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Restaurants

Cafe Polonez

Posted by Beverly Cheng / Reviewed on June 26, 2009 / review policy

cafe polonez schnitzelCafé Polonez is one of the final Polish strongholds left in Roncesvalles and a restaurant I always find myself coming back to. If I weren't Asian, I reckon I would be Polish. Beets, celeriac, poppy seed and cabbage are almost second nature to me. Even my most beloved Asian juicy pork dumplings, could be easily substituted for the quintessential pierogi.

After a lovely morning stroll around the park, I head over to Café Polonez for lunch and am reminded of just how much I enjoy this place. The renovations have given the laid back family restaurant a more polished touch with antique Warsaw maps and warm wood furnishings. With a steady flow of Polish grannies attesting to its authenticity, along with friendly neighbourhood locals, little has changed about Café Polonez in an ever evolving area.
cafe  polonez soup I have made it a custom to always order soup. There are never any surprises, just home made goodness with every spoonful. Barley soup is the pick of the day and lives up to every expectation.This hearty soup with diced carrots, celery, potatoes and barley grains in a milky broth is simple, as it is wholesome.

Their rotating daily specials are a great option for those who are overwhelmed by their extensive menu. Wednesdays are my favourite, as they devote an entire day to potato pancakes with sour cream for dipping! But, I am craving pierogi and order a half-portion of an assorted savoury platter ($4.75). This is a far cry from the pierogi that most people dig out of their grocer's freezer. They are freshly made and stuffed with: shredded pork, cabbage or potato with cheese. The dough is fresh and ever so delightfully chewy.
cafe polonez pierogi A "half-portion" of their Wiener Schnitzel ($9) arrives with a landscape of sides spilling over the outer parameters of the plate. Mountains of buttery mashed potatoes dusted with fresh chives, tangy coleslaw, shredded beets, steamed veggies, tasty sauerkraut, overflow the plate. The schnitzel is crisp without being oily, tender and well seasoned. Accompanied with a sunny side up egg, it could easily rival any monster weekend brunch.

There's a real sense of care and pride at Café Polonez. As soon as you step through the door, you feel it in the hospitality of the staff, the meticulously clean upkeep of the dining room and their dishes that stay true to tradition. Healthy comfort food in a welcoming surrounding for less than $10 is what keeps Café Polonez on my roster of surefire favourites.
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Photos by Stephen Chung

Discussion

24 Comments

PB / June 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm
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So I've been to Cafe Polonez three times now, and have had three very different experiences. I've been there twice for take out, and once for a sit-in dinner. The sit in dinner was fine. The service wasn't exceptional or anything, but the food was alright. The goulash was tasty. So, I went back for more goulash, by take-out. The first time, I ordered just the soup, and they gave me the meal. The server was sorry and told me I could wait for the correct meal, or just take the one they made. Anyway, I couldn't be bothered and assumed they'd offer a discount of something for screwing the meal up, but they didn't. So I payed $14 for a meal I didn't want. The second time I went, the exact same thing happened. No offer of a discount or anything. I went home, and not only did they mess up my meal, but this time, they also put it into the bag on an angle, which caused half of the meal to leak into the bag, and then end up on my floor. What was supposed to be a 10 min and $6 meal of goulash soup turned into a 40 minute and $14 ordeal, cleaning up my kitchen. I called them to complain, and the server who served me picked up and pretended to be the manager (considering he hesitated big time when I asked for the manager, I'm pretty confident he wasn't the manager). They said the goulash meal was a common mistake they make and the fact that it happened twice to me was not right and that they were sorry. I was appalled; this happening once is one too many times! Anyway I told them that this experience made me not want to come back. The "manager" replied with a "well I'm sorry miss", waited a few seconds, said "goodbye" and hung up.

Needless to say, I'll be trying to track down the owner after this. The service was terrible. Not to mention, the meat in the goulash was hard and rubbery; however, maybe that's just my bias.
Vaneska / June 29, 2009 at 09:37 am
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mmmm.....so good. I love Polish food.
Spyder replying to a comment from PB / June 29, 2009 at 10:05 am
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Mary!
matt / June 29, 2009 at 10:56 am
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Been going there for years. Staff can be a bit indifferent and aloof but that's OK. The food is the best Polish food I had in Toronto (and having grown up in Poland, I know what I am talking about). The schnitzel is a must have as is the Hungarian style potato pancake with goulash....or borsch (red AND white).
ann / June 29, 2009 at 11:25 am
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PB I have been going to this restaurant for the past 19 years and it is by far the best place to try some of the best of polish cuisine. Therefore, I am sorry to hear that your experiences have been so far from what I have been experiencing over the years.
I would not give up though. Next time, try to repeat your specific order to make sure they got exactly what you wanted and double check your take out before leaving the restaurant.
IT is so worth going back for more!


tracy / June 29, 2009 at 11:35 am
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as a U of T student, i moved to Fern Ave. in 1985, discovered the Polonez, and have been a fan ever since. At first, it was a brilliant place to get filled up for a pretty reasonable price. Now, over 20 years later, i still love it, it's still a bargain, and the food is still as wonderful as ever. Eastern European folk are not renowned for their warmth ( i am half Hungarian, and anyone who ever had a grandmother like mine, will attest ;o), and you don't go there for great service - but having said that - i have ALWAYS had friendly service there, always. And that's, i guess, 23 odd years of frequenting this place? Utterly reliable, dependable, the food has NEVER let me down... especially with a raging hangover (pierogies) or in the depths of winter after an afternoon in High Park (goulash/schnitzel/ chicken soup/ all three!)... banishes the mid-winter blues, is air-conditioned to high (frozen over) hell in summer, or in full swing during Roncey fest...

