Gundel – Budapest, Hungary

Big, Grand, and Traditional, Re-creating Its Glory Days

Budapest’s fanciest and most famous restaurant is also widely considered the country’s – and maybe Eastern Europe’s – best. Reopened to much fanfare in 1992 after restoration by Hungarian-born American restaurateur George Lang (owner of New York’s Café des Artistes), the aristocratic magic of its 1894 debut can still be felt, from the era when Budapest was the Paris of Eastern Europe.

The menu is delightfully old-fashioned, with many classic dishes prepared as they were in Gundel’s glory days. Some of Hungary’s best wines never leave the country, and they can be found on the extensive wine list, the city’s most impressive, including a noble Tokay dessert wine, one of many under the Gundel house label.

Just next door is Gundel’s popular sister establishment, Bagolyvár (The Owl’s Castle), whose menu is less extensive, less expensive, and more homestyle – owner Lang wants visi­tors and Hungarian diners alike to have a choice between a grand evening, complete with wandering Gypsy violinists, and a cozy down- home alternative.

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