By We Love Budapest : What is the perfect lunch like? It’s healthy, it’s nutritious and light and it’s made from fresh, quality ingredients. Unlikely as it seems first there are places in Budapest where you can get a lunch just like that below 1000 forints. And we are not just talking about small buffets and canteens; there are great bistros and restaurants out there as well offering menus at a pocket-friendly price.
The cheapest places
Menza – retro delicacies with a modern twist
Lunch at Menza is like a journey to the past. The main meals, especially in the rush of the lunchtime, take us back to the seventies and they remind us of the typical school canteens. The names sound familiar, the ingredients are similar but fortunately no bad memories of the past came back after tasting the dishes. This is the best place for you if you have a strong desire to have some lecsó, krumplistészta (pasta and potato) or a piece of Stefánia steak. Menza offers the most popular Hungarian retro classics al fresco style in the city centre. A meal of two Menza dishes costs 990 Ft on weekdays.
Frici Papa – The place where time stopped
Frici Papa’s is a mixture of an old fashioned restaurant and a buffet and it’s the typical opposite of the cosmopolitan-styled, surrounding places of Liszt Ferenc Square. You can get off cheap easily if you choose from the daily offers, but for that little money you shouldn’t expect for much of a gastronomic experience. If you’re not keen on these offers you should check the menu and look for other alternatives. For a bit more money you can order different fish dishes for example. During the rush of the lunchtime the place is usually a bit crowded so don’t be surprised if a waiter leads you to a table which is already taken.
Ruben – The cheapest of all
This is the cheapest place where you can have a lunch of three courses for 790 forints (which is actually 870 forints since they charge 10% for service). Because of these cheap prices Ruben is usually packed and sometimes you have to wait to get in. The dishes have a typical home-made feel, so you should expect for traditional Hungarian meals like cvekedli (a kind of pasta) with cabbage, tarhonya soup, rice and meat and as long as desserts are concerned you should be prepared for cocoa rolls, pies and strudels.
The quality of the dishes is surprisingly good but it’s not exceptional. The thing is, is that it’s still cheaper to get a lunch here than to buy all the ingredients yourself and prepare your own lunch at home. There is only one thing that makes us worry a bit and that’s the fact that you can still get chestnut puree in the middle of the summer. Ruben is not the kind of place where being in season matters.
Klassz – The cheapest bistro lunch
Klassz is a small place full of secrets. This is the only place in town where you can’t make a reservation; there is a very strict ‘first come first served’ rule. The interior design with the colourful wallpapers is quite elusive but there is a harmony in the basic concept. The biggest mystery is that how can they possibly offer such quality services and a two course lunch for only 990 forints? There is a sign outside that shows the current offers. On Fridays you can usually expect for soup and dessert. You should arrive early if you don’t want to wait for a table to get free and if you have some time you should check the wine list too!
ARAZ – Cheaper than it looks
At first sight ARAZ doesn’t seem like a place in which you can just drop in, especially with its posh exterior. However you should give it a try and check the two course meals for 1290 forints and the three course meals for 1490 forints. The dishes are quite lavish; we were struggling with the desserts in the end. Menus are variable and if you don’t have 40 spare minutes you can take your order away. If you would like to stay you should enjoy the terrace that belongs to the restaurant but don’t forget to make a reservation even for lunch.
Csalogány 26 – The home of the gourmet menu
This is a gastro-historical place, as long as lunch menus are concerned; Csalogány 26 was the first restaurant five years ago that offered variable gourmet menus with more courses. The first course is soup, the second is usually meat or fish and the third one is dessert. You can only get to know the menu when you arrive but you should let the chef take care of your orders. They have a flexible system; one of us is lactose intolerant with special needs but they took care of the problem and came up with a solution right away. It’s worth the 2500 forints especially since this is one of the best places in town. The restaurant is opened from Tuesday to Saturday – on Saturdays there is one set dish in the lunch menu.
