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Restaurants

Czehoski

Posted by Paul / Reviewed on February 4, 2008 / review policy

Czehoski
Czehoski was once described to me by a friend as "that pricey place down Queen West with the awesome signage." Though this is hardly a thorough or even remotely complete description of the restaurant, it does somehow hit the nail (quite frankly) on the head.

Yes, the signage is "awesome". It is, in fact, the building's original sign from 1924 back when it was a butcher shop and deli owned by a Polish/Czech family. And yes, it is a little "pricey". So every year I make sure to book a reservation during Winterlicious, a lovely little two week period at the beginning of the year where I can actually afford to try places like this.

Czehoski Menu
The lunch menu was approached much like a brunch, with a healthy dose of breakfast-style items mixed in to the lineup. A word of warning though for those planning on making a lunch reservation this week; some items are unavailable after 3pm (basically anything that can't be thrown on a grill). Our reservation was for a late lunch at 2:30, and though they failed to warn us of the cutoff originally over the phone, they were kind enough to mention it as we walked in so that we would choose our items quickly and not be disappointed.

Also worth noting is the fact that they could not properly seat us as a party of 6. A couple of us were forced to perch on top of two bar stools. Being a fairly short person, normally I would gladly welcome an upgrade in height, but in this case it just proved to be uncomfortable and kind of ridiculous to tell you the truth. It was like getting stuck sitting on the last resort plastic stepping stool at an overcrowded family Christmas dinner... only you became awkardly tall rather than embarassingly short.

Czehoski Beer
Regardless, I wasn't going to let a few little service shortcomings ruin my lunch. Of course, nothing helps you overcome these weird little situations like $3.50 pints of Labatt 50. I'm forgetting about our height differences already...

Czehoski Fries
Alright, enough chitchat. Let's get to the food already... here's a perfectly cooked plate of nicely seasoned fries with a side of garlic pepper mayo. Maybe this might seem a little odd to many who might be expecting a little more "upscale" food, but I think there's something actually quite ambitious and even brave about serving a simple plate of fries as an appetizer on a menu like this. It shows a real respect for the simplest of ingredients and cooking methods, and it really puts a lot of pressure on the expectations of the dish. I'm glad to say that this one did not disappoint.

Czehoski Soup
Another equally tasty, though perhaps a little less aesthetically pleasing appetizer, was the Truffled Mushroom Soup. Smooth, hearty, and even meaty, with a nice cool dollop of creme fraiche to finish it off. Maybe the aesthetic criticism is a little off base. What can you really do to dress up a bowl of brown soup? Maybe a splash of fresh greenery for contrast? Or a drizzle of a green chive oil over top? Regardless, a very tasty dish.

Czehoski Burger
For our mains, it seems that the burger was the most popular choice, and for good reason too. A patty of perfectly seasoned, freshly ground beef covered in melted cheddar, topped simply with lettuce, tomato, and onion, and finished with a drizzle of garlic mayo. My stomach is seriously grumbling just writing about it.

You also have the option of ordering a veggie patty on the burger, which originally didn't sit too well with me. I'm usually not a huge fan of veggie burgers, but after trying Czehoski's version of it, I think I might be all turned around on the issue. I think a large part of what made the veggie patty really tasty was that it wasn't trying to mimick meat. Any chef worth his or her salt knows that this is a battle you simply cannot win. Instead, the burger had a flavour and texture all its own; crispy on the outside and earthy and aromatic on the inside.

Czehoski Eggs
The item that caught my eye on this particular day though was the eggs benedict with smoked salmon. Two properly poached eggs laying on a buttery croissant with thinly sliced smoked salmon inbetween, all covered with subtle and soothing hollandaise sauce. Perhaps I'm biased because eggs benny is my favorite breakfast item of all time, but this dish was simply to die for. Nothing intensely complicated or overpowering. Just fresh and quality ingredients, well prepared, and beautifully served.

Czehoski Dessert
And of course, one cannot leave a Winterlicious meal without dessert. The creme brulee has always been a favorite of mine at Czehoski, and as usual, it was right on the money.

Czehoski Ganache
The other dessert option was the Chocolate Ganache, garnished with edible flower peddles. Very much like a really rich brownie, but more crumbly and less gooey. All in all, a delicious ending to an amazingly tasty meal. And because of Winterlicious, the entire lunch was only $20 (not including drinks).

