*Cover image courtesy of Meat & Sauce, Budapest
Budapest Street Food: A Walking Tour
As if it wasn’t enough that Budapest was mundane and full of beautiful women. The Wonderful also comes with street food that would make Anthony Bourdain drool like a toddler. Let’s hit the streets.
Hungary has always been known and admired for its rich and special cuisine, even to the extent of other countries actually stealing a lot of our ideas (looking at you Austria, we know about your little Goulash scheme).
I cannot really go by without mentioning the delicious, hot, fatty, and wonderful dishes like Gulyás soup (that’s how you actuall spelly it, Austria, get that right at least), Pörkölt, Fisherman’s soup, or Lecsó.
Not going to bore you with details, look them up on Google, or even better, try them. Right now, I’m going to have to pass on these culinary wonders and go for the more cosmopolitan stuff as today we will be dealing with the best in street food that Budapest has to offer.
Budapest Street Food: hand-selection of the Finest.
Let’s jump into the amazing and fashionable world of Budapest street food. For those that are unfamiliar with this term,
streetfood means tasty treats that you get from a street vendor, that you eat while walking and that you smear all over your brandnew Armani shirt.
Well, up until recent years, that was the very meaning of the term. But no more; streetfood vendors improved an awful lot and any food critic not intimidated by Gordon Ramsey would agree that a lot of them are actual culinary specialties in their own right. And the best thing is, Budapest has plenty of these places.
From the classic burger vendors with meats of questionable origin to soup joints from countries a lot of people couldn’t even point out on a map – the city has it all. So if you get tired and hungry from endless guided tours or just aimlessly wandering around and you’d like to have something to soak up the gallons of lager you necked down or you’d like to cure your horrible hangover with some treats for your belly then look no further.
Here’s your definitive guide to Budapest street food.
Let’s start with hamburgers, because let’s face it, burgers are still the most favoured ’quick bites’ by just about anyone and became pretty much of a trend nowadays.
Dudes and dudettes from all over Europe realised there’s life beyond McDonalds and Burger King. Thus, lots and lots of special and occlusion-inducing joints have opened up lately and, although I’m a little ashamed to say this with regard to my could-be-healthier diet, I tried
almost all every single one of them. Not because I have no cooking skills or imagination, it’s just that this is sort one of my vices. And boy, they are awesome.
But there’s one burger joint that stands out from al, and that is Attaboy! (yes, the excalamtion mark is necessary).
Their burgers are just so freaking amazing it’s unbeliavable and what makes the place so unique is their wide variety of ingredients and types.
I mean, you can even choose wholegrain buns which go pretty neatly with your diet coke. Never mind the beef, cheese, and bacon you have beside them, nobody sees those anyway. You can also go with chicken steak or pork chops if beef is not your thing. But that’s all mundane when
looking at the stuff you can put between the buns. There is a myriad of different cheeses, gravy or even vegetables available in their kitchen, most memorable ones being the mixed pepper gravy with dijon mustard flavour, caraway cheese, and their BBQ spare rib stew.
Although they specialize in takeway and delivery, they have a pretty nice little place in the heart of the city. Attaboy! is also reasonably priced and nobody will laugh if you eat your burger with fork and a knife (I did it once and beside my girlfriend calling me a pussy and breaking up with me, nothing happened).
Looking for something sweet? Check out the American apple or Nutella pie or get diabetes from brownies with strawberry jam.
All in all, be sure to hop in if you like a good burger, this is by far the best place there is.
Hot Dogs: Hot Dog And Cold Beer
The name alone should be enough here, don’t you think?
These words grab the attention of a male of any species. If these guys would find a way to include football and boobs in their name, they could go for world domination in a heartbeat. So what is so special about that place you ask? Well, what made it stand out for me was that it’s not just a place where you get a wiener (haha) between two buns and have it drown in ketchup and awful mustard sauce. No, Hot Dog And Cold Beer are about proper and quality ingredients as well as a wide variety of different dogs to choose from. What does quality mean? You’d think it is what it is, but no. Not only are these dogs huge, almost constituting a full meal, the buns are also sweet and so soft they barely hold themselves together.
And the toppings? Well, sauces are not too fancy really, except for the wasabi mayonaise or the sweet dijon mustard. The
pickled ginger, however, probably is an elite member of the Royal Group of Kickass Toppings.
So yeah, you can choose the ’classic’ New York hot dog which those bad guys consume with so much joy in the movies or you can get the October-fest feeling by getting a German Dog that has mustard and sour cabbage on it.
And there’s more. Much more. For example, they have corndogs, as seen on TV, pulled onto sticks, and it’s disgustingly good. Staying with sticks, there are the Tornado Chips which is basically a leaf of potato chips running down
a stick. I don’t really see the point of that, but I ate a burger with cutlery, so I probably should shut up.
