Don’t stress over where to eat in Budapest. After 2 weeks of tasting – and an extra notch on our belts – we’ve found the 10 best Hungarian restaurants!
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Let us Show You Where to Eat in Budapest!
Budapest wasn’t on our radar, but boy are we glad we got there.
We’ve always preferred smaller cities and stranger places – ironically shunning the crowds and tourist masses.
Yes, it is chock-a-block full of tourists, but there are so many things to see and do in this wonderful old city that it never felt claustrophobic.
Of course, food was at the top of our list and before arriving we were wondering where to eat in Budapest.
Would it live up to our amazing experience in Romania? Was there more to Hungarian cuisine than just goulash and paprika?
Yes, yes, YES!!
Not only did we thoroughly enjoy exploring it’s gorgeous streets, but we also did a damn good job of finding some of the best Hungarian restaurants in Budapest!
And you know what’s even better? It’s ridiculously inexpensive for a European capital city as well.
We found plenty of cheap restaurants in Budapest, but in this case cheap definitely doesn’t mean poor quality. On the contrary!
It was by far some of the tastiest food we have tried anywhere in the world – and we couldn’t have been more surprised!
Join with us as we do our very best to make a Hungarian food baby… 😂
1. Csarnok Vendéglő
District 5 lies on the Pest (eastern) side of the Danube River, and among the incredible old sandstone buildings we found the perfect place to start our Budapest food odyssey – Csarnok Vendéglő.
Their menu has a great range of traditional Hungarian dishes, but you’ll be pleased to know that despite their old-school red-checked tablecloth approach – their wait staff speak excellent English.
Karen tried their goulash, while I had my first taste of a veal paprikás with boiled dumplings.
Wow…what a way to start!
The veal was super tender and the gravy rich, aromatic and perfectly spiced.
But it was the dumplings that really took us by surprise. Light and slightly tart, with tiny, crispy bacon crumbs surprising us with random bursts of salty goodness.
The goulash was also a real eye-opener. As you will quickly learn, what most restaurants outside Hungary call goulash is actually closer to a paprikás (stew). The real deal is actually a soup, and in this case it was hearty and delicious – working really well with the addition of a small (optional) spoonful of chilli paste. Best goulash in Budapest? A big call, but we wouldn’t be surprised!
We loved Csarnok Vendéglő, and we know you will too.
2. Rosenstein Vendéglő
We ate at Rosenstein near the end of our time in Budapest, and it was clear from the moment we stepped through its doors that it was different to every other place in town.
Robi Rosenstein – son of owner Tibor Rosenstein – gave us a warm, unpretentious welcome that immediately made us feel at home. And when we saw the multilingual menu with its exciting mix of Jewish and World cuisine we knew we were in for a fantastic experience.
For Karen it was the roast leg of goose served with braised cabbage and mashed onion potatoes, while I tried the game stew in red wine, served with ewe cheese spaetzle.
Both dishes were sublime. Honest heritage combined with impeccable technique – this was the best goose we tasted in Budapest while the ewe cheese spaetzle was a clever, refreshing twist that complemented the rich stew perfectly.
If you are a daring foodie, try to visit on a Monday when you can order the rooster testicle stew with noodles!
When eating out we often find that the food is great, while the timing or service doesn’t quite hit the mark. Rarely do all three come together, and yet at Rosenstein that’s exactly what they provided.
Refined, yet laid back. Friendly, yet professional. Catering just as easily to folks like us in our weary travel clothes, as they do to those in their Sunday best.
You’ll find Rosenstein near Kaleti Train Station. It might be a 15-min walk from central Budapest, but it’s well worth the effort.
3. Bite Bakery Cafe
Sometimes you just want to get messy and stuff your face with cake, right?
Breakfasts aren’t a huge deal in Budapest, but one dish they do very well is the little ol’ cinnamon scroll, and one of the best places to try it is at one of the Bite cafes scattered across town.
There’s no back story. No decades of family sweat and tears. No check table cloths.
What you do get is deliciously messy, pull-apart cinnamon scrolls and cocoa scrolls that will put a big, sticky grin on your face!
And their coffee?
Yep, it’s f’n strong, and it was seriously one of the best we had in town.
4. Kádár Étkezde
Kádár Étkezde wasn’t on our radar at all, but we are so glad we found it.
It was a friend of ours back in Australia who made the recommendation based on his own dining experience at the very same restaurant more than 20 years ago.
