With Budapest, recommendations should always come with the following qualification: Even at the best restaurants, they have some problems with consistent service and food prep.
Cafe Kor may be over-recommended and always seems to be full, which may lead to some slippage from its current status as a "no-fail" restaurant.
You may want to try Klassz.
One place that I can recommend is the Hummus Bar (http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php...
The taqueria Arriba on Terez Korut in between Oktogon and Nyugati train station is vegan friendly.
Good luck if you are staying in Obuda. Hungary is pretty difficult on vegans if one is not able to cook and provide for themselves. If you were staying in the Pest city center (districts V,VI, or VII) it might be a lot easier as that's where the more "progressive" food items are likely to be found.
This is a good post. As someone who knows their beer, this is a good primer. I wouldn't say that Hungary is more of a wine country, because many people here like their beer. (there's a lot of Hungarians people that have German heritage who settled here generations ago) However, most Hungarian beer drinkers haven't learned to cultivate a taste for anything beyond the watery pilsner or lagers. Dreher is top of the class of beers that are brewed by the multi-nat'l corporations, with Dreher Bak, a brown dunkel-type, and their lager being the best.
Of the smaller brewers that are harder to find is Szalon which is made in the southern Hungarian city of Pecs. The best beer of theirs is the Szalon Barna, which is also a brown dunkel, and to my mind, the best beer in Hungary. Ilzer is also a smaller brewer that have good fresh-tasting beer. If you can find it on tap, by all means get it.
While I don't have the same background in wine, I can be confident in saying that wine in Hungary is at a very high standard. The only problem would be for budget-minded diners, as restaurants here charge a huge mark up on glasses and bottles of wine compared to what one can get in wine stores and supermarkets. (at the big supermarkets like Tesco there is an incredible selection) House wines at restaurants are generally quite good, so there's no need to feel bad about ordering them.
Quite possibly the best breakfast that I've had in Europe was served up at The Café Savoy. It is a smartly designed place. (http://www.ambi.cz/ambi_cafesavoy_kon...)
I was dragged to Restaurante Brasileiro that is well-hidden in the basement of a shopping mall near downtown. I don't like buffet-type places, but this place is a crowd-pleaser with sushi, and waiters bringing around hunks of meat to carve at one's table. http://www.ambi.cz/ambi_brasiliero.php
A nice casual bistro that I go to every time I'm there is Universal that has good international cuisine and a really good relaxed vibe. (http://www.universalrestaurant.cz/ind...)
This is a really good blog that has a lot of reviews of Prague restaurants: http://czechoutchannel.blogspot.com/
Hopefully your dad likes beer, because I don't think it gets much better than in Prague.
For a romantic dinner, most local expats and tourists go to Spoon. It is an elegant cafe on a boat that is moored on the Danube and has picturesque views in the evenings with the bridges and Castle Districts lit up. I know that they have vegetarian offerings as well. www.spooncafe.hu
Another place that is certain to have plenty of vegetarian offerings is the Óceán Bar and Grill that is near the Pest side of the Danube. It's probably the best seafood restaurant in Budapest. (although that's not saying too much in this landlocked country) It has a nice interior with aquariums.
Good luck dealing with a vegetarian in Budapest as it is a very foreign concept here, so most restaurants that cater to locals indulge their "meat and potatoes" mentality.
Excellent wine. The two most noted Hungarian wines are the Bull's Blood and Tokaji Aszu. The former is a deep red found in the Eger wine region (a worthwhile day trip 1.5 hours east of Bp) and the later a white royal dessert wine made in eastern Hungary. To learn about the rest, go to the House of Hungarian Wines in the Castle District across from the Hilton's entrance where you can sample them all. If you want to purchase some for home, go to the Bortársaság, which are wine shops run by the Budapest Wine Society. The easiest one to locate is near St. Stephen's Basilica.
Sweets. Hungarians have quite the sweet tooth. They satisfy them in the cafes and cukrászdas. The most famous is Gerbeaud which is a tourist haven in Vorosmarty square. Another is Muvesz which is almost across from the State Opera House. Do try:
- Dobos torta - a sponge cake layered with chocolate creme and topped with a crunchy caramel
- Mák ice cream - poppy seed ice cream. Many Budapesters use ice cream to cool off while walking the streets.
- Túró Rudi - a snack found in the refrigerated sections of supermarkets that is chocolate-covered "cottage cheese" (túró) Those who like them, REALLY like them.
Restaurants. The English language food blog Chew.hu has a good list that covers what Budapest has to offer, not just the most expensive. (http://www.chew.hu/top33.html) If you peruse the rest of the site you find other reviews and Hungarian food info. However, many will say that you can't find traditional Hungarian food in the restaurants, but only in the home. You may consider signing up for a course which is taught by a Hungarian grandma in her downtown residence on weekends (http://www.hccweb.extra.hu)
Many people suggest going to Gundel, the most renowned restaurant in this region. Do a search in this forum or on a search engine for more information.
For Budapest: The food blog chew.hu has a Top 33 list (http://www.chew.hu/top33.html) that lists a lot of very good restaurants with links to a sister site with maps, reviews and links to the restaurant's websites. Not all of them are pricey places. But do keep in mind that Budapest restaurant quality does vary, even at the better restaurants, and especially with the service. (now many places bill you a compulsory service fee of at least 10%, which doesn't help matters)
As for your liking "low brow," I would say that many of the restaurants fit that description in my mind because everywhere has about the same things on their menus, with the better places tweaking them a bit. (Menza, Café Kör are good examples) Except at the better restaurants, gulyas (ghoulash) is usually a re-heated dish reserved for know-nothing tourists. The item that is worth looking for that isn't everywhere is Hortobagyi palacinta (a savoury crepe filled with pork or veal and baked with a paprika and sour cream sauce).
The best authentic Hungarian restaurant list on the Top 33 is Kisbuda Gyöngye, which is a bit of a trek on the Obuda (Old Buda) side, but well worth it.
Another frequent poster here, farago, has a great page that has a bunch of information that can be relevant for you:
In Budapest, and the restaurant scene is varied. (I don't have a computer that gives me the ability to do Hungarian characters)
Authentic Hungarian restaurants from my personal experience:
Other recommended restaurants from my own personal experience:
I know you want just dinner recs, but do go to a cukraszda. It is a cafe to enjoy fine cakes or pastries and an espresso. (the standard coffee there) Hungarians have quite the sweet tooth. The most famous, Gerebeaud is a tourist trap. Daubner is probably the best for quality, but not so much for environs, and there are queues. (on the Buda side and a bit off touristy path)
Do be aware that Hungarian waitstaffs can be notoriously bad. However, if you're not at the typical restaruant that caters to tourists, you may get better service because you speak English. Americans are well-known to tip more generously as the standard tip is 10% there versus our ~20%. Also, do be aware when paying that they do the transaction correctly.
Go to www.chew.hu, an opinated Hungarian gastronomy blog run by expats. They have a link to their restaurant directory so you can get more info and maps for the restuarants.