By Mária Eszter Bogdán
A guide to find vegetarian and vegan treasures in the heart of a meat lover culture’s capital
The traditional Hungarian cuisine is not vegetarian and vegan-friendly: the hearty goulash soup, the spicy pörkölt, and Grandma´s stuffed cabbage are part of the cultural heritage and they have a stable place on the menu in most families and restaurants. The majority of Hungarian men can´t imagine a meal without meat and moms are shocked when their children announce they decided to be vegans. Fortunately, the capital city, Budapest, became a sunlight, diverse spot, and it welcomed not just international, but also vegetarian and vegan restaurants that offer heart-warming, healthy food for locals and visitors alike. This guide introduces three restaurants in which not just your body will be nourished, but also your soul will be pampered.
Vegán Mennyország: The restaurant with a mother for everyone
The first place in today’s guide is called Vegan Mennyország which translates into Vegan Heaven. Upon entering the tiny place next to Keleti Pályaudvar (East Railway Station) your senses are slowing down. The air is filled with incense stick’s smoke, and the shelves are full of plants, and tiny Buddhas. The fairy godmother-like owner, Karen from Malaysia, welcomes you smiling, she is instantly making you feel like arriving home. While serving lunch she starts to teach you about the advantages of being vegan and turns quickly into a psychologist, a mother for everyone who wants to learn about spiritual diet. “I cook with love” – she says, and you can taste it in every bite. Her dishes are spicy, and the menu is a nice mixture of cuisines: you can choose from fried rice with vegetables, fried rice pasta, or vegan fast food. If you are not ravenous, the normal portion is enough for both lunch and dinner: it costs just 1800 HUF, and it not just gives you the energy to manage the busy city life but also protects your wallet. Only one advantage of the place can turn into a disadvantage: if you are an introvert and arrive when someone is already eating there and chit-chats with Karen, you might have the feeling that you interrupt a family gathering, but in this case, just ask her to pack you a portion for take away.
Vega City: The restaurant with the famous patty burger
The number one favorite among students running around in the old town is VegaCity just in front of the National Museum between Astoria and Kálvin square. At lunchtime, the place is quite busy, but it is worth waiting. The long queue is proof that locals are constantly returning to Vega City; tourists can trust this place. It is a warm, healthy “fast food” restaurant with a lovely view and a wide selection. “Savory or sweet, spicy, or sour, the choice is almost inexhaustible,” writes a guest on TripAdvisor. From Monday to Friday, they offer two types of soups, stews, layered dishes, pasta and Indian dishes on their menu, and amazing cakes too. They even have SpongeBob’s famous patty burgers! Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been offering home delivery. A daily menu costs here around 2000 HUF: it consists of a főzelék (Hungarian thick vegetable stew), a veggie hash, and salads. The red lentil stew is a must-try, just like their rich smoothies, calming teas, and lemonades which are helping you to fully switch off and enjoy a mindful meal in the middle of Múzeum Avenue.
VegaKuckó: The restaurant with the coziest atmosphere
Another, more homely, little vegan treasure is VegaKuckó, translated VegaCottage at Boráros tér. The owners Edit and Csaba are great chefs and the friendliest “hosts” in the city. They are ready to explain to you all the ingredients in their dishes, which are in most cases not just vegetarian, but vegan, and gluten-free. Traditional Hungarian foods are reinvented, and tasty courses of international cuisine are waiting for the hungry Budapesters here from Monday to Friday. On the menu there is always a hearty cream soup, like orange sweet potato cream soup; a usual soup, for instance, Brussels sprouts soup; a one-course dish; a layered dish; a stew; and mouth-watering pancakes, like banana pancakes or chocolate-orange pancakes. A two-course daily menu costs just 2190 HUF, and a three-course daily menu 2490 HUF. The general opinion about the dishes is nicely summarized by this review on TripAdvisor: “The flavor profiles were wonderful because none of the meals were overloaded with salt or sugar. After a large meal, I felt full but not gross because the food was so healthy.” Top it with the coziness of the petite gallery, and you will see that you have found the best vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the city.