Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn takes a look at the now almost entirely disappeared cluster of Hungarian restaurants on Bloor Street West towards the Annex. Vintage ads are shared there.
Walking into the Country Style Hungarian Restaurant along Bloor Street in the Annex is more than dining on central European cuisine served on checkered tablecloths. The venerable eatery stands as one of the last links to the strip’s past, before Hungarian businesses, butchers, and restaurants gave way to cheap sushi joints and falafel spots. The influx of refugees following the uprising against Hungary’s communist government in 1956 built up a community that stretched into Kensington Market and Yorkville.
In November 1956, shortly after the Hungarian revolution, Canada’s federal government announced that it would accept all refugee claimants, a move possibly motivated by Cold War–era one-upmanship. Around 37,000 Hungarians came to Canada, with 12,000 of them settling in Toronto. They were temporarily housed by organizations like the Salvation Army and YMCA, and in locations stretching from the CNE Coliseum to Chorley Park. Highly educated, the Hungarians made their mark by adding a touch of cosmopolitanism to a city starting to shed its staid, conservative skin.
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The heart of Bloor Street’s Hungarian strip, between Brunswick and Bathurst, earned several nicknames. “Wiener Schnitzel Row” was favoured by some, while others, with apologies to writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, dubbed it the “Goulash Archipelago.” Beyond the émigrés, the cheap, hearty food appealed to university students on tight budgets.
Toronto’s first Hungarian eateries opened in the mid-1950s prior to the revolution, offering a taste of middle Europe to awakening post-war tastebuds. Clientele varied by restaurant: the Coffee Mill in Yorkville attracted artisans with its sidewalk café, while spots along Bay Street like Csarda and Hungarian Village advertised in tourist publications.
The self-described “main digger” of the Toronto tunnel has come forward, saying it was meant as a private hideaway and a “fun project” to challenge his construction know-how.
In an interview with the Toronto Sun published Thursday morning, Elton McDonald, a 22-year-old construction worker, said the project was never meant to be a tunnel at all. “I was going to expand it to have a couple of rooms,” Mr. McDonald said. “I was hoping to put in a TV. I did some barbecuing there. It was more a place to hang out.”
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Mr. McDonald has lived in the nearby Driftwood neighbourhood for years, and told the Sun the tunnel site had been there for more than two years prior to its discovery.
Inside the tunnel, police found a sophisticated bunker reinforced with a wood frame built out of plywood planks. “The individuals responsible for building it clearly had some level of expertise in ensuring its structural integrity,” Deputy Chief Mark Saunders told reporters on Feb. 24.
Mr. McDonald told the Sun he had help from some close friends and used equipment borrowed from his boss, including a gas generator. This was how the police found him, Mr. McDonald said: They traced the equipment back to his boss, who then identified him. (“My boss was not mad,” he added.)