Even though Budapest might not be the first destination that comes to mind when thinking about food, it will disappoint the hungry foodie tourist. I visited Budapest for 5 days, ate and drank a lot, and now I’m here to help you experience the best Budapest has to offer.
The first post in the series covered 8 great coffee and pastry destinations in Budapest.
In the second of three posts I’ll be taking you on a savory journey through the streets of Budapest. From cheap street food to Michelin starred restaurants, I’ve got everything your heart (and stomach) desires, including some places to stay clear of.
At the end of the post you’ll find a map with all the places mentioned for your convenience.
Tanti is where I had my last dinner in the city. Its location might not be the most ideal – tucked away in a tiny shopping mall in the center of Buda side. Luckily there are buses that take you from Pest right to the restaurant.
The restaurant earned its first Michelin star back in 2015, and lost it last year, leaving Budapest with only 4 restaurants that hold a star (Borkonyha (Wine Kitchen), Costes, Costes Downtown and Onyx). Even though it was a Michelin restaurant up until a minute ago, Tanti has a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. Its service is excellent and doesn’t fall short of other Michelin restaurants (the service was leagues better than the one we experienced at Costes Downtown). Last but definitely not least is its superb food, served in a delightful way.
Tanti offers a 5 course tasting menu, alongside an a la carte menu. We chose to go with the latter and order a dish each from each section of the menu, that included 3-4 options each – Starters, Main Course and Dessert.
In practice we got more than 3 dishes each, with an appetizer, homemade bread served with a heavenly brown butter with parmesan, and coconut macaroon and dried plum as petit four, which we could barely fit into our stomach at that point. Our favorite dish was the salmon with prawn butter, squash cream, broccoli crumble with tonka beans and maldon salt and orange foam. Another dish we greatly enjoyed was the starter of Chevre panna cotta with yellow beetroot, black bread and marinated beetroots.
The amazing thing about this great meal? It’s so cheap! Starters run from 1700 huf ($7 / 23₪) to 2900 huf ($11.5 / 39.5₪), main course from 3500 huf ($14 / 48₪) to 6900 huf ($27.5 / 94₪) and dessert will only cost you between 1500 huf ($6 / 20₪) to 1700 huf ($7 / 23₪). I’ll definitely be returning in my next visit to Budapest.
2. Mazel Tov
Mazel Tov is one of the most hyped places in town, and it has all the proper factors to rightfully be called one. However – me and my friend had a terrible time here.
The restaurant is located right at the center of the bubbly Jewish quarter, filled with pubs, restaurants and ruin bars. When you enter the building, a beautiful garden with trees, sky high ceiling and exposed industrial lights is revealed.
The food served here is middle eastern with many staple dishes such as shakshuka, matbucha, tabbouleh, falafel and more. It took ages until someone finally approached us, and after multiple attempts to ask a waiter for some attention we were dismissed with a “my colleague will come to you”. When one of the waiters did bother to get to us, we immediately regretted it – he was obnoxious and unhelpful.
We ordered the red and white house wine and I got the spicy sweet potato wedges (that weren’t sweet nor spicy) with green pesto tahini (1190 huf / $5 / 16.5₪) to nibble on. A few chunks of potato wedges were served in a glass, one of each was spoiled. My friend’s red wine was also spoiled and she couldn’t drink more than a sip, but that didn’t prevent them from charging us for it. Also – service is added automatically here, so even if you got shitty service, you are being charged for it.
Mazel Tov Online:
3. For Sale
If you started planning your Budapest visit, you probably already read about For Sale. Right across the Great Market Hall is this quirky pub serving hearty and comforting Hungarian dishes. The pub is covered with notes written by visitors hanging from the ceiling and clinging to the walls. Each table has a bucket of peanuts, the shells of which are supposed to wind up on the floor!
The place is packed during lunch time, but have some patience and you’ll be seated on the first or second floor. The menu is Huge, so I stuck with the basics – a mouth watering Hungarian Goulash with veggies, beef and spaetzle (1195 huf / $5 / 16.5₪). The waiters were very nice and helpful and the vibe is such that you often start chatting with your tourist neighbors, exchanging recommendations and experiences.
4. Costes Downtown
Costes Downtown is one of the four restaurants in Budapest holding a Michelin star. This also was our biggest disappointment in the trip – the gap between our expectations, given the many recommendations we had turned out to be quite large.
There are a few tasting menu options ranging between 4 and 6 course with and without wine pairing. We opted for the 4 course menu (22000 huf / $87 / 300₪), and as you can guess, in a Michelin starred restaurant that usually mean more than that. Sadly, the waiter that handed us the menu was basically a robot. She recited an entire speech about the restaurant and the menu in a monotone voice, without looking at us even once, and her gaze constantly wandering between the kitchen and the rest of the restaurant. The service throughout the entire dinner continued to be cold and distant.
Let’s talk food. Before the menu was handed to us we were served with a nice appetizer of beef tartar and tapioca covered in beetroot and cottage cheese. The bread was steaming hot and really amazing. I can take it with the caramelized butter that came along with it as a dessert every day of the week. It also had a unique texture since it was in the form of flakes.
