Budapest has lots of touristy traditional eateries that locals hardly ever enter unless they work there, but you’ll mainly find Magyars at these classic spots. The service might not come with a smile, and there may not be an English-language menu available, but if you’re looking for genuine Hungarian cuisine amid a crowd of genuine Hungarians, these places all regularly satisfy city residents with regional food cooked right – and best of all, their prices are fair (or even cheap) when compared with downtown eateries that primarily aim to attract foreigners.
Kék Rózsa Restaurant
Sited on Wesselényi Street near the Dohány Street Synagogue, Kék Rózsa is among the best in terms of value for money and portions. The two-decades-old restaurant specializes in homestyle cuisine with thematic options like the daily menu, the Hungarian menu, the winter menu, or the Budapest menu – the latter is an especially good choice for foreigners interested in sampling the traditional dishes of local gastronomy. Offering 850-forint midday meals, Kék Rózsa is one of the favorite lunch spots of office clerks working nearby, so consider visiting outside of rush hours; the evening is a good time to try some of Hungary’s classic flavors here. Eating our way through a variety of traditional creations, we started off with a big bowl of chicken broth (800 HUF): those with a small appetite might want to stop with this soup, as it’s indeed as filling as the description on the menu suggests. We followed the soup with a generous portion of authentic Wiener schnitzel (1,500 HUF), which was so huge it could hardly fit on our massive plate, and combined it with our side dish of choice, parsley potatoes. If you can so much as think about dessert at this point (we definitely could), get the Hungarian pancakes filled with cocoa. Our second round consisted of some steaming goulash soup, grilled pork chops called “cigánypecsenye” (the specialty of the house) with spicy baked potatoes and salad, and a cup of divine Somló sponge cake made from tender sponge cake, silky chocolate sauce, and fluffy whipped cream. The second entrée was somewhat smaller than the first, but the three-course combination cost just 2,900 forints, which is a pretty decent bargain.
Kék Rózsa Restaurant
Budapest 1077, Wesselényi utca 9 Website
With its checkered tablecloths and booths that can comfortably accommodate an entire family, Pozsonyi Tavern entices patrons from all over the world with its homey atmosphere, but it’s mostly people from the neighborhood that crowd this corner eatery of District XIII. While most of the entrées come in at under 2,000 forints, this eatery offers some sumptuous meals at a somewhat higher price range, but upon seeing the size of these dishes, you’ll probably agree that they’re worth the investment. The menu features all of the important classics, in multiple languages: we ordered the Újházy chicken soup and Jókai-style bean soup, which was served in a tiny cauldron and thus deserves five stars for presentation. Costing a mere 780 forints, both soup options were warm and extremely substantial. For our main course, we picked beef stew with Hungarian galuska dumplings (1,400 HUF, plus side dish) and Wiener schnitzel from pork tenderloin (1,700 HUF) with parsley potatoes (520 HUF). The delicious, juicy stew seemed a bit small at first, but halfway through we were forced to admit that it was just the right amount. On the other hand, we were convinced from the start that there was no way we were going to finish the gigantic plate of Wiener schnitzel. For dessert we got the Somló sponge cake and Gundel-style pancake (650 HUF), which also earned top marks for visuals.
Budapest 1137, Radnóti Miklós u. 38
Situated on Bécsi Avenue in the Óbuda neighborhood, the 115-year-old Kerék Tavern is a true veteran. Stepping inside the corner building, you can immediately feel the restaurant’s unadulterated old-time vibes resonating from the checked tablecloths and wooden panels. We got right down to business upon arrival, ordering some of the most promising items on the menu. First, we tried the eatery’s far-famed fried pork brains (1,490 HUF) with a side of rice and peas known as “rizibizi” by most Hungarian schoolchildren (450 HUF). Next we had some excellent broth with liver dumplings (690 HUF) and two entrées: we sampled the Óbuda-style roast (1,890 HUF), which could have done with a little less time in the pan, and the Kerék roast in a skillet (2,790 HUF) with a wonderfully seasoned vegetable mix. As for dessert, we chose Somló sponge cake with vanilla ice cream (790 HUF), and we topped it all off with curd cheese dumplings served with homemade strawberry jam (890 HUF) – the latter was our absolute favorite. Fans of traditional Gypsy music can listen to lively tunes from 6pm except for Sundays.
