Dinner by the Danube

Travel writers are supposed to avoid tourist traps. Our job is to help travelers discover the heart of a place (though those recent tell-all books by travel journalists Chuck Thompson and Thomas Kohnstamm make you wonder), and a tourist trap offers the opposite of the authentic experience most people want. I follow some basic guidelines for identifying a tourist trap. The first is by location: is the restaurant located in the main tourist thoroughfare of a city, or alongside a major attraction? Possibly a tourist trap. Another giveaway is the menu: is it available in four or more languages? Tourist trap. Is anyone eating at the restaurant a local? If not… it’s a tourist trap. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but they’re reliable.

I normally try to sample local dishes wherever I go, but in Budapest this was almost impossible. Traditional Hungarian cuisine — including goulash (a stew to which many restaurants add starch), galuska (wheat-based dumplings), and töltött káposzta (cabbage rolls filled with barley) — seems designed to taunt the gluten-intolerant. So I turned to other cuisines. One Greek restaurant I found, Taverna Dionysos, fit my description of a tourist trap. It was on the edge of the Danube, with a prime view of the Buda hills and the lights that cover Budapest’s bridges and give the river a glittering sheen every evening till midnight. The menu was printed in multiple languages, and no one eating there seemed to be a local.

That should have been three strikes, but Taverna Dionysos wasn’t out by a long shot. The white-painted space was open and airy, and the staff was warm and friendly. I had a card describing celiac disease in Hungarian, but found that a couple of servers spoke English, so describing what I needed wasn’t hard. My meal was standard fare — a Greek salad with black olives and feta, followed by roasted chicken, rice, and grilled peppers — but the food was delicious and satisfying. And the spectacular view of the Danube was hard to resist (in warmer weather, Taverna Dionysos has alfresco tables, for which it’s absolutely necessary to make a reservation).

One note: there is a Hungarian Celiac Society, but its pages are only in Hungarian, which Google doesn’t translate. Any Hungarian speakers out there?

Taverna Dionysos [address] District V, Belgrad Rakpart 16, Budapest, Hungary [tel] 01 318-1222

8 thoughts on “Dinner by the Danube

  1. I had a wonderful experience in Budapest 5 years ago, traveling with my husband to a business meeting. I sent an email to the Hungarian Coeliac group requesting their help in advance, and received a welcoming response that included a letter in Hungarian to present at restaurants and directions to a well-stocked store that included lots of European gf foods with all languages included in the ingredients lists. Not many spoke much English but everyone was quite friendly and eager to assist in explaining what I could eat, consulting with the chef, etc. This was true at all sorts of places, including restaurants in nearby villages. I ate well and did not feel I was a problem, as sometime happens in the USA!

    The website you reference has an English page – just click on English in the list on the left side of homepage.

  2. Hi!

    I am a Hungarian celiac, I have just found your homepage. It is very sad that you couldn’t taste our traditional foods, but it is true that it is difficult to eat in a Hungarian restaurant as a celiac. I do not dare to eat anything but grilled chicken/pork in restaurants even I can express myself quite exactly in my language. Unfortunately, in usually people and not just waiters and cooks have not much knowledge about this “disease” ( I don’t like to call it disease…), but the situation is not hopeless!
    Yes, we have an English homepage, I have looked at it, but it is not so good.. We have problems with foreign language speaking, but most young people under 35 should speak some foreign language, in most cases English.
    The foods that you wanted to taste can be made without starch or with glutenfree ingredients, and some of them should be normally glutenfree! If interested I can translate some receipts for You!!!

  3. Hello!
    I’m also a coeliac from Hungary. I agree that it is difficult to eat gluten-free in restaurants here, mainly because of the lack of knowledge about this disease. Although you can ask for gluten-free food if you talk to the chef in several restaurants, I prefer to eat in the places that are officially gluten-free: so far there is one such restaurant and two pizzerias in Budapest (but these two pizzerias are the same company so they have almost the same menu).
    In case somebody is interested, here is some information about them:

    Poco Loco Étterem
    Budapest, 1023, Frankel Leó u. 51., Tel/Fax: (+36-1) 438-3227
    Opening hours: 12:00 -01:00

    Etna 2 Pizzeria
    Budapest, district VIII. Baross tér 10., Tel: (+36-1) 477-4747
    Opening hours: 11:30-23:30

    Etna 1 Pizzeria
    Budapest, 1026, Gábor Áron út 74-78., Tel: (+36-1) 391-5839
    Opening hours: 11:30-22:30

    As for traditional Hungarian food, they are not only difficult for coealic tourists to get, but also for any tourist, as it is very rare that they have real traditional food in restaurants that are meant for tourists. (There are some misconceptions about Hungarian food specialties, for instance, goulash is not a stew but a soup, and töltött káposzta is cabbage filled with meat, rice and spices, not with barley:) But I think it is true for almost every country that you can only eat traditional food if a local friend cooks for you:)

  4. The owner of the Poco Loco restaurant has changed and they do not offer gluten-free menu anymore.
    On the other hand, here’s a link to an English-language thread that is meant to help foreigners to eat gluten-free in Hungary, with shops, restaurants, etc:


    Most restaurants mentioned here do not have an official gluten-free menu but you can ask for gluten-free dishes – in some cases the owner or a relative of his/her is a coeliac.

  5. Hi,

    I’ve been the administrator of the Hungarian website http://www.coeliac.hu for a year. It is the official site of the Hungarian Coeliac Society (Lisztérzékenyek Érdekképviseletének Országos Egyesülete). We are working hard on a project to train the staff in some hotels and reastaurants all around Hungary.
    Our site is mostly in Hungarian, but here is a thread in English with lots of useful information which we recommend to coeliac visitors to Hungary. It is called: Gluten-Free in Hungary http://www.liszterzekeny.hu/tiki-index.php?page=%20Gluten-free%20in%20Hungary&structure=%20Gluten-free%20in%20Hungary
    (This link is not the same Lilla offered in 2009, because it has changed since then.)

    If you have any problems, contact us and we will help you.
    (Email: schumi.j@gmail.com or info@liszterzekeny.hu )

  6. Hi!

    I am an American living in Budapest for the last 6 years and me and my 5 year old daughter have celiac disease. Yes, it is very difficult to go out to eat in Budapest. Two other restaurants that have gluten free options (pastas) are Pomodoro Restaurant on Arany Janos Utca (www.pomodorobudapest.com) and Vapianos (www.vapiano.hu). I also have found that the local markets are carrying more and more gluten free foods so I have to think that Celiac disease is becoming more diagnosed than before. You can pick up GF cereals, cookies, crackers and other convenience foods when visiting here. The best selection is at Tesco and Spar (they have their own GF line). I hope that the restaurants will start to follow the GF trend!

  7. Hi Shannon!

    Yes, I’m sure they will. We are working on our project and all the restaurants you can find here: http://maps.google.hu/maps/ms?hl=hu&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=104717169421854912922.000479379b84de425adb6&ll=46.897739,19.160156&spn=5.45036,9.832764&z=7 are taking part in it. They know what GF eating means and will serve you properly. If you check any of them, please write your opinion on our website in the Enlish topic. Feedbeck is very important for us.
    Thank you!


  8. (the daily menu). You can have great affordable food at lunch time anyehwre in the city.a0 [see our Budapest budget eating map here] Is it worth splurging on something in

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