Balkan Dreams on Queen Street West

This is a part of a series of my personal recommendations for eating & drinking in Toronto, a city that aspires to be the second New York of North America. After three visits to the financial and business capital of Canada, I’ve had my fair share of experiences in restaurants & pubs of the city. They might not be the most popular or the most highly recommended by the many blogs, but they are places where I’ve spent a good couple of hours and walked away more than satisfied.

An inconspicuous bar on Queen Street West, Drom Taberna is a treasure hidden in plain sight. Like most people, we would have probably walked past, had we not been crawling along the street, looking at menus on each door, in our quest to find something different that evening. One look at the menu that featured Hungarian Goulash and liqueurs that we hadn’t tried, and we knew where we were going to spend the evening.

An all-day bar with a lovely patio for sunny days, Drom Taberna offers East European fare in a humble, unpretentious, but warm and welcoming ambiance in a building that has been around since the 1800s.

The website describes the place as “a homage to places that [they] have come from, have traveled to, or have never been – the lands that stretch from the Baltic to the Balkans to the Black Sea.” Along with the food and drinks, come live performances throughout the week. Entry is free, so they usually pass around a hat at the end of the performance to ask the audience to show their appreciation for the musicians.

That evening, we were witness to the most charming performance of East European jazz by the Sonny Balcones, to which a group of enthusiasts swung and danced, lighting up the impromptu dance floor. We devoured the Pierogi (Polish dumplings), Georgian style Shashlik and Ćevapi (Bosnian beef and veal kebabs), that we had ordered. I had ordered a glass of Serbian wine, which turned out to be a very good decision, since the wine was crisp and refreshing on the palate, and a perfect accompaniment to our food, which itself was a gastronomic delight. As we swayed to the music, we decided that we had to come back at least one more time before we left Toronto.

We were back a week later for another gourmet experience, this time for brunch, after spending the morning at the Riverdale Art Walk.

The Hungarian Goulash and Szalonnás Rántotta (Hungarian style scrambled eggs), was a true journey of flavours. Each mouthful was an explosion of flavours, since the dishes were ‘spicier’ than most European fare. It was just what we needed after the intense visual stimuli of the art fair. Once we had eaten our fill, we sat back to reminisce over our many trips to the city, over Stara Sokolova Medovina (a delightful plum & honey brandy from Serbia) and some Amaro Montenegro from Italy.

Soon after we returned to Bangalore, Mehek, traveller and author of Map and Magnets visited Serbia, and her Instagram stories filled my head with dreams of Balkan holidays. Hardly a surprise, given that the dream started in Drom Taberna, and Drom means “travel” in Slavic languages.

P.S. You can read the rest of my Torontonian experiences under Toronto Tales.

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