The past manhandled the csárdas at Lake Balaton in such a way that people began to associate frozen French fries and grade Z beef with the genre, believing these belonged to it as much as its original accessories, like Hungarian cuisine and Gypsy music. We would not dare to imply that you could find mahogany cutting boards at any and every Balaton-side csárda today, but we can heartily recommend at least 10 spots for testing. We are not responsible for the quality of Gpysy music and the stomachs bursting with csárda portions.
The adjective 'grand', when mentioned in connection with Rádpuszta, describes both quality and quantity. Although the two are rarely in sync, here, they've managed to create an authentic csárda atmosphere and seat a multitude of people (350 guests, even) at the same time. Such an amount of people must be served great wine, so there's a section called wine vault that stores the best wines from each and every Hungarian wine region in such a spectacular manner that would put any ultramodern wine museum to shame.You can even rent your own safe and store your choice of wine until dinner with Swiss perfection. This year, the menu is new as well, it is now full of specialities like the blueberry-mushroom venison ragout, beef cheek stew, foie de gras tower with pear in Tokaji wine, or Rózsa Sándor's favourite (wherein: Rózsa Sándor is the name of a legendary highwayman, and this dish is pork tenderloin). Rádpuszta is also slightly hidden in the sense that it is not found in the centre of a lakeshore town. It doesn't require a detailed map, however, to find it: just fork off the highway between Balatonszemes and Lelle, to main road 67.
Udvarház Csárda - Bánd
There is hardly a year passing by in which Udvarház Csárda does not receive a recognition of some kind, so we just had to find out whether the moguls of gastronomy are right. The range of dishes reached literally up to the wall-mounted pastry board, but these Hungarian dishes truly are cooked on the basis of great-grandparents' recipes. And there are painfully meticulous preparations. The beef from grey cattle is, for example, marinated for days, before it reaches your plate - the flavours wouldn't be right otherwise, they say. It is not a novelty that good food starts with good raw materials, but this premise is taken very seriously in Bánd: they grow their own fruits and vegetables and raise their own livestock, which is quite rare in Hungary. You have the entire year to test the award-winning hospitality of Bánd. Take it into account that you'll leave behind 2-3000 HUF per main course, and make sure that you try the bean goulash and the roast goose served with braised cabbage or polenta.
Göngyösi Betyár Csárda - Rezi
Whoever heard of a tombstone by a csárda? And of real, flesh and bone (now only bone), wanted highwaymen called Vak Illés and Kőkes Pista at that? It is the state of things in Rezi, because before their capture, they had been hiding out here, in the eldest csárda of the Transdanubia that has been serving guests for about 300 years now. To add another level to the myth, according to written sources, even their legendary colleagues, Sobri and Savanyú Jóska popped in to the place. The memory of the highwaymen are preserved by a few pieces of antique furniture in the restaurant. In the summer, their cool patio shaded by a vine covered trellis is a popular spot to tackle the speciality of the house, the beef stew with curd cheese pasta, or the venison fillet in red currant sauce with croquettes. Those whose mouth is still not watering yet, might want to ponder the thought of cathfish stew with dill-curd cheese pasta. These cost between 2 - 4000 HUF, just as they do at the other spots on our list. The highwaymen's haunt is closed from mid-January to the end of February every year, so you'll just have to crack your whips elsewhere in that period.
Piroska Csárda - Siófok
The huge csárda right on the road from Zamárdi to Siófok has been in the business since 1963. It received its modern facade in 2009, after a fire had burnt down the previous, thatched building. The csárda can seat 500 and even has a playrooom. The speciality of the place is the oven-baked langalló, and their trump is the Olympic silver medallist chef, László Nótár, who is all for the specialities of Hungarian kitchen, beside modern and trendy dishes. The menu has a price range from 2000 to 5000 HUF and includes practically everything from sour cream chicken stew through pork trotter- tripe stew to beef fillet in green pepper sauce, but you can also taste the winning dish of Balaton Fish Festival 2013, the Balaton zander fillet baked with potato scales and served with chanterelle risotto ad mango chutney.
