Just a hundred years ago, 23 percent of Budapest’s residents were Jewish, and today, still, 80,000 or so Jewish people live in the city, yet only a few kosher restaurants exist. But thanks to booming tourism in Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, Hungarian-Jewish dishes like cholent and flódni are beginning to reappear on restaurant menus. There's always room for improvement: a stronger showing of Ashkenazi favorites like pastrami sandwich, kugel, matzo brei, and babka would be a welcome development.
Rosenstein Restaurant, located a bit outside the city center, serves some of the best traditional Hungarian, and Hungarian-Jewish food in Budapest. Tibor Rosenstein opened this family-run operation in 1996, which is currently helmed by his son, Róbert. Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample expertly prepared goulash soup (€5), beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash (€12), and stuffed cabbage (€9)—traditional Hungarian foods that have changed little over the generations. .
Kőleves is a wildly popular restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. The building, which was built in 1851, used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, so it’s fitting that they honor the building’s past with dishes like matzo ball soup, and cholent, the typical Sabbath dish. They also use leftover articles from the meat plant as design pieces, including a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a weathered Talmud..
Located on a quiet side street in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the neighboring party district. The quaint environment is just one of the things to like about this family-run restaurant, which opened in 2000 and specializes in Hungarian-Jewish food. .
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants. Like Hanna, the other meat restaurant around the corner, it gets liveliest during Shabbat, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, each of which costs €25 per person..
Macesz Bistro is a trendy Jewish-Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Part of the restaurant's menu is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, featuring dishes that were once popular among its Ashkenazi residents. (The building across the street from Macesz Bistro is still home to the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community). .
Hanna is a glatt kosher meat restaurant operated by the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Since the restaurant is buried within the fortress-like edifice of the congregation, most locals have never encountered Hanna, even though the surrounding area is currently the center of Budapest's nightlife, teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. .
If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde may be able to give you the answer. Or at least that used to be the case before tourists descended on the place in the last few years. Kádár, which opened in 1957, started out as a wallet-friendly neighborhood joint feeding the mainly Jewish local residents—it's inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter—with unfussy traditional Hungarian foods like stuffed cabbage and beef stew (pörkölt), and also Jewish staples like matzo ball soup and cholent (note that Kádár isn't kosher). The dishes were passable, prices rock-bottom.
In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a well-known Hungarian chef, opened a fast-casual lunch eatery inside the then practically-empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has transformed into a thriving food court where several local celebrity chefs operate casual restaurants, and the area swarms with people at lunchtime. .
Budapest’s one and only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953, when more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became the party center. Instead of "Jewish cakes," Frőhlich specializes in low-priced, traditional Hungarian tortes, pastries, and strudels, including Esterházy, Dobos, and krémes. Sure, some other places in Budapest make tastier stuff, but I enjoy coming to Frőhlich for the homey ambiance—little has changed inside this family-run operation over the decades.
Budapest’s kosher restaurants, unfortunately, aren’t known for offering the most convincing or nuanced flavors in the city. Most people who frequent them, of course, have no other choice. Kosher Deli Restaurant, which opened in 2019, has quickly established itself as the better of Budapest’s only two dairy restaurants (the other is Tel Aviv Café). The ground floor consist of a small kosher grocery store and a pastry counter, with the restaurant occupying the upstairs area..
Located across Budapest's main orthodox synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter but operated by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Tel Aviv Café is Budapest’s one and only kosher dairy restaurant. So, don't go searching for meat-based dishes here. In fact, you won’t find any of the typical Ashkenazi non-meat classics like matzo brei, blintz, and latke either..