It was by far the most traditional of all the restaurants we tried in Budapest, and barely a word of English was spoken – but any difficulties in communication fell by the wayside at first bite.
After an ill-fated attempt at using the self-serve soda water dispenser (it’s more like a super-soaker 😀 ) we tucked into our meals with gusto.
For me it was the baked goose with boiled herb potatoes and pickled cabbage, while Karen had the pork stew with dumplings.
Having eaten very similar meals at Rosenstein a couple of days earlier it was an interesting comparison. The goose was a little more refined at Rosenstein, but the cabbage and boiled potatoes from Kádár Étkezde were sublime. The pork stew was delicious, but we both felt the version at Rosenstein was again a little better – albeit a lot more expensive.
Our meal at Kadar Etkezde was like stepping back in time, and we thoroughly recommend that you experience this authentic Hungarian restaurant, unaffected by the pressures of modernity, for yourself .
Thanks for the tip Dillon!
5. Gulyás Tunkoló Büfé
It’s now months later and Karen gives me a funny look as my eyes still glaze over at the very mention of Gulyás Tunkoló Büfé…
Yes, we’d had a wine or three, but that doesn’t diminish what I can only describe as a truly biblical dining experience.
So cheap. So simple. And yet so damn delicious.
Located in the heart of the Jewish quarter – just a 5 minute stagger from Szimpla Kert – Gulyás Tunkoló Büfé is all about late-night sustenance. Munchy management. The Hungarian version of a post-session HSP*.
All they do is stew and bread. But hot damn, that stew!!
Karen’s beef version was good, but the goose gizzard stew was through the roof for flavour, texture and that special x-factor that is all too rare these days.
And the bread. Wow. We still can’t wrap our head around the fact that it was ‘only’ from the second-best bakery in Budapest! 😀
Is there anything better on a cool evening – beer on the side – than scooping up dollops of hearty stew with a slab of bread? We think not.
If you’re looking for cheap restaurants in Budapest, this is where you need to start!
* Halal snack pack 😂
6. VakVarjú Étterem
If you want to try Hungarian food but don’t feel like dealing with language problems then VakVarjú – the Blind Crow – is a great option.
There are a number of branches across Budapest, but we recommend the ‘Pest’ restaurant as it is central to most hotels, and because we had a great meal!
The staff are fantastic and the extensive menu is available in English.
Are you a sucker for duck? The rosé duck-breast with cabbage pasta, stewed apples and locust honey is delicious. They cooked it so well, with just the right amount of pinkness and crispy skin.
The boar ragu pasta with truffles was also excellent, and we could barely walk after finishing off two of their desserts – their signature Somló-style sponge cake is a must!
7. Jacques Liszt – Misi a pék
Feel like snails for breakfast? (keep reading, you’ll be surprised)
The Hungarians don’t really do breakfast like many western countries, but one thing at which they excel is pastries and baked bread.
Jacques Liszt is a tiny bakery, just one street away from the riverfront, and it is the ideal place to start your day.
Many of Budapest’s finest restaurants source their bread from Jacques Liszt, but we recommend that you get there early and try the ‘kakaós csiga’ – or ‘Chocolate Snails’.
These chocolately scrolls are famous in Budapest, and you can’t visit without trying at least one (or three).
8. Borkonyha Winekitchen
When you hear the words ‘Michelin Star’, you’re probably thinking gold leaf, caviar and Bentleys.
You’ll be very pleased to learn that Budapest has a number of Michelin starred restaurants that won’t cost you a second mortgage 😀
It was Karen’s birthday, so what better way to celebrate than at Borkonyha Winekitchen?
There is an a la carte menu, but even better is their 5-course degustation. The dishes change every week and you won’t find a better place in town to try Hungarian cuisine with a modern twist.
We were served a clever little beetroot and puffed rice amuse bouche, and then our degustation began. Trout first, followed by a fish soup. Then roast pigeon, perfectly cooked venison, and rákóczi túrós for dessert.
It was such a well balanced meal. Each dish was beautifully presented without going over the top. And most importantly, the technique and flavours couldn’t be faulted, resulting in one extremely satisfying meal.
9. Langos Papa
It seems like every country in Eastern Europe has its own take on ‘fried bread’, and in Hungary it is the delectable langos.
In its traditional form it is topped with a thick slathering of sour cream and an extremely generous handful of grated cheese, but as you’ll see there are many variations for you to try.
