Ötpacsirta utca 2 [map]
Pest, VIII, Kálvin tér (M3, T47/49), 2 min
Cuisine > Hungarian
Inside, both view and ambiance head south. At times deserted, at times dominated by real live architects doing real live business, Épitész Pince is hard to count on for a lively evening out. With popularity waning with the temperature and an interior design that feels more Liszt Ferenc knock-off than its exterior would suggest, indoor dining might not seem the brightest prospect.
Value for money: 7/10
From Kálvin tér head down Múzeum utca to Ötpacsirta utca. You'll see a yellow building on the first corner. Duck inside the courtyard and head downstairs. Open all week except on Sundays.
Wikinger (Gyros rating: 9.5/10)
Móricz Zsigmord körtér [map]
Buda, XI, (4/6 tram), 1 min
What's inside? I would label the finished product in the aromatic vain, doused with particularly strong sauces and complemented well with generous portions of lettuce and tomatoes. They're a bit frugal with the "meat", but enjoying your gyros out on their tent-covered patio overlooking the square more than makes up for it. Perhaps not the best option for staving off a hangover, Wikinger is much better suited for an early evening stop and more than worth the trip across the river.
Fufu és Fau Gyros Büfé (Gyros rating: 9.5/10)
Tompa u. 2, [map]
Pest, IX, (4/6 tram, Mester utca), 1 min
What's inside? A real carnivore's delight, chock-full of the most tender gyros meat I've come across in the city. The sauce is both lighter and less spicy than commonly found, though perhaps it serves as a better complement to the meat. The whole oily mess is served in the ever-classy gyros cup. For the true gyros lover, Fufu és Fau's is a must.
Szultán Büfé (Gyros rating: 9.0/10)
Boráros tér, [map]
Pest, IX, (4/6 tram, Boráros tér), 0 min
What's inside? Szultán Büfé's gyros are packed with greens and drenched in a notably flavorful sauce. The owner never forgets to give the sliced pita tip a little flourish by running it through the flame before handing it over, almost making up for the fact that you'll be eating, dripping and dabbing your face as you walk to other night time destinations. Hop off the 4/6 for a quick bite if you're in the area.
Vámház körút 8 [map]
Pest, V, Kálvin tér (M3, T47/49), 3 min
Cuisine > International
The unassuming sign and facade that boasts of 990Ft (4€) pizza, leaves you ill-prepared for the world you're about to step into. You’re approaching another dimension. What lies within these walls is stupefying!
Unicornis appears to be the result of what happens when a few friends from opposite ends of the spectrum get together to run a restaurant. Probably their only bond is a penchant for LSD or magic mushrooms, which leaves them in no position to agree on anything!
The décor is analogous to what a 14-year-old fan of Dungeons and Dragons might do for their school art project. Styrofoam pockmarks the perimeter and is meant to look like a crumbling façade, in between white 'pillars' that stop mid-wall. A fire-breathing dragon and yes, of course, a unicorn, gallivant amidst a psychedelic space-scape beyond. The Neverending Story meets Flash Gordon but with zero budget and traditional Hungarian table booths.
Oh, and it’s not unlikely that you’ll hear 1990’s hit “Ice Ice Baby” followed by Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” to complete the oddest restaurant atmosphere in town.
What got me through the door of Unicornis in the first place was the cheap pizza, and it’s certainly the way to go if you're short on cash. You might assume that 990Ft only gets you a margarita, but you'd be mistaken, my friend. There are about two full pages of speciality pizzas, all a full 32 centimeters, all included in that same great price.
In keeping with the surroundings, there are some odd toppings too. The Barbecue pizza includes BBQ sauce, bacon, gyros(!), corn, onion, and peppers. It gets better. How about spicy sauce, Vienna sausage (hot dogs), bacon, corn, hot peppers, and fried eggs? While certainly not the most authentic pizza I’ve had in Budapest, it certainly wasn't the worst either. And psychedelic space beggars can't be choosers!
