Queen Gypsy: A Night to Remember
Written by Malgosia Wenderski
Ascending the stone steps of Queen Gypsy, chimes announced my arrival out of the crisp winter evening. Immediately I see an eclectic combination of colors and barn elements in the dim setting, lit up by antique chandeliers, candles and suspended ornaments of all colors. The aroma of fried meat, and sour cream. Before digging into the great visual stimuli, I walked further to find a hostess for seating. I then met Vera, who had a smile from ear to ear. Her red hair tickled her forehead as she came to serve me. She wore a long cardigan with doc martens, simple blue jeans and a cashmere sweater. I asked her where I should sit for 1. Pointing to a table for 2, she said the rest were reserved for the night.
Sitting at one of wooden tables lined against the wall, I was captured by the details of props and patterns that symbolized gypsy culture. The wooden red tables had jewels and fortune cards on its surface encapsulated by glass. The walls were painted dark warm hues of orange, navy blue and emerald green. Mounted to the walls were giant pieces of wood, wooden windows, and portraits of fortune tellers, gypsy folk, and mobile cabins adorned in patterned blankets. A fake chicken stood on the bar, and a garlic necklace hung of a wooden pillar. The combined elements provided a spectacle for the eye, jumping everywhere to capture each selected piece. There was a clear embrace of gypsy culture that which Vera explained was inspired by dining at a gypsy restaurant in Serbia. At a younger age, she recalled one night she went into a ghetto within the city to a restaurant owned by Gypsies. While serving traditional cuisine, women singed and danced while romani music played in the background. “They were just so free spirited. It was truly beautiful. I always wanted to open up a restaurant of my own like that,” she smiled into my eyes while she half leaned against a bar stool, then returned to wrapping utensils in napkins. Motivated to create a dining spectacle with a gypsy theme, Vera’s Queen Gypsy was a type of bridge that transported her and her customers to that joyful night. It is also an example of a trickle-up effect, where Vera wanted to take immerse herself in the positive gypsy culture because it was meaningful and rich. Regardless of how these people experienced poverty and discrimination, they thrived with one another, and even found happiness. Their culture and freedom since then beckoned Vera to be apart of that symbolism.
As the bar glowed green, and classic rock played softly in the background, I regarded the menu. With a wooden background, including a guitar, yellow and white fonts presented Serbian and Eastern European dishes with short descriptions. It offered a few popular items (bruschetta, salads, cheesecake, etc). Most compelling were the Serbian dishes with titles that were familiar to me as a European, including goulashes, perogies, cabbage rolls, and schnitzels. I wondered how Serbian food differed from the Polish food that I have grown up eating.
“Which dish is a traditional Serbian one?” I looked up with curved eyebrows. Vera tapped her finger twice on the Karadjorjeva schnitzel on the menu before me, resting on the fortune-teller table. I decided to order exactly that.
On a white plate came the dish that included rice, breaded and fried pork schnitzel that has a special Serbian cheese within it. To the side of it were beets, cabbage and carrot salad, and corn bread. I scooped rice and the vegetables together. The beet’s saltiness tingled my palette, but the unseasoned salad and rice helped to de-amplify it’s impact. The pork schnitzel was very crispy with a pickled seasoning sprinkled on it’s top. At every slice with a sturdy hold with my fork and knife, it oozed with cheese. Vera explained to me that although Serbia resisted the colonization of the Turkish Ottomans, and Germany, the influence in food was present and lively.
45 minutes in the space I was quite full. 1 other table was filled with two women who gathered to reunite and catch up with one another. Earlier, a couple with a young child in a stroller ordered stuffed bell peppers to go, who most likely lived within the neighbourhood. I was able to soak in the intricate interior of the Queen Gypsy during that quiet and charming evening. The spectacle and uniqueness of dining there would create an impression that would be distinct in memory.
Malgosia Wenderski studies psychology and sociology at the University at Toronto. She is the founder and host of the Collegiate Talkshow, and passionate about social psychology, inequality, and mental health.