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