Prague, Vienna, Budapest - need recs for picky eaters
Will be traveling with my 2 early 20s DDs who are picky eaters. No pork, no tomatoes, lighter fare than sausages, cabbage and potatoes please. We will be staying in city center in each place during July 2012. Breakast is included in our hotel, so looking for lunch, snack and dinner recs. Hoping to get good dinner for <$25pp. Please recommend a variety of cuisine they can try, rather than heavy stuff. We love pastry and perhaps they can live on pastry and beer? Just kidding! One daughter eats no red meat, but does eat chicken. Anything like the Patricia Well's dictionary of French food terms for any of these countries? We don't want to be confined to only restaurants with English menus, so are trying to learn a little German, Czech and Hungarian. Köszönöm Szépen!
The combination of good dinner, light food, and <$25 pp is a daunting one, though you won't miss the mark by all that much if you work at it. One primary problem is that the best of the light and inventive cooking takes place at the top of the culinary foodchain. But a solution is to mix lunches and dinners as main meals of the day (plainly, on different days); the lunch deals can be pretty incredible at very, very good restaurants.
Start out by considering Borsso, a marvelous nouvelle place that describes itself as French/Hungarian fusion and that has excellent jazz on many evenings. Likely a bit over your budget, but well within your family's preferences. http://www.borsso.hu/en/
Continue with Cafe Bouchon, a no less marvelous but quite different, comfortable bistro-like restaurant with a very diverse menu and a remarkable willingness, nay, eagerness, to adapt availability to the particular wishes/desires of those dining there, even newcomers. The host/owner, Lajos Tisza (who is there almost every night but not quite every night and the experience is not quite as remarkable without him) will turn the entire menu's description into a Hungarian rhapsody that, somehow, the food then delivers on. I dream of the asparagus season at Bouchon, and was lucky enough to be there this year for the first of the local asparagus, both white and green. But, the core of what makes it special is what happens when your family expresses its preferences...say, 'I don't eat red meat...' or 'What would you have that is comparatively light...?' and you'll be immediately met with a response along the lines of: 'What would you care for this evening? We can offer ....' And then a list of things not on the menu, each available in a variety of incarnations, one more intriguing than the next. http://cafebouchon.hu/eng.htm Don't be bashful about expressing your constraints and even your wistful urges
For lunches, consider Borsso's relative down the street, Cafe Alibi ... a great cafe with a large outdoor area in front of the law school building. Marvelous lemonades with fresh fruit, a terrific Alibi Salad with bananas and grapes and nuts and seeds over lettuce with a mustardy vinaigrette ... excellent breakfasts, a wonderful place to sit and chill out. http://cafealibi.hu/index.php?lang=en
And especially several upscale places with prix fixe lunch menus -- three courses for well under $20/pp: Csalogany 26 (http://csalogany26.hu/ ... the menus listed are dinner menus -- a 4 course menu with wine for about $50/person, an eight course tasting menu with wines at about $80pp, both stellar bargains for the level of cooking, and lunch at well under half that lower pricepoint with a daily menu).
Or LaciKonyha! -- a 3-clourse lunch for about $15 -- http://lacipecsenye.eu/#kapcsolat ... nouvelle Hungarian with brilliantly light fare.
Lunch or dinner at Cafe Gerloczy will give everyone in your family lots of options in the very center of the city and a wonderfully restful cafe setting: http://www.gerloczy.hu/cafe_and_restaurant/ and manageable within your budget (remember that there is no tax, and tipping around 10% is fine, though extraordinary service may well make you want to stretch that somewhat).
Fallbacks in even the most traditional restaurants might well include soups, and, in particular, variants on husleves, 'meat soup', which is a clear, intense broth with poultry and pieces of vegetable, sometimes some noodles, sometimes matzo or farina balls or other dumplings ... a bit heartier but still very light, look for tyukhusleves (chicken meat soup) or simply ask if you don't see husleves on a menu, before committing to a restaurant (HOOSH-leh-vesh).
Non-Hungarian food, as noted by others, is widely available and can be excellent ... I am a New Yorker, and am not unduly fond of others' efforts to achieve pizza (including the Romans'), but you'll find terrific light options at the fast food outpost of Vapiano http://www.vapiano.hu/ , and the city has any number of Indian restaurants, my favorite being Salaam Bombay: http://salaambombay.hu/ (but the Hare Krishna folk have a pair of excelent and very central and very inexpensive restaurants that are 100% vegetarian, one of which is essentially an upscale lunch counter: http://govinda.hu/english/contact-us/ ). And there's an excellent, modest and inexpensive Asian restaurant, Papir Tigris: http://papirtigris.com/index.php?lang=en I wouldn't call it 'light' but the Hummus Bar small chain of local places does marvelous (surprise!) hummus and falafel:http://www.hummusbar.hu/cms/index.php?lang=en
As to pastry, don't miss the Auguszt Cukraszda http://www.augusztcukraszda.hu/ , for my money the best kremes in Budapest (and the best milieu, but for a divergent view and a wider range: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204485304576645240754663616.html (note that although their top recommendation edges out the Auguszt in their, to my view, slightly misguided assessment, their foodie-pin-up centerfold shot is of the Auguszt's entry into the competition.... http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/im...