The festival is only on until this Thursday though (February 7th), so if you want to take advantage of the $20 lunch (or the $35 dinner) be sure to book your reservation before then. Oh, and If you're a party of more than 4, maybe double check over the phone that you'll be properly accommodated. Either way, I suppose you can always rely on the $3.50 pints to even things out.

Discussion

32 Comments

chephy / February 4, 2008 at 01:25 pm
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These days it's considered good taste to diss this place for being overpretentious and too expensive... but I can't help but like it. One of my most memorable days from last summer involved a lunch at Czehoski, which consisted of a half pint of lager and brains with absinthe (don't know if that was the real stuff, or whether the real stuff is even legal in Canada - but I don't care). And then I rode my bike east along the sun-kissed Queen Street. It was a euphoric experience. Partly due to my good mood in general, no doubt - but bad restaurants tend to turn off my good mood pretty quickly.
Stephanie Czehoski / February 9, 2008 at 06:47 pm
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I am the daughter of the orginal owners of the Czehoski Butcher store. Just a little history for any one that is interested. The store was owned and operated by my grandfather and grandmother they had 6 children. The oldest was my father Stanley. The family grew up in the store there were bedrooms upstairs and a basement to the store. My Grandparents passed away when I was very young. My parents divorced and my father went to live back at the store with his brother and sister who never married. My father worked his whole life at the store and the family were very famous for the Polish sausage they made called Kalbasa. They would make the sausage twice a week and people would line up around the block. At the time there were no Loblaws or big Grocery stores. If you were Polish you knew the name Czehoski. The store opertaed for over 60 years up until my father passed in 1984. It closed shortly after but his sister and brother continued living there. The building it shelf is well over 80 years old. I was able to visit the resturant before it opened, it brought back alot of memories the smell I know as little girl visiting or working at the store was still there to me. The walk in freezer, the butcher block, and the display case that used to show case the meat. Shortly after the resturant opened a girlfriend and I went for dinner. I have course made reservations under the name Czehoski and the waitress seemed quite impress that a was a Czehoski. I was not too impressed by the food, found it quite pricy. Over dinner I mentioned to my girlfriend that my father would find it silly how the food was layer on top of each other it would not be his style of choice. My father was a very simple man with simple tastes. He would be thrilled that a business continued to operate uder the Czehoski name and how they were able to preseve many of the pieces that he was so familuar with. It is great to drive by and see the Czehoski sign knowing it is the orginal sign and in no way has been changed that sign has had alot of famous people walk under it. With that sign my father still lives on.
Paul / February 9, 2008 at 09:13 pm
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wow, that's amazing Stephanie. thanks so much for the comment and the tidbits of family history :)

even during the years when i couldn't quite afford to go in, i was always captivated by the sign. i knew their had to be an interesting story behind it, so thanks for filling in the blanks.

cheers.
Nigel / March 16, 2009 at 06:04 pm
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the sign is beautifully done. And I agree that the food has never been impressive. And now what?? What an infamy done by the chef "at that time". Now the shameful chef moved to other place.
Justyna / May 30, 2009 at 10:38 am
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we went last night, and while the atmosphere was fantastic the food was not. Completely overpriced, and subpar. The pierogies were said to have contained sweet potato, smoked gouda and garlic. All you could taste was potato. Totally flavorless, and fried! (I know its the western way to do pierogi, but it was just disappointing). We started with the charcouterie, and while some of the cured meats were great, and the walnut loaf was fantastic, there was no grainy mustard, no flavored butter, nothing to go with the dry bread and meat... weird, no?

I wouldn't go back, it seems like the kind of place yuppie hipsters go to be seen....
david / April 6, 2010 at 08:59 am
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Went the other night with friends, and sadly, the food was TERRIBLE and the service was incredibly SLOW. The meat, in particular, was gross. Not only that, but the staff was rude to our table when we (politely) asked if they could try to speed things up because some of us had to leave (we'd been there for hours). Needless to say, that just made matters worse. All and all an awful place.
tyler / April 6, 2010 at 11:25 am
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I had an experience similar to the one that David mentioned. My wife and myself and our friends waited for hours for food which was mediocre at best -- and definitely not as good as the hype. My wife had the burger and the meat was dry, almost stale-tasting. I had the beet salad, which was just meh -- could've made it better at home. But the service was really terrible even though it wasn't busy at all. Someone told me that this place used to be quite good and then changed ownership and has since gone downhill. Either way, I won't be returning -- especially when there's plenty of great restaurants in that 'hood that are much more creative and interesting. ie. most of the places on Ossington. Sorry to say it, but Czehoski was a huge disappointment!
Mary / June 23, 2010 at 11:54 am
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I've been to Czehoski twice. The first time was in the Fall and the meal was great. My halibut was cooked to perfection, even if the food is pricey.

