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Restaurants

Hrvati Bar

Posted by Ryan Spencer / Listed on October 26, 2011 / review policy

Hrvati TorontoHrvati Bar, nestled amidst galbi joints and karaoke bars, seems out of place smack dab in the middle of Koreatown. Its menu is the creation of Rodney Bowers (of Hey Meatball! fame) and opened about a month ago. The menu offers a new twist to the usual hamburgers and frites -- albeit a Croatian one. Beer is defiantly the center point at Hrvati but the simple menu does offer a big draw.

Hrvati TorontoAn oblong harvest table serves as the only seating, save for the counter and bar stools lining the perimeter of the cozy space. It feels very beer hall with a nod to the past. There are strokes of humour and whimsy with antique posters that conjure up calls from a carnival barker.

Hrvati TorontoThe carefully crafted beer list is dominated by European imports with a smattering of cerveza and Asian lagers with most falling in the $5-10 range. Our server suggests a Croatian favorite, Ožujsko ($7.50), an everyday beer akin to Creemore (which is fine but not great). We also order the much better Karlovačko ($8), a bitter brew that might be off putting to some but still holds our attention with a unique clean taste.

Hrvati TorontoThe ćevapi ($12) sausage platter is similar to a kefta as both are skinless and hand formed. The platter comes with three dipping sauces: a sweet roasted red pepper, creamy sour cream, and a spicy eggplant. This is a great dish to pair with some drinks.

Hrvati TorontoSchnitzel seems a bit out of place on the menu - highfalutin within this context; especially accompanied with a caper buerre blanc sauce. The dish comes with two sides: braised red cabbage and a vinegar based potato salad (similar to German). The cabbage is a crowd favorite with its hint of apple; however our palates pucker from the vinegar in the sauce and the salad. The pork schnitzel, cooked perfectly, is lost by the competing flavours. Next time I'll lose the salad and ask for double cabbage.

Dressed to the nines with smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, and a side slaw, pljeskavica (the burger - $14) is probably one of the best I've had in the city and surprisingly big! Not for the purest, there are some non-traditional touches -- yes, Croatian ones. The bun (name escapes me) is a cross between a ciabatta and a crumpet. It's dense and spongy with a hint of sweetness that soaks up the drippings. The fat to protein ration of the two patties is perfect -- just enough to hold shape but crumbled in my mouth. Sadly, our fries come out cold so are D.O.A.

The burger... oh yes. I can still taste it -- that's stamina. I feel so confident that I am willing to bring my Croatian friend. Come for the beer but stay for a burger.

Hrvati TorontoPhotos by Peter Henderson

Discussion

22 Comments

Tiffers / October 26, 2011 at 09:49 am
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Great post Ryan! I'm liking this place and your writing.
Sarah / October 26, 2011 at 10:22 am
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I agree. One of the best 'burgers' I've ever had. Definitely be back!
moe / October 26, 2011 at 10:36 am
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great post Ryan. truly refreshing writing. what is DOA, did you mean the bill? "deed of agreement"? i will check the place out this week.
jam / October 26, 2011 at 10:47 am
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Does this place have draught beer or just bottles? It looks great and I live just around the corner. Can't wait to check it out this fall!
terry Carter / October 26, 2011 at 11:00 am
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Purist not purest.
Vaiguy777 replying to a comment from moe / October 26, 2011 at 11:09 am
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The fries were "Dead on Arrival"
Rich / October 26, 2011 at 11:58 am
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Great, great burger.... Huge beer selection and also draft!

Cool liitle spot..

