The beginning of study abroad can be disorienting. Upon my arrival in Budapest–a city unlike any other, on a continent I had never visited–there was so much to explore. There was a lot to do, but I definitely had a top priority. My first self-assigned task was to take several long walks around the city, looking at the apartment blocks and offices, and wandering around public buildings. Once I had a sense of how Budapest was built, I felt like I started to know the city’s culture better.
A couple months later, I was sitting outside BSM between classes with Alex and we were talking about how people get to know a culture. While we both had experienced many facets of the city, we noticed that each person we knew seemed to have a different first priority—a cultural point of entry. For some it’s music or dance. For others it can be literature or sports. For me, the point of entry was architecture. Alex knew immediately what it was for himself: food.
Eating food is a central part of a culture, and certainly one of the important ways in which I have gotten to know Budapest. So today, I plan on publishing several blog posts on food. And just because I think it makes it more exciting, it will be a competition: the top ten dishes I have eaten while abroad, the best desserts, and the most memorable homemade dishes, as well as some well-deserved honorable mentions. I suggest you eat something now, or prepare to be hungry!
Note: We are serious about delving into this topic. The photos will be centered around FOOD, not friends, fun, or other distractions. The following top ten list was based on a holistic evaluation of my culinary experience of the dish (i.e. I have no idea of how to rank food).
Without any further ado, let us begin…
THE TOP TEN
10. Kisharang Étkezde, Budapest
This restaurant, located near St. Steven’s Basilica and run by a Hungarian couple, is one of the few traditional Hungarian restaurants at which I have eaten. We’ve noticed during our time here that Hungarians don’t go out to eat Hungarian cuisine, only tourists do. When Budapestens want Hungarian, I suppose they cook it themselves!
I have had several meals here, but the best was the so-called “Salty Crepe.”
9. Menyország Szíve, Budapest
Did you know that food that Americans would label “organic” is called “bio” in most of Europe? So organic milk will often be proudly labeled “bio-milk.”I discovered this “bio-store” and vegan restaurant just two days ago, but it was good enough to displace another contender on this list. A perfect balance of different tastes and textures–just what you hope from a hole-in-the-wall discovery!
8. Hummusbar, Budapest
This has been a regular stop for lunch and dinner in Budapest. Located in the seventh district, near the so-called Jewish Quarter, hummusbar is an easy, filling option. They also give you a small cup of tea as you order–very classy.
7. Lon Men’s, Berlin
When I went to Berlin with Caroline, a fellow BSM-er, to visit Seth, a friend from back home, our first dinner was at Lon Men’s, a Taiwanese dim sum restaurant in the Charlottenburg neighborhood. It was quite good–I would recommend it if you’re in the area!
6. Bors Gastro Bar, Budapest
Located on trendy Kazinczy utca, Bors (pronounced ‘borsh’) is an unusual street food sandwich shop. Their tiny Star Wars-themed restaurant is always crammed with people looking to buy one of their creative sandwiches and a cup of soup.
5. Daily Imbiss, Vienna
After visiting Schöenbrunn Palace–the residence of Maria Theresa during her reign as Austro-Hungarian Empress–Alex, Sam and I decided to eat lunch at this small restaurant about a block away. Certainly it was the best snap decision of the trip. The chicken tikka masala was fantastic!
4. City Gyros™, Budapest
When I said in a previous blog post that 25% of my diet consists of gyros, I may have been exaggerating, but there has hardly been a week when I haven’t eaten two or three of these things. City Gyro is located right on my route to school every day, and offers a gyros pita for 550 forint (the exchange rate is about 1 USD = 250 forint). Not a bad price for a dependably good meal. This place will remain near and dear to my heart.
3. Carrer del Blai tapas, Barcelona
In Barcelona, Caroline and I went on an adventure to the famous Carrer del Blai, a street that comes alive at night with tapas joints and gelaterias. The system is slick: you don’t order your food, but rather select it yourself from trays at the bar. You save the toothpicks as you eat and when it comes time to pay, the waiter simply counts the number of plain (1 euro) and fancier (1.5-2 euro) toothpicks to determine your bill.
We decided to hop from one restaurant to the next, and had a great meal of fish, fried dough, various meats, and even eggrolls, all arranged neatly on little baguette slices. I love it when food can be an adventure!
2. Soul Food, Budapest: Best Meal
I wasn’t expecting Louisiana Creole to be on my top ten list of places to eat in Budapest, but I love this place. Soul Food offers a solid menu of jambalaya, gumbo, caribbean curry, and burgers and a fun atmosphere.
This is where I had my best meal experience while in Budapest. It was a day when many people had left to travel for the long weekend, and so I ventured to Soul Food in the drizzle. I remember I had to wait because the restaurant was packed, but it was one of those occasions where time didn’t really matter. I had an excellent meal, had fun with the strangers at my large communal table, and simply enjoyed myself. Definitely what a meal should be.
1. Celso y Manolo, Madrid: Best Bite
I believe that my best bite so far while abroad was during my time in Madrid visiting Christa, Tom, and Lachlan (family friends from Minneapolis) with Seth. One night, Christa and Tom took us out to Celso y Manolo, a tapas-style restaurant near the Plaza de Cibeles. While all the food was fantastic–I remember the artichokes vividly–I believe it was the venison that took the cake. So good!
That’s my top ten! Thanks for reading through this. If you’re interested in food, I’m going to be posting two more quick posts about best desserts and best home-cooked meals. Honorable mentions below 🙂
One more week until I’m home–this is crazy.
Honorable Mentions – Other Memorable Food