Budapest Tips: Restaurant Recommendations

Over the past few years, various friends and family have asked for tips and recommendations for their friends and family who plan to visit Budapest. I’ve been keeping a Word document, but recently realized it might be more helpful to have an online version. Unsurprisingly, the question I’m asked most often is about food – nothing ruins a trip faster than being hungry and unable to find a good place to eat. So here’s a list of fully vetted restaurants (aka, I’ve eaten there a lot).

A few things to note: If you arrive at a restaurant and there are no free tables, they’ll generally just apologize and turn you away. Restaurants in Budapest don’t really do things like put your name on a waiting list. It’s therefore a good idea to make a reservation for dinner, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, while I’ve put dollar signs next to food to indicate prices, it’s all relative. The entrees at the most expensive restaurants I’ve listed are pricy compared to other restaurants in Budapest, but for those coming from the States or Western Europe, they’re downright reasonable. Finally, I’ve listed both Hungarian and non-Hungarian restaurants. I know some people think it’s sacrilege to go to a country and eat food that’s not local or traditional, but not everyone can eat a steady diet of Hungarian food for several days straight.

Fine Dining ($$$ – $$$$)

Fausto’s – This is undoubtably the best service in Budapest, and perhaps the best food as well. For those celebrating a special occasion, dinner at Fausto’s is a delicious experience.

Pampas – located very close to the Great Market Hall, this steakhouse serves Argentinian, USDA, and Kobe beef and has truly delicious sides and a great wine list.

KNRDY – pronounced “Konrady”, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to an American steakhouse in Budapest.

Mid-Range Hungarian Food ($$)

Bock Bisztro – This cozy restaurant is in the same building as the Corinthia Hotel and only has a handful of tables, so a reservation is a must. It’s known for its unique twists on Hungarian food, and we’ve had everything from pigeon to rabbit goulash to surf ‘n turf. If you eat here, you absolutely must have the “bizarre” ice creams – in flavors like tobacco, bacon and paprika.

Két Szerecsen – Richie describes this as the restaurant where he finally believed I could be happy in Budapest 😉 This restaurant has delicious Hungarian specialties, as well as a mix of some other cuisines (Thai, Spanish). This restaurant has Richie’s favorite bowl of goulash soup (not to be confused with the stew) and my favorite lemonade (basil and elderflower). If you eat here, invite us along?

Café Kör – another small place (reservations definitely advised) with a traditional Hungarian menu. The daily specials, written on a large piece of paper on one wall of the restaurant, are usually the best deals.

Pesti Disznó – this restaurant has a heavy emphasis on pork – specifically the funky Hungarian pig called mangalica. They’ve got a great wine list and a really delicious burger.

Menza – located in the touristy Liszt Ferenc square, this restaurant is much better than the others nearby. It has reasonably priced food and a funky atmosphere (the decor is very 70s chic). Here, you should get the pörkölt (Hungarian beef stew – or what many people mistakenly think is goulash).

Spíler – Gozsdu Udvar is a courtyard in the Jewish Quarter (on the Pest side) filled with shops and cafés. When we moved here, this area was sleepy – now it’s completely revitalized, and Spíler is the best of the cafés for a quality lunch. Try the lavender lemonade and the spicy potato wedges…. delicious.

Mid-Range Non-Hungarian Food ($$)

Pata Negra – A really great Spanish tapas restaurant. There are two locations – the one on the Pest side of the river has a more lively atmosphere and is nearer to tourist attractions and hotels – but it fills up quickly, so if reservations aren’t available, try the Buda location.

Taj Mahal – Richie says this is the restaurant he’ll miss the most when we repatriate to the USA. Beautifully decorated, including the waitstaff in their traditional clothing, and delicious food. If you’re up to the challenge, Richie loves the chicken vindaloo… but for those of us who want to keep our taste buds intact, try the namesake Chicken Taj Mahal.

Iguana – Margaritas. Chips and salsa. This restaurant is a savior for those of us hailing from Texas and longing for our delicious Mexican food. On a homesick day, it does the trick.

Déryné – This is the best choice for a meal after sightseeing near the Buda Castle. It’s French and Hungarian food, but the major hit with everyone I’ve taken there is the fish and chips. They have a great brunch on weekends as well.

thebigfish – Deliciously fresh seafood in a landlocked country? It’s possible. This restaurant is partnered with the large fish market in the suburbs of Budapest and always boasts a wide selection of fresh fish, grilled to perfection. You can select your fish from the counter (note that some items are sold by weight, and others by the piece) or go for the ever-popular fish ‘n chips. My favorite is the grilled calamari!

Parázs Presszo – Thai food in three locations in the 6th and 7th districts. I eat here at least once a week. It’s that delicious.

Quick Food ($)

Pad Thai Wokbar – Make-your-own bowls of stir-fry

Burrita – This is the closest you’ll come to Chipotle in Hungary

Funky Pho – Aromatic Vietnamese noodle soup that will cure anything that ails you. They also prepare a few rotating Asian specialties. It’s cash only, and a very small space, so be prepared to eat at the long bar. Try the pork mandu (potstickers) – they’re handmade at the restaurant and SO very good.

Hummus Bar – Do you love hummus? If so, this place is for you. It declares that Hummus is Sexy, and while I can’t say I particularly agree, it is delicious and cheap!

Desserts

Hungarians are renowned for their sweet tooth (sweet teeth?) and as you would expect, they have more than enough coffeehouses and sweet shops to satisfy their cravings. Here are my favorites, as well as two oft-recommended places that I personally would avoid.

Auguszt Cukraszda – located between the Astoria and Ferenciek metro stops, this historic coffeehouse has a wide variety of pastries, both native to Hungary and otherwise.

Ruszwurm – a historic coffeehouse near the Buda Castle and the Matthias church. It’s famous for its krémes cake, and the tiny café is a great place to pop in on a cold day when touring the Buda side of the city.

Számos Cukraszda – There are several locations, but the most central is in the Corinthia Hotel’s building. This cafe is best known for their marzipan treats, but they also have a wide selection of pastries, sandwiches, tea and coffee.

Central Kavehaz – The largest of the listed coffeehouses – this one is quite close to the Ferenciek Tere metro stop (on the blue line, M3) and is rather ornate. It’s a bit pricier than some of the others listed, but the ambience is lovely.

Unless you have money to burn, I’d skip these two:

Gerbeaud – This is probably the most famous coffeehouse in Budapest, and it always tops lists of places you must try. But the waitstaff is snotty, and the prices are outrageous. The desserts are delicious, the cafe is beautiful, but expect to pay $10-15 for a dessert you can get for $3-5 elsewhere.

Alexandra Bookcafé – Also known as the Lotz café after the famous Hungarian painter responsible for its gorgeous ceiling, this café resides on the upper floor of the Alexandra bookshop on Andrassy (formerly a department store, evidenced by the words Parisi Nagy Aruház above the entrance). This café is a great place to stop when you’re thirsty and want a seat with style, but the pastries are generally stale, and the drinks overpriced. I suggest popping in for a quick look at the restored ceilings (they really are breathtaking) but skip the food.

For those who have visited or lived in Budapest, what must-try restaurants have I missed?

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