One of the many questions I asked in an almost two hours interview was , “Why Brampton”?, which was quickly credited to our city’s well organized Farmer’s Market. Little to my knowledge at the time of the interview was that Vera was a vendor on the same street she would later call home for many years. Every week, Vera would drive to Brampton with a variety of fresh, delicious pastries and pies with no preservatives that caused line ups for its amazing taste and great value at 3 items for $5. It is safe to say that Vera left with empty containers and trays after every Saturday. When the lease on their Toronto business was close to expiring, it only made sense to come to Brampton and what made it even more of a no brainer was that a space was available on the very street that Vera had travelled to on a weekly basis. In September 2013, Queen Gypsy opened its doors to the people of Brampton. And after originally being a cafe that specialized in breakfast, lunch, and pastries, Queen Gypsy changed its menu to focus more on lunch and dinner with the addition of a liquor license.
The menu of Queen Gypsy is best described by Vera as “Central European with a Gypsy twist” and is prepared with no preservatives or additives. Anyone familiar with Central European cuisine will be aware that the dishes are not typically known for having exotic spices and prepared with very simple seasoning. What does this mean? A significant focus on bringing in good quality produce and meats; not matter the cost. “I always talk about food expenses, but she will never bend on quality”, Thomas commented. “It is like when someone comes to your home and you want to serve them nothing but the very best and make sure they do not leave hungry”, proudly said Vera. Now, some of you are wondering what exactly “a Gypsy twist” is. Although Vera is not a Gypsy, she best described it to me as “taking little bits of different foods and making it work in some unique creation and adding more colour and spice in a messier format”; something that goes back to the idea of a Gypsy going around asking for food and making it work despite the level of skill and equipment available. This unique combination does not stop Queen Gypsy from creating delicious menu items; 80% of which is comfort food.
When you enter Queen Gypsy, you are immediately surprised by the most unique decorations will ever see in a restaurant: barn doors as table tops, blue stained chip board for flooring, antique decorations, and bright, bold colors on the wall. Remaining consistent to a Gypsy concept, Vera and her team visited a number of antique shops and auctions to find unwanted items that they can recreate to suit their needs. There is only one thing more unique abut Queen Gypsy than its interior and theme: Vera’s values and beliefs that flow through the restaurant and staff. When discussing her first cafe in Toronto, she spoke very highly of the level of support she received from the local community, especially in tough times, but also had sense of disappointment that she was unable to connect as much with customers due to the majority of patrons being in a rush to go to the subway. It was even clearer to me when she mentioned that what she enjoyed most about owning a restaurant was interacting with people. With this in mind, Vera saw the opportunity for Queen Gypsy to be a place that “feels like home, but with even more positive vibrations”. I have visited the Queen Gypsy twice and, on both occasions, felt like I was visiting a friend’s home from the comfortable, warm, and friendly environment, rather I was speaking to Vera or Thomas.
Because of the massive gap between when this interview was recorded and when this article is being published, I am not comfortable disclosing what I was told for future plans. However, there was one particular component of the future that just gives you a much clearer understanding of the values and love within Queen Gypsy. In hanging out, it had slipped from Vera that Queen Gypsy is actually her second last step to her dream. What can be much bigger than a place that makes genuine connections with customers and treats them like a family member coming over? A restaurant that allows people to pay how much they feel like paying, rather it’s a low price if they can’t afford it or a higher price because they truly appreciate the meal and experience in the name of the greater good. Why would someone do this?