From here on some of the dishes were just mediocre. Some of it was tasty, yes, but not enough to justify the price nor the Michelin star. I would say the rice pudding dessert was amazing, but I really am a sucker for rice pudding. Overall we didn’t really enjoy our evening there – mediocre food combined with slow, remote service produced an experience that is far from worth a 1 Michelin star.
Costes Downtown Online:
We visited Törökméz for dinner, right after getting disappointed from the musical fountain on Margaret Island. When we got there the place was empty, and only 2 other tables were dining at that time. Surprisingly they were pretty slow with the food given that it was practically deserted. All was forgiven though, since all the dishes that arrived to the table had a lot of thought and attention to details put in them.
The dish we enjoyed the most? The buddha bowl was a big success, with clove wheat, pineapple and other goodies. The goad cheese with beetroot and pumpkin was also great, having very balanced flavors.
The least promising? salmon sandwich that was served on a wooden platter with soggy paper that made it pretty challenging to eat, as it started tearing apart once you start cutting into the sandwich. You end up accidentally eating paper. It also didn’t contain avocado, but rather avocado paste. The tuna dish was nice overall, but the sauce was so bitter it was inedible.
Tiny Stika was so busy when me and my friend got there, we weren’t sure we would be able to score a table. But the super friendly waiter was able to squeeze us in and we settled in a small table by the window.
Stika is a trendy wine bar that offers small dishes that goes great with the concept. The place has an industrial feel to it, with wood and metal furniture, exposed steel pipes covering the ceiling, checkered floors and a big chalkboard.
While my friend enjoyed a few glasses of wine, I ordered something to nibble on, as I wasn’t extremely hungry. They have a nice selection of tapas, from which you can select 3 for 2790 huf ($11 / 38₪) or 6 for 4890 huf ($19.5 / 67₪). I chose Serrano Ham with Homemade Butter, Cured Deer Sirloin with Date Chutney and Grilled Spicy Shrimps with Acidified Ginger. The three tapas arrived on one plate, nicely arranged, along with another plate full of excellent fresh bread to clean all the date chutney. The food tasted amazing and the combination and variance of flavors really impressed me.
Add to the great food, the central location, the fun atmosphere and the super friendly and attentive waiters I highly recommend paying a visit.
7. KOLLÁZS – Brasserie & Bar
KOLLÁZS is a contemporary brasserie, combining Hungarian and Europpean cuisine, located at the Four Seasons hotel, in the center of Budapest, overlooking the Chain Bridge and the Danube River. We had reservations for lunch, although the huge place wasn’t near full house. Here, at KOLLÁZS, we had the best meal in this trip. Everything was spot on, from the attentive and professional service, to the light atmosphere and of course the exquisite dishes.
The menu is divided to many small sections, which made the task of building ourselves a hearty meal a bit challenging. With some help from the waiter we decided to open our meal with some soup, continue to share a first course from the Chef’s Hungarian Favorites section, then two main courses and a dessert.
I ordered the Artichoke soup (2500 huf / $10 / 34₪) with smoked chestnuts and truffles. It was creamy, sweet and pretty much amazing. After each bite I said wow. The carrot soup from the specials menu, was lighter in texture, sweet and delicate and had some carrot bits to chew on. Together with the soups we got great homemade bread with olive and parmesan tapenade and cottage cheese with paprika. The bone marrow with oxtail ragout and horseradish (3200 huf / $12.5 / 44₪) was not only beautifully served but also tender and delicious.
Both main courses – salmon (6900 huf / $27.5 / 94₪) and rib eye (7200 huf / $28.5 / 98₪) were incredibly tasty, but the spinach and mushroom side was way too heavy. Choosing a dessert was not an easy task, since they have more than 10 different types! We decided to go with one of the classics – Mont Blanc (1500 huf / $6 / 20₪) with caramelized chestnut, meringue and vanilla cream. Overall, with some drinks and service, we payed 30,576 huf ($121 / 417.5₪), which is not cheap in Budapest terms, but was well worth every penny (or forint).
Szimply, as the name implies, serves simple food, specifically breakfast all day long. The interior is simple as well – very minimalist and bright. I love it! It fits those mornings where you need to take it easy and wake up slowly. They are located in a passage, right across their sister store Kontakt, where you can get some coffee.
The menu is small and is divided to 2 sections – sweet and savory, with only a very few dishes in each of them. We had one dish from each section. Their avocado toast (2300) is one of the most beautiful toasts I ever seen. Look at this thing of beauty. It had some sun dried tomato, hummus and artichoke on a sourdough bread. Everything on the plate was fresh and tasty.
The sweet dish, on the other hand, was a bit weird. I got the fake cake (1700) which had a strange mix of ingredients I don’t think fit very well together – cottage cheese cream, raisin jam, fruits, avocado foam and honeycomb.
This is a really cute place to spend a quiet morning.