However, when I went again a couple months later the servers were complaining about the new cooks in front of us, which was awkward. And at 6pm none of the prep work was completed and the only thing available off the menu was the cheese plate. Extremely disappointing! We left and I haven't been back since and don't plan to return anytime soon.
Tee-Bone / September 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm
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YOU HAD ME UNTIL YOU MENTIONED THE "FLOWER PEDDLES" ON THE CHOC GANACHE.

Ugh.
Rob / December 9, 2010 at 11:11 am
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Last time I visited, the waitress brought me and my visibly pregnant wife shots of liquor to apologize for the atrocious service we received. I guess it is cool to be ironic these days, but really??...

Food was mediocre at best.
CGB / February 11, 2011 at 06:26 pm
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Tee-Bone,

Do you realize the irony of correcting someone's spelling when you don't recognize the bad etiquette of using all-caps to type a post on the internet? Or were actually well aware of this, and just decided to be rude and shout anyway?
Matt O'Brien / March 31, 2011 at 06:24 pm
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Hey guys if you want to experience some of the amazing food and a show, I run a monthly stand-up comedy show at Czehsoki the next show being April 12-9pm-Pay What You Can-$4 beers-it's always a great time come check it out, follow me on Facebook for updates


facebook.com/mattobriencomedy
Dan / May 29, 2011 at 02:15 pm
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Just got back from brunch at Czehoski, maybe one of the most disappointing meals I've had in TO..

My girlfriend got a latte, which took about 10 minutes to arrive...

Then we ordered, it took 30 minutes for the food to arrive (at brunch mind you)...my girlfriend's order came with the wrong side (bacon instead of sausage), so the waitress took it back and brought the plate back with basically non-cooked inedible sausage..I had a cheeseburger, it was nothing to write home about, pretty plain and way too big a bun for such a small piece of meat..

Overall, I felt the wait staff was aware of how poor the kitchen was; there was a defeatist attitude to the whole operation...they took my girlfriend's order off the bill but there's no way we'll be coming back...

It's too bad too, because the place has a good vibe and could be great...
Nathalie / November 15, 2011 at 01:53 pm
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I love that place. good burger, good cocktails. love their beef ribs and Mac n cheese! I recommend it to everyone.
Gloria / November 29, 2011 at 07:51 pm
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Horrible place. I went there last Summer to try their Summerlicious menu and my tomato soup tasted exactly like Campbell's. I could not finish my plate of Mac n' cheese .. the cheese tasted anything but cheese. It is clearly a place to go just to drink a beer with your wannabe friends.
David / January 4, 2012 at 10:47 am
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Warm atmosphere. Sour, cold service.

Ever since the new management the place lacks that jenesequa.

The general manager uses the place as his personal social network, he will ask you to leave arbitrarily.
mayor dodge / January 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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Maybe a plate of his lousy food or a drink thrown in the general managers face will wise him up, ya think?
John replying to a comment from Stephanie Czehoski / January 16, 2012 at 11:03 am
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Hello Stephanie Czehoski...our family from about 1964 to the closing were steady customers, and i know for a fact that Czehoski kielbasa was the best on the planet,ohhh the aroma and memories from childhood..Thank you.
Stephanie Mariani replying to a comment from John / February 21, 2012 at 03:41 pm
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Replying to comment from John/Jan.16