The rest of the menu is haphazard, to say the least. Yogurt, pickles and turkey legs make their way into various loose translations of the “burrito”. There’s a “wok” section, some Indian options, salads, and of course Hungarian specialities. They also have a vegetarian selection which goes beyond fried cheese and salad, with heartier options such as the veggie risotto.
Unicornis is absolutely not the place to impress on a first, second, third or any date! Likewise, bring your parents here, and it'll only confirm their suspicions that you're not eating properly. But if you're hungry at that end of town, with 1000Ft in your pocket, and in need of a giggle, Unicornis delivers. It delivers you into a mythological world where a boy who needs some food can find a restaurant that needs a hero.
Value for money: 8/10
Unicornis Étterem is between Kálvin tér and Fóvám tér (Great Market Hall) tram stops on the #47/49 line and is within easy walking distance of either.
Ariba; Aribba; Areeba; Arribba
It's easy to develop a lazy routine as a foreigner in Hungary. You get to know a few places that you like and you just keep on going back for familiar grub, at a familiar spot in a familiar restaurant. But those who earn an average Hungarian wage aren't hitting up sit-down restaurants every night; their bankroll simply wouldn't allow it. So, every so often, when in Budapest, why not do as the Budapesters do?
Pannónia utca 2 [map]
Pest, XIII, Jászai Mari tér (T4/6), 1 min
Cuisine > Hungarian, Fast food
For weeks I watched a little hole in the wall get transformed into one of these canteen eateries. While the construction was taking place, I fumbled to fathom what might be going in here. Once opened, I was still unsure what Kis Pozsonyi was exactly. The intimacy of the unassuming space was perplexing. Do people eat in this little place? After much internal struggle, I mustered up the courage, and decided to be the intruder on true Hungarian eating culture.
The first couple of times I ate here, I went for soup, sometimes, főzelék, sometimes an additional meat portion. The major selling point: it's cheap. Almost insanely cheap. I grabbed a quick főzelék and a beer, and realized that the more expensive of my two items was the beer, with my check totaling just over 400 forint. That's another selling point, they've got beer—230 for a pohár and 380 for a korsó of Dreher. The rest of the menu is similar fare, Hungarian staple foods all warming in stainless steel trays.
For one thing, at high lunch-traffic time, you can't move in the place. You might have to take a couple of walks around the block before some elbow space frees at one of the maybe ten chairs. Presumably, this is when most of the food gets devoured here, so get there early for the best selection, though they're open 'til 8pm daily.
The people that come here are of all sorts. I've seen cute girls scamper in the door, construction workers just off the job, a flock of French women, and eagerly hungry 30-something males popping in for a quick bite. The fact that it’s family-owned and operated adds to its allure.
It wasn't until after snagging their last leg of duck one day that I came to a stark realization. This must be the little brother to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő, which I reviewed with much acclaim not long ago. The taste of the duck, along with the red cabbage (accompanied by fries, a simple soup and a beer—a mountain of food for under 1200 forint) was strikingly similar as the restaurant's big brother, which helped me finally put two and two together. Though the smiling chef decal in the window—which the big Pozsonyi shares—should have given it away to me.
Kis Pozsonyi has quickly become my place to go for a quick meal, one that's inexpensive, tasty enough, always reliable, and saves me having to contemplate cooking.
Value for money: 9/10
Szent István körút 10 [map]
Pest, XIII, Jászai Mari tér (T4/6), 1 min
Cuisine > Hungarian, Fast food
Sure there's plenty to choose from, Hungarian soups, goulash, assorted deep friend meats, even desserts and salads, but the employees don't even seem to know what any of it is. Perhaps most off-putting: people watch you eat. The bored ladies have no trivial small talk or menial tasks to tend to, so they stare, silently. Eat here and you'll know how monkeys in cages feel.
