After Hungary's sugar-dusted chimney cakes were turned into ice-cream cones earlier this year, we thought the potential of “kürtőskalács” – a traditional treat of the city’s winter festivals – was exploited to the maximum extent. However, the evolution of this delicate dough seems unstoppable, and now the rolled treat made yet another daring debut at Hoppácska in downtown Budapest, in freshly invented savory and sweet variations including chimney cakes filled with piquant Hungarian lecsó, spicy meatballs, zesty cottage-cheese spread, smooth chocolate cream, and other unconventional toppings.
An assortment of local and international restaurants, cool cafés, and tiny confectioneries flank Budapest’s renowned Ráday Street, which is experiencing a renaissance of culinary havens, as a number of freshly renovated and newly opened hangouts mushroom along the prominent lane. Amid all of the different dining destinations, now an innovative eatery welcomes those who don’t count calories by proffering assorted “kürtőskalács” (“chimney cake” in Hungarian) specialties with a twist – instead of only offering the traditional sweet pastries, this place reinvented the specialty to also include savory versions that can contain salty fillings.
Hoppácska made its debut in central Budapest with summer’s last blast, when two friends, Zsolt and Sebi, started living their dream by shifting from behind their corporate computer screens to immerse in the local gastronomy scene with the aim of bringing back pure, additive-free flavors in unique combinations inside a small store in central Budapest. The result of this vision is an understated standing-only eatery, but those who walk through the door will immediately feel the welcoming vibe and cozy atmosphere that resonates between the rustic red-brick walls and timber ceiling that adorn the interior.
Chimney cakes are made fresh behind the counter, where two wooden containers are filled with the baked-bread specialties that are made in sweet and savory versions, while from behind a glass, we can select a few from Hoppácska’s regularly changing daily selection of fillings.
Atop the counter, a black chalkboard presents the optional alternatives and prices for mixing and matching the available ingredients: a chimney cake without filling costs 300 forints, and for a sweet or savory topping we pay an extra 290 forints. Besides a number of basic offers, the menu boasts premium-category fillings that cost 690 forints extra on top of the plain chimney cake.
Since our taste buds were ready for anything at the beginning of the day, we kicked off our culinary journey by opting for a premium Bavarian-inspired version (990 HUF) that immediately worked up our appetite. We were served a round-shaped chimney cake that’s vertically cut into two pieces, and one side was filled with a thick-textured Bavarian sausage, a handful of beer-infused sauerkraut, luscious bacon pieces, and sweet mustard sauce, while the other half was delivered plain (you can use the unfilled side of the bread as a spoon if you don’t want to deal with ordinary cutlery).Before moving onto some of the more modest chimney-cake fillings, we tried another one of the restaurant’s premium 990-forint specialties served with mouthwatering meatballs, delicately garnished tomato topping, and finely cut flakes of a local cheese specialty – this intriguing mix of ingredients certainly gave a piquant flavor to the freshly made meat. As we tasted some of the restaurant’s signature treats, we plunged into Hoppácska’s more understated savory snacks, including chimney cake filled with flavorful Hungarian lecsó (a pepper stew similar to ratatouille), followed by seriously piquant sausage cream, and lastly kőrözött – a classic Hungarian paprika-infused cottage-cheese spread that’s also suitable for vegetarian guests – ordering any of these meals will set you back just 590 forints.
Before we started pampering our senses with the dessert selection, we washed down the hefty meals with a glass of locally made syrup-based soda – Zsolt recommended mixing the ginger with the mint-and-lime flavored drink for a refreshing feel. However, guests who want to boost their caffeine intake can get a bottle of Tikkadt Szöcske (a local beverage made of kola nut) or a cup of aromatic coffee.
Even though we thought we won’t have enough room for the sweets that are served in crispy cinnamon-and-sugar-coated chimney cake bread, the first bite of a smooth chocolate-filled delicacy – containing a blend of fresh cream and chocolate with 70% cocoa – was enough to convince us that we just can’t stop savoring this toothsome treat. At this point we had to stop ourselves from devouring a plateful of this velvety sweet, so we could crown this culinary adventure with a colorful dessert filled with a fine raspberry concoction, and this mildly sour kick to the smooth and sweet cream was a perfect conclusion of our omnivorous odyssey.
Typically, guests at Hoppácska are provided with a choice of 4-5 types of both the sweet and savory fillings, offering an appetizing repertoire of about ten different meals on the menu at a time. Almost all of the ingredients used for the fillings and the dough derive from local producers at varied regions of Hungary, and we can certainly feel how the fresh fruits and vegetables, plus the local dairy and meat produce, combine into clearly flavored fantasies. What’s more, the owners try to minimize the use of plastic-made items across the eatery, so that guests who prefer keeping their hands clean get wooden cutlery, and soon recycled paper trays will serve as plates.When setting up the place, the owners also considered families with small kids, so children are offered a selection of toys, although we noticed that the eating counter is at an elevation that is too high for children to reach. Those arriving with dogs are welcome inside the shop with their furry friends as a separate corner is devoted to canines, where a bowl of water is provided for four-legged guests.
With its welcoming atmosphere, filling treats, reasonable rates, and with the management’s health-conscious approach, we definitely recommend Hoppácska for those who would like to taste Hungary’s traditional treat with a twist, whether you are seeking a late breakfast, a quick lunch, or a distinctive dinner.
Address: Budapest 1092, Ráday Street 33
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday, 11am-8pm