This list is for people who're looking for the hottest restaurants in Budapest right now. Here's what to expect. Dependable dishes without culinary acrobatics, stylish interiors, overpriced plates by local standards, and a crowd that consists of tourists and chic locals. The places have different cuisines but one thing is common: come dinner time and they fill to capacity. If you're looking for more upscale options, check out Budapest's best fine dining restaurants too.
Mazel Tov is for people who like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story. Cheap drinks have been upgraded to fancy cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to a range of trendy Middle Eastern mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed industrial-chic interior with sleek wood paneling. .
In retrospect, it's strange that it took so long for someone to finally open a traditional Hungarian restaurant in 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' moniker makes its culinary priorities clear - the short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash, chicken paprikash, and beef stew. These Hungarian stew-centric classics are updated with small twists, like the baked cottage cheese noodles rolled in bacon that accompany the veal paprikash.
Padron is a tiny, family-run tapas bar in Budapest's Palace Quarter in District 8, situated on a quiet side street. The restaurant exhibits all the usual signs of a busy family-run enterprise with the mother taking orders, the son serving food, and the father behind the bar. .
When I want to impress my friends that Budapest has restaurants as hip as those in the East Village, I take them out to DOBRUMBA. With a chic crowd, effortlessly cool design, and a Middle Eastern menu, DOBRUMBA is one of the trendiest restaurants in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter currently. Think artfully chipped pale-yellow walls, oversized windows that are swung open in the summer months, and ear-catching electronic music piping through the speakers. .
Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving uncomplicated traditional Hungarian food from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. 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. With red banquettes and a chic interior designed to the minute detail, Börze recalls a Keith McNally restaurant. .
At some point in the early 2000s, Liszt Ferenc Square in District 6 was a popular hangout for trendy and moneyed locals. Then, as the wheel of trends turned, the excitement began to taper off and people moved to other pockets of the city. Today, you will find here signs prominently advertising "Hungarian cuisine" and "tourist menus", and it’s also here that Hungary's lone Hooters operated. You don't need me to tell you: proceed with caution..
Spíler has been reliably one of the hottest restaurants in Budapest since its opening in 2012. It's located in the heart of the buzzing Jewish Quarter, inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard dotted with restaurants and bars. Spíler occupies a massive space that includes three stylish, highly Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. .
Kiosk is a hip restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trend-conscious locals and plenty of tourists. Kiosk has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of the Elisabeth Bridge from its outdoor patio, and a dramatically high-ceilinged, industrial chic interior. (Interestingly, the building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact there is a chapel right above Kiosk.) .
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, a pan-Asian eatery serving overpriced takeout food with little to show for its hype. Whichever side you're on, the fact is that Sáo operates at capacity every night of the week. Sure, paying the equivalent of €9 for a simple plate of fried rice with a few morsels of beef is excessive by Budapest standards, but there’s more to Sáo than food..
Curious where the top 1% of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve in 2007 when they opened this sleek bistro featuring a Balthazar-like interior straight out of the Keith McNally playbook. Back then Déryné was a breath of fresh air in Budapest as options for finer dining were largely limited to tacky downtown restaurants with communist-era kitchen practices and a deeply ingrained rip-off culture. .
Above-average food, laid-back vibes, a chic crowd, tiny tables crammed into a small space, and waitresses speaking fluent English - are we in Brooklyn or Budapest? Budapest, because service isn't rushed and diners are welcome to linger. .
HILDA is one of the restaurants lining downtown's increasingly fashionable Nádor Street. The area has come to life as a growing number of tourists, and international students from the nearby Central European University pass through. With a perfect curb appeal, you will notice HILDA's colorful, highly-instagrammable interior even before entering the space. For example, an oversized stained glass mosaic covers one of the walls in its entirety, and the bar is studded with four rows of dark blue, glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons just a block away.
In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design opened an Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Sáo turned out to be a success story. Encouraged, the owners opened another restaurant, KHAN, this time in the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. Here too a chic, Instagram-friendly interior awaits customers complete with sleek wood finishes, concrete columns, contemporary art, and Asian collectibles..
Oriental Soup House is a chic and affordable Vietnamese fusion restaurant in the cool-but-under-the-radar Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. I'm always happy when I see Asian cooks scurry behind the open kitchen in a Vietnamese restaurant and this place is no exception. The slim menu centers around 11 types of hearty soups of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo), flaunting a flavorful broth with a golden hue, is among the better representatives of the pho genre in Budapest, especially if you order it with raw loin that cooks in the hot broth. .
Bring with you a healthy dose of skepticism when you go to Gozsdu Udvar, also known as the tourist and party central of Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Most restaurants and bars here look to make money off the foreign crowds without offering much in exchange. Vicky Barcelona, a lively tapas bar, is one of the few exceptions. .
Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant located at the entry of the trendy Újlipótváros neighborhood. The restaurant is named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake from Eastern Europe, perhaps as a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. Babka's interior features a vintage decor with old radio and TV equipment scattered throughout, complete with hardwood floors and dim lighting. .
Bestia is a bustling grilled meat restaurant in the heart of Budapest. It has a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, a flashy, industrial chic interior, and a full-service cocktail bar serving 12 types of craft beers. A DJ spins tunes five nights a week and a trendy crowd flocks here every night.
Imagine a restaurant that's located right in the heart of Budapest's party district. Add to that mental image a shabby chic interior featuring lots of happy colors and design items with inspirational messages, and a food offering so broad as to include goulash, penne arrabiata, cheeseburger, duck confit, and paleo cake all on the menu. Welcome to Vintage Garden, one of the hottest and busiest restaurants in the Budapest's Jewish Quarter. Despite the unusually expansive culinary reach, the plates that come out of Vintage Garden's kitchen are reliable - the duck confit with gnocchi and apple chutney is particularly good.
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.