When we arrived in Budapest and checked into our accommodation, our Airbnb host spent a bit of time with us explaining where to eat. “Don’t eat anywhere in the city,” she said. “It’s so expensive, you pay at least 3000 Forint per person for anything. I like a buffet around the corner from this apartment, only 1000 Forint per person for all you can eat.”
She’s not wrong as many of the restaurants are quite overpriced by the standards of most local Hungarians. They seem reasonable to us as tourists with a higher income, but are quite out of reach for most others. So where do people eat when in the city then, if not in restaurants? Surely they don’t all go to 1000 Forint all-you-can-eat buffets?
Answer – they head to the Jewish Quarter. Formerly the rundown Jewish ghetto, this part of Budapest is undergoing gentrification, and revival by the younger generations. It’s now a very cool enclave of hipster shops, cool cafes, vegetarian and vegan takeaway joints, ‘ruin bars’ in rundown buildings, independent designer shops and much much more.
With young hipsters and cool locations comes cheap street food. Street Food Karavan is where you can go for a variety of local Budapestian food trucks in one permanent location. K and I headed there one day for lunch before joining one of the free walking tours around the city.
Our first stop was at Nyakleves which can also be found with a proper shopfront at 27 Budafoki Utca elsewhere in the city. Soups are their specialty with up to half a dozen different soups available every day. The menu does change depending on what’s in season, so ask the guy behind the counter to tell you all the options if you can’t read Hungarian!
I chose a Corn and Crayfish Soup which only cost us about $2.80 Aussie Dollars. While there were no large discernible chunks of crayfish in the soup, there was a strong lingering crustacean flavour and aroma which went particularly well with the creamy corn soup. I’d definitely order this soup again – hopefully next time with some crusty bread on the side.
Our next stop was at Paneer who can also be found elsewhere in the Jewish Quarter at 53 Kiraly Utca. They brand themselves as the ‘real cheeseburger’ specialists, because rather than offering meat patties in their burgers, they offer fried slabs of different cheeses. Yes, you heard me right! Cheddar, emmental, camembert…they have it all.
We had the Camembert Cheeseburger for $7.28 Aussie Dollars. This may seem a little bit steep for a single burger with no fries or drinks, but let me remind you that it’s a whole slab of camembert cheese, deep-fried to oozy goodness! Served with a slice of smokey grilled eggplant and sweet blueberry jam and beetroot salad, this burger really hit the spot. It hit the right note of pungent camembert tempered with creamy eggplant, sweet jam, and fresh beetroot. Delicious!
Our last stop was at The Street Buffet, which doesn’t have any other locations around Budapest. I wasn’t sure about them as they didn’t seem particularly well patronised by other customers in comparison to other stores, but K was keen to give them a try.
We ordered one of their Chicken and Bacon Pirogs (also available in a tortilla) for $3.29 Aussie Dollars and I’m afraid to say that it didn’t do much for me. The awkward shape of the pirog meant that every time you took a bite, bits of it would fall out making it quite a messy meal. The salad was also much too oniony, and the uneven distribution of mayonnaise made parts of the pirog too bland and other parts too strong in flavour. There’s a lot to be improved here, in the meantime take your chances with one of the other stands!
Street Food Karavan is the place to go for a cheap meal out in Budapest. With half a dozen or more different stands to choose from with vegetarian and vegan friendly options available too (you are in the hipster Jewish Quarter after all!), there’s something for everyone. Just make sure to follow the locals to the stands with the best food!
Street Food Karavan is located at 18 Kazinczy utca in Budapest, Hungary.