Review: Street Food Karavan, Budapest Hungary

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?

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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.

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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!

Corn and crayfish soup, 600 Hungarian Forint
Corn and crayfish soup, 600 Hungarian Forint

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.

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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.

Camembert Cheeseburger, 1550 Hungarian Forint
Camembert Cheeseburger, 1550 Hungarian Forint

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!

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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.

Chicken and bacon pirog, 700 Hungarian Forint
Chicken and bacon pirog, 700 Hungarian Forint

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.

Review: All’Antico Vinaio, Florence Italy

Tuscany and Florence in particular, is famous for their many panino shops selling their local Florentine specialty – Panino al Lampredotto. Sounds pretty delicious right? However it won’t be to everyone’s taste – lampredotto is cow’s stomach, simmered in stock with spices and herbs for hours until it’s just edible enough to chop up and serve in a panino. I’m not going to lie, lampredotto isn’t quite to my taste either, but luckily there’s no lack of other panino shops in Florence selling other delicious sandwiches.

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All’Antico Vinaio is one of the most famous, with long lines outside their store at lunchtime every day. Everyone who’s ever been to Florence will have passed happy customers sitting in the local piazzas, walking along the streets, or even just sitting right in the gutter outside the shop, munching on their delicious sandwiches.

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So what’s the appeal? Part of it might be the honour-system self-service wine outside the shop, for only 2 Euro. More than a few people were taking advantage of this great deal. The main appeal however, is what you can see the cabinet behind the wine – that amazing Italian porchetta. Along with countless legs of salty prosciutto, smoked Tuscan vegetables, and large wheels of cheeses, All’Antico Vinaio uses the best and most tasty ingredients in their sandwiches.

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How do you assemble a sandwich? If you’re apprehensive at the idea of navigating the minefield of a million different sandwich filling combinations, All’Antico Vinaio has made it easy with their ‘Top Five’ as recommended by their staff and regulars. Some of the titles refer to favourite famous sons of Florence (Dante), others refer to the boss’s favourite combination, and one is even dedicated to the director Ron Howard, who spent 2015 filming the latest Robert Langdon movie with Tom Hanks in Florence (Inferno).

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After queueing for about fifteen minutes, we finally reached the front of the line and ordered our sandwiches. And what a handful they were!

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L’Inferno: Porchetta, rocket and spicy vegetable paste, 5 Euro

K opted for the Inferno sandwich, drawn to it by the thick slices of fatty and salty porchetta. Now I don’t know if Ron Howard went to All’Antico Vinaio for this sandwich regularly while filming in Florence, but you couldn’t blame him if he did – it’s a winner! The porchetta is definitely one of the highlights of All’Antico Vinaio, and any sandwich that includes it their home-smoked porchetta is one worth trying. This Inferno sandwich had a nice chilli kick to it as well through the vegetable paste – a nod to the fires of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

Panino with prosciutto crudo, pecorino and melanzane, 5 Euro
Panino with prosciutto crudo, pecorino and melanzane, 5 Euro

I chose to go my own way, confusing the sandwich artist behind the counter as I asked for a custom sandwich in extremely broken Italian, with a few unintentional French words thrown in for good measure. My panino with thin slices of prosciutto crudo, pecorino cheese and grilled marinated melanzane (eggplant) was a real winner – especially with the lashings of olive oil he added as I hadn’t chosen a sauce to go with the mix. It was simple bit effective – salty prosciutto, strong cheese, creamy melanzane, crunchy toasted panino. I’d be happy for them to add my creation to their regular menu with the name Gourmanda!

All’Antico Vinaio is a must-visit when in Florence. Whether you order a large sandwich each as a hearty lunch, or share a sandwich between two as a mid-morning snack, you’re bound to be blown away by the freshness of the ingredients, and the timelessness of their suggested sandwich combinations. For 5 Euro each, you really can’t go wrong!

All’Antico Vinaio is located at 65R Via de Neri in Florence, Italy.

Review: FOOD Str, Athens Greece

It’s really easy to think of Greece as being all souvlakis and gyros, spanakopita and horiatiki, baklava and loukoumades. A lot of restaurants and fast food joints offer those options, but let’s be honest – eating outside the boundaries of your national cuisine can be exciting, the act of which is readily practised by the younger generation who are keen to embrace global eating trends.

Our free walking tour guide around Athens, Vasilis, was a young, dynamic and engaging guide who said to us, “You obviously have to try souvlakis and gyros while you’re here, it’s our national food. But my friends and I also like to eat burgers, and the best place in Athens for great burgers at a good price is FOOD Str“.

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Keen to eat where all the cool, young and hip crowd eat, we headed off to FOOD Str after our walking tour to see if it was just as good as Vasilis claimed it to be. It was quiet when we were there around 1pm, as the official lunch hour for local Greeks seems to be much later – between 2pm and 3pm.

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We ordered two burgers, two soft drinks, and one serve of fries (or ‘potatoes’ as described on the menu’) to share. This came to about 14 Euro – a bit more expensive than burger meals at McDonalds, but very reasonably priced for the hand-made quality of the food here.

Fish Burger (breaded cod, beetroot, mayonnaise, in black bread coloured with cuttlefish ink), 4.80 Euro
Fish Burger (breaded cod, beetroot, mayonnaise, in black bread coloured with cuttlefish ink), 4.80 Euro

K chose the interesting Fish Burger, a strange concoction of black, purple and golden brown that looks less than appetising but this is where appearances can deceive. The fried cod fillet was crispy, crunchy and perfectly fishy, the beetroot and mayonnaise added some much needed sweetness of flavour, and the soft black-tinged bread was surprisingly soft like a brioche bun, making the perfect sandwich for the tasty fishy filling. This burger is a tad more expensive than others on the menu, but well worth the extra expense if only to try some of Greece’s excellent seafood in a burger form.

FOOD Str Burger (beef, mushrooms, crispy lettuce, red and yellow peppers, carrots, handmade tomato sauce, mayonnaise), 3.80 Euro
FOOD Str Burger (beef, mushrooms, crispy lettuce, red and yellow peppers, carrots, handmade tomato sauce, mayonnaise), 3.80 Euro

I went for a more conventional burger choice – the house burger, or FOOD Str Burger. While the mix of the beef patty itself wasn’t anything spectacular, the effect of the charcoal grill added a remarkable smoky dimension to the meat. With the sweet caramelised mushrooms and peppers, and just the right amount of fresh crisp lettuce to bring a bit of crunch to the burger, this was a real winner.

Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese, 2.60 Euro
Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese, 2.60 Euro

We shared a serve of the Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese – which in this instance, I imagine is a description of the fact that the potatoes are freshly cut before being fried into deliciously crispy and crunchy chips perfect for dipping into a strong blue cheese sauce. My only disappointment here is that the dish wasn’t served as I had imagined it – with a runny blue cheese dressing drizzled over the whole cone of chips. Still, I imagine this dip-on-the-side is more of a crowd-pleasing dish, as you can choose how much blue cheese to have on your chips. Personally I prefer ALL THE CHEESE…but hey, I’ve never been good at controlling what I eat!

FOOD Str is a burger joint that stands up against any other gourmet burger joint in Athens, or even in Sydney or Melbourne with their gourmet burger obsession. Burgers and fries alike are freshly made rather than having ingredients pre-prepared, giving a quality that’s hard to find elsewhere. Don’t be intimidated by the menu being in Greek – the waitress is very friendly and can provide you with an English menu on request!

FOOD Str is located at 14 Kalamiotou Street in Athens, Greece.