A must try
Amanda B / October 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm
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Schnitzel is not at all out of place if the place has a Croatian twist. Every single family dinner we have includes it and my entire family is Croatian people. But we'd never serve it with a caper sauce. They would have done better to serve it with sataras. Sounds neat though - will have to check it out and judge the authenticity!
bgm / October 26, 2011 at 01:04 pm
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Burger was AWESOME when we went. Fries were great and hot but a bit too salty. A really nice vibe to the place and they were super friendly. As we were the only ones in there when we were eating, the owner came over to us and to chat about the food, which was nice. (He wanted to know our opinion of the hamburger bun, as you can only get it 'at one place in Canada!)
I'd say that 8 or 9 bucks for a can of beer that you can get at the LCBO for $2 is a bit painful, but that's more a crazy-2011-Toronto-prices thing than a Hrvati thing I guess.
Chris / October 26, 2011 at 01:06 pm
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I believe the name of the bun you had is lepinja (also served with the cevapi). The cevapi here look a little too fancy. It's traditional 'fast food' and best served (in my view) with some onions and ajvar. Simple but delicious. Amanda is right too, schnitzel is common in a Croatian household.
Lazar replying to a comment from bgm / October 26, 2011 at 02:40 pm
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The bun, as someone else already mentioned, is called lepinja, and you can get it at more than one location in the city (Solero bakery and Stari Grad to name 2 places that make it on site), so I am curious as to where they actually get it.

I am intrigued by this place, as cevapi are near and dear to my heart. Thus far, my goto place for cevapi is Royal Meats Barbecue on Kipling (who also do an amazing burger on lepinja) and their cevapis are outstanding. I will give Hrvati a try and see how they compare.
Blah / October 26, 2011 at 02:42 pm
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The palacinke here were very nice, with a choice of great homemade jams. I'm going to have the schnitzel (which is not out of place at all, silly reviewer!) on my next visit, can't wait!
Alex / October 26, 2011 at 08:44 pm
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I'm Croatian and have eaten schnitzel once a week for over 30 years. It's like spagetti and Italians. A little bit of research next time.
bbcd / October 26, 2011 at 09:27 pm
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The reviewer isn't saying that schnitzel isn't Croatian just out place within the context of the menu.
Japhet / October 27, 2011 at 02:38 pm
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I put avjar on everything.

I've yet to try the food here but I'll definitely have to one of these days.
John / November 3, 2011 at 08:37 am
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AMAZING BURGER!!!!!! and cute female staff!!!! wooooow!
moe / November 10, 2011 at 07:59 pm
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if this place continues in the same manner, it would truly become a mighty act. I grad a different grub each time. Yum Yum Yum.
winstrol / November 30, 2011 at 03:21 pm
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. Algunos detalles realmente interesantes que ha escrito el # nombre me ayudó mucho, justo lo que estaba buscando: D.
moe / July 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm
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always look forward to go back since never in the area for food at the right time. two of us sat and waited for a while in anticipation for amazing food. My schnitzel was nothing like the one in the picture and nothing like what I expected and had before. it was a thin piece of pork just like a ham slice being breaded and deep fried, very hard to disect and no taste whatsoever. The sweetened cabbage on the side was too sweet and my 16 bucks would be better spent at without any exageration at Duff's wings. My hungry friend had the burger alas he could finish only half of it without touching the fries, both were too salty, and surely the money would be better spent @ the priest or BQM or even Jack Astors. I am sad to say this place even though it was quite busy for a Monday night, is surely headed for the deadpool. Never thought I could be so bitter.
ZB / August 13, 2012 at 09:18 pm
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I am sure all food and of course beer is something you will not find often. All people from former Yugoslavia are familiar with that food.
But, sorry to owner looks like the name of restaurant calling for Croatians only (Hrvati); no Serbians, Bosnians...for me it is provocation. Here is how stupid decision for name can spoil all what great Croatian cuisine can offer.
Sorry I was not invited even I am Croatian.
Mira Tino / August 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm
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Just went there tonight. I've been to Hrvati before, but this time was a monday and we got there early.

We got our drinks and ordered, but after 1 hour of nobody coming to check up on us or get us more drinks, I had to go up and inquire about our food. We were told it was on the way and to keep waiting, but burgers do not take an hour to be cooked.

After people who came in after us get their food first, we were told there was a mix up and our food would be coming out soon. The burgers were good, but the fries were caked in salt and inedible. We were given an apology an comped 2 cokes, after waiting over an hour to get our food and with little to no service.

Result - will not go back and cannot recommend, which is a pity because they have Russian beer.
Brandon / October 31, 2012 at 09:54 am
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Orgasmic burger. Definitely will be going back soon to try some more "authentic" Croatian dishes.

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