Photo: homcafetoronto on Instagram
Combining freshly roasted coffee with memorable recipes, HÖM Café is located in Toronto’s chic Yorkville area. Although there are countless cafés along the Mink Mile, HÖM bears a touching story. Far from being just a neighbourhood coffee shop, HÖM commemorates an inspirational woman who was forced to suffer through one of the darkest chapters of history. The café was recently opened by founder Jamie Yanowski in honour of his late grandmother, Holocaust survivor Elisabeth Raab. While Raab sadly passed away in January 2016, Yanowski was inspired by his grandmother’s passion for the culinary arts, despite her incredible struggles in life. In her memory, HÖM features an extensive menu of Hungarian style dishes that bring Raab’s inner passion to life, on a plate.
The story of HÖM begins many decades before the new café officially opened its doors to the public. During the horrors of World War II, Raab lost her family and all of her belongings. However, she managed to find comfort through her devotion to cooking and baking for her loved ones. While kept captive in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Raab put together a book of recipes using remnants of anything she could find. She always dreamed of the day she could open her own café, all while cherishing her recipes as an elusive memory of her Hungarian countryside home.
Before settling in Canada, her recipes survived a journey across four continents, as Raab searched for a safe place to call home. Revealing her bravery and utmost strength, Raab truly embodied the belief that home remains where the heart is.
As Yanowski reminisces of his grandmother’s homemade delicacies, one of her memorable quotes comes to his mind. Raab was fond of saying “Once I take out my pots and pans, I’m at home.”
Although Raab never fulfilled her aspirations to open her own café, her recipes live on. After spending years as her close friend and caregiver, Magdolna Gombos, the head chef of HÖM Café, learned to master her most beloved dishes. Raab’s divine taste and genuine compassion can be felt through the walls of this family-owned, quaint café. Her personal trinkets and porcelain collections are shelved against a floral damask pattern, as a decorative touch that truly depicts her aesthetic. The shimmering chandeliers, along with the rest of the cafe’s interior, is distinctively designed to embrace her elegant and polished style.
“Since my grandmother never had a stable home, the café is furnished as a place that would make her truly feel at home”, Yanowski tells us . “HÖM is a Hungarian twist on the English word ‘home’. Because after all, it is the meals we share that always bring us home.”
Serving Eastern European cuisine for breakfast and lunch, along with an assortment of freshly baked goods perfectly paired with coffee, HÖM Café fosters a charming ambience. Meeting Yorkville’s upscale ambience, everything is cooked and baked from scratch, with the kitchen delivering exquisite dishes that share the taste of Raab’s former home.
The hearty Goulash Soup and savory Shnitzel Sandwich are traditional Hungarian meals that are amongst HÖM’s customer favourites. Also offering coffee, tea and a variety of alcoholic beverages, this café offers indulgent homemade comfort foods and pastries.
“I am moved by the privilege of keeping my grandmother’s memory alive. I genuinely feel her essence, as customers seem to adore her specialties, constantly returning with the sweetest compliments,” Yanowski explains.
Open seven days a week, HÖM provides a unique blend of traditional European charm, with a refined, modern touch. Inviting guests to honour Raab’s sentimental experiences and highly treasured recipes, HÖM Café is located on 95 Cumberland Street. As for the rest of Raab’s story, it can be found in her published memoir, titled And Peace Never Came.