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Let's Eat: Pierogies and borscht a worldly affair at the Globe Café

Owner and chef Anna Antoniak says taking over the café was the best choice she’s ever made

While the Globe Café has a long history in Midland, its current owner has kept the community full of pierogies, cabbage rolls, schnitzel and borscht for the last 12 years.

The store originally opened in 1953, and changed hands a few times until Anna Antoniak took it over in 2009.

As the owner, head chef, and more, when I ask Antoniak what she does at the Globe Café she simply says, “Everything. I do everything. It’s just me.”

She makes everything from scratch except for the pierogies. “We are getting busy,” says Antoniak. Because they are so popular, she wouldn’t be able to keep up.

In fact, pierogies are so popular the world over that Ukrainian refugees have started home businesses making and selling the staple in the Eastern European diet.

Antoniak still has family in Poland and she says refugee women from Ukraine stay busy cooking and selling pierogies to the neighbours — neighbours like her father who still lives in Warsaw.

“It’s everywhere in Poland,” says Antoniak. “The ladies, they keep busy. Everyone is trying to help.

“Lots of my friends and family have helped with accommodation in their cottages,” says Antoniak about Ukrainian families seeking refuge from the war with Russia that’s now in its third month.

Recognizing how lucky we are to be here, Antoniak smiles and waves at her most loyal customer who comes for coffee and a chat — usually about the news, almost every day — and we pause while she serves him.

Getting back into the food, Antoniak laughs saying that she makes pierogies from scratch for herself at home, but since they’re almost the number one order from her simple menu, she relies on a local company that makes traditional Polish pierogies. Although I’m sure hers are better, these store bought ones are pretty great.

When I ask how she learned to make schnitzel, cabbage rolls, borscht and more handmade items from the menu, she says her grandma taught her everything she knows about cooking, and it tastes that way too.

The borscht is her number one seller. That, and the schnitzel.

When I ask if there’s any secret to how she prepares the food, she answers simply, “it’s what my grandma taught me how to make.”

It’s no surprise then that she doesn’t follow a recipe.

“It’s different every time,” she says laughing.

I have to ask what’s the secret to a perfect cabbage roll. As someone who has struggled to make cabbage rolls that don’t fall apart, I learn possibly the best kept secret to cabbage roll-making.

You freeze the cabbage head after coring out the stem. Then, when it thaws the leaves are perfect for wrapping and don’t tear. Your rolls stay intact every time.

If she had to choose a favourite food from the menu, she couldn’t, because she likes to eat all of it.

“This is what I was raised on,” says Antoniak. “This is what I like to eat.

“I eat everything here. There is nothing I don’t like,” she says, explaining that she had cabbage rolls the night before, and before that her soup.

Antoniak is happy cooking food that her grandma taught her how to make and sharing it with the local Polish- and European-Canadian populations that she says has expanded in the area since the pandemic started.

She talks about how she had to shift gears in the pandemic and branch out.

“We were just a café before the pandemic, now I have toilet paper with flowers on it from Poland,” says the consummate cook laughing and showing me how the café became a small grocer for Polish and Eastern European food.

Originally, there were a few shelves with pickles and sweets from Poland. Now, Antoniak says she carries shampoo from Poland.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Globe Café hosted popular Sunday brunches with a Polish musician. Although that musician died shortly before the pandemic, Antoniak hopes to bring back the brunches.

While there’s no telling if the café will return to its pre-pandemic state, Antoniak says she is getting busier all the time, especially on Fridays when she gets fresh baked goods from a Polish bakery in Toronto.

The plum-filled donuts are simply delightful, much like Anotniak herself.

“Taking over the café was the best choice I ever made.”

The Globe Café is located at 478 Elizabeth Street and open Tuesdays through Saturdays, starting at 10 a.m. Hours vary. Learn more on their Facebook page.