For those who miss/love the food of the Old Country, or cash-strapped hungry students... but definitely not for those into calorie counting... the Polonez is a faithful stand-by that helps keep Roncey as we know and love it.

(ps. i live in London UK now, and visit TO about 3 times a year... always stay on Constance/via flat on craigslist, and ALWAYS visit The Polonez at least twice while i'm there, to get my schitnzel/pierogie/goulash fix... how i kept my figure in the 80's with this joint on the corner, is a mystery to me ;o)
Dan / June 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm
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I love Cafe Polonez. This is where my Polish friends go when they want "real food". The value for the money you pay is outstanding. Service has always been decent.
jayseeca / June 29, 2009 at 07:13 pm
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love this place too... the goulashes are GOOD. but, my favourite item being the hungarian style potato pancake is made better at Lala Bistro. their goulash is more tender and flavourful, and i like their crispier pancake as well.
dayes / July 2, 2009 at 09:03 am
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i *LOVE* them. Cafe Polonez is such awesome food. everything i've ever ordered there has been fabulous (if you haven't tried it, order the duck. serious... it's *really* good).

i reviewed it too (http://cokeaddict.xanga.com/684153727/all-because-i-had-a-pierogi-craving/) if you want to check it out.
JKF / August 15, 2009 at 01:29 pm
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This IS the best Polish food in the city. The owner is wonderful and very understanding. He does not speak a lot of english, but if you are polite and patient, he is too.
*** BUT A BIG HIDDEN SECRET IS: they serve a wicked breakfast!!!! Now they don't open till 11am...but it is worth the wait. I suggest you skip the toast, and ask for some potatoes instead. Sometimes, depending on the cook, you will get a variety of homefries styles, but all are tasty. They serve at least 6 slices of bacon. The eggs over-easy are just like my dad use to make, crispy on the outside. The ham choice, is hand cut pieces of ham. Usually nice red tomato slices are also served and fresh rye bread. To top it off, their coffee is delicious! Breakfast is served all day long.
Lindsay / March 9, 2010 at 11:21 am
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Polonez has the best soups ever!! You're right, the Wednesday special is the best - Hungarian style potato pancakes. DELISH!
d / July 22, 2010 at 05:22 pm
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top notch schnitzel!
the service was fast and friendly!
I'd go again!
paul ostroff / October 2, 2010 at 11:33 am
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I once was fortunate to have lived down the street from the Polonez restaurant.I must say that the pirogies,potato pancakes,and goulash wrapped in a potato pancake are superb.Their other foods are also mostly memorable,but the pierogies and pancakes are SIMPLY UNBEATABLE.Were I not now living far from there -I'd be going there at least 3 times a week.Oh how I miss that place and their awesome food.
Ian / October 30, 2010 at 04:27 pm
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I went here yesterday with a friend and the food was delicious. Service was perfectly fine. The cabbage rolls were great and the perogies were excellent as well. Didn't try the brosch, but I will next time.

pk / April 6, 2011 at 01:14 am
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great fresh authentic food..just like what I remember made by mom. try the fruit kompot with your meal, delish
dd / May 16, 2011 at 03:14 pm
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I LOVE THIS PLACE! Been there about 5 times and every experience has been great. Love the dumpling soup and schnitzel. Very friendly staff, as well.
Gie replying to a comment from PB / June 20, 2011 at 06:24 pm
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The manager of the Polonez is a guy btw
paul ostroff / June 20, 2011 at 09:35 pm
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Only my late mother could make pirogies and potato pancakes to rival this wonderful restaurant.It is always a pleasure to return here for these wondrous delights. There are no better ones in the city.
Doug / December 9, 2011 at 06:47 pm
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PB: get a spine - when someone screws up an order - sometimes it happens - you have to wait for your order to be made. if you take something that wasn't meant for you, IT STILL COSTS THE SAME AMOUNT. what kind of entitled trash are you?

the fact that you blame a restaurant for your own inability to hold a bag upright is a real laugh.

C.P. is my favorite restaurant in toronto, and will be made perfect by hideousness like you withdrawing your patronage from its fine hall.
Nate / February 5, 2012 at 02:45 am
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Best flacki (tripe soup) in town. Their pierogies are pretty good except for the meat one, where the meat filling is sort of dry. (the best meat pierogi I've had was at Mazurka on Prince Authur Street in Montréal).
YANO / June 2, 2012 at 10:47 am
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GOOD FOOD AND FAST SERVICE
zktxo / July 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm
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Great Food! SLOW service. Forgot to give me my gravy, asked for it twice. Loved it though still, perogies were AMAZING.
Anna / November 26, 2013 at 01:45 pm
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I love this place, and have never been disappointed. The portions are huge, the food is excellent and incredibly comforting. If you haven't tried the white borscht, it's a MUST.
EMT replying to a comment from Doug / April 20, 2014 at 12:27 am
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You are extremely rude. If your experiences were great at Polonez then that's good for you. PB had bad luck and that doesn't give you any right to be an insulting asshole. If the same thing happened to you I'm sure you wouldn't be happy either. Learn compassion and empathy. Jerk.

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