda doesn't hold much promise at first sight, but it turns out to be a positive surprise. Their specialty is the Hungarian fisherman’s soup, halászlé, especially its famed version from the south-Hungarian city of Szeged.

#12 Király 100 Restaurant

The Jewish Quarter’s stag-party apocalypse doesn’t extend to the outer part of the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút), meaning that the streets quiet down as night falls, and residents are still mainly locals rather than Airbnb folks. The neighborhood’s mom-and-pop stores and dilapidated buildings serve as a reminder of what much of Budapest looked like in the '90s.

#13 Huszár Étterem

Huszár, named after the Hungarian light cavalry soldiers, is the type of restaurant where everyday local Hungarian families go for a Sunday lunch. It's an unchic restaurant that doesn’t try to be more than what it is—an unfussy neighborhood joint serving Hungarian dishes without twists or updates to traditional recipes. Huszár also satisfies my occasional nostalgia for the type of gruff service and weathered interior that defined Budapest restaurants in the '90s.

#14 Regős Vendéglő

If you’re looking to try traditional Hungarian food in a restaurant away from the crowded downtown streets, Regős Vendéglő can be a good option. Despite its offbeat location, however, the crowd here actually consist mainly of tourists who’ve discovered Regős through TripAdvisor and concierge recommendations, leading to higher price points and less “local vibes” than at similar neighborhood joints (main dishes run €8-10). The restaurant, which opened in 2002, occupies a brick-arched underground space decked out in wooden banquettes and kitschy decor.

#15 Rákóczi Étterem

Restaurants outside the city center tend to draw a more diverse set of patrons than those in downtown. A tasty and low-priced lunch can bring together grandmas, office workers, local thugs, and tourists alike, as evidenced at lunchtime in Rákóczi restaurant, located in Budapest's outer District 8. The restaurant overlooks Rákóczi Square, an area once known for its grimy streets, rampant prostitution, and low-life characters. Today, there’s a glitzy subway stop beneath the square and the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying (pop in to Csiga Café across the street for proof).

#16 Horgásztanya Restaurant

Many countries put their own twist on the fish soup, reflecting locally available fish species and ingredients. The fisherman’s soup (halászlé) is Hungary’s take on the bouillabaisse. It has myriad permutations across the country, but the classic version uses carp fillets, and a generous portion of paprika seasoning that lends the broth a deep-red hue. Oddly, few Budapest restaurants serve fisherman’s soup at all, and of the ones that do, few seem to care to get it right.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.