The food is not particularly inspiring either; insipid, in fact. Worse still, it’s insanely expensive. On one of my few trips into the place, they managed to con me out of 1070 forint for a dry piece of breaded chicken and a bowl of unidentifiable főzelék! It could have been white beans, maybe potato, who knows?
Oh and a side of rice is 290 forint! Rice? 290 forint!?! Highway robbery!
The only time it might be acceptable to think about eating in Lecsó is from 8 to 10 in the evening, when the food is half price (and still too expensive at that). At least there's no risk of it losing its flavour!
Value for money: 4/10
Both restaurants are a quick jaunt from Jászai Mari tér. Just walk away from the Danube down the körút and Lecsó is on the left. Kis Pozsonyi is on the left a bit further down, on the corner of Pannónia utca, immediately before Vig Színház.
Letcho, Lecho, Lecso
Radnóti Miklós utca 38 [map]
Pest, XIII, Jászai Mari tér (T4/6), 4 min
Cuisine > Hungarian
Located on the corner of it's namesake street in the 13th district, Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő holds a special place in my heart. Sure, Pozsonyi út has a quaint allure with it's numerous shoe-box-sized watering holes, cafes, book shops, homey Hungarian craft stores, and plenty of cute geriatric couples walking arm in arm, but that's not the main reason. It's one of the first places where I finally felt like Budapest was my home. It is restaurants like this which are neighborhood staples, and Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő is just that.
Without a doubt, have the duck. I can't stress it enough. HAVE THE DUCK! Quack, quack, quack. Just keep thinking of that bit in The Mighty Ducks as you step in, and don't you forget it, as you browse the lengthy, book-like menu. If you insist on reading it all - just have the duck - you can take a waltz through Hungarian gastronomy but you'll definitely be asking your waitress for a little longer: "Egy pillanat!"
Around 1600 forint gets you half of a fried duck and hearty flavorful sides of red cabbage and smashed potatoes. There's so much food on the plate that if you can finish, you should consider shooting for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.
If you're not looking to have to have someone roll you out of the place, or if you're not even willing to spend the measly 1500 for a killer meal, have no fear. The babgulyásleves (bean goulash soup, or "Mr. Bean Soup" as it's translated in the menu) is certainly a meal in itself; chunks of succulent beef, just the right amount of beans, plenty of potatoes and carrots all in a tasty broth, and for under 800 forint. There's also enough similarly priced dishes to fill you up without draining your billfold.
Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő is a spot that you could easily visit once a week, every week. It's also a place to bring friends for their first Hungarian meal or a place for a last hurrah before leaving Budapest, but most importantly, it's a place for really heartwarming, inexpensive Hungarian food. All of this makes Pozsonyi feel like some place you can call your own, even if plenty of others do as well.
Value for money: 9/10
Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő is located on the corner of Pozsonyi and Radnóti Miklós utca. Just walk down Pozsonyi from Jászai Mari tér for a few minutes and look for the cartoon chef in the window.
Ariba; Aribba; Areeba; Arribba
Teréz körút 25 [map]
Pest, VI, Oktogon (T4/6, M1), 2 min
Cuisine > Mexican
Arriba is in no way a Mexican fast food joint a la Taco Bell. Not even close, and that's probably a good thing. You can't get a taco for pennies, there's no grade D meat involved, in fact, Arriba's the stronger choice (not that you have one—there's no TB in sight). Arriba's closer cousins are the American burrito chains, Qdoba and Chipotle.
You come in, there's a menu board, you pick which burrito, quesadilla, or taco you want, the friendly (yes, friendly! and helpful! in Budapest! eureka!) staff grabs your tortilla shell and shuffles it down the line where toppings galore await your go-ahead to be piled high in your tortilla, then it's wrapped, tossed in a basket with a few chips and you're on your merry way. However, by few chips, I literally mean a few, like 3. I think they could stand to throw in at least enough to sop up the leftover pico de gallo and beans that spill out of your bulging burrito.Due to the plethora of ingredients involved though, there's no shortage of flavor going on and that's how a good burrito should be. Chorizo, pollo, carne asada, carnitas, machaca, even a vegetarian option; the fillings and options are plentiful. One of the only things you should be wary of when making your selections at Arriba: it can get a bit pricey rather quickly if you snag a burrito and, say, opt for another item, such as the much needed extra chips, a fresh squeezed orange juice, or an imported Mexican beer. All in all though, the menu boasts of a vast, tasty selection and you can even swing by in the AM for a breakfast burrito.
