It’s no secret that I love food. My mouth waters at the thought of a ribeye steak cooked to a perfect medium rare, a slice of pizza with the perfect crust:cheese:sauce ratio, or a generous slice of my favorite chocolate pie. Maybe your thing is fried chicken or a giant ice cream sundae. Hey, maybe a juicy peach is what really gets you going. We all have foods we love because they’re just flat out delicious, but I’m a firm believer that the foods we love the most become our favorites because of the memories that lie within each bite. Whether it’s a mystery fried dish from a street vendor, a perfectly plated course at a Michelin-starred restaurant, or that long-time family recipe you used to make with your grandmother, good food becomes great food when there’s a story.
One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is by eating and drinking my way around town, seeking out local spots, and creating as many new memories as I can possibly squeeze into one trip. The streets and alleyways of Budapest were filled with so many great bars and restaurants, each beautiful in their own unique way, and when we set out every morning I was nearly giddy with excitement to see what was hiding around the next corner. A broken camera left me with less photos than I’m used to on a trip, but my heart and mind will forever be full with all the wonderful memories. We had a feeling we’d enjoy our time in Budapest but had no idea we’d love it so much. If a trip to Budapest wasn’t already on your travel radar, I hope my experiences inspire you to get there sometime soon!
Sas u. 3, 1051
Borkonyha Winekitchen is one of three Michelin-starred restaurants in Budapest, and one of our favorite meals of the trip. As soon as we were seated our server arrived and offered assistance choosing one of their many Hungarian wines; after my first sip of a fantastic sparkling white he chose, I handed him the reins and he brought glass after glass to pair perfectly with each course. They offer a very reasonably priced set tasting menu but we opted to order several dishes a la carte to create our own. From the squid ink bread (that we nearly inhaled) to the silky smooth duck liver to the flavorful lamb and everything in between, it was one hell of a meal. If you’re not able to get a reservation, I’d still recommend stopping in and trying to grab a seat at the bar to enjoy a glass of wine!
Izabella u. 38, 1077
We dined at Zeller Bistro on our last night in Budapest and it was the perfect way to end our stay in this beautiful city. Zeller is a family-owned and operated restaurant and from the moment you walk down the steps to the warmly lit cellar, you can tell they are all fully invested in giving you a memorable dining experience. I spoke with Anna, one of the owners, to make a reservation, and we were given a run-down of the menu, specials, wine list, etc by the other owner, Peter. We even had the most adorable youngster, clad in a full length apron, show us to our table and fill our water glasses. It was seriously adorable.
The food was fantastic – made with Hungarian ingredients but not your traditional dishes. Many of their ingredients including sausages and their tasty “Crispy Small Fish As My Mom Makes Them” come from family and friends at nearby Lake Balaton. Their wines are from family vineyards, they have their own beer from a friend’s brewery, and they make a wonderful elderflower champagne that everyone receives when they arrive. If you’re visiting Budapest I can’t recommend Zeller Bistro enough, just make sure to make a reservation!
Crispy small fish from Lake Balaton at Zeller Bistro
Liszt Ferenc tér 2, 1061
We had lunch at Menza once during our stay, but could have easily been convinced to return if we had more time. They have a large outdoor terrace that is the perfect spot to grab a glass of rosé and people watch to your heart’s content. The interior has a very cool retro/mid-century design so be sure to take a trip to the bathroom if you’re dining al fresco. The menu is filled with delicious Hungarian and European classics with a modern presentation. Mike’s Schnitzel was fantastic – super thin and perfectly crisp breading, and I loved my Beef Stew with homemade noodles, but the clear winner was the Garlic Cream Soup topped with a traditional Hungarian Lángos (lahn-gosh). Lángos is a simple yet amazing creation – essentially a large circle of fried dough (think giant doughnut without the hole) that is typically topped with sour cream, cheese and garlic. The cup of soup could have been an entire meal, so if you’re ordering a main course I would plan on sharing because it will not be easy to put your spoon down!
Erzsébet krt. 43-49, 1073
We dined at Bock Bisztró on our first night in Budapest and we were very happy with this decision. Their wine list is filled with Hungarian wines we weren’t familiar with, so we left our selections in the hands of our very competent waiter who came back with several winners. The cuisine is Hungarian with a bit of Spanish tapas flair thrown in. We ended our delicious meal with a shot of Pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy, because, when in Budapest! (*On a Monday night the dining room was completely full by the time we left and they were turning everyone away who stopped in without an advance reservation, so I would definitely suggest calling or e-mailing ahead of time to reserve your spot.)
Ráday u. 4, 1092
Costes is another Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest and while we didn’t get a chance to dine here during our visit, I felt they were worth a mention since they were next on my list had we of stayed another day. Costes offers tasting menus with your choice of courses and wine pairings. Dishes are beautiful and elegantly plated. Costes is a step or two above Borkynha in terms of price point but a bit more relaxed (based on reviews and articles I read before our trip) than Onyx, Budapest’s third Michelin-starred restaurant.
My Little Melbourne
Madách Imre út 3, 1075
Our absolute favorite coffee/breakfast spot right around the corner from our Airbnb rental, I was so sad to leave My Little Melbourne behind! Their chocolate-filled croissants were buttery, flaky, and filled with gooey chocolate, and their croissant sandwiches (pictured below) were so fresh and delicious – does anyone else feel like the simplest things seem to taste better in Europe?!
New York Café
Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073
If you’re feeling fancy, stop in to New York Café for your daily dose of whipped cream and all things gilded. New York Café is located inside the Boscolo Hotel and while I wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip here, it is definitely a very cool interior to see if you’re in the neighborhood. Thanks to a bit of jet lag I was up early walking around town one morning and stopped in for a cup of coffee with the entire place to myself!
