Kertész utca 48
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
A few friends and I walked to this cafe-bar last week for what turned into a night of quiet drinks and conversation just existential enough for a Thursday night. We’d actually meant to reach what I now realize is Szimpla Kert but, having no idea of the two Szimplas, pledged all faith to GoogleMaps and ended up at the three-story nook on Kertész Utca. Just around the corner from its famous counterpart, Szimpla Kávézó is inviting and relaxing, lit with warm reds and a projector that fired a sequence of old police cars, donkey-drawn carriages, shopping carts, and kids riding bicycles.
We passed on the smoky basement and ground floor to settle in the mezzanine above the bar. Ignoring my quest to try every flavor of pálinka (no matter how foul), I took my first sip of mulled wine. Perfect choice in the chill and drizzle, à-la-Ithacation, that has taken over Budapest. Most bars, cafes, and restaurants in Budapest serve it, and there is a fair number of street stands if you ever need it on the go–say, on your way to a class discussion about bureaucratic tyranny. Or something.
The prices were fair, the drink options not too scarce, the bartenders friendly, the seating comfortable, and the scattered artwork worth a decent chunk of conversation. I want to check out Szimpla Kert this weekend, but its neighbor is already a favorite for just sitting down for a drink and a few words. After my second red-dotted mug of wine, ours swung from the moral mammoth of parenting to Israeli politics to Pakistani identity and Armenian nationalism before delving into whether anyone wanted to go to the gyro place next door (yes, always yes). Before leaving, I did contribute to the wall art with my favorite Hungarian phrase so far.