Arriba's great for other things as well. Their bathroom is so mod, you'll feel like you're peeing in 2010. They have free WiFi, so you can enjoy your quesadilla while Skype-ing with friends and show them that Mexican food really does exist in Budapest. It's nice to find out that their business practices stand up as well. Arriba's packaging is largely biodegradable and re-usable, and they even use Fair Trade coffee.
Though the decor is predictable, it follows suit with what certainly feels like a chain restaurant, but when it comes to this style of Americanized Mexican food, I think that's what we've come to expect. With that said, the crowd that Arriba draws in follows suit as well. It's a place where it's not hard to spot an overweight, over-loud American yelling, "Yo! Grab me the hot sauce!" But would you really want it any other way?
Value for money: 6.5/10
Arriba Taqueria is just a stone's throw from Oktogon. Walk up Teréz körut (toward Margit hid) for about two minutes, it's on the right, you can't miss it. They also do delivery.
Ariba; Aribba; Areeba; Arribba
Pest Centre, VI, Opera (M1), 3 min
Főzelék. What’s that then? Well… it’s a vegetable dish, caught somewhere between a stew and a soup. Thickened after cooking, this comes in any number of flavours - lentil, or potato, or pumpkin, or 'tasty', for example. I’m told it’s probably the healthiest traditional Hungarian meal.
Although I don’t really think of it as a ‘vegetable dish, caught somewhere between a stew and a soup‘. In fact, I always knew főzelék reminded me of something but couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was, until I started to write this. And I realised - it’s baby food. A thick, glutinous slop, never served warm enough to burn your child’s mouth and usually sweetened so that it slips down without causing any major upsets.
My intial exposure to it came not long after I arrived in Budapest, at Főzelékfaló, a cramped fast food restaurant on the corner of Nagymező and Andrássy. I was taken there by an ex-girlfriend who bought me a thick tomato főzelék with two pieces of bread dumped unceremoniously on a plastic tray. It tasted a bit like spaghetti hoops, if you were mad enough to sieve out the pasta and toss in a fair bit of sugar and flour. I paused occasionally to wipe my chin, wondering what on earth this weird muck was. Neither main nor appetizer, it wasn‘t going to fill me up. And sure enough, I was hungry again within the hour.
Apparently, the trick is to order your side dishes astutely. The fact that this is reasonably good for you is obviously a cause for concern, so Főzelékfaló have done their very best to redress the balance. A glass case on the counter offers all manner of deep-fried accompaniments - cheese, bread, chicken and cauliflower, to name a but a few. They'll give you a side plate and after that it's up to you. Toss the chicken in or keep it on the side? Of course, you could just copy the Hungarian next to you, who will have tossed it in.
The főzelék here is not bad at all, although some come out better than others. Their spinach version has a dense, but satisying flavour while the green pea tastes a lot better than it looks. On the other hand, Főzelékfaló's lentil dish seems pretty heavy on flour and short on lentils, while their pumpkin effort was entirely the wrong colour - perhaps my diabolical Hungarian caused something (the pumpkins) to get lost in translation. A side order with főzelék will come to around 750 ft, while főzelék and bread sets you back just 440 ft. This ételbár certainly isn't a bad bet for a cheap lunch, and there's even a 1...2...3...4...5! percent student discount available in the Moricz Zsigmond branch.
However, I suppose my main gripe is not with Főzelékfaló, but with the dish in general. This is that most canteens serve it lukewarm and without adding anything deep-fried, it doesn't feel like a main course. Which brings me back to my original point - főzelék is coloured gunk, highly likely to appeal to a gurgling infant with a small stomach.
Make your baby a főzelék baby! Perhaps I should start work on some marketing ideas right away.
Value for money: 8.5/10
Akácfa utca 40 [map]
Pest, VII, Király utca (T4/6), 5 min
Cuisine > Bengali/Bangladeshi
The city is littered with buffet-style take-aways. The kind of places that cook a load of food at lunch-time and then slowly run out as the day wears on. So go to a standard buffet at 10pm and you're likely to find it closed, or touting the hardier of leftovers.
Thankfully, Bangla Bufe is not of this ilk. It opens until 11pm and the food is fresh and cooked while you're there. Perhaps a modest selection of dishes is what makes this possible: 4 curries, 3 biryanis and a spicy Jhal Goru - that's the mains summed up in one breath. (Full menu here.) The current owner describes it as Bengali home cooking, and seems proud to be bringing a little taste of it to Budapest.
Sitting at a table, looking up at a TV that redefines my notion of fuzzy, I let my eyes drift downwards past the hatstand, to the fire extinguisher that tries to hide behind it. If you're looking for refinement, Bangla isn't your Bufe. But should you eat in, you'll find the service friendly, almost homely, something that's in short supply in Budapest.
Our first taste of the food arrived in the form of some impressive-looking papaddums, a notch above the average, although a chutney dip or two would have worked wonders. A couple of Wizbit-shaped samosas were a more complete starter and great value at 390Ft a pair. For mains, the beef curry and a chicken biryani fought each other for our favours, and the curry won by a mile - a rich, gingery flavour, and not too mild either. (Hungarian tastes usually drive the spice levels down, in my experience, and I'm usually too chicken to ask for a strong one, in case it blows my head off.) For refreshment, while there's no alcohol, there is Mango Lassi.
Bangla Bufe fills a nice niche, especially if you're missing the decent selection of affordable 'Indian' restaurants back home. If you're just in the mood for a curry rather than an evening out, Bangla Bufe will sate your appetite, and at a price that will put it at the top of your list the next time you get the urge.
Value for money: 9/10
Bangla Bufe isn't in the most obvious location. Walk down Akácfa utca from Király utca, and you'll spot it on your right after a 2-minute walk.
Pest, V, Kossuth Lajos tér 9. (M 2), 0 min
Cuisine > Hungarian
Take a look at the photo. We’re going to play spot the restaurant. Difficult, isn’t it? I couldn‘t see it either… and I’ve walked past that particular Pick Salami shop more times than I’ve had hot dinners. (there).
In fact, I probably wouldn’t have come across it at all without a tip off from a friend - it’s tucked away on the first floor, with just two A4 signs on the shop’s sliding door blowing its cover.
Don't be fooled... Pick is not a salami restaurant. It's actually a pretty basic Hungarian canteen, but there are a few good reasons to recommend it. For one thing, it’s in a fantastic spot, directly opposite Parliament. This also makes it very close to the Central European University, although I can’t recall ever seeing any foreign students in there. The clientele is predominantly made up of old folks and business people, and given that it’s constantly packed, this is perhaps one of the best opportunities you’ll have to see a real life Hungarian dribbling főzelék (a thick, vegetable soup) down their chin.
At Pick, the early bird catches the worm, or rather the early bird gets a much better choice of worms. Arriving after one fifteen is a serious gamble, the főzelék will almost certainly have run out and you’ll be lucky to get anywhere near the pörkölt (beef or pork stew). It says it’s open till four, Monday to Friday, although what they serve after two I have absolutely no idea. Biscuits, apologetically?
And, while it may sound functional, the food is far better than you'd expect. However, what really makes Pick stand out are the prices. With just 400 ft in your pocket you can almost certainly leave with your appetite sated (if you order say, a large bowl of főzelék and bread). Otherwise, mains cost between 200 and 700 ft. So, Pick is cheap and good. You should go. Recommended. And erm, that's it...
