The 19 Trendiest Restaurants In Budapest, Winter 2020

If you're looking for the hottest restaurants in Budapest, look no further. Here's what to expect: dependable dishes without culinary acrobatics, stylish interiors, overpriced plates by local standards, and a crowd consisting of tourists and chic locals. For more upscale options, check out Budapest's best fine dining restaurants, too.

#1 Mazel Tov Budapest

Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside 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 cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and weathered furnishings to modern fittings with lush greenery.

#2 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 want 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 (€5), chicken paprikash (€7), and túrógombóc (€4). ("Gettó" refers to the Jewish ghetto, into which this neighborhood was turned during the winter of 1944, the darkest time of WWII in Budapest).

#3 HILDA

HILDA is a chic downtown restaurant lining the increasingly fashionable Nádor Street, an area that has come to life as a growing number of tourists and international students from the nearby Central European University pass through. HILDA boasts curb appeal and an Instagrammable interior, featuring an oversized stained glass mosaic that covers one of the walls in its entirety and glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons around the corner from here.

#4 Börze Budapest

Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving classic 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 pre-war building across the street that used to be the Budapest Stock and Commodity Exchange. Börze is a 2017 offshoot of Menza, and like its sister restaurant, it's a well-oiled machine with reliable dishes and a kind waitstaff.

#5 Menza Restaurant

In the early aughts, Liszt Ferenc Square in Budapest's District 6 was a popular hangout for chic locals, but as the wheel of trends turned, people moved on to other pockets of the city. Today, you'll find restaurants emblazoned with "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.

#6 Felix Restaurant

With panoramic views onto the Castle Hill and the Danube, the location of Felix is hard to beat. The restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, occupies a nicely refurbished landmark-protected building designed by Miklós Ybl, the head architect of the Budapest Opera House. In terms of prices and ambience, Felix is a notch above the trendy spots but more casual than stiff-lipped fine dining establishments.

#7 DOBRUMBA

When I want to impress my friends that Budapest has restaurants as hip as those in New York's East Village, I take them out to DOBRUMBA. With a chic crowd, effortlessly cool design, and a Middle Eastern menu, DOBRUMBA is a wildly popular restaurant inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. The place is especially enjoyable in the warmer months when the oversized windows swing open and ear-catching electronic music wafts into the street.

#8 Padron Budapest

Padron is a small tapas bar within Budapest's Palace Quarter, situated on a charming side street. The restaurant exhibits the usual signs of a busy family-run enterprise, with the mother taking orders, the son serving food, and the father behind the bar on many days. Apart from a selection of dry-cured Spanish hams, there are two dozen or so tapas, which is what you're here for.

#9 Kiosk

Kiosk is a hip restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trendy locals and tourists. Kiosk has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of the Danube and the Elisabeth Bridge from its outdoor patio, and a dramatically high-ceilinged, industrial-chic interior. (The building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact, there's a chapel right above Kiosk.)

#10 Bobo Restaurant

Curious about the top restaurants on the less traveled side of the Danube? Visit Bobo in Rózsadomb, an exclusive residential area but reachable within ten minutes from Pest. The restaurant's stated mission is to draw Budapest's Bobos (a term made popular David Brook's book, "Bobos in Paradise"), referring to people who harbor both bourgeois and bohemian sentiments. The restaurant is inside a beautifully refurbished 1885 estate, once the playground of the Hungarian aristocracy. The slightly formal vibes and steep price points — mains range €12-16 — put Bobo a step above Budapest's chic bistros, but it’s also more casual than hushed fine dining venues.

To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. But this also means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you're enjoying this article, please consider making a donation.

#11 Fricska Gastropub

Following stints at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, struck out on their own, opening Fricska in 2014. The place has since earned a reputation for reliable and tasty dishes, drawing a well-off office crowd from near and far to its buzzing below-ground premises in Budapest's party district.

#12 Sáo Budapest

Depending on your taste, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, as an overpriced pan-Asian eatery serving takeout food with little to show for the hype. Whichever side you're on, the fact is that Sáo operates at capacity every night of the week. Sure, €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. For example, a tropical decor complete with lush greenery and bamboo bird cages hanging from the ceiling. Given that one of Sáo's owners is a fashion designer, local celebrities from the creative industries often show up here, in turn drawing scene-chasers eager to rub shoulders with the chic crowd. So, if you enjoy a hopping spot with loud music piping through the speakers and being right in the center of Budapest’s party district, Sáo is your kind of place.

#13 Déryné Bistro

Curious where the top one percent of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve when in 2007 they opened this chic restaurant featuring a Balthazar-like interior as if out of the Keith McNally playbook. Back then, few places in Budapest offered this brand of casually hip but classy vibes. Déryné has managed to remain popular through all these years, even as comparable restaurants have sprouted up on the other side of the Danube with lower price points.

#14 KHAN

In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design launched a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Spurred by Sáo's success, they later opened KHAN, another chic, Instragram-friendly venue, situated within the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center.

#15 Spíler Bistro

Located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard, Spíler is one of the most popular restaurants within Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. The massive space features three, highly-Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. The menu comprises reliably made international staples — think nachos, wings, burgers — and also traditional Hungarian classics like goulash (€6), chicken paprikash (€9), and pörkölt (€13), which is a paprika-laced beef stew with egg barley. Local wines, and almost 30 kinds of bottled craft beers are available for pairing. With most dishes below €10, prices are reasonable for this prime location.

#16 Oriental Soup House

Oriental Soup House is a hopping Vietnamese restaurant in Újlipótváros, a residential neighborhood a bit outside the city center. As soon as you enter, you'll notice the Asian cooks scurrying behind the open kitchen, always a good sign for a Vietnamese restaurant. The menu features 11 types of soups, of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo; €6) sporting a gleaming, flavorful broth is among the best I've had in Budapest, especially if you get it with thinly sliced tenderloins that quickly cook through in the steaming broth.

#17 Kőleves Restaurant

Kőleves is a highly popular restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, inside an 1851 building that used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop. Leftover objects from the meat plant are used as design pieces, including a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a weathered Talmud. Kőleves pays homage to the building’s past by serving a couple of Jewish-Hungarian dishes like matzo ball soup, and cholent, the classic Sabbath dish.

#18 Bestia

Bestia is a buzzing restaurant in the heart of Budapest specializing in pricey grilled meats. With a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, an edgy industrial chic decor, and loud music blasting through the speakers, it has quickly become a favorite among trendy tourists and locals alike. If you’re feeling adventurous, start your meal with the roasted bone marrow and toast: silky, jiggly white stuff arriving inside two massive slabs of veal shanks. Scoop out the rich fat and spread it on the whole wheat toast (€10).

#19 Babka Budapest

Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Budapest named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake originating in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the restaurant's moniker is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. The snug, dim interior complete with vintage furnishings and hardwood floors is very inviting.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. But this also means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation.