These days, most new restaurants in Budapest offer either gourmet cuisine or street food, with very few mid-range eateries popping up to provide simple-but-substantial meals sold at fair prices. However, more everyday-dining destinations are starting to appear around town, naturally without much fanfare, and we wholeheartedly support this trend. One of the most promising unpretentious newcomers is Gettó Gulyás on Wesselényi Street in Pest’s Jewish Quarter, specializing in varied “pörkölt” stews using old-time recipes and ordinary regional ingredients.
Similarly to goulash, pörkölt is one of Hungary’s better-known national dishes – a type of stew made with boneless meat, paprika, and vegetables. This dish has numerous variations from different regions, and can be made with any kind of meat: beef, lamb, chicken, pork, or even game. The stew is usually rather heavy, served with side dishes such as pasta or nokedli dumplings, and pickles to give the dish a sour touch. However, even though pörkölt is a common dish, most Hungarian restaurants in Budapest don’t seem to pay as much attention to it as goulash – until now.
Now occupying the space held for many years by Szóda Bar – a popular favorite with its orange comics-covered walls and fizzy vodka drinks called “fény”. However, the bar lost a lot of its liveliness recently, as the Jewish Quarter became a nightlife nexus with many new clubs and ruin pubs opening in the area, and so Szóda’s owners reluctantly conceded that a change was necessary. Thus they decided to transform Szóda’s rear section into a modern kitchen, and build a reinterpreted bourgeois interior behind the pub’s large windows, introducing inlaid sideboards and Zsolnay porcelain to give the place a slightly more refined feel.
We can enter Gettó Gulyás (“Ghetto Goulash”) through two doors – the entrance facing the bar might be more exciting, since then we can step into the restaurant through an apartment door. The design is surprising and different than what we’re used to: the walls are covered with corrugated-metal sheets, creating a nice contrast with the wooden vintage furniture. To tell the truth, the silver walls can seem a bit weird at first, but they don’t ruin the overall atmosphere.
The chef of Gettó Gulyás grew up next to Szekszárd; for him, it was natural that grandma cooked using whatever she found growing in the yard: potatoes, carrots, chicken, spices. The flavors of the countryside are close to his heart – he knows what good ground pepper tastes like, and knows no compromise when its comes to meat quality. The owners spent January tasting, experimenting, and improving their recipes to find the most homey and authentic Hungarian flavors. This is not a place for haute cuisine; the menu doesn’t feature the words lyophilized or sous vide. Here, we get homemade bread, cracklings, onion, gravy, and grease – what a bold concept!The service is kind and professional, although the dishes could arrive a bit sooner. While waiting, we can drink a fröccs or munch on some cracklings as an appetizer. We tasted a homey chicken soup with vermicelli and töltike (790 HUF), followed by two large marrowbones with wilted garlic (920 HUF), the contents of which we smeared on toast.There are 14 types of pörkölt on the menu, featuring meat ranging from chicken to venison, but there are vegetarian versions with beans and mushrooms, as well. It’s difficult to choose, but we are convinced to order our two favorites: venison pörkölt with juniper and bread dumplings (2,880 HUF), and veal liver pörkölt with parsley potatoes (2,120 HUF), with sides fried in fat. This results in a rich taste, giving the side dishes a little more flair. The venison proved to be tender, and the veal liver reminded us of nostalgic flavors. We were similarly impressed by the veal paprikash with homemade sour cream, and fried cottage cheese pasta wrapped in bacon (2,780 HUF). For those who can handle even more, we also recommend the cottage cheese dumplings (920 HUF), the homemade krémes pastry (920 HUF), and the sponge cake with real chocolate sauce (920 HUF). On weekdays, they also offer a lunch menu, including a soup, a main dish, dessert, and our choice of drink of our choice (small fröccs, homemade-syrup soda, or lemonade) for just 1,300 forints.
All in all, Gettó Gulyás is a fine addition to Budapest’s selection of mid-range Hungarian restaurants, recommended to locals and city visitors alike.