...hmmm. I can't help feeling that this review looks a bit on the short side compared with others on this page. Maybe I should pad it out by throwing in a few desperate puns, about this being a good lunch Pick. Something I think you’ve already Picked up on. Not s-Pick and span, nor Pick-turesque but compared to similar canteens, the Pick of the Bunch. Perfect for Pick-y eaters. Ha! Pick that one out! That pun was Pick-tastic!
(Dearie me, I'm honestly very sorry about those. I feel like an absolute Pick.)
Value for money: 10/10
Pest, VII, Wesselényi utca (T 4,6), 2 min
Cuisine > Indian
Raining, hungry. The 74 trolleybus splashes grubby puddles onto the pavements of Wesselényi utca. Grey, dreary. That is, until I step into Kohinoor, the curryhouse at number 49.
It isn't busy, but then it is a rainy Monday lunchtime during Ramadan... so fair enough. Flipping through the full menu it looks like there are plenty of meat dishes under 2000Ft, and vegetarian mains are around half that price. What with extras, I'd say an evening meal is likely to set you back around 3000Ft. Best value though is to come at lunchtime and feast for as little as 900Ft - this is all it costs for a 'small' plate and I was struggling to finish the last few bites of naan.
After a Pakistani tea (with milk and cardamom) I chat with Melinda, the Pakisztáni/Magyar waitress, who moaned about one of the customers being grumpy and rude. That really gets on her nerves, just so you know. They do home delivery too, in case you are always rude and don't want to worry about annoying Melinda in person.
After paying, I venture back out into the monochrome streets of autumnal Budapest. It's still raining, but armed with my belly full of curry I am winter-proof.
Value for money: 8/10 (lunch set)
In my experience, that’s a typical reaction to this very Hungarian fast food, available all over the place for people on a budget who aren’t particularly bothered about their waistline. Personally, I’d always found it to be a somewhat problematic, arduous snack, but I hadn’t eaten one in over a year. Was my memory playing tricks on me? Have I just had bad láng-i? I couldn’t be sure, so to check, I headed over to the fringes of the city park.
As with most lángos stands, this one is an unremarkable hut, the equivalent of a roadside burger bar. It has a little window for the cash/food exchange - like a bank till, passport control, or the place in prisons where you get your wallet back after you’ve been released (I imagine).
Deciding against a plain lump of deep-fried dough (300 ft) I plump for a ‘sajtos-tejfölös’ (sour cream with grated cheese, 500 ft) - a combination of hot and cold, dry and wet - the big hitter of Hungarian deep fried dough toppings. After I pay, the little old lady disappears from view for a couple of minutes, before coming back with a lángos in the shape of a big greasy heart. It's cute, if very bad for that particular organ. I turn away from the window, sit down on a plastic chair, and begin to tuck in.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, eating lángos is like an epic journey - one which I can comfortably divide into five sections. The first is the sensation of yummy joy. Hot and fresh, with dough that melts on your tongue, I always wonder why I don’t eat these more often. I love lángos! They’re great! What was I thinking?
A couple of bites later, we’re into stage two and the lángos becomes a funny problem. How the hell am I going to get through this, I think. Then I put it down for a second. After a bit, perhaps when the grease from the dough starts to seep through the napkin and into the table, the journey enters its third stage - the lángos isn’t funny any more, it’s just a problem. Taking a swig from a bottle of water or rubbing the oil from my hands, lips and wrists should help. Another brief hiatus...
Usually at this point, the lángos seems to have grown in size - which means we’ve entered the fourth stage. Here, the rugged surface takes on a different character... it’s now an enormous piece of terrain I can never possibly hope to cross. I’m like Joe Simpson in Touching the Void, a man who spent days dragging himself over a glacier with a broken leg. I gingerly nibble at the edge, hot and exhausted.
