Veni, Vidi, Vici Vino
Muz and I approach “food tourism” differently. I want to eat street food and try strange liqueurs. He wants to sit down at restaurants and sample local wine. We thought that Budapest wine bars would offer something for both of us: the atmosphere of street food, a seat, and cheap wine. We were sold.
Our first wine bar was a classy joint; it had flattering lighting, a food menu, and well-dressed, sober patrons. It was very nice, but we were looking for something else.
Our second wine bar looked appropriately seedy, but had shut down. This was becoming a challenge.
Our third wine bar: paydirt. Located in an alley. Walls scarred by years of nicotine. Tables fashioned out of junkyard lumber. This was what we had been looking for: something for working-class Hungarians who want a drink and a cigarette at the end of the day.
It was so authentic, in fact, that the proprietor—a no-nonsense woman with a glass eye—spoke zero English. With some help from a patron, we ordered our “ladles.” In these bars, wine is stored in metal barrels and ladled into a glass. You pay for each time a ladle is dipped. It’s not the best wine we’ve ever had, but it was the cheapest.
As we sat there, a woman drunkenly sang show tunes in her glass. A Raymond Chandler character came in for a double shot of vodka with beer. Students came in, surveyed the room, and promptly left. But we stayed for a second glass to enjoy the wine, sights, and atmosphere: cheap, questionable, and fantastic.