And for those who don’t mind getting a bypass on a Sunday afternoon, the place serves – get ready – fried Bounty chocolate bars. That has to be the most stomach burning, heart destroying, reflux awakening dish I’ve ever seen and it makes my guardian angel do a facepalm when I say it’s actually awesome. Can’t really eat more than half a serving of it and even that will make it impossible to sleep for two weeks. But for some unfathomable reason it’s utterly delicious. This one will probably be the main cause for me to develop bulimia one day, though. Oh yeah, and the bloody perverts call it a sweetdog.
The venue is rather small, so chances are you’ll need to go outside instead of having a seat on the inside. Be prepared to lose all your dignity in a couple of minutes, having to eat all of that stuff off of your chest while walking. Avoid suits at all costs.
Sandwiches: Meat and Sauce
Now we’re talking. This is a rather ballsy sandwich bar not far from one of our favourite ruin club Instant, but I wouldn’t recommend having a meal there before clubbing, unless you don’t mind women laugh their asses off seeing your sauce-stained once-good looking superexpensive nightlife attire.
Going there after clubbing might be a better idea, to cheer you up after seeing all your mates hooking up with some hot birds but not you. And you’re better off anyway, having any of their beef or pork sandwiches will take you to heaven much faster than any woman could ever do. Another upside: they won’t want to talk about their day once you ate them.
At Meat and Sauce sandwiches are made from a reasonable variety of ciabatta bread and then you can de-
cide what sort of dressing, topping, meat and gravy to go elbow-deep in. This place doesn’t fool around, sandwich bars won’t come much manlier than ths one. Why is that? Well, let’s just try the one stuffed with véres hurka which is the Hungarian equivalent of black pudding.
This is a typical streetfood joint, so don’t expect a public restroom to have a shower or wash your coat, but there’s a faucet in there so liberating your hands from all the sauce can be done in a cultured manner. Of course, only if you’re on a date and want to at least look like a gentleman. Any other cases, the tongue should do the job. Don’t waste any of this heavenly stuff.
Asian Food: Funky Pho
Another well named bunch, promoting all the awesomeness of Asian (Vietnamese, that is) cuisine.
In a city that is essentially drowning in Chinese takeways and restaurants, it’s a refreshing change of pace to come across a place like this one. Not only is it absolutely sincere and original Vietnamese, it is pure and unprocessed food as well with no added preservatives or other shit. This one is the real deal so go ahead and have a Pho, then shove down some juicy noodles and make sure you finish in like 5-10 minutes as there are always people waiting out-
side. Yes, it’s an utterly tiny place. Not a surprise when we talk about street food, but it feels more like a larger office elevator which is bad news for left-handed food-warriors.
’Unfortunately’, as far as I’ve heard, to this day there were no epic Bruce Lee-style karate showdowns sparked by the full disregard demonstrated to personal proximity boundaries. Meaning, people won’t beat the bejesus out of you if you step on their toes in the tiny venue.
Soups: Soup Culture
No, this is not some fancy intellectual term, this is the name of one of the first so called ’soup bars’ in Budapest (it might be a thing in other places, but here it’s new).
Soup Culture is rather small with not much space to sit down when it’s not warm enough to pick a tiny table on the street, but that isn’t the point anyway. The reason I like this place so much is that they’ve made it possible to have soup for takeaway in papercups, finally making it possible to sip away on some goodness reminding you of home which helps forgetting how difficult your vital exam will be or how badly you’ll be scolded by the client on that upcoming meeting.
What’s also pretty nice is that it has an evolving menu, always having 3-4 different selections of soup for offer every day so it’s not the same stupid chicken-soup all the time, making it worthwile to keep getting back. Especially as these guys don’t mess around with the usual stuff anybody gets from their moms on Sundays. For example, the menu for today is consisting of astoundingly strange but all the more lovely types of treats: corn cream with roasted sausage, cauliflower cream with curry chicken, and lemon lamb ragou.
And if the liquid goodness is not enough, the good people behind the counter will offer you some amazing warm sandwiches. This place will especially help during the harsh winter days, so go ahead and have a taster.
Sweets & Deserts: The Donut Library
Heading towards the end now, it’s only fitting to throw in something sweet, don’t you think?
Well, there are a number of contestants as Hungary is pretty good with desserts and sweet delicacacies. In light of this, it’s going to be a bit of a twist to recommend a joint that sells donuts, but what can I do if the owners and confectioners of The Donut Library are doing such an insanely awesome job? And yes, I do admit the place looks pretty girly from the inside, but nobody is forced to stay so you can kick the door in, yell out your commands like 3 banana and lemon flavoured donuts with a round of chocolate coated ones, headbutt a whole into the wall and off you go with your box full of happiness, stroking your battle-beard. And let’s not forget that stuff that’s literally swarmin of sugar can do wonders for your hangover.