Thank you for the kind words, you are right best kalbasa in town can't get anything close now a days. Too bad all the poor comments, on the food and service. What a way to ruin a family name, my dad would be disappointed.
North of 50 / February 29, 2012 at 09:48 am
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Very interesting comments. In contrast, my friend and I recently had an excellent experience. We dropped in on Monday night, no reservation. We are, frankly, a bit high maintenance - one hearing impaired, the other vegan. We asked for the music upstairs to be turned down - no problem - we asked to be seated downstairs instead - no problem - there was little on the menu that my vegan friend could eat - no problem. The server, then the chef, got involved and they settled on doing her a lovely plate of veggies. Service was terrific all round actually and I was impressed that the chef got involved personally, it's pretty much a meat and cheese kinda place, a one-off veggie plate was probably a nuisance. Meanwhile, my seared tuna dish was perfect - just the right amount of food and interesting contrasting / complimentary ingredients. My guess is that complaints about the prices and food have been posted by younger diners with different expectations. Issues with service though I can't explain, that certainly wasn't our experience, and we were two 50+ women, not the usual Queen St West hipster clientele, they could have assumed we'd never be back and so weren't worth catering to -- but they didn't, and we will :-)
penny replying to a comment from Stephanie Czehoski / March 5, 2012 at 10:20 am
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How very nice that your family's name and some of it's heritage lives on in the restaurant. Such an honour.
penny replying to a comment from Paul / March 5, 2012 at 10:21 am
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Food Network did a show on the making of this restaurant. Well worth the watch.
Vivienne / April 3, 2012 at 03:09 pm
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Thanks for sharing your story Stephanie! The 'new' Czehoski is very special for my fiance and I as this is where we went on our first date 3 years ago on April 1st. We have now made it a tradition to have every anniversary dinner at Czechoski. Last year we almost had to break the tradition because the restaurant was way too busy, when we told the hostess our situation, she very kindly proceeded to make a very small space for us at the bar for us to enjoy our dinner. I am very surprised to read all the negative comments, we love coming here for dinner, the ambiance and staff have always been spot on!
Joe Alessandro replying to a comment from Stephanie Czehoski / June 3, 2012 at 01:40 pm
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Stephanie,
Your comments made for interesting reading. I too am related to the Czehoski family and remember the store way back when. I remember Walter, John and Mary and have some pictures of them going back to WWII. I would love to connect with you and share stories, pictures and family tree info
Stephanie replying to a comment from Joe Alessandro / August 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm
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Hi Joe, I do not check the website that often, what is your relation to the family. I am the daughter of Stan, the oldest son of the family with Wally. I would love to see your pictures. Especially if you have some of my dad.

Thanks
Daphne M. / November 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm
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owner of Czehoski: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/11/06/rogue-drug-cops-seek-courts-mercy
Herman Goodman / March 2, 2013 at 05:43 pm
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Food is comparable to carnival food. Don't be fooled by the flowery language on the menu. It's all freezer bag packed, deep fried, mystery meat extraordinaire. Service is pathetic. I have been treated better by airport security.
Sad Patron / July 8, 2013 at 09:14 pm
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The service that my date and I received last night lacked in luster.

Our server needs a book or two from Emily Post -picking up plates when we were not all finished, scowls when we took napkins from another table (ours were taken by her), forgetting about us after our meals were done, not keeping an eye on our drinks, not offering any coffee or tea while my date and I remain after our meal, and overall cold attitude.


The food was decent-my squid was under cooked and seasoning on our dishes were inconsistent. Very mediocre.

Another poor contender in Summerlicious.
Joe replying to a comment from Stephanie / July 14, 2013 at 11:55 am
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Stephanie, I too don't check the website, so replying quite late. I have pictures of Walter and possibly others from your family. You can reply at: joe12345_ca@yahoo.com
LV / November 17, 2013 at 02:54 pm
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Horrible experience here on Friday - had a reservation for a group of 7, we waited 30 minutes for our cocktails, 2.5 hours for our mains, had to change our order because the kitchen ran out (more than an hour after we originally ordered and they still hadn't started cooking our food yet), and then were completely snubbed by the very rude manager. There are tonnes of restaurants in the area with better food and WAY better service - don't waste your time or money here.
Mark / July 5, 2014 at 02:14 am
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Been here twice, once for summerlicious, the other just to try again in hopes for a better expereince. Nope. Both times the food came out cold, bland, and undercooked. Group of 3 for both times and we sat upstairs. Food took over 2.5 hours to get out while we were the only ones on the entire floor + one table downstairs. 2nd time was maybe 2 tables more. Service was implorable, our waiter only showed up once in the 3 hours time we were there. The other time we had 3 different people asking us for our orders while we told them we ordered already, but they lost our order. It was so chaotic. Is there no system between you guys? The reviews here and other sites are pretty low, I seriously wonder how they survived all these years.

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