Today we drove up old 5 Road to Fehértói Halászcsárda for lunch. Fehértói Halászcsárda means White Lake Fish Soup Restaurant. Hungarians LOVE long proper titles for things. There must be several village names that are spelled with more letters than there are residents.
White Lake Fish Soup Restaurant is a roadside csárda on what used to be the main road that led from SE Hungary to the capital. That changed a handful of years ago when the M5 highway was built and most of the business along the road died out. I wrote about it a little over a year ago, if you’re interested.
Sometimes if we want to take an easy weekend drive, we’ll go on the road, passing through the quaint little villages and stopping at little roadside vendors for seasonal veggies and fruit. And every time we exit the Szeged city limits we see the huge crowd of cars at Fehértói Halászcsárda.
The truth is that it’s sort of a miracle that this establishment is still open. Sure, it’s been around since a time when people went to the restaurant in horse and buggy (they have old pictures to prove it!). But because the road is sort of a ghost road now, not that many people pass by the place unless they are afternoon drivers or happen to live in a village along the road without easy access to M5.
There is one really good reason that it remains open and successful: they have great food.
I had the half order of catfish paprikas. It’s a very typical Hungarian fish dish, served with a thick paprika sauce. I can honestly say that the catfish paprika at Fehértói Halászcsárda is probably the best I’ve ever had. Considering that this region is known for catfish-preparing excellence, this is pretty high praise. Györgyi ordered me the house dumplings, which I think were made from corn meal into a dumpling cake with a streak of fresh, sour cheese inside. Light, delicate, perfectly balanced in texture and flavor, not to mention dripping with the slightly spicy paprika sauce, those dumplings were so spot on I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a generic dumpling again.
Györgyi ordered the trio of grilled fish and grilled veggies. This really isn’t a specialty dish, but she wanted to order something healthy. All foodie travellers should note, however, that in Hungary, as in most countries in this region, grilled doesn’t really mean grilled, but rather sautéed in butter, butter, butter, citrus and spices. Oh well. She said that the fish was great and despite the butter and oil, the vegetables were perfectly seasoned and delicious.
Our bill, with a diet coke, iced tea, and the standard %10 tip, came to 5,000 HUF or $27.
There are so many other items that we want to try, including the fish soup. A table of Italians next to us ordered some kind of whole, pan-roasted chicken, and on our way out we both stared enviously at a woman who was blissfully eating crepes with berries and cream.
Outside we gawked at the huge fish soup cauldrons. I didn’t ask, but I’m sure that they use this cauldron to make fish soup during festival time.
Even though I was stuffed and had already completed an extensive morning workout, Györgyi made us climb the tower next to the restaurant. But I’m glad that we did because I could get a great view of the fish farm adjacent to the restaurant. In addition to the restaurant and panzio, the property houses a fresh fish store where you can get all types of fish and fish dishes from the region to go.
The inside dining area is huge and is non-smoking. I can’t think of any other restaurant that is non-smoking in Hungary. And during the warmer weather, the restaurant has a giant outdoor sitting area. It was too windy to sit outside for our lunch, but the big, family-style tables looked very welcoming.
If you’re in the Szeged area, I highly recommend trying this restaurant. There are many fish soup restaurants in Szeged, but this one combines great food with a friendly staff and old-world kitsch decor.
Budapesti út 41
+ 36 62 555-960