A few bites later, and I’m into the fifth and final stage - the stand off. The lángos looks at me, all warmth gone, just a cold unforgiving mass of cheese, sour cream and dough. I stare back, irritated. It stares at me, unflinching. I stare back. It stares at me. Etc. With this particular lángos, I ended up throwing it to the birds. They gobbled it up, and got their beaks and faces all greasy.
I should add that not everyone feels the same way. Being Hungarian seems to help - I know people who eat lángos for breakfast, and in fact, two acquaintances of mine were planning on making their fortune by introducing them to Australia. I've also heard about wonderful, fresh ones with bacon in the middle, available at the car crash of a building, Lehel Csarnok. Whatever your opinon though, there does always seem to be the same sticking point and that is that they're far too heavy. So if you haven't tried one yet, do. Just make sure you share it. With six friends.
Value for money: 4/10
Klauzal tér 9 [map]
Pest Centre, VII, Deak ter (M3), 8 min
Cuisine > Hungarian
Sitting at one of the restaurant’s red-checked tablecloths, there’s plenty to take in - for example, the endlessly watchable owner and head waiter, Uncle Tibi (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the endlessly watchable Ernest Borgnine). There are the regular customers who kiss the waitresses and slip tips into their pockets. And then, there are the confused tourists who gingerly push open the door and look around the room, before stepping back outside to thumb through their guidebook again just to see how/why they ended up here.
Personally, I’d take Kádár over most other restaurants in Budapest. It's traditional, (non-kosher) Jewish/Hungarian cuisine and as a friend of mine put it, is the only restaurant in the world where the food reminds her of her Grandmother's cooking. There are two menus, one fixed, and one daily. The later it gets the less choice you have - when Kádár's waitresses sit you down, they'll cross through items on the menu as the food starts to run out.
Value for money: 9/10
Ráday utca 22 [map]
Pest South, IX, Kalvin ter (M3), 5 min
Cuisine > Italian American
Tel. 216-1412; 218-9382
Table after table; parasol after parasol; menu after menu... woe betide the hapless tourist who returns from Budapest with nothing but memories of Váci utca, Liszt Ferenc tér and Ráday utca. There’s a holiday atmosphere, certainly, but the city’s tourist spots come with an obvious catch: you get watered-down Budapest at pumped-up prices.
Pink Cadillac has plenty of outdoor seating and the interior is fairly airy too, with much of the facade opening up for the summer. We took a table by the wall. After a few waiterless minutes, we thought we’d hit the button on the little box next to the table. (Note to manager - please change the text to read: “Hit the button if you want to piss the waiters off!”)
But I was briefly prepared to forgive the underwhelming service. A couple of strips of pizza bread with garlic butter were a pleasant enough, free appetizer while the pizza itself looked pretty appealing: no skimping on the olives and a fair amount of chicken too. However, the fusion of toppings didn’t add up to very much, getting through the doughy base became a war of attrition and no one offered me any pepper either.
The Spaghetti Frutti di Mari was distinctly lacking in great shakes too: two very small prawns left the twirls of processed seafood to dominate. Tiring of my pizza, I swapped it for the pasta for a while. Then I swapped back.
So, what of the venue? It’s ok. Modern, cleanish, with all the character of a modern, cleanish non-Italian pizza joint. The bonnet of a Cadillac coming through the wall doesn't do a lot for me, apart from giving some credence to the name. (Personally, I think they missed a trick in failing to involve Elvis, Springsteen, or Clint Eastwood.)
If this doesn't sound like your bag of mild Americana or there are no tables that take your fancy, you could always go next door to Paris, Texas, where you'll find exactly the same menu at exactly the same price, and another slightly cosier variant of mild Americana. Either way, if you’re on Ráday and you want a pizza, you could do worse and you could pay more. On the other hand, if you're looking for above-average cuisine, take a drive in a different neighbourhood.
Value for money: 6/10
Walk up Ráday utca from Kalvin tér and Pink Cadillac is on the left. They also do take-away. Raday, Caddilac, Cadilac, Cadillack, Caddilack
Buda, I, Batthyány tér (M2), 1 min
The sausage is a complex animal. From Kolbász to Haggis; Cumberland to Toulouse, the variation is broad and the boast of many a national cuisine. And then there is Germany...