It’s very popular with the locals so there are plenty of places you can find this dish.
For a meal on the run we recommend trying Retro Langos Bufe in District 5, but for a sit-down meal (essential when you realise the size of these things!) we suggest grabbing a table at Langos Papa, near the Oktagon in District 6.
The service is friendly and the food shines!
Between us we valiantly ploughed our way through two langos – salami and red onion for me, and paprika chicken for Karen.
omg…soooo good! Ridiculously filling, but extremely satisfying in a way that only deep fried dough can be 😀
Can you believe they offer a 3-course special? Only FT3000 for starter+langos+dessert. Thinking you have any chance of cleaning your plate is the very definition of optimism!
10. Stand25 Bisztró
If Michelin stars are all a bit too much, a good alternative is Stand25 Bisztró.
It’s a small restaurant hidden away inside the Mercado Belvarosi market, and it looks amazing at night after all the other stalls have closed for the day and the colourful lights get switched on!
This restaurant received a ‘Bib Gourmand’ from Michelin, which is the level below a full Michelin star. The quality of the food is still extremely high, and we both felt it offered even better value that Borkonyha Winekitchen. A lot cheaper, but the food was nearly as good.
An a la carte menu is available, but again we couldn’t resist their 3-course set menu where we had a couple of choices for each course.
The menu is constantly changing, but if you spy the eggplant tartare or mushroom consomme we highly recommend trying both!
The cottage cheese dumplings are also delicious and a surprisingly light way to finish the meal.
Wine Bars and Rabbit Holes
We didn’t do a lot of drinking in Hungary – the beer and wine seemed to keep making its way back to our apartment 😂 – but we did find a couple of little gems!
Kadarka Wine Bar
Hungarian wines were quite a surprise to us – in a good way – and we ended up visiting Kadarka Wine Bar a couple of times during our 2 weeks in Budapest.
Wines by the glass are often few and far between, but at Kadarka you’ve got dozens of options to choose from.
The staff speak very good English as well, and were comfortable taking the time to explain the different varieties and their respective flavour profiles.
The best thing though is that Kadarka seems to have escaped the attention of most tourists!
We spent far too much time here, and we’ve no doubt you’ll do the same 🙂
Rabbit Hole Bar and Cafe
Our Airbnb was near the famous Terror House, and while walking into the city centre one day we discovered this fantastic little basement bar called the Rabbit Hole Bar and Cafe.
The owner is super friendly and his eyes lit up with genuine excitement when we told him we were Aussies, exclaiming “Hugh Jackman!!”
Yep. This little dive is the unofficial home of the Hugh Jackman Appreciation Society. Who knew? 😀
There’s a pretty standard range of drinks on offer, but we recommend trying a shot of Hungary’s national liquor – Unicum! (stop your chuckling)
Very herbal, a little bitter, and enough alcohol content to bring tears to the eyes 😀
Other Places to Eat in Budapest
As much as we would have liked to, there were a few places on our list that we simply couldn’t visit. These included:
- Ruszwurm Confectionary – This cafe has a history going back nearly 200 years, and in that time they have perfected the art of the Ruszwurm-kreme. Located right next to Buda Castle, it’s the perfect place for a quick coffee break before re-entering the tourist fray.
- Szimpla Kert Sunday Market – Lots of local producers gather together in the courtyard of the famous Szimpla Kert to sell their cured meats, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and other products. There’s an all-you-can-eat breakfast option as well!
- Olympia Etterem – We tried so hard to get to Olympia Etterem but realised far too late that they only take cash, and we had just about run out 🙁 It sounds fantastic though, and is extremely good value for modern Hungarian food.
- The Goat Herder Espresso Bar – Run by an Aussie, we hear that this place is like a tiny slice of Melbourne, with great breakfast options and quality coffee. Scratch that Aussie itch 😃
- Panificio il Basilico – We heard that this is a good alternative to Jacques Liszt for chocolate snails.
- Karavan Street Food – A couple of doors up from Szimpla Kert is this smoke-filled alley where you’ll find all manner of ‘street’ food from many eclectic vendors. Langos, burgers, kebabs, vegetarian…it’s got the lot!
We hope you’ve found this guide useful in planning your time and where to eat in Budapest.
If you’re looking for other options around the world you might like these articles:
- The Best Banh Mi in Saigon – Where to find it, and what not to do!
Andrew and Karen.