If you come to Budapest and ask somebody who is familiar with the city what to visit, you’ll probably be told that you should go to at least one ruin pub. Undoubtedly, these bars are among the strongest trademarks of the city today, and are also great examples of how neighborhoods can change in an organic and completely bottom-up way. I asked Patrik Nádas, one of the creators of Fogasház, about the ruin pubs on Akácfa Street, the nightlife neighborhood in Budapest, and his other projects.
Where was your first ruin pub experience?
I actually don’t remember where exactly I had my first ruin pub experience but it was probably at some beer garden at Lake Balaton sitting on those typical chairs with the paint chipped off. Or maybe it was at some hidden bar in Transylvania that had the atmosphere of what we call today a ruin pub. Then in Budapest, I went out to Szimpla and also to Instant quite a lot.
When and how did you start Fogasház?
I first got involved when Tűzraktár was closed down. We came up with the name Tűzraktér and started working on a new building in the same neighborhood. We also participated in different round table discussions about Budapest and it was at one of these meetings where we first heard about an empty building on Akácfa Street, which later became known as Fogasház. In the beginning, we were only responsible for the interior design and for the events, but later we also took over the operation tasks of the place. Then next to Fogasház, we opened another place called Fogas Kert, and then about two and a half months ago, a third place called Mazel Tov.
Mazel Tov. Photo: Budapest Local
What’s the concept behind these places?
We’ve never had a lot of money to invest, so we always made small changes. But actually as we learned over the years, the advantage of not being able to invest a lot of money at once is that we can make changes based on the feedback of our audience. One good example is Lärm: since there was no venue or club where 150 people could enjoy electronic music, we decided to create one in Fogasház, where we could provide both the space and the infrastructure. In the case of Mazel Tov, we again created a place because we saw that there is a need for a different kind of ruin pub. At Mazel Tov, as soon as you enter, you experience a different atmosphere with higher quality design and excellent food. It’s actually more of a ruin restaurant than a ruin pub.
Mazel Tov. Photo: Budapest Local
Why do you think these ruin pubs are more and more popular not only among the locals but also among tourists?
Because it’s totally different from what tourists are used to. And in the beginning, it was totally different for us, too. I think everybody is attracted to these huge, abandoned, and empty places. In Budapest, there were a lot of these and it was relatively easy to get permissions and to get through the whole bureaucratic process.
In Budapest, the functions of different neighborhoods seem to change constantly. In a previous interview, French expat Julien Daubas pointed out that while a couple of years ago, Ráday Street was the place where everybody went out for dinner and drinks, today, this function is taken over by the 6th and 7th districts. Do you have long-term plans with Akácfa Street or you’re expecting that the functions and identities of the various neighborhoods will change again in the near future?
Well, it’s a lot of work and energy and of course it also takes a lot of money to run these places so you can’t really plan for only a short amount of time. When we started Fogasház, we had a contract with the owner of the building for two years, which seemed like an eternity back then. And that was five years ago. But I agree: the city changes all the time, although I also think that what we have now in the 6th and 7th districts is a very multi-faceted profile, and as such I couldn’t imagine it would just disappear completely. Of course it changes in the sense that it’s growing, so now some parts of the 5th district also belong to this nightlife neighborhood. But while Ráday Street was only one street with mostly restaurants; what we have here now is a much bigger area with a lot more places and functions.
What are the other projects that you’re currently involved in?
Besides Fogasház, Fogas Kert, and Mazel Tov, there will be a new project also on Akácfa Street but I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I won’t talk about it now. I’m also part of Toldi Klub, where Gábor Csete is mostly in charge. I’ve already mentioned Lärm and then we also organized the first Budapest Essentials Festival this May. It was basically a Budapest festival all around the city. We encouraged the locals to use Budapest as if they were tourists through activities, such as walking tours, visits to the baths, or hop on hop off bus rides. We also promoted restaurants that are mostly frequented by tourists. But it was also a music festival with concerts at unusual venues, such as the Great Market Hall or the rooftop bars. And of course, the festival was a great event series for the tourists, too. I don’t know the specific dates yet for next year, but it will probably be in the beginning of June.
What are your favorite places in Budapest?
I like the city center; it’s sort of grown on me over the years. I love the Rudas Bath mostly in the mornings and if the weather is not so good then I usually go to Széchenyi. As for food, I absolutely love the toast at Mátra Wine, the sour fisherman’s soup at Halásztanya, or the wiener schnitzel at Menza, cut into strips and with a little salt on top. And in the morning, I love the coffee at Embassy.