There is more to Hungarian food than just goulash. Although Budapest may not have the culinary reputation of European cities like Paris, London, or Barcelona, there’s plenty to keep any gourmand satisfied. The best Hungarian restaurants source the best ingredients locally, either serving up hearty traditional recipes or getting playful with their dishes.
Best for Fine Dining: Onyx
If you’re looking for the best, you can’t go wrong with Budapest’s only restaurant with two Michelin stars. Run under the direction of head chef Ádám Mészáros, Onyx offers two seasonal tasting menus in the evening. The first, “Within Our Borders,” features innovative dishes made from the best local ingredients, centered around game, local fish, or Mangalica pig. The second, “Beyond Our Borders,” offers a more cosmopolitan menu inspired by world cuisine using imported ingredients. You can also stop by for a “humble” lunch menu of three, four, or six courses from Thursday to Saturday.
Best for Traditional Hungarian Food: Náncsi Néni
This large restaurant with a leafy garden in the Buda Hills is popular with local families all year. The menu shifts with the seasons, but you can get staple Hungarian classics like spicy catfish soup or veal stew at any time. The inside is cozy with wood-paneled walls and shelves packed with homemade pickles cut into cute animal shapes (which you can order to accompany your meal). The portions here are generous, so you won’t leave hungry.
Best for Brunch: Szimply
Although it’s a matter of luck to grab a table in the morning at this tiny, brunch place hidden in a courtyard (they won’t take reservations), it’s worth the gamble for their seasonal breakfast dishes. If you prefer something savory, they have options like avocado toast or risotto, while those with a sweet tooth can tuck into artfully beautiful pancakes or oatmeal. Szimply is next door to Kontakt, one Budapest’s best new wave cafes, so you can also ask for a cup of their coffee to go with your brunch (they’ll even deliver it to your table).
Best for Street Food: Bors GasztroBár
Budapest’s street food scene has taken off, and if you’re looking for a bite on a budget, you can’t go wrong with Bors Gasztrobár. The specials change daily, but you can always get soups and baguettes, with pasta dishes and stews sometimes making a guest appearance. You can also always expect lines out the door of this gastro-street food bar, as locals and tourists alike are prepared to line up for their experimental creations, like coconut-chili pumpkin cream soup or French Lady baguettes made with spiced chicken breast, Emmentaler cheese, and rosemary-infused red onion jam.
Best for Celebrity Spotting: Pierrot Cafe & Restaurant
Pierrot is in a former 13th-century bakery up in the Castle District. It’s worth visiting for their refined Hungarian dishes alone, like pan-fried pike-perch served with cottage cheese ravioli and shrimp paprikás. However, since the 1980s it’s been a popular place for A-listers to dine. Budapest is a hub for movie shoots, so you may spot the odd celebrity here if you’re lucky. Otherwise, you can enjoy the delicacies on offer (which is worth the excursion anyway) while looking at the black and white headshots of the historic restaurant’s celebrity guests.
Best for Lunch: Csalogány 26
Although the interior of Csalogány 26 is bare-bones, nothing is lacking when it comes to the food. Csalogány 26 serves up exquisitely crafted tasting menus using the best local and seasonal ingredients. The menus change daily and this restaurant is a good option if you’re feeling spendy. However, you can still enjoy a culinary experience here on a budget if you come during the day and take advantage of their 3,100 forint, 3-course lunch menu.
Best for Goulash: Stand25
You can’t leave Hungary without trying some gulyás (goulash), a soup made with beef, potatoes and generous servings of paprika. Stand25 is easily the top places to try the Hungarian classic. Former Onyx chefs Tamás Széll (European Bocuse d’Or winner) and Szabina Szulló opened Stand25 in the Downtown Market, offering affordable, high-end dining. Although their menu is seasonal, you'll always be able to grab some goulash topped with crunchy celery and lemon seasoning.
Best for Wine Lovers: Borkonyha Wine Kitchen
Borkonyha is another Michelin-starred restaurant in downtown Budapest. The fresh ingredients and creative dishes may be the star of the show, but with over 200 Hungarian wines, wine lovers looking for fine dining may want to opt for a wine pairing with the degustation menu. Or you can go á la carte (if you have the chance to try one of their Mangalica pork dishes, do it, you won’t regret it) and peruse the extensive wine list instead. Despite its prestige and good food, the ambiance here is more laid back than other high-end dining restaurants in the city.
Best for Vegetarian Fine Dining: Costes Downtown
Vegetarians don’t have to feel left out of the fine dining scene at Costes Downtown. Herbivores can try the five-course vegetarian tasting menu at this centrally located, Michelin-starred restaurant. The menu changes seasonally, and each course focuses on one key ingredient, like Jerusalem artichoke or celeriac, coupled with an experimental palette of ingredients like Wakame, Ras el Hanout, or cider gel. Omnivores can take advantage of their other tasting menus, so everyone can enjoy the creative dishes on offer at this Hungarian-International fusion establishment.
Best for Cakes: Gerbeaud
Budapest is famous for its cakes and confectionery. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth, head to this regal cafe on Vörösmarty tér for the cakes and opulent decor. Stepping into the cafe is a journey back to another era with velvet drapes, golden mirrors, and damask upholstered walls. The cakes here are worth the experience, try their Dobos Torta, a chocolate sponge layered with chocolate cream and topped with a hard caramel topping. Or try their Gerbeaud Slice, made with ground walnuts, apricot jam, short-cut pastry and chocolate covering, or their Gerbeaud cream cake for something lighter and fluffier.