Top 10 - Trendy Dinner Places

Different cuisine, different neighborhoods, different design. One thing is common though: come dinner-time, these places begin to buzz like bee-hives and fill up to capacity with a chic crowd and loud tunes.
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#1 DOBRUMBA

Do you want to impress your friends that Budapest has trendy restaurants, as hip as those in the East Village? You’ll most likely get a kick out of DOBRUMBA if you’re in for the chic atmosphere, nonchalantly cool design, international food, and trendy foreigners surrounding you. The (largely vegetarian) menu, however, is a bit hit-or-miss. In the shakshuka, the vegetables don’t quite come together to form a distinctive flavor as they should. And the hummus with paprika lacks taste, character, and a creamy texture.
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#2 Mazel Tov

Mazel Tov is for people who like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. According to the textbook definition, a ruin bar is a courtyard of a highly dilapidated pre-war building that was turned into a bar without much by way of refurbishment, using second-hand furniture, and offering correspondingly low prices. In Mazel Tov’s case, the dilapidated façade and outdoor courtyard hold true, but cheap drinks were upgraded to cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to elaborate Middle Eastern dishes, self-service to hostesses/waiters, and cheap furniture to a thoughtfully designed interior with sleek wooden paneling. On most nights live music is playing in the background.
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#3 Vicky Barcelona

A healthy dose of skepticism is in order when you go to Gozsdu Udvar passage, aka tourist central of the Jewish Quarter. This was my first thought when I saw the lively crowd inside this tapas bar. Then I had the very decent revuelto (scrambled eggs that comes with sausage, goat cheese, and apple) and the carrillera de cerdo Ibérico (Iberian pork cheek) for starters, and my doubts began to dissipate. The elaborate design is another plus: a dim-lit, narrow path in the center is flanked by tables with velvet curtains on one side, and a curvilinear bar counter with mosaic patterns on the other.
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#4 Vintage Garden

Shabby chic interior with a stylish waitstaff in the most popular neighborhood of the city - these are valid reasons why this trendy bistro is crowded most days. On the other hand, one gets the impression that they focused just a bit too much on recreating a charmingly rustic atmosphere of the French countryside (there's an antique car parked inside), and could've put more emphasis on the food instead, which is decent, but at their price level should be even better. The menu is an amalgamation of French (rose duck breast), international (pasta, burgers, etc.), and Hungarian staples (goulash, and lángos variations). Reservation is a must..
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#5 Déryné Bistro

Curious where the top 1% of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné were ahead of the curve in 2007 when they opened this high-end bistro (think Balthazar ambiance). At the time, Budapest's options for fine(r) dining were largely limited to tacky downtown restaurants with communist-era kitchen practices and a deeply ingrained rip-off culture. And how have they managed to sustain the bistro's popularity for so many years, as other places have sprouted up in Pest with comparable offerings at lower prices? It's a combination of Déryné's reputation, a limited supply of similar restaurants in Buda, and a professionally-run organization: from their website to the basement wine cellar, everything is carefully designed and curated.
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#6 Liberté

Liberté is a worthy attempt at recreating the atmosphere of a high-end American diner infused with a trendy French bistro. Located near the Parliament in the elite section of District 5 peppered with banks, it mainly caters to a well-off clientele. The food is an interesting combination of international staples and Hungarian-influenced culinary essentials such as the pan-fried duck liver with fresh lecsó salad, and the pork tenderloin "Brassói" style. The prices are on the higher end, but the quality of the food, a highly-invested interior, and lively atmosphere (particulalry during the boozy weekend brunches) can make it worthwhile.
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#7 Spíler

Spíler is one of those trendy, hyped-up bistros that’s always crowded, with loud music, a stylish décor, and good-looking waiters. It's inside the pulsating evening hangout spot, Gozsdu Udvar, dotted with restaurants and clubs in the heart of the Jewish Quarter in District 7. The food at Spíler is better than one would assume based on the tourist-heavy location. They serve a mix Hungarian staples and bistro-type dishes (think BBQ sandwich with french fries), along with a full breakfast offering.
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#8 Kiosk

This trendy bistro in the heart of the city has two things going for it: a stunning view of the Elisabeth bridge, and the stately building whose shockingly spacious ground floor it occupies. Loud music, dim lighting, and a distinctively industrial interior awaits you inside. The tree planted in the center of the bar, and the black and white classics they project on the rear wall are worthy attempts to spice up the otherwise not unusual exposed brick interior (with patches of intentionally disintegrating plaster). Food-wise they want to please all tastes (burger, salad, soup, pasta, steak, fish, Hungarian classics, etc.), at price levels that certainly include the surcharge for the panoramic vista.
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#9 Esetleg bisztro

Location is the strongest argument for visiting this partially outdoor bar/bistro near the Great Market Hall. The outdoor section, right along the bank of the river, has stunning views of the Danube, Liberty Bridge, and Gellért Hill. The lively venue is best for winding down with an afternoon drink in the summer months. The highlight of their inconsistent food offering is normally the goulash soup and the cottage cheese balls covered with a creamy sour cream vanilla sauce.
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#10 Oriental Soup House

Oriental Soup House is a stylish Vietnamese restaurant in a fascinating, under-the-radar neighborhood a bit outside the city center (Újlipótváros). The food, centered around Asian soup varieties like pho, is as good as any Vietnamese in the city, although the portions can leave something to be desired. The interior is a contemporary, carefully designed industrial look with a combination of sleek wooden stools, concrete flooring, and an open kitchen. The place is popular, so make sure to book a table.
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Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price.