Ferenc Pince Csárda - Tihany
Ferenc Punk was not only born with a really enviable last name, as a kid he was lucky enough to pick snails for pocket money in the garden of a man none other than the famous Hungarian novelist Gyula Illyés. It isn't a bad start to the game of life, especially if in connection with his wine christened Csigavér (Snailblood, meaning: 'Patience!') Rosé one has the opportunity to recount the story of one of the bets known Hungarian writers of the 20th century calming little Feri Punk with cries of 'Csigavér!' Since then, Feri has grown to be Ferenc, who operates a wonderful restaurant full of Hungarian dishes beside the road from the Tihany ferry to the Abbey. Do not for a moment believe that you'll be stuck on the goulash - stew with noodles axis: the pickled cucumber cream soup, the eel fillet a lá Mrs Molnárné, or the grey cattle beef stew with noodles prepared with orda cheese are likely to show a new trick or two even to the most dedicated patriot. If you'd also like a taste, remember but Tuesday is taboo, and you'll have to hurry because it takes very good reasons for them to open after October until spring.
Baricska Csárda - Balatonfüred
The owner of the Chianti Étterem (Veszprém) decided last summer that it was time to shake up the csárda scene of Balatonfüred with a new wave. He retained the Hungarian flavours and the huge portions, and added innumerable twists, new ideas and reinvented dishes. The Baricska of today serves chicken breast in its skin with butter-rosemary lecsó abreast of grey cattle beef goulash - like Lionel next to Hardy. In the Csárda on main road 71 towards Aszófő, you won't get a main course under 2-3000 HUF, but you'll be served dishes prepared from quality ingredients. Come here if you've had enough of the buzz of Tagore Promenade - but don't expect to leave the crowd behind as well: booking a table for Friday and Saturday is highly recommended. If you want to enjoy a great catfish stew this year, you must arrive to Baricska Csárda before November: the place closes down at the end of October and only reopens in the spring.
Koloska Csárda - Balatonfüred
Füred is the only town represented by two csárdas on our list, but leaving either out would be like shooting the next Avengers without Iron Man. That's impossible, so let's trot on to Koloska-völgy and 55 years of experience.This csárda was already here when Parisian students were only picking up the ropes of cobble stone throwing and when John Lennon and co. were dead serious about the moptop. Even though the place is not all about the daily reinvention of the science of gastronomy, it is still worth a visit, for example to try the pork cutlet penknife style. This is exactly the place to come if you yearn for curd cheese balls instead of macarons. You have time to visit until November, but then the csárda hibernates until March.
Laci Pince Csárda - Balatonudvardi
Bringing up the marvellous panorama as a reason for a restaurant at Lake Balaton might be as huge a cliché as citing good wines in favour of Bordeaux, but the Laci Pince between Balatonudvari and Vászoly is truly a topshot in this regard: you have clear view of the surrounding hills and the Tihany Peninsula both from here. It is a basic premise that a csárda should be on friendly terms with meat, served with side dishes or in the form of platters, and this place meets the expectations fine, even when they seat 250 guests. The portions are manly, but don't be deceived by the capacity of the place: the owners say that they are often fully booked, so it might be advisable to try and reserve a table days in advance before visiting. Beware! The restaurant closes mid-September and only reopens in May. The prices are reasonable: you can eat a main course under 2000 HUF, but if you have your eyes on one of the gigantic platters - a speciality of the house - you'll have to reach deeper into your pocket.
Vígmolnár Csárda - Csopak
VÍgmolnár standing a few minutes from the station, right beside main road 71 in Csopak would love to have you all-year-round, which would not be sensational if it did not have such a reasonably good kitchen. Here, novelties are restricted to marinated sweet red kapia peppers or the grilled chicken breast with peach: that is to say dishes follow the stereotypes of the csárda genre instead. Prices start at 2500 HUF, but an oversize platter that would probably feed a family of four for 2 days or specialities like foie de gras and fillet mignons require more contribution. We already mentioned that they are open all-year-round, but you'd better forget Wednesdays, just like they do.
Hegyi Csárda - Balatonlelle, Kishegy
Sitting under one of the trellises on the terrace of the Hegyi Csárda on the Kishegy of Balatonlelle, you can't help but wonder that only a few kilometres away you'd be suffocated by smog on highway M7. That is, until you forget it all, distracted by the ecstasy of your taste buds. French fries and breaded dishes are a no-no here; what you have is a a menu of about 10 items, all f which are prepared from fresh ingredients. The goose leg with braised red cabbage and cinnamon plums, cooked in the garden stove is a winning combo, just like the roast duck leg on noodles with frizzled cabbage and duck cracklings. The fresh fruits and the home-grown fig on the plate earned another plus from us, just like the abundance of home-made squashes on the drink menu, and the fact that the csárda has managed to cast out the sugary drinks with the exception of the cola, which they keep for the German guests. Hegyi Csárda begins its winter break on 15 September, and wakes up only in May. Due to supply problems and the reorganisation of the kitchen, this year they have no fish on the menu, but it is among the plans, just like weekend specials.