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Originally published Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Coffee served with history in Hungary

Coffee served with history in Hungary The coffee houses of Budapest, famous gathering spots for thinkers and writers, are making a comeback...

Info:

Central Kavehaz: www.centralkavehaz.hu.

Gerbeaud: www.gerbeaud.hu

The coffee houses of Budapest, famous gathering spots for thinkers and writers, are making a comeback.

Only a handful of the grand Hungarian cafes with their mirrors and gilded chandeliers survived World War II and the Communist regime. Two that did — Gerbeaud, founded by a Swiss confectioner in 1858, and Belle Epoque Central Kavehaz, opened in 1887 — should go on anyone's Budapest itinerary, along with chic new spots such as the Kavehaz Miró in the castle area on the Buda size of the Danube River.

If you walk or take the funicular to Buda Hill to see the castle, explore the neighborhood afterward and stop in at the Miró for an espresso with lemon or an "egg flip," a combo of triple sec, chocolate milk and coffee ($5). Named after the 20th-century surrealist painter, it's a hip slice of new Budapest.

At Gerbeaud, waitresses in long brocade skirts serve at marble tables inside or on a sunny patio at the end of Vaci Utca, the main pedestrian shopping street on the Pest side of the Danube (Budapest is the combination of three former cities — Pest, Buda and Obuda).

An ice coffee (a $10 splurge) here means coffee, not with ice, but with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. There's coffee in there somewhere.

Closed after World War II, the Central was turned into a restaurant for construction workers and later an amusement arcade. New owners have restored the historic gathering place, furnishing it with green leather chairs and redoing the wooden floors, mirrors and painted ceilings.

Gypsy violinists play in the late evenings. A $3 "Eden," espresso, milk, chocolate and coconut, is a work of art in a glass served on a silver tray by a waiter in a long white apron and black vest.

Top that, Starbucks.

Carol Pucci, Seattle Times

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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