Let’s face it; if you’re not Hungarian and never have been to the country before, you probably know one word about Hungarian cuisine: Goulash. And for damn good reason! Goulash is the star plate of Hungary, and the perfect soul-warming dish when you’re freezing your limbs off, like I was. However, there’s much, much more than what “meats” the HUNGRY eye (puns intended)! So, I’m gonna give all you hungry in Hungary travelers an overview of some must-eat foods, and where to find the best of the best in Budapest, on a budget!
Let’s start with the basic.
Goulash: A meat based stew jam packed with potatoes, veggies and love. As locals describe it, “made best by Grandma.”
Find it: Kiado Kocsmo for the more “stewy soup” version, and Frici Papa for the marinated meat version. Warning: Frici Papa is as traditional Hungarian as it gets. Don’t expect friendly waiters or fancy decor!
Langos: Fried dough topped with sour cream, cheese, and any other fattening topping you care to pile on. A typical Hungarian street food.
Stuffed Cabbage or “Magyaros Töltött Káposta” : Accompanied with sour cream (and if you’re like me, spicy sauce), this meat-filled beauty is a must.
Find it: The best one I had was from the Budapest Christmas Market. However, since that’s not around all year, you can also get a great one at Great Market Hall! Or, if you want a sit down restaurant, get your cabi-zzle at one of the restaurants listed here.
Paprika Chicken: No guessing here. Chicken marinated in a creamy sauce made of Hungary’s favorite spice: paprika.
Find it: Kazimir Bistro in the old Jewish quarter. YUmmmMMMm.
Hungarian crépes, or “Palacsinta“: Slightly thicker than the typical French crépe, pack this baby with as much as you can, sweet or salty. The classic? The overwhelming decadent gundel, filled with chocolate sauce, rum, walnuts, cream and a cherry on top. OY VEY.
Find it: Nagyi Palacsintázója. My Hungarian friend brought me to this place. It’s as authentic, no-frills Hungarian as it gets. Kinda reminds me of the IHOP of Hungary? LOL. But no, it’s not a chain. It’s a mama and papa shop that has opened up a couple locations in Budapest due to its success; the only people you are sure to find in here are Hungarian families, big groups of Hungarian friends, and the occasional brave pair on a date.
Chimney Cake or “Kurtoskalaces“: Cinnamon sugar doughy-goodness baked around a pipin’ hot wooden cylinder. AKA, the most fun pastry I’ve ever eaten.
Find it: There’s no denying, it’s best at the Christmas Market, made steamin’ hot on the streets of big Buda. But again, if that’s not an option, go to Molnar’s chimney cake bakery, open year round.
Cottage Cheese and Cherry Strudel or “Rétes“: Sweet and tart, creamy yet fruity, flaky and buttery. Must I say more?
Find it: Rétasház, aka the “First Strudel House of Pest.” Or, if the Christmas Market is around…well, you guys know how much I love the Christmas Market.
There’s plenty more Hungarian classics that you should look out for, like “Meggy Leves” (cold cherry soup), “Túrós Csusza” (Hungarian cheese noodles), and the classic Fisherman’s Soup, just to name a few! I’ve chosen my faves to feature, however they all deserve a Hungary try. But wait! There’s more! I always like to mix up my “hungary” travels with a blend of traditional dishes (seen above) and modern spots. Here are my two absolute fave modern spots with a Hungarian flare:
Bors GasztroBar: The best soups, stews and gourmet sandwiches in Budapest. No questions asked.
If I wanted to become a creature of habit, I would’ve returned to this place every single day of my stay in Budapest. This soup bar is run by a couple of gourmet chefs, who retired from the dog-eat-dog Michelin culinary scene to open up THIS. And dammit, they did a good job. They feature a new selection of innovative soups, stews and fancy sandwiches every day, based on local products and spur-of-the- moment innovation. Super casual, super-duper cheap, and super-dee-duper DEEEEELICIOUS.
Find it: Kazinczy u. 10, Pest (Old Jewish Quarter)
Hummus Bar: Old Jewish Budapest Meets New Modern Israel
Thirsty? Let’s Talk Drinks.
Palinka. The necessary shot.
It’s STRONG. Be prepared. Just like any type of alcohol, there’s better and worse. If you’re going to try it, try a high quality one! You can find Palinka in any Hungarian bar, but not any Hungarian bartender will give you the love and attention you deserve, to assure you are trying a good one. Go to Hintalo, and ask them for their recommendation. They are pros. Not to mention the bar is adorably vintage and awesome.
Find it: Bacsó Béla u. 15. And while you’re there, drink…
Coffee Beer. No, not a a Hungarian specialty, but my personal obsession.
As I already mentioned in my last Budapest post, I became downright addicted to this stuff.
Find it: Hübris Beer Brewers (they are located in a garage in Budapest, so…) find it at good ol’ Hintalo, and get it after your shot of Palinka!
Cherry Beer. A Hungarian specialty.
Hungary loves their cherries! Cherry soup, cherry strudels, cherry crépes…why not cherry BEER! It’s unexpectedly amazing. Not too sweet, not too sour, and still (somewhat) tastes like beer. And cheap, too!
Instant: For Your Wild Night Out
If you’re doing Budapest right, at least a few times you should say “where they flying eff am I”. What exactly do I mean by that? A little bit of grunge, a-lot-a-bit of trippy art, random vintage articles meant to be “decor,” some good music and killer vibes. I can assure you, if you go to Instant, you’ll check of all of ’em (and then some). It’s Budapest’s biggest ruin bar, but it’s not the size that makes it so awesome; it’s the quality. Whether you are looking for a chill space to sit down with friends and talk, a nice game of bar foosball, a pump-up live DJ to get yo’ groove on, or a down n’ dirty underground electronic shi*show…you’ve got it all.
Find it: 1065 Nagymező utca 38
Looking for a hostel? Go to Instant Groove (Instant’s hostel) conveniently RIGHT above the bar! No commute home needed. Not to mention, the staff is beyond knowledgeable, the price is right, and the vibe is downright awesome.
So, who’s hungry for some Hungarian? Have you tried any of these dishes? Want to? Tell me yo’ hungry thoughts!
Food (all cheap & local!)
Bors GasztroBar (Kazinczy u. 10)
Kazimir (Kazinczy u. 34)
Frici Papa (Király u. 55)
Retro Langos Bufe (Podmaniczky Frigyes tér 4)
Hummus Bar (Október 6. u. 19)
Hintalo (1084, Bacsó Béla u. 15)