John, I am already partaking of your wisdom about Budapest. Looking forward to the MAX apartment in July and your recommendations for delicious food. I am hoping to re-live the delicacies of my childhood - beef porkolt, dios testas, retas, etc. while managing to satisfy my 20 something daughters' reticence over anything braised. Thank goodness my eldest is no longer a vegetarian, as I know she won't be able to resist the Hungarian salami sandwiches we are planning. Looking forward to your tutelage in all things Hungarian, Diane
for Prague, please consider that the Czech Crown is about the strongest European currency right now. Your budget will allow lunch, but dinner is going to be more difficult. In Prague several places stand out but my favourites are Sansho and The Pind. In July both will have a terrace outdoors. Lokal Ambiente is fabulous but does focus on sausages, cabbage and potatoes.
Budapest in July gets very hot, so consider living on fruit only. Their apricots, peaches and melons are among the best in Europe. Avoiding red meat is possible, but neither easy nor popular.
In Vienna you have lots of options.
Have fun learning Magyar! ;) We actually learned a few phrases and people seemed very happy that we'd made the effort.
Those cities are fabulous. You're going to have a great time. My loooong trip report for Prague and Vienna is linked below. I definitely echo Lokal as a great Prague pick. Also Klasterni Pivovar. In Vienna: Phoenixhof, Buffet Treznievski, Wienhof Wieninger... There are a lot of options beyond sausage and cabbage.
K, not too worried as I speak fluent Hungarian, albeit with American accent. My father was from Transylvania and my mother's family from Miskolc, so very familiar with Hungarian menu. I love goulash, porkolt, stuffed cabbage, etc. but my kids (21 & 24) do not. Perhaps they will live on beer and pastry? We should be there at the height of sour cherry season, looking forward to some cold leves with cherries, peaches, etc. Also, love cucumber salad. Just praying my kids don't decide to practice with the only words they ever learned - of course all the curse words!
re: Diane in Bexley
Budapest has had Western food forever. There is no shortage of restaurants there (pretty much any cuisine you can imagine). I had a pretty spectacular wood-fired pizza there, as good as any I've had anywhere. As for goulash, it's literally in every major restaurant, regardless of cuisine, Chinese included. You cannot escape goulash.
If your July is anything like ours was then goulash will not be at the top of your list for food choices. Nothing less appealing than a heavy meat dish in 90+degree heat.
But really, there's no way they WON'T find something to eat. It's pretty darn depressing to walk down a charming street in a historical part of a centuries-old town and find a Subway sandwich shop, but that's the reality of Europe in 2012.
Whatever you do, don't miss the Central Market in Budapest.
Assuming you visit the Doheny Synagogue, there's a fantastic vegetarian restaurant right across the street (hummus/falafel). And you might want to visit the Kosher butcher around the corner for some pretty spectacular salami (with and without paprika).
Prague - lots of restaurants have English menus. Otherwise: kure = chicken, vepr...= pork, hovezi = beef, bezmase = without meat (not necessarily vegetarian), brambory = potatoes, knedliky = typical boiled dough side dish but can also mean a sweet dish with boiled dough filled with fruit.. For easy and quick pastry / sandwich lunch, there are 2 chains all over town serving filled baguettes and other pastry stuff - Paneria and Boulevard. Decent quality, vegetarian options, salads, pastries, etc.
Dinner: If you go to either Lokal or Nota Bene, you'll get very good Czech meals that are not necessarily heavy or limited to pork. There is also plenty of Italian restaurants serving good pasta and pizza, such as Pagana or Grossetto Marina on a boat on the Vltava river (beautiful views are a bonus here). Some pasta and salads always fulfill the no-tomatoes limit. The two best Italian restaurants serving fish and meat respectively are Aromi and Finestra, but eating here would probably just fit your budget or might be just above it.
For vegetarian fare, you can try the Light Head or Maitrea, both serving light dishes which even non-vegetarian can enjoy, and are not verged towards North Indian but more towards a fusion Cali-Mexican sort of cuisine. If you are in the area, you can try another good lunch option, Bio Zahrada (could be translated as Ecological Garden), which is a shop-cum-cafe serving daily soups, salads, quiche and maybe some other dishes, always well made and always healthy and from excellent ingredients.
All sorts of cafes are all around town and they serve lighter dishes. Cafe Imperial is the most hefty of them all, but serves very good and reasonably priced Czech and French dishes in an outstanding decor-ed historical building. Cafe Louvre (mostly used for breakfast, but lunch is OK too), Cafe Slavia (historical building and nice views) and Cafe Savoy are all walking distance from each other, basically on the same street. They all serve international light cafe fare, the latter two on the top side of your budget.
I could recommend some Asian restaurants, like Sansho, Sasazu, Aureole or Katsuma, but your budget would not allow for this. It is not a low budget per se, it's just that the Asian and lighter fare tend to be more upmarket and the green and healthy ingredients tend to be more expensive.