Szarvas (=Deer) Buffet – dimension gate before Roman shore, Budapest
(157. Stop, 138. Budapest stop – after 2 Pubtourist visits, but infinite visits before)
If there is any cultic drinking venue in Buda side’s outer District Three, Szarvas buffet is definitely the one! It is hard to find any local without a smile upon the face, when Szarvas is mentioned. It’s an epic place for them. But pay attention! Outsiders can easily leave it behind untouched when they hurry to go to have a hekk (popular fried fish) or a beer at legendary Roman Danube shore from the close suburban train station, even if it takes only a few steps to reach Szarvas in its cozy family house.
Szarvas has a big garden, that looks inherently so homely with its colorfully painted wooden chairs, that it gives you the feeling that it is just the neighbor who didn’t really packed up after yesterday’s barbecue party.
These kind of family houses are really popular in the less frequented pub areas, such as Grabowszky in Zalaegerszeg (ca. 59.000 people) or Pista néni in Budafok (District 22 in Budapest). By the way Pista is the name, how the legendary „ranger” of Szarvas is called as well (short form of the Hungarian Steven=István) The counter has been ruled by him in the last 14 years.
Pista or better to say, Pista bá (=uncle Pista) is the character who you can typically love or hate, but it’s more likely that you will love him, if you already have passed the “”taste-control” of Szarvas’s naturally retro style without an ugly face.
He isn’t Hungarian barman type of these days, he is rather an old fashioned Czech barman character, who has actually Slovakian blood in his veins by the way. He seemingly proudly represents his default grumpy manners most of the time, but a conspiratorial smile can rise up naturally on his face as well. Could any barkeeper get a better critique than this: „Unbelievable that he can live from his rudeness so much, that he should train it for others! And everybody is more than fine with that.” And when the girl calls him a „jerk”, her eyes are sparkling and maybe she even drops a tear secretly, touched by emotion. I was lucky to visit Szarvas as Pubtourist with this regular, Rita who is my good old friend. But this occasion was far not my first time there, I already have known an army of committed regulars, and even fans of this venue before.
It’s a huge privilege to witness a regular and her barman by understanding each other even the wordless way and to hear them recall the memories, how many times Pista shared his own lunch with the that time college student Rita. Some of the comments : „Yeah, that salad!” and „oh, that ravioli!”.
By the visit in July (before Ebihal (Tadpole) Buffet I could be a part of a historical event connected the two of them. Rita who has a decade-long past as a client in Szarvas, confronted his good old bartender, the father of her high school friend: „You really called me an ass the whole time?” Because the Ritya nickname – as she found out from a new Slovakian colleague, means the same. Of course she never got in Szarvas this foreign language etymology attached. But miraculously this makes their relationship even stronger!
Sitting in a corner of Szarvas and watching the happenings is a pub comedy! I laughed and clapped my hands shamelessly loudly. Pista bá is at home there. People come, he goes behind the counter, fulfills the order than sits back to his guest for chatting. It repeatedly leads to one big conversation with the whole pub inside. You never get bored and never can feel alone here. There come the elders and the youngsters, the boys and the girls. The place seemed to attract the fresher generations as well. They happily sit down to the thorny-suspicious wooden chairs in their pretty skirts to have here a few drinks before party under the worn out sunshades. No one needs to be taught how to feed from the spirit of a place, it just happens.
Szarvas was founded in the close town, Pilisszentkereszt and got its name after the phenomenon, that many deer live there. As a pub, Szarvas exists for 69-70 years (info from February, 2016) and since that it doesn’t seem to feel any pressure to change or to follow any rule. Pista bá, who rumor has it, has been named Uncle Pista already by the parents – took over the leading role in the former family business and his primary objective was to whipe out the problematic elements from his clientele. He actually created a club of regulars – included locals and conscious recurring ones, and only less frequently the spontaneous visitors who come after or before the Roman shore visit with suburban train. This is comfortable this way for the boss and his visitors. Although the spontaneous ones stay happily if they are responsive enough to the old school wainscot, the red checkered tablecloth and the random appearing deer decoration elements.
Pista bá is not strict with his beloved guests anyway, they laughingly recall the memories of a wild Saturday night when a blond girl danced on the top of the table, shook her hair while singing the lines of Hungarian song, which mean: „I will never be a good man”.
Rita summarized: there are cliches that you apologize yourself for even mentioning them, but you do speak them out loudly, because they are true the way they are. Pista bá is the same, he is true as he is!
Interesting facts: a first place sport-award of Szarvas Gymnastics Club is hanging on the wall. The club was named after the pub(!!!) and Pista bá always sponsored them with pálinka, beer and deer stew at the season openings.
Dry matter content:
Pubfood: The Pista bá style grilled sandwich should be a world heritage. He makes the sandwich cream after his own recipe everyday. It is part of the show that in case you order a grilled sandwich he pretends to sigh heavily behind the counter like he wouldn’t like to make one. But if you peep in the kitchen he prepares it with a smile on his face.
Other snacks: peanuts, ropi (Hungarian salty sticks), chips.
Extra features: Pista bá doesn’t accept tips. He got used to the fact formerly, that the youngsters, university students and beginners had hardly any money, so he didn’t want to charge them the tips. And that time they have became friends, so it doesn’t matter that they earn better when they reach the thirties, he doesn’t accept tips from his and friends of his friends. I tried multiple times but I’ve always failed.
One bourbon, one scotch, one beer: If you really want to make Pista bá introduce his wines, he will, but usually he considers that you don’t want to make him introduce them. On the beer tap you can find only Arany Ászok. So the reason why you will coming back here, won’t the drink, but Pista bá and the Szarvas themselves.
Pub sport: Table football, darts
Other extra: Outdoor cooking in kettle is allowed for the guests, and it is free, but you haves report the requests in advance.
Address: 1031, Budapest, Prés utca 1.
Facebook page (not official): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Szarvas-B%C3%BCf%C3%A9/201443926554046?fref=ts