Dining

A Hungarian restaurant with chequered tablecloths – Kádár

Photo : Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
Fonó Budai Zeneház, nagyterem, tánc

Before starting, we’d like to point out that the name Kádár was the last name of the first owner – it has nothing to do with the one-time Hungarian Interior Minister. It is also a coincidence that someone called Orbán (the surname of Hungary’s current Prime Minister) has been managing one of the most exciting eateries in Budapest for the past 25 years. Here, while eating lunch we play who’s who with the photos on the wall – if you’re lucky you might even meet some of the people portrayed in the images – since they are regulars.

It’s possible that almost everyone in Budapest know this eatery at least by name. A Kádár (“The Kádár”) in Klauzál Square, with its strange opening hours (closed on Sundays and Mondays, Tuesday – Saturday 12.00 – 3.30pm), its unchanging staff and numerous stories. Its first owner, Béla Kádár moved to the square, initially just he and his wife cooked cholent for some friends. The hobby turned into a phenomenon and the place still preserves its traditions – relying on authenticity rather than creating a forced version of retro.
Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
But for the past 25 years Sándor Orbán has been running the place and although until two years ago he was also the chef with a huge amount of experiences having worked at the one-time Alabárdos, the Royal Hotel and the Hilton in Vienna, recently he deals mostly with administration and running the dining room. There is a handful of staff, which are like family. It is as if Kádár is not their workplace but their home and as such their hospitality is legendary. All the guests receive special attention, the soda glasses are never empty, and you won’t need to ask for hot pepper for your soup or bread for your stew – they are delivered automatically.
Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
Regulars are not the only ones to grab hold of the doorknob, there is a constant flow of tourists following their guide books, who look suspiciously at the pork hocks, hum in approval, take photos and, are surprised by the good English Mr Orbán speaks. There is no slow and articulate “ká-posz-ta”, but “cabbage” when Aussies pop by.

Were the opening hours longer, nothing would stop the chat above the cooked beef in sour cherry sauce, since there are more stories at Kádár than cobblestones in Klauzál Square. Here, time stands still, you won’t be playing with your phone, rather you’ll want to soak up the vibe. Plus there is the task of tasting the delicious food.

Photo: László Balkányi - We Love Budapest
Katika, one of the “little girls” (as the owner refers to the waitresses) has been working here for 38 years. We are fairly certain that hundreds of local boys have been smitten with this nice waitress, whose son, Sándor Bárdosi is an Olympic champion wrestler. Kádár has a multitude of ties to sports: Gergely Kiss, three-time Olympic champion water polo player was raised in Klauzál Square, hence the entire Hungarian men’s water polo team turns up at the restaurant regularly.
Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
So how exactly is one admitted to the hall of fame at Kádár? It would be naivety to think that it’s enough for a celebrity/guest to bring an autographed promo shot and voliá, they are placed on the wall. Mr Orbán explained that only the true regulars make it up on the wall – those with a history at the restaurant who’ve been there through laughter and tears… and of course great lunches! While we don’t have the space to list all the members of this prestigious gallery of photos but they include great Hungarian actors to respected diplomats. There are lots of foreign celebrities as well, so don’t be surprised if you recognise Marcello Mastroianni on a faded photo, or a Kossuth Prize-winning cinematographer or a Nobel Prize winning writer.
Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
When the owner of Kádár is in the middle of storytelling, some of the people at other tables join in. “Do you remember, Sándor? How great that was, Katika!” For the regulars, dropping by is all about revisiting treasured shared moments, but for anyone who just wants to visit for a great meal – the atmosphere will be charming all the same.