A mainstay of the Hungarian dinner table, lecsó – the Magyar version of ratatouille, shakshuka or menemen – is a saucy stew of tomatoes, peppers, onion and paprika. Some swear it’s best with eggs, sausage, rice, beans and spices, while others prefer it simple with bread or cooked in a cauldron. There are as many variations as Hungarian grandmothers. But being a dish that is best homemade, high-quality lecsó is not always easy to find in restaurants. Here we collate the best places in Budapest where lecsó is as tasty as at any Hungarian home.
Arany Tacskó bistro (bezárt)
If you happen to have a dachshund, do pop into Arany Tacskó (the Golden Dachshund), as you will receive a discount. This fun place in District VIII is eclectic at its best, with out-of-place but amusing pictures on the walls, old rugs, modern furniture, homely flavours and attentive service. They offer lecsó every day of the week, with varying toppings such as egg or mangalica pork sausage.
Price: 1,200-1,800 forints
A Séf utcája
A Séf utcája is an outrageously good spot in the Downtown Market, operating as a traditional deli and butcher’s shop in an authentic environment. Every Thursday is lecsó day here, which means that they cook up a whole cauldron, and everyone is welcome for a serving. The toppings always vary, sometimes it is a classic version, other times the stew is enhanced with mangalica pork bacon or roast pork. The lecsó here is perfectly saucy and best consumed with the chef's ever-fresh yeast bread.
Price: 1,700 forints
Bárkert Bistro is in the southern wing of Várkert Bazaar, with an elegant yet casual interior, featuring ceiling-high windows, mirrors, gilded chandeliers and plenty of plants. Its chic atmosphere is reminiscent of a grand café. Bárkert Bistro’s lecsó is a bit different from the classic version. Various kinds of paprika and tomatoes mingle with sour onions in the stew, and the centrepiece is mangalica pork sausage, with characteristic but not paprika-heavy spices, somewhat reminiscent of an English sausage.
Price: 2,750 forints
The latest hangout on Bartók Béla út, Buda's own version of Pest’s Madách tér, is a restaurant, bar, apartment and botanical garden in one. BÉLA serves a pleasantly saucy but hearty lecsó, available in different variations: with sausage and freshly made bread, or with eggs and sour cream. The latter is best for vegetarians, but both are flavourful and traditional.
Price: 1,440-1,660 forints
Inside the prestigious Corinthia Hotel, Bock Bistro is a true classic. Chef Lajos Bíró is legendary and he believes that “every chef needs to know how to make a delicious Hungarian meal, and then enhance it with a twist”. Here, a hearty and rich lecsó is served with style in a small cauldron with sausage. Best sprinkled with spicy paprika, it is very filling, even though it features among the appetisers on the menu. You should still have room for a few slices of bread with it, too.
Price: 2,400 forints
Traditional Hungarian flavours dominate at one of the most atmospheric eateries on Wesselényi utca: Gettó Gulyás, where lunchtime is always busy thanks to the great-value daily specials. The lecsó here is not too fatty and features homely flavours. It’s all very tasty, especially if you add spicy paprika. To accompany it with something sweet, wash it down with raspberry cordial.
Price: 1,720 forints
The forerunner of Hadik used to be a haunt for many prominent Magyar literary artists in the golden days. In more recent times, this historic café reopened with a new, more modern interior, but with the same mission: to be a meeting spot for Budapest's artists. Hadik’s extremely hearty lecsó comes served in a small, worn mini cooking pot. You can order it with sausage and eggs, but keeping vegetarians in mind, classic versions also feature. Hadik's lecsó is saucy but not too fatty, perfect for dunking your bread as much as you want.
Price: with egg, 1,290 forints; with spicy sausage and egg, 1,990 forints
Stark white tablecloths, deep brown wooden furniture, an attentive staff and lecsó made from century-old recipes – Pane Vino in District XII represents old-fashioned Magyar cuisine and the bygone milieu of Buda-side elegance. Their famous double lecsó comes with mangalica pork sausage and fresh, homemade bread. The vegetables are not overcooked and the portions are so big that a lecsó here might even beat one made by a Hungarian grandma.
Do ask the staff about its history.
Price: 1,800 forints
St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar
The chef at St. Andrea comes from Békéscsaba in south-east Hungary, where lecsó and sausage go hand in hand. It is therefore only natural that this dish is a big favourite here and a fixture on the menu. The presentation is beautiful, with each element, from various types of tomatoes and paprika to eggs boiled precisely at 64 °C, is proof of professionalism and extra enthusiasm. Each bite is splendid, and the accompanying fresh pastry raises the quality even higher. The lecsó here is new-wave, but still based on tradition.
Price: 3,600 forints
Törökméz is a big favourite of ours; their great breakfasts, excellent coffees and homely atmosphere entice us to the Buda side every now and then. You can order your lecsó here with eggs and bulgur and, of course, it doesn't want for sausage either. Bread comes with your serving, best for mopping all the sauce from the plate when you finish.
Price: 1,950 forints
Slowly but steadily, the Tama restaurant on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út has grown to be a true fine-dining restaurant, mostly focusing on traditional Hungarian recipes with a twist. Their lecsó is exemplary. Thanks to cutting-edge kitchen technology and much creativity, familiar flavours come in a whole new form, with quail eggs or tomato granita, for instance. Different types of paprika and tomato feature in one dish, making the lecsó here is a whole experience.
Price: 3,050 forints