Budapest is experiencing a gastronomic revolution. Carbs- and meat-heavy Hungarian staples like goulash and chicken paprikash are giving way to smaller portions, inventive recipes, and healthier ingredients (and slimmer menus). The result? Contemporary, international cuisine fused with traditional Hungarian flavors. Think tender pork loins marinated in soy sauce, paired with corn puree and a side of grilled bok choy. Or slow cooked beef cheek with broccoli flowerets. A word to the wise: many of these restaurants offer an exceptional lunch prix fixe for a fraction of the regular price.
High-end bistro serving stellar Hungarian dishes along with a broad selection of Hungarian wines. Whatever you do, don’t miss the mangalica ("the Kobe beef of pork") dishes and also check the specials on the chalkboard. The chéf, Ákos Sárközi, prepares classic Hungarian dishes with contemporary, inventive techniques. His take on the potato soup, normally the dullest of soups, is a smooth, creamy, almost magical concoction that comes with coconut milk and shrimp balls.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 a laid-back bistro in a remote part of District 7 focused on re-imagined (Hungarian) classics. Think roasted duck liver with figs 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.From the start, the idea was to make their dishes accessible to a broader audience. The duo’s reinvented traditional Hungarian staples, while not ground-breaking, are very good. Their reddish-brown colored goulash is exactly as it should be; the extra touch is the dash of chopped celery and salty Moroccan lemon seasoning, which adds a lighter, refreshing feel to this normally heavy soup (the other signature dish is the layered potato with sausage, egg, and sour cream).Read more
You’ll need to escape the heart of the city to unearth this restaurant, which serves refined modern Hungarian cuisine infused with French flavors. La Perle Noire is located on a peaceful section of the grand Andrássy Avenue peppered with residential villas and embassies. Take a look at the quirky modernist building from 1937 (now a hotel), amid the eclectic, predominantly 19th century street view. The kitchen is run by a heavyweight, which is obvious as soon as the dishes arrive.Read more
For many years Zeller was located in a most impossible basement venue in the outer part of Budapest. Yet they developed such a cult following that getting a table was one of the biggest challenges facing Budapest tourists. Since their humble beginnings in 2013 they have moved into 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
TÁBLA, a closet-sized, space at the edge of the Jewish quarter, occupies the territory between fine dining and a casual restaurant. They target gastronomically-inclined local office workers who don’t mind shelling out twice what the dime a dozen places nearby charge for a no-frills lunch prix fixe. Tourists also happily munch away for a fraction of what these elaborate dishes would cost at home. The daily-changing baseline food offering is Hungarian, with a slight twist accompanying all the dishes.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 "high-end bistro" 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
If you manage to find this place, buried in the basement of an abandoned inner courtyard, you'll be generously rewarded for your perseverance. The chef learned the tricks of the trade at some of the finest restaurants in the city (including MÁK bistro), and you'll be able to treat your 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. A truly pleasant surprise.Read more
In 2004, Bock Bisztró was among the first to show that Hungarian staples can be so much better than what they had been for decades. That pork schnitzel can be tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. (The schnitzel is very similar to those served at Buja disznó(k), a self-service eatery at the Hold Street market hall also operated by executive chef Lajos Bíró). And paprikash, when made with veal neck, breaded tenderloin, and a creamy paprika sauce, can be a real delicacy.Read more
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price.