Taste of Budapest: A Spicy Addition to Barton Street

Taste of Budapest The Taste of Budapest offers authentic Hungarian food in Hamilton’s James Street North neighbourhood. Entrepreneur Monika Deak Bocz opened the business in 2014 at 22 Barton St E. / MICHELLE BOTH

By Maggie Macintosh

A handwritten chalkboard menu greets Hamiltonians on the corner of Barton and James Street, directing passersby eastbound to 22 Barton Street. There stands a modest Hungarian café labelled with a white sign bearing the green and red words: Taste of Budapest.

The handwriting belongs to Monika Deak Bocz, who opened the restaurant just a year ago.

The Hungarian entrepreneur moved to Hamilton 27 years ago. She grew up in Hungary during its communist years and immigrated to Austria before she was forced to leave.

“I was in a refugee camp in Austria from 1984 until March 1988, then I came here,” she explains.

Reluctantly, Deak Bocz moved to Canada in the late eighties. Though the transition was difficult, she has come to love Ontario’s steel city. Finding a home in Hamilton, she affirms that she “cannot say one bad thing” about it. She currently resides in the north end, a short distance from the location of her business.

Six days a week, Deak Bocz can be found preparing authentic Hungarian delicacies in her café’s kitchen alongside her two employees. The Taste of Budapest menu includes an assortment of Hungarian soups, beef stew and schnitzel. Her favourite dish? The cabbage rolls, she says. “I love to make cabbage rolls, even though they take lots of time.”

Her advice to any hesitant immigrant entrepreneur is the same: be brave and “just do it.”

One of the unique features about Hungarian cuisine is the spices. Her dishes rely on the intense flavour of paprika. The vibrant tastes of her cooking have received attention. Apart from serving customers at her restaurant, she has also catered birthdays, wedding rehearsals and retirement parties.
Despite the challenges of working long hours, Deak Bocz recommends that more women start up their own businesses.

The number of self-employed women in Canada has grown over the last two decades. In 2009, nearly 12% of employed women in Canada were self-employed, compared with nearly 20% of men, according to Statistics Canada.

“Women nowadays are so strong,” Deak Bocz says.

She believes that there is a right time for everything. For her, the right time to start a business was in 2014, when she decided to stop letting doubt be a roadblock.

Her advice to any hesitant immigrant entrepreneur is the same: be brave and “just do it.”

Maggie Macintosh is an aspiring youth journalist. Alongside being the editor for her secondary school newspaper, she volunteers at Cable 14 and will be studying Journalism in September 2015 at Ryerson University.