You are unlikely to go hungry in Hungary. Cafés and restaurants (étterem or vendéglő) proliferate and portions are usually large. Eating out is generally affordable: choose well and you can stuff yourself, plus enjoy a few beers, for under 2000Ft.
Kebabs, falafel and small dishes – such as hortobágyi palacsinta (pancakes stuffed with mince and doused in creamy paprika sauce) – cost from as little as 600Ft, and mains tend to start around 1200Ft (or 2000Ft in higher-end restaurants). For foreigners, the archetypal Hungarian dish is goulash (gulyásleves) – a soup including beef and potatoes, brilliantly coloured with paprika and traditionally served in a cauldron (bogrács).
Hungarians like a protein-heavy breakfast (reggeli) featuring cheese, eggs and salami, plus bread and jam. Coffeehouses (kávéház) are increasingly trendy and you’ll find many serving breakfast and coffee with milk (tejeskávé) or whipped cream (tejszínhabbal). For most Hungarians coffee means one thing: espresso (eszpresszó).
Traditionally, lunch is the main meal of the day, and lunch set menus (napi menű) can be a highly affordable way of eating out. You won’t want for snacks, particularly sweet ones: the old-fashioned cukrászda or patisserie with tempting displays of elaborate cakes is a staple of every town centre. Marzipan is a national favourite, as is ice cream (fagylalt). Pancakes (palacsinta, from around 350Ft) are very popular, as are strudels (rétes; about 600Ft).
Hungary’s mild climate and diversity of soils are ideal for wine (bor), which is cheap whether you buy it by the bottle (üveg) or the glass (pohár). The country’s best-known wine-producing region is the Tokaj-Hegyalja, known predominantly for dessert wine. Bikavér, produced around Eger and meaning “Bull’s Blood”, is a robust red. Good whites can be found around the Badacsony in the Balaton region and near Sopron.
Wine bars (borozó) are common, but the best way to taste is at source at the wine cellars (borpince) around Pécs and Eger. Harder drinkers favour brandy (pálinka), with popular flavours being distilled from apricots (barack) and plums (szilva). Local beers (sör) to try are Soproni Ászok and Pécsi Szalon sör, while in Budapest a craft beer scene is well established in the city’s famous “ruin bars”.