Not an Irish pub, a family pub, and a memorial to Janis Joplin. An unlikely mix of Karaoke, Hungarian home cooking and uniquely tasty pub burgers in central Pest, it oddly works well.
In the middle of a hot August evening, I dropped in at Janis Pub and had a beer. It was the last one I would get from the little pub for almost five months. The beer was fine, but the doors inexplicably closed afterward.
Nevertheless, I would peer in once in a while, wondering if this was yet another cool but unused space that would be left in the economic dust. It was chock full of Janis Joplin memorabilia and nautical bric-a-brac. Something about it evoked San Francisco and the heyday of Joplin’s career. I wanted to sit down for another beer.
Thankfully, I can do so at will again. Brothers Béla and Istvan Botos have taken the space over and have made some useful changes for the reopening. It looks like this time around, the shop is open for good. The brothers, along with bartender and Karaoke DJ Zsolt Banusz, have set up Wednesdays through Saturdays as karaoke nights in the nicely furnished basement. They have a cool retro-looking stage that features bands on some weekends, including a Janis tribute from time to time.
On Fridays and Saturdays, never mind karaoke or live music if you don’t want to take part. The upstairs is crowded enough, without being impossible to move around in, and the karaoke disappears in the hum. Hang out with the mix of locals and tourists from the neighbouring Best Western “Art Hotel.” On one night, I exercised my German, Spanish, terrible Hungarian, scant Dutch and even less worthy Italian in the space of three hours (and beers).
The staff speaks a pretty extensive range of languages themselves, not the least of which is English. What’s really a draw for me in the new Janis Pub is the home cooking. Every night I have popped in has featured the delicious, home-style, flavourful non-tourist version of Hungarian cuisine. The brothers’ mother currently cooks up something almost every day of the week. Call ahead and see what is available.
So far, I have enjoyed rich, delicious and authentic bableves (a bean soup made with delicious smoked ham in this case), töltött káposzta (amazingly flavourful meat-stuffed cabbage with sour cream) and my favourite, babgulyás (excellent, with fresh bread and a thicker, spicier base than the bableves).
I also enjoy their Hungarian Óriás Hambi. It is good drinking food! The sauce and pickles are well contained by an egg bun that does not fall apart. Its fills its small plate, leaving no room nor need for fries. The condiments are cold, the beef hot and cheese melted.
Call ahead for reservations on weekends, especially for large groups. It gets crowded! Also, the brothers may be able to do something special for you, such as have mom prepare a specific dish. The décor has not changed, which is a good thing. Take your time on your first visit and check out the walls.
They are dotted with images, items and articles a fan will love, and seem to remind you she loved, sang and wrote the blues, because Janis lived them. The nautical references hearken back San Francisco, but also to her time in Port Arthur, Texas, where she was an outcast.
Once you’ve seen the memorabilia upstairs, head downstairs and say hello to Janis herself, in the form of a statue protected from stumbling, drunk karaoke partiers by a metal grate and a fence, as if she is permanently performing in a roughhouse honky-tonk... it’s a pretty cool likeness.
There’s also a perfect booth for a date (or whiling away long hours) chatting hidden behind her, away from the hubbub. I have high hopes for Janis’s reopening. If they can keep the home-style chow coming, they will keep me coming back for more, certainly. If you are a tourist, it is a friendly place to try some truly authentic Hungarian cooking while surrounded by some very interesting, eclectic and cool decorations.
— Janis Pub: 1053 Budapest, Király Pál u. 8, Tel: (06 1) 266 2619, www.Janispub.hu, Hours: Mon. Through Thur.: 4pm to 2am, Fri. and Sat.: 4pm to 3am, Closed Sun.