The Mystery of Faszaládé!











Don’t look to close or you might see tears. Then again, you might have to look closer to see the details of this 50% coupon for Faszaládé. Oh never mind, the place has gone out of business yet again, but more on that in a bit.

Budapest is currently feeling the fatty wrath of the hamburger craze. You can’t walk far through town without encountering a hamburger joint or restaurant on your way, and these don’t even include the retro places that serve something akin to a burger (more a throwback to pre-regime change food called a burger).

Being an American, and a Texan at that, I’ve had my fair share of burgers. Hell, my mom, in hospital at the time, was once asked what she would eat if she could have anything she wanted. The answer: a cheeseburger! So yes, I guess I know burgers. I do come from the land of Whataburger after all.

Back to Faszaládé…and what is it with that name? Well, that name is a bit of a joke, the kind of Hungarian humor that is largely missing from public life and discourse these days.

Let my wife explain: OK, so general linguistic background: “fasz,” excuse my Hungarian, simply means “cock,”–not the farmyard animal of course. Out of this less than complimentary term came the slang word “fasza,” meaning “cool.”

Now, the pun in “faszaládé” can only be fully enjoyed if one’s familiar with the terrifying world of processed meat products in Socialist Hungary and beyond. Besides frankfurters or wieners (frankfurti virsli and bécsi virsli – the latter is supposed to be entirely pork), there’s also krinolin and szafaládé. The differences between virsli and the latter two are mainly in thickness (virsli is skinnier) and the quality of the meat ground into the pink pulp inside. The difference between krinolin and szafaládé is probably very esoteric and entirely beyond me, and so is the etymology of these bizarre-sounding names.
My grandma used to buy szafaládé and it actually used to be a well-loved consumable, you still find it in university cafeterias and greasy spoons. It is rather thick, comes in edible casing, the better ones are made from beef (well, let’s say cow-parts), they are sold in pairs or longer chains of about 5-6-inch-long pieces, and generally have more flavour (flavouring?) than frankfurters. It’s normally boiled in whole and served with bread and German mustard.

Back to Faszaládé: 1. visualise what szafaládé looks like; 2. understand that we’re talking about a hipster-cool (fasza) sausage eatery with fliers that wilfully allude to genitalia by visual means; 3 hey presto: you have a cheeky but rather cryptic name for a business ran by amiable young men with tattoos and beards. Whether any of the above has anything to do with the fact that the place keeps closing down and deprives us of its excellent food and service is unknown. The sheer memory of their cardamom bun makes me want to invent time travel.

PS: It is a little-known but true fact: if you swear in Hungarian it probably doesn’t count. Go on say it: faszaládé!

– End of guitar solo….

Now that you understand the name, also note that many of their flyers (not the coupon pictured) featured rather phallic images (eat meat and all that). It always gave us a chuckle. Other than that, they gave us the best damn hamburger in all of Budapest. In my opinion, it was hands down the best, but they’ve gone and disappeared, and for the second time I might add.

Another odd fact about Faszaládé is that they had custom-made lamps produced for the restaurant. Not only that, but they went on to win some architecture awards and get featured in a Hungarian design magazine. It didn’t seem like the place that would just up sticks and disappear. Well, it hasn’t up’d sticks, as the lamps and all the rest are still there, but they have gone on a permanent vacation. Yes, a handwritten sign on the door said something about temporary, but it’s been a good 3 months at the writing of this blog entry.

Originally, after eating there just a time or two, but enough to fall in love, grow concerned about the future of my wallet’s contents and my ever-expanding waistline, they shut down suddenly and without explanation. Life went on, and sub par burgers were consumed with little hope of ever finding anything comparable.

Then suddenly, nearly a year after the first closure, Faszaládé was back. As my son had an exercise class of all things nearby, I started treating myself about once a week. This shows a modicum of control as he had two classes there a week, so I could have been much worse than I was. Just saying. Also, as well as great burgers, they also had great sausage, and oddly, absolutely wonderful sticky cardamom buns. An odd after-compliment to a hamburger, but it worked. Never mind they knew it worked. Everything at Faszaládé was done with purpose and design, and it was executed with precision and finesse….but not more, for they have closed for a second time as stated above.

My wife has a theory that just might hold water, although Faszaládé was in an area that should have overcome this particular problem. Anyway, her theory states that Hungarians will support and keep a restaurant open as long as it doesn’t look flashy and overly expensive. She has a point. People flock to McDonald’s and sometimes spend a few thousand forints on a death-meal. They could go to Mák Bistro and spend just a bit more and get a 3 course meal with an alcoholic beverage, but that place looks like money, so it gets held up by tourists for the most part, but I digress. We’re all sheeple after all.

Anyway, this long-winded entry is just a public service announcement. If you are walking near the basilica in downtown Budapest and happen to notice a little burger restaurant next to a drinks’ bar called Innio, that’s Faszaládé. Who knows why they are open? Just step in and enjoy some old-school Hungarian butcher’s touch in regards to some high quality hamburgers.

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