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Comforting Fare at Budapest Restaurant on the Danforth

If you’re tired, if the weather is bad, or the options to go out for entertainment are limited, the food you cook — or the food you order — is one great way that you can spice up your day a bit; along with films or a captivating book.

Photograph from visitbudapestrestaurant.ca

Once your stomach starts grumbling, though, you’ll need to quickly settle on how you can craft a satisfyingly homely evening. The first ingredient is warm, hearty food. Gravies and mild sauces, potatoes, stews, and roasted vegetables are all comfort foods that aide the cause of relaxation.

Then there’s schnitzel. A truly great schnitzel will take a hunk of meat and elevate it from being plain and ordinary to something that’s a tad audacious and festive. The act of giving it a crispy, fried exterior makes it a bit mischievous. Nevertheless, a good schnitzel has a batter that isn’t too greasy. And texturally, it’s not demanding, with the pork, chicken, or beef being tenderized in preparation. There’s solace in schnitzel.

Many countries claim to have the best schnitzel, or something similar to it. There’s the Italian cotoletta. Tonkatsu in Japan. Wiener schnitzel in Austria. I would contend that it fits within Estonian cuisine, too, especially if it’s a pork cutlet, and if it comes with hapukapsas (sauerkraut). Although it originated in Italy and was brought to Austria before it made its way onto the Estonian plate, it seems like a reflection of broader European influences, including Germanic ones, on Estonian culture.

Estonians can make a mean schnitzel, but a personal portion of Estonian-made schnitzel is not so easy to come by in Toronto. Still, why would we give up just because of that? We have only to look to our fellow Finno-Ugrians and friends east of the Danube River to achieve culinary contentment.

A number of times, for this reason, I’ve found myself at Budapest Restaurant. When they were at their original location at Woodbine and Gerrard, it felt like a secret spot that only some lucky souls were allowed to go to. I always thought this first location, which was opened in 2015, was calling out to be visited. The outside sign was unassuming, but the traditional Hungarian ceramics adorning the bright red walls were intriguing. I knew I was going to taste something new. Since November 4th, 2020, they’ve been re-opened at 2183 Danforth Avenue, just off of Woodbine and Danforth. The new location is more spacious, but just as much of a welcoming establishment as ever, and red is still the signature colour.

Right away, you’re warmly greeted by Lorie Ditchon, who runs the restaurant with her wife Edit Csoma, who is in charge of the cooking. Lorie is originally from the Philippines, and Edit is from Hungary, having moved to Canada 23 years ago. They met each other while working in restaurants in Toronto, got married, and ran other businesses together before they finally came across the restaurant’s first location and decided to open up there. Ever since, they’ve been serving food to Toronto’s east end that’s built on recipes that were passed onto Edit by her mother and grandmother. They put a lot of work into bringing the authentic Hungarian dining experience to Torontonians. The place creates an immersive sensation of being transported somewhere else. It’s no wonder, then, that any time I’ve had the chance to drop by the restaurant, there are tons of people inside, clinking glasses of Hungarian wine, chattering away, and digging into their meals.

An ideal meal from Budapest Restaurant would consist of the following:

To start, your appetizer would be hortobagyi palacsinta (similar to a crêpe), stuffed with ground pork and with sour cream on top. If it’s a meal for two, you could also get a steamy cabbage roll and share down the middle.

The main event would be the schnitzel, of which they have six different types! You could get the “Hunter Schnitzel” with lecsó (a pepper and tomato ragout) on top, and mashed potatoes for the starch component.

If I didn’t convince you about schnitzel, you can instead get the pork paprikash stew with a generous helping of little dumplings on the side. Before going to the restaurant, I had never seen delicate dumplings like these before. These are what Hungarians call nokedli. Germans call it spätzle.

For vegetarians, there’s the mouth-watering gombapörkölt, a mushroom stew made with paprika, the MVP of Hungarian spices, and marjoram. On the side, you can order a beet salad. Alas, one’s Estonian culinary longings can be addressed.

To round off the feast, try their somloi galuska, a delicious trifle assembled with cream, chocolate sauce, sponge cake, and raisins.

Breakfast is also a good bet with them. You can grab a table and get a nice omelette, such as the one with deberceni sausage, or eggs any way you like, with home fries alongside it.

They are beloved by the Beaches and Danforth communities, and the reviews aren’t the only proof of that. Just after they reopened at the new location in 2020, Etsuko Kimura and James Wallenberg from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra played Brahm’s Hungarian Dance No. 5 at the restaurant, as a tribute to the restaurant industry that was heavily impacted by the pandemic.

Budapest Restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and on Sunday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Orders can be made for pick-up or delivery through Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes, or DoorDash.

This article was written by Vincent Teetsov as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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