Hongrie, Dob u. 22, 1072
This teeny-tiny juice bar in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter is the place to go for all your fresh juice and raw/vegan/gluten-free treats. Juicy‘s tasty nectars are also sold at My Little Melbourne coffee shop nearby.
Pozsonyi út 53-55, 1137
If you spend any time exploring Budapest’s Margaret Island, Sarki Fűszeres is a cute little shop and café to visit nearby. Grab coffee, breakfast, and picnic snacks and wine for the island, or stop in for lunch and drinks on your way back.
Trófea Grill Étterem
It’s not very often that I can recommend an all-you-can-eat (and drink) buffet outside of Vegas, but Trófea Grill Étterem in Budapest is definitely a buffet I can get behind. They’re a one-stop-shop if you’re looking to taste traditional Hungarian dishes, but they also have other offerings like sushi if that’s what you’re goulash-ed out. The beer, wine, champagne, and select cocktails don’t stop flowing until you say so – boozy buffet brunches are what afternoons are made for, right?! For only 20-22€/person, Trófea Grill is your best bet for a quick, inexpensive meal in Budapest.
Street Food Karaván
Kazinczy u. 18, 1075
Wandering the streets of Budapest, especially in the Jewish Quarter, it seriously felt like there was an amazing bar or restaurant around every corner – including a bunch of cool little spots tucked away in alleys like the Street Food Karavan. We passed this trendy row of food stands on our way to Budapest’s famous ruin pub, Szimpla Kert (see below), and stopped by afterwards to check it out. I went straight for the Lángos topped with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and arugula; it was the perfect late-night bite to soak up the copious amounts of Hungarian rosé I’d consumed throughout the evening!
Szent István tér 3, 1051
With temperatures reaching the low 90s during most of our stay in Budapest, we made a point of working a daily gelato stop into our schedule. Gelarto Rosa was our first, and most frequently visited shop, and to be honest, we would have come back every day even if we weren’t dealing with record-breaking temps. Not only are their cones oh-so-pretty, their flavors were outstanding. My favorite was the basil-lemon; mixed with strawberry this was always the perfect refreshing treat!
Levendula Kézműves Fagylaltozó
While their cones aren’t the rose petal masterpieces created at Gelarto Rosa, Levendula‘s gelato offerings definitely did not disappoint. They have several locations around the city including a small pop-up stand we found at Deák Ferenc tér. If odd flavors like Gorgonzola, Camembert, and Red Wine interest you, then Levendula is your spot. If you’re not quite so adventurous when it comes to frozen treats, don’t fret – Levendula has a solid line-up of other imaginative flavors that aren’t quite so out there. Fresh mint and raspberry was my go-to combo.
My Little Melbourne
Madách Imre út 3, 1075
Mentioned above as our favorite spot for breakfast every morning, My Little Melbourne was also our go-to coffee shop in Budapest. They offer a full selection of espresso drinks and their brew bar next door deals exclusively in filtered coffee. They also offer a variety of fresh, raw juices from local juice bar JUICY as well as a variety of quality snacks – a great spot to fuel up before a day of sightseeing!
A few other coffee shops around the city that deserve an honorable mention…
Múzeum krt. 5, 1053
Arany János u. 15, 1051
Tamp & Pull
Czuczor u. 3, 1093
Paulay Ede u. 5, 1061
Another gem of a find just a block away from our apartment, Boutiq Bar offers tasty, inventive, expertly crafted cocktails at shockingly low (compared to similar cocktail bars in Chicago and other cities we’ve visited) prices. Speakeasy, laid-back kinda vibe – a great spot to end the night.
Holló u. 12-14, 1076
We were very pleasantly surprised to find several great beer bars in Budapest and LÉHŰTŐ topped the list as our favorite. Great selection of local and international craft beers and a lovely outdoor seating area – the perfect spot to grab a drink or two before dinner nearby.
Kazinczy u. 14, 1075
It’s nearly impossible to put into words the strange awesomeness that is Szimpla Kert. Szimpla Kert is Budapest’s first and most popular ruin pub – bars created inside abandoned, run-down buildings with unused outdoor space and decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage decor that many would consider garbage. We first explored Szimpla Kert one afternoon before heading out for dinner and I highly suggest a visit during daylight hours to fully appreciate this unique spot. At night the place is packed wall to wall but during the day it’s an almost quiet, peaceful spot to kick back and enjoy a beer or giant glass of rosé for under $2. Stay tuned for a separate post exclusively devoted to Szimpla Kert!
Király u. 13, 1075
Have I mentioned that Budapest seemed to have an amazing surprise down every alley? Well, Gozsdu Udvar is no exception. This alley between Király utca and Dob utca is lined with bar and restaurants, all with outdoor seating along the alleyway. The perfect spot for a relaxed evening and a perfect people-watching perch.
DiVino Wine Bar
If you’re looking to get a taste of Hungarian wine, or just relax and people watch outside of St. Stephen’s Basilica, DiVino Wine Bar is the perfect place to stop. They also have a second great location in Gozsdu Udvar.
Hops Beer Bar
Wesselényi u. 13, 1077
Another great beer bar in Budapest with an impressive line-up of craft beers.
Csak a jó sör
Kertész u. 42, 107
We stumbled upon Csak a Jó Sör (Only Good Beer) on accident while in search of another beer bar and we were shocked when we walked up to order and saw Founder’s All Day IPA on tap! Somehow a little keg had made its way all the way from Michigan to Budapest! This shop and bar carries an impressive collection of craft beers from around the globe, bartenders are very friendly, and the small space and vintage couches made us feel like we were back home having drinks in a friend’s basement – if we had a friend with an insane craft beer selection.