Hungarian Treasure: The Secret Soda Shop in Budapest

  • 21 Nov 2013 12:40 AM
Hungarian Treasure: The Secret Soda Shop in Budapest
You won’t find the place on the first try, or even the second. In fact, when you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll probably have to ask someone for directions like I did. But once you step inside, you’ll feel like you just discovered a hidden treasure. And that’s because you did. Tucked away in a courtyard just off Budapest’s Hunyadi tér stands one of the oldest soda shops in the city. The faded metal sign outside the front door is over a half-century old. The proprietor is László Kiss, a pleasant man with smiling eyes who talks with his hands and eyebrows. He wears rubber boots and a long apron when he works. As László filled up bottles of soda, he talked proudly about his shop.

How long has the shop been here?

“It’s been here since the 50s or early 60s. My father bought it in 1994. I helped him when I was a child then took over the business in 2002. My clients call me Szoda Laci. There are lots of Lászlós in Hungary, but if they say Szoda Laci’s on the phone, everyone knows who they’re talking about.”

How many shops like this are there in Budapest?

“Maybe 4 or 5. Not many.”

Has the business grown?

“Oh, yes. When my father got it, it had about 30 clients. By 2007, we had between 250-300. We keep getting new clients. In fact, we just got a new one today.”

How many bottles do you deliver a week?

“Whew. A lot. When it’s really hot in the summer, we’ll deliver 3000 liters in one day.”

What’s the secret to your success?

“Well, for one thing we deliver. Clients love this. Also, restaurants like having glass soda bottles. It’s nostalgic – retro. And retro is in. As you probably know, fröccs, the Hungarian spritzer, is as popular as ever, and true fröccs is wine with soda, not mineral water.”

Do you advertise?

“No. We don’t even have a website. It’s all done by word of mouth. If we advertised, I’m afraid we couldn’t keep up with the orders. We do have a unique marketing strategy though. After two or three times of delivering to a place, we know their tempo, when they’ll need to reorder. So, we show up with the soda before they even have to call.”

Why would people order soda water and not just use mineral water?

“There are many reasons. One main reason is the bubbles. When you first open a bottle of mineral water, it’s fizzy, but after that, it loses its bubbles. The fizz in bottles of soda water always stays the same.”

Why do you wear a heavy apron when you work?

“The bottles have a lot of pressure in them. If dropped, they can explode. We always warn families with children about this. You have to be careful when filling them up.”

I’m assuming you have lots of regular clients. Can you tell me about any of them?

“Yes,” László laughed. “One guy always appears before Easter. He rents one of those big tour buses with the top off and drives around spraying people.”

You seem to love your job. What’s the best part?

“Besides being my own boss, it’s definitely the people. There’s a special trust there. Some people will leave money under the doormat or their keys. They completely trust me” László smiled. “Yes, everyone is always happy to see the soda man.”


Name: Kiss Szoda K.F.T.
Address: 1067 Hunyadi ter 3.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00-12:00 noon
Phone: + 36 1 322 0137 or +36 70 333 4899
Language Spoken: Hungarian

Post by Phillip Done

After fifteen years of turning jump ropes, singing times tables, and wearing his bathrobe on Pajama Day in California public schools, Phillip Done decided to follow his dream and relocate to Europe. With two suitcases, one guidebook, and zero knowledge of Hungarian, he moved to Budapest in 2000 where he has lived, taught, and torn open care packages from home for most of the last decade. An award winning teacher and international educational consultant, Phillip is the celebrated author of 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny and Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind. To learn more about Phil, his writing, and his adventures in Budapest, visit him at

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