If you do a little research about Hungarian food, you’ll start to see some common themes. Words like starchy, heavy, and fattening will come up regularly. It’s heavy on the meat and bread, and light on the vegetables. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that ordering a “salad” in Hungary meant getting a plate full of pickled vegetables! Even in recent years, with imported foods showing up in more stores, you’re still hard pressed to find leafy greens anywhere.
Word on the street is that much of the food here is made with lard, making it extra filling and heavy, and some would say extra yummy. The occasional meal where my plate is loaded up solely with meat and starches definitely hits the spot every once in awhile, but I also like to fit into my clothes and feel good about life.
So we adopted a go-out-twice-a-week rule for Eating in Budapest, and I’m happy to report that we’re more or less the same size as when we arrived in this city. I think it was a smart move, because I’m here to tell you that I saw with my own two eyes a pork dish that came with rice AND potatoes, and they also brought out a bread basket. SO MANY STARCHES! What is this madness?
As unhealthy as it sounds, Hungarian food can actually be extremely delicious. If you look in the right places and visit the right restaurants (and cook some healthier meals for yourself in between trips to restaurants!), you’ll fall in love with the local cuisine. The paprika dishes are out of this world, the duck dishes STILL make special appearances my occasional food dreams, and the local lunch institution known as the “Napi Menü” is every budget traveler’s fantasy.
In this blog post, I’ll show you a few of our best experiences of eating in Budapest. I should note here that there will be a conspicuous absence of sweets. Don’t worry, we’re not off sugar. Not even close. The cookies and cakes in Budapest are just so damn delicious that they deserve their own blog post. Stay tuned for a post on desserts next week. Without further ado… let’s eat!
Hungarikum: Best Restaurant in Budapest
Every once in awhile, you visit a restaurant that knocks your socks off. For Kevin’s birthday, we decided to try out Hungarikum Bistro, one of the top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor in Budapest. Normally, I’m more impressed with small eateries that are off the beaten path, outside the major tourist areas. The kind where you have to order your food using hand signals and broken attempts at using the local language.
Once in a blue moon, though, a touristy popular restaurant far exceeds my expectations. Hungarikum has everything: incredibly friendly service, wonderfully delicious food, live music, and a few extra freebies that they throw in to make your meal extra special. PRO TIP: Hungarikum is extremely popular, even on random weekdays at lunchtime, so reservations are absolutely a must-do.
Without further ado, here’s a photo tour of our meal at Hungarikum:
If you’re in town, you definitely should make a reservation well ahead of time and arrive hungry. Visit their website to reserve a spot. The total damage for this entire dinner was just 7810 Forint, which is about $29.
Kisharang: Second Best Restaurant in Budapest
If you’re in the mood for something a little more casual or didn’t manage to snag a reservation at Hungarikum, Kisharang is a great alternative. It doesn’t have a huge presence on Trip Advisor like Hungarikum, but they have friendly service and serve up delicious Hungarian food at reasonable prices.
PRO TIP: Kisharang is cash only.
The Napi Menü: A Hungarian Institution
When you’re in Budapest, you have to try at least one Napi Menü, if only for the thrill of getting lunch at the most incredible bargain EVER. The Napi Menü is something restaurants cooked up to try to entice office workers to eat lunch at restaurants during the workweek. It’s served only during lunch hours on weekdays, and consists of 2 or 3 courses. Most times, a restaurant offers just a single Napi Menü option per day – there are no choices, and no substitutions. You eat what they’re serving.
It’s a little bit of a bummer to be robbed of your choices, but sometimes I like to just eat whatever’s being served. Plus at just $3-5, a 2 or 3-course meal is an absolute steal!
Here are a few of the Napi Menü lunches we had while we were in Budapest:
First Napi Menü experience, Nador Restaurant, which serves up 2 courses for 990 Forint (about $3.70) or 3 courses for 1350 Forint (about $5).
Our second, and definitely weirdest, Napi Menü was at Ruben’s Eatery. They serve up 3 courses for 890 Forint (about $3.30).
Our last, and maybe tastiest, Napi Menü stop was at Vendiak. They’re situated on a sunny little square that is perfect for people watching. For just 980 Forint (about $3.60), we got a glass of honey-lemon tea, soup, and a bowl of cheese ravioli. It was really tasty, definitely a good stop!
While Napi Menü lunches can be a great money-saving option on weekdays (you HAVE to do it at least once!), we think it’s definitely worth it to visit Hungarikum or Kisharang so you can pick out some of Hungary’s best dishes.
Langos: Hungary’s Most Unhealthy (and Delicious) Snack
It’s possible that I’ve insinuated that Hungarian food is not the most healthy in the world. Brace yourself – here’s the most unhealthy thing we ate while we were in town.
Langos are something of a local delicacy, and you’ll never find a festival in Budapest without at least two booths serving them. Sort of the savory cousin of the funnel cake, langos are just fried dough that is usually topped with sour cream and cheese. Ours also came with pork knuckle, jalepenos, caramelized onions, and paprika. It. Was. Delicious.
My Little Melbourne: Best Coffee We Had in Europe
I know sound like a broken record when I complain about the coffee in Europe. I’m happy to report that we finally stumbled upon a cafe where the coffee was delicious! My Little Melbourne is a cute little cafe located in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter that scores well on our coffee meter.
We Want to Hear From You!
Have you been to Budapest? What did you think of the food? Good? Bad? Heavy? Leave us a comment and let us know!