Smörgåsbord – The Bohemian Gastropub

The word “bohemian” and Queen West have gone hand in hand for decades. From the original Bohemian Embassy in the 1960s (an artsy coffeehouse that was a launchpad for artists such as Margaret Atwood, Gordon Lightfoot and Lorne Michaels) to the various groups of artists, musicians, goths, punks and others who have frequented Queen West over the years (we’ll pointedly ignore the condo project at Queen & Gladstone with the same name, which is a sad riff on previous subcultures and is pretty much the antithesis of anything even remotely bohemian within the current definition of the word), it’s safe to say that Queen Street is where you’d find any bohemians in Toronto.

The recently-opened Bohemian Gastropub (571 Queen Street West), however, is not meant to reference the downtown sub-cultures, but is both a play on owner Paul Boehmer’s name and the actual region of Bohemia, part of the current Czech Republic, bordering on Germany. So a Bohemian Gastropub has hearty Eastern European food with influences of Germany, Poland and Austria.

The space itself is light and airy with big front windows that open onto Queen Street. It’s cool and funky, but not intimidating. There is art slated for the white walls, but I kind of like it the way it was when we visited on opening day.

As for the food, with a menu that includes rich and heavy things like fried pig’s ears, spaetzle and schnitzel, we opted for a few lighter options given the heat of the day. At the top, the potato funnel cakes, made from potato flour and deep fried like the sweeter fairground versions. Topped with creme fraiche and chives, this is like a fluffy version of French fries, and you will become addicted to these.

Above, a green bean salad with pickled radish, red onion, lemon-infused cucumber and croutons.

Zucchini dumplings filled with cheddar, served with a riesling-concord grape chutney. And halved frozen grapes.

The tarte flambee, more traditional in the eastern part of Germany along the Alsatian mountains, is like a heavily-topped pizza. This one is topped with rabbit goulash, slices of potato and arugula, but it also comes in a reuben version or with wurst sausage.

And speaking of sausage, this is the currywurst with mango pickle.

At the time of our visit, desserts were being made at Boehmer’s main restaurant on Ossington and brought over, although there are plans to make desserts in-house. This is the German chocolate cake. Not what you’re used to? Me neither, but apparently German cake (at least of the Bohemian era) were more like a filled bread pudding. This one was filled with chocolate and raisins and served with salted pickled watermelon.

I was pretty pleased with what we had, plus there’s a really decent beer list. We’ve got plans to check it out again once the weather cools down and we can indulge in some of the heavier mains such as the pork knuckle, roasted chicken or lamb shoulder with sides like spaetzle, hot potato salad or creamed spinach.

Overall, I think the Bohemian Gastropub will be a nice addition to the Queen West strip, even if all the bohemians are long gone.