Olimpia – Ridiculously simple
Olimpia continued what Csalogány started. The head chef, Lajos Takács starts his days at the market, where he decides what the daily offer will be. It’s most definitely not the design that made us fall in love with the place – it’s the food. Each and every dish, that makes it to the signs that replace the menus, is made from quality ingredients. You can order one, two or three course meals for 1600/1950/2250 forints and with every order comes a nice tall glass of sparkling water. Tuesday is fish day – the ingredients are more than fresh, it takes only two days for the fish to get from the water to the dining table.
Laci! Konyha! – Appetizing chitterlings
This is the new hot spot for gastro-experts. The interior design is quite industrial and the dishes offer a rather unexpected, surprising experience. Different kinds of meats and chitterlings play the leading roles in the menu of Laci! Konyha! but lunch offers include vegan meals, seafood dishes and fish courses as well. The price of 2700 forints might come as a shock at first but for this amount of money we can try dishes like sardines with avocado ice-cream, cold pig head with paprika or smoked guinea-fowl with dill and cottage cheese dumplings.
Maybe you won’t spend all your time here from now on, but if you would like to find out where the Hungarian gastronomy is heading then you should visit them. You can check their offers on their official Facebook fan page. Oh, and just to let you know, there’s a 10% service charge as well.
Pesti Disznó Bistro
This is the first Hungarian tapas bar with a gigantic wine offer and a design kitchen. The atmosphere and the design take us to France or Spain maybe; it doesn’t remind us of Nagymező utca at all. The name Pesti Disznó already suggests that the main offers include pork dishes and chitterlings (disznó means pork in Hungarian by the way).
If you are not quite comfortable with these ingredients you should check the place anyway, all the foods look (and taste) great, even the ones that are made from the scariest parts of the pig, not to mention that the lunch offers have lighter, healthier dishes as well. When we checked the place mushroom soup and chicken breast was the daily offer. A two course meal costs 990 forints, but if you would like to have some dessert as well the price can go up to 1390 forints. An ideal place for tourists or for friends from abroad who would like to try Hungarian delicacies.
Fruska Picnic&Bistro – Let’s go outside
It’s a gorgeous place at Kopaszi Gát with sweet syrups and checked tablecloths. Typical lunch offers are only available on Thursdays, but you can choose from different types of soups all week long. Fruska is not the place where you can just drop in if you are on your 40-minutes lunch break – time stops here and you feel like you’re sitting at your own grandmother’s dining table and you have to stay still.
There are grilled goods for meat lovers, halloumi and organic farfalle for vegans, baked pastries and sandwiches and you must try the picnic basket that is packed with frankfurters, fresh home-made bread, aubergine chutney and brushcetta. You should make a call and order these baskets before you go to Fruska, that way you won’t have to wait for that long. Fruska by the way is an ideal place for a date.
Mák Bistro – high gastronomy with ease
Mák Bistro made it to the top within a very short period of time. They are one of the best restaurants in the city which means that the prices are quite spicy – a two course meal costs 2800 forints, while a three course meal costs 3500 forints but for our money we can enjoy fantastic culinary wonders in a relaxed environment. Despite the higher prices we can still come off cheaper than going to a restaurant. From this June on Kata Tálas will be the head chef, who previously worked for Heston Blumenthal as well.
Onyx – Michelin star lunch
The luxurious lunch of Onyx is interestingly the cheapest place in Budapest where you can try dishes that earned the restaurant a Michelin star status. A two course meal costs 3990 forints, a three course meal costs 4590 forints and an extra 15% is charged for the service. There are three types of appetizers, four types of main dishes and three types of desserts. Two dishes of each type are also on the current menu which means that their price might be higher than expected, sometimes an extra of 4000 forints can be charged for one single dish. You have to make your reservation if you’d like to get a table, you have to arrive before 2pm for the lunch offers and you should devote at least one whole hour of your time. There is a dress code as well so be prepared!
Published on XpatLoop.com with the permission of: We Love Budapest