Elisabeth Raab – born in Szemere, a small village in Hungary – passed away almost two years ago, but her recipes live on.
Elisabeth was a Holocaust survivor. During the war, the skilled, passionate cook and baker wrote down recipes on whatever she could find – scraps of fabric, pieces of paper in the garbage – and hid them in a book.
These treasured recipes travelled with her over four continents and were just some of the dishes she made over the years for her family, including grandson, Jamie Yanowski.
Elisabeth loved to cook and entertain for family and friends, and dreamed of one day opening a café.
Though she didn’t get to fulfill her desire, her family opened HÖM Café in her honour. Her loving compassion can be felt throughout the room and the food she taught her longtime caregiver and friend, Magdolna (Magda) Gombos, how to make.
The menu is filled with delicious homemade Hungarian comfort foods – crêpes, goulash, schnitzel, sausage, beef stew – and lots of not-too-sweet dessert options.
What sets this made-from-scratch Eastern European food apart from the rest is that it’s all incredibly light, without a lick of grease (no preservatives, either), so there’s no chance of slipping into an afternoon dozy after lunch.
Magda and her Hungarian kitchen staff have recreated Elisabeth’s elegant food straight from her recipes. Once you try them, you’ll be back as soon as possible for more.
The café is licensed and offers beer ($4.50 to $6) and wine (gls. $7.50 to $19.50, btl. $33 to $90)
Non-alcoholic options including coffee and tea ($2.25 to $5.50), nitro coldbrew coffee ($4.25 to $4.75), water, juice and pop.
Fixtures & Fittings
The first-time restaurant owners looked all over central Toronto, but knew they didn’t want to be too west or north. Yorkville was perfect.
Terry Yanowski is the designer behind the space. He says, “I knew what I wanted and I knew what my mother-in-law liked. I wanted this to reflect her, with a bit of a modern edge.”
The small space was renovated to match Elisabeth’s decorating aesthetic.
“She had a very elegant, classic style,” Terry says.
Traditional touches of paisley and damask are modernized with silver and gold. Bistro-style tables and chairs add a European flair, and the café’s logo on the seats are a particularly elegant touch.
The shelves are filled with Elisabeth’s treasures, including some of her collections of Herend pottery (“She loved the green porcelain,” Jamie says). The mirror is hers too, making it truly feel like home (HÖM is pronounced “home”).
Off the Menu
Waltz Platter 1,2,3 ($12.95) – Choice of three: Salad with vinaigrette dressing, Deviled eggs, Egg salad with toast, Tuna with toast, Korozott cheese with toast, and Nagyi salad – A light lunch that satisfies. Korozott cheese is a Hugarian cheese spread made with paprika, topped here with red pepper and chives.
Goulash Soup ($9.50) Lighter than traditional Hungarian goulash stew, you still get a stew feel thanks to the tender chunks of beef, potato and carrot. Served with fresh rye bread.
Schnitzel Plate ($18.95) A perfect schnitzel – golden crispy coating gives way to juicy meat (chicken or veal), served with rizibizi (rice and green peas) and choice of coleslaw or cucumber salad.
Special of the Day: Cabbage Rolls ($16.95) Three plump, soft cabbage rolls are filled with pork and just a bit of rice, keeping them light and elegant. Served atop cooked cabbage with dollops of fresh sour cream.
Special of the Day: Chicken Paprikash ($17.95) The traditional Hungarian chicken dish in paprika sauce is served with tender little dumplings. Comforting, yet like all of Magda and Elisabeth’s food, incredibly light.
Assorted Pastries ($1.95 to $6.45) – including cakes (Dobos Torte, Walnut Cake, Honey Cake, Fruit Cake), pies (Apple Pie, Walnut Pie), cookies, and other sweet treats. Whole custom cakes can be ordered in advance. Whatever you do, be sure to try these homemade desserts before you go or get a bunch to take home.
The café accommodates 22 guests (with a few tables outside in warm weather) for breakfast and lunch. Also available: takeout and catering for small functions.
At the Stove: Head Chef Magdonna Gombos, Pastry Chef Szilvia Kovesdi
Head Honchos: Jamie Yanowski and Magdolna Gombos
Map it: 95 Cumberland St. (in Yorkville)
Monday to Friday – 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday –10 am to 6pm
Sunday – 10 am to 5 pm
Phone it in: 416-923-2882
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