“....there are more different sausages in Germany than there are breakfast foods in America, and if there is a bad one among them then I have never heard of it. " [H.L. Mencken]
Buda's Bratwursthäusle will bring out the Bavarian in you or, at least, it tries its unconventional best. Picture an eighties office block, ground floor, mostly windows, and through those windows, the sides of a shed. Yes, with little chequered curtains in the shed windows. From the rows of benches outside, the effect is rather odd, but from the tables inside it feels as natural as sitting in a shed eating sausages. You might not believe that you’re in Germany but some form of disorientation is highly probable.
Bavarian soup with a liver dumpling is one of the more unusual starters I’ve experienced in Budapest. The fat sausage-like dumpling floats around the bowl like it’s fallen in by mistake. Appetising? Not exactly and less-so once you attack it. My sausage choice is Rost Bratwurste. Grilled sausages in a country with no grills are quite a treat and akin to English chipolata. The menu gave a choice of 6, 8, 10 or 12, obviously anticipating the arrival of chain sausage-eaters.
I also braved the leberkäse (literally liver-cheese) which was something like a thick slice of fried meatloaf. The unusual texture wasn’t really to my taste but certainly an option to any home-sick Bavarian. The Nűrnberger potato salad on the other hand was the perfect side to any meat-fest.
Notably, the beer is Bavarian too, and there’s a good selection: wheat beer, white or brown; pilsner; dark beer; Rigoletto – half pilsner, half brown – if you’re open to experimentation. Drinks prices are high, about 700 for a korso, but it’s easier to swallow when you’re paying for something that you won’t find elsewhere in the city.
The place is advertised as both Bierstube and Bratwursthäusle so it's as much a bar as a restaurant. But unless you're vegetarian, failing to try the food must be seen as a wasted opportunity. And it's relatively kind on the wallet, if not the waistline.
Value for money: 8/10
Bayerische Bierstube Bratwursthausle Bratwursthause Bratwursthaus
Kolbászda Kolbaszda Bajor Söröző Sorozo
Kodály körönd [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Kodály körönd (M1), 0 min
Rating: 7.2/10 (Overall)
With such inertia from the developers – one of the buildings, dubbed "Andrássy Palace Gardens”, has been earmarked for investors – there are certain perks. Cheap restaurants in a great location, being the most obvious. Kodály körönd has two.
Restaurant Huszár Pizzeria (Rating: 6.9/10) sits on the körönd itself, beneath one of the four behemoths. It’s a pleasure to sit out on the terrace, perusing the crumbling grandeur, comfortably far back from the road. The menu is intriguing and cheap, although in reality, simply adequate for the price. Both the ‘almás csirkemel’ (chicken breast with apple sauce) and cigánypecsenye (Gypsy-style roast pork) were rather greasy; it’s perhaps safer to stick to the pizza. Service though is friendly and everything’s reasonably priced.
The alternative is Cserepes kisvendéglő (Rating: 7.3/10), which is a few metres down Felső erdősor utca. Not really refined anough to be called a restaurant, it tends to get impossibly busy at lunchtime. But, if you’re very lucky, or eating off-peak, you may find room enough. There’s plenty of rantott-anything here i.e. things fried in breadcrumbs, and if you’re not hungry before you reach the corner, you will be once you smell the food. Just about all mains are under 1000Ft and tasty; not gourmet by any means, but a straightforward and very Hungarian addition to a walk down Andrássy.
So, all-in-all, a great place to come back to in ten years, when you can expect to find the buildings looking pristine but the lunch a lot less affordable. (Or, this being Hungary, the buildings looking the same, and the lunch a lot less affordable.)
Either walk up Andrássy from Oktogon, down from Hősök tere, or take the yellow M1 metro directly to Kodály körönd.