Kerék Tavern Budapest 1034, Bécsi út 103 Website
Downtown’s diverse District VIII is continually under renovation in the past few years, emerging as a more modern part of town, yet Rákóczi Restaurant remains dedicated to an old-fashioned style and traditional Hungarian cuisine. Saying this is a welcoming establishment would be an understatement: it almost serves as a second home for frequently returning regulars. Thanks to the friendly atmosphere (and the cheap house beer), the restaurant is a favorite hangout of residents in the neighboring buildings, but tourist groups in search of hearty Hungarian food are not a rare sight either, coming here to dine amid an authentic ambience of red-and-white checkered tablecloths, paprika garlands, colorful pottery, and Hungarian hussar regalia. Dining here feels like a real feast of delectable local dishes like Alföld-style goulash (750 HUF), red wine-braised beef stew with sheep-cheese dumplings (1,390 HUF) and sirloin steak with fried onions (2,100 HUF). While spending an evening at this fine eatery is an authentic experience for the most part, the Selena Gomez pop tunes blasting from the TV certainly didn’t help provide a traditional atmosphere during our most recent visit... but nevertheless, the excellent food, the friendly staff, and the low prices are well worth dropping by for – at this inner-city csárda, you can get a taste of what genuine Hungarian hospitality is like.
Budapest 1084, Rákóczi tér 9 Website
Located on Szófia Street, Regős Tavern is a family business through and through. Péter Regős, the head of the eatery and his clan, comes from a family of artists, but he decided to launch a catering enterprise rather than follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. Over the years he continued to climb higher and higher on the career ladder, working at a number of well-known and popular restaurants. After a period of honing his skills, he finally opened his own place, converting a run-down coal cellar into an inviting family joint. Lunch is a very important meal at Regős: there’s no set lunch menu, so patrons can choose from six kinds of soup and 17 main dishes to put together the perfect lunch combination, even on weekends. Péter believes that reasonably priced lunches should be available for families that can’t sit around the same table on weekdays. We opted for Jókai style bean soup (800 HUF) and a bowl of classic goulash (900 HUF), both of which tasted divine and familiar, being spiced up with pork trotters, sausages, and tender bits of meat. The hot paprika sauce that locals like to pair these dishes with came in a separate container, giving us a chance to season our meal just the way we like it. Having attempted to finish off a whole plate of Brasov-style pork stew (1,800 HUF) and paprika chicken (1,900 HUF) with salad, we can attest to the fact that visitors can count on tried-and-tested flavors, as well as sizeable portions here, not to mention the exceptionally high quality of the service. No wonder that the restaurant has even piqued the interest of the New York Times.
Budapest 1068, Szófia u. 33 Website
If you can believe the anecdotes of regular guests, Tüköry – located on downtown Hold Street – started out as a shop selling alcoholic beverages, later being transformed into a pub bearing the iconic name, and eventually the full-service restaurant we know and love today. This eatery is a real old-timer that has stood strong in the face of changing fashions, and has remained a favorite of epicures from around the neighborhood: often stopping by for lunch or dinner, those who live and/or work in District V adore this place for its special ambience, reliable quality, and consistently impeccable flavors. The same lady has been in command of the kitchen for the past 25(!) years, keeping the recipes intact and making sure that everything is as perfect and delicious as the day before. Attracting patrons from near and far, the restaurant’s legendary Csókakő sausage soup with egg (930 HUF) is a great testament to that fact, while the goulash (950 HUF) is another prime example of gorgeous homestyle cooking, just like the red wine-braised beef stew (1,620 HUF). From the wide array of fried foods, we picked Kárpáti-style potato-crusted chicken (1,420 HUF) drenched in a garlicky sauce with cheese and sour cream, and a big platter of turkey stuffed with cheese and mushroom. Moving onto desserts after such a hearty meal was not easy, but we simply had to try the renowned Somló sponge cake (650 HUF). We strongly recommend Tüköry to visitors from Hungary and beyond, to families and groups of friends, any day of the week.
