Needless to say a visit to Budapest is unimaginable without trying Hungarian cuisine, which is usually heavy, and best for meat lovers, but it is not hopeless to find something decent and delicious. Cheap or expensive (like the Fisherman’s Bastion Restaurant) – the price range is quite varied, and the best ones are not necessarily the most expensive ones. So even if you are on a budget tour, you can eat well in Budapest, even in touristy places like the Buda Castle district.
If you are looking for top notch Hungarian restaurants, which are best in multiple categories: e.g. the best restaurants in Budapest according to local Hungarian guides, or world famous restaurant guides like Zagat, Michelin etc. you can take a look at the list of the top Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest on Top Budapest travel guide. Fodors Budapest travel guide has a list too.
Their list currently does not really focus on the budget backpacker tourists visiting Budapest, so here are some tips I have gathered from Hungarian students who like to hang out in cheap but good places in Budapest. If you are on a shoestring budget, and you don’t want to pay more than 4-12 Euros for your Hungarian dinners / lunches. The lunch deals are the best, you can easily get a 2-3 course lunch menu for 4 Euros! Another thing is that most students would have a lunch in their own college or university canteens, as they are indeed the cheapest (but you may not find them without a student friend). Corvin University, CEU, ELTE etc. all have their own canteens or eateries or ‘cheap restaurants’.
If you don’t like heavy meals, try some ducks or goose legs, they are usually nice and dry, not so many calories. I am personally not a big fan of stew.
Apart from cheap Hungarian canteens, you can go to these places:
Posonyi Kisvendeglo: it is a simple and nice place by the Margaret Island on the Pest side. If you get off the 4 or 6 tram by the Margaret bridge, you can take a short walk in a side street. There are many locals here and the foods are good, so are the prices.
Frici Papa Eatery: very cheap, very budget, lots of Hungarians flock here for lunch time. I have not tried this place yet.
Mensa Restaurant (OK, this is also on the above list): Mensa Restaurant is very popular and very good. It is located in the trendy and central Liszt Ferenc Square – pretty convenient if you are by the Opera House, or at the House of Terror. Not the best in a strict sense of the word, but best in the budget category. And the design is cool too. It is said to be retro Hungarian design of the communist 80s. Mensa is on the top of the list of Hungarian restaurants on Lonely Planet.
Kadar Eatery: another retro place but going back in time. Let’s face it, Kadar eatery is not a restaurant, but a lunch only eatery, but it is a lovely place if you like time travel Back to the Past. About 1965 or the 70s maybe, time stands still in this little place. Don’t expect too much. The Hungarian communist party leader was John Kadar, and if you like history like I do, you can easily assume that the place was named after the longest living Hungarian communist dictator John Kadar. I think nobody knows if the owner of the restaurant was somehow related to Kadar the politician, was he a relative or something or not.