Tüköry Restaurant Budapest 1054, Hold utca 15 Website
This highly esteemed establishment in the Kőbánya district of Budapest has been a tavern since 1906, having operated in its present form since 1985. A father-son duo runs the popular, top-quality restaurant, serving the staples of traditional Hungarian cuisine and some international classics. Torockó has been a longtime favorite of ours, with the restaurant’s terrace, open during the summertime, holding a special place in our hearts. We didn’t mind that our recent visit took place in winter, as the dishes tasted just as fabulous amid the refined and understated interior. Browsing through the menu, you can find a staggering 120(!) options on the pages, but if you have trouble locating the dish of your dreams, the staff is happy to prepare anything you’d like – this kind of professional attitude and dedication absolutely impressive. The goulash (990 HUF) and the Újházy meat soup with tender vegetables (850 HUF) come in smart little pots with a ladle, and both are substantial enough for two. As for entrées, we went for Torockó’s own fried Mangalica dish – which can be prepared from other types of meat upon request – with onion-infused tartar sauce and grated cheese, as well as our top pick, veal with paprika stew and Slovakian dumplings topped with sheep’s cheese and thick sour cream (1,600 HUF). The portions are served on gigantic plates the size of a 32-cm pizza, so we’d be surprised to see any guest finish their main dish in one sitting. Strongly recommended for those living in the area, people with a huge appetite, and anyone else who appreciates the honest cuisine of Torockó.
Budapest 1105, Martinovics tér 2 Website
Built in 1935, this revered retro restaurant is a cozy location, awaiting guests on Szépvölgyi Avenue way up in the Buda Hills. Myriad pictures on the walls take guests back to an earlier time when the area was much more pristine. Since May the original owners have been back at the helm once again, which the locals say is a welcome change. If you feel parched after the long trek, try the ale called Thomas Menner from Pannonhalma, made in line with an old recipe, or the vintages of Babarczi Estate, also based in the Central Hungarian town. We found both the Bakony style meat soup (with beef, wide, irregular-shaped “lebbencs” pasta, mushrooms, and horseradish with vinegar; 990 HUF) and the Újházy chicken soup (890 HUF) wonderfully filling. The other dishes we tried were Somogyi-style grilled loin with potato dumplings and roasted onions (2,250 HUF), fried calf’s feet with rice and tartar sauce (1,970 HUF), and braised beef in a piquant brown sauce with carrots and bread dumplings (2,050 HUF). Despite the fact that we were totally stuffed by the end, we couldn’t say no to a slice of tasty pumpkin and poppyseed strudel (the filling always depends on the season), and washed it down with some exquisite coffee. This family-friendly eatery swarms with hikers and local residents all year round.
Budapest 1025, Szépvölgyi út 155 Website
This longstanding laid-back tavern on the edge of town has been welcoming guests ever since it was founded in 1933. After the stormy events of the 20th century, the eatery is now in good hands, and has been for the past 15 years, demonstrated by the fact that the impeccably dressed owner is part of the serving team, taking guests’ orders every day. The interior has a characteristic charm with the namesake stuffed eagle above the door, but there’s nothing better than eating and lounging in the garden when summer arrives. The cuisine here is as professional as it can be: the lovely golden-colored broth with liver dumplings (590 HUF) is cooked over a slow fire for 24 hours, while the Hungarian mushroom soup is fantastically thick and creamy. The specialty of the house is Mátrai style potato-crusted chicken (1,790 HUF, plus side dish), and if you’re up to the challenge of trying some arguably weird stuff, you should go for rooster-testicle stew (1,890 HUF, plus side dish). The curd-cheese dumplings (three for 690 HUF) are still fresh and steaming when they arrive at your table. Finding the restaurant by car can be a bit of a headache, but if you come on foot or by public transport, all you will have to do is take a short walk from the Kelenföld terminus of metro line 4. It takes a while to get here from central Budapest, but you won’t regret making the journey.
Budapest 1118, Rimaszombati út 7
Fülemüle is one of those establishments that takes pride in adhering to age-old recipes of Hungary’s traditional culinary favorites. The restaurant is known for its goose dishes and unique variations on “sólet”, a beloved Hungarian-Jewish dish. Found amid the bustling downtown area of Pest, Fülemüle is a short stroll from the city’s majestic Grand Boulevard. The staff is very friendly and attentive. With old-fashioned brown tiles, retro-style lamps and floral cushions, the eatery’s interior exudes an authentic, old tavern vibe. The menu hasn’t been altered for decades, featuring only the best regional wines, and some of the best and tastiest Hungarian and Jewish treats made from first-class ingredients.
Budapest 1085, Kőfaragó utca 5 Website