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Free Times Cafe Launches “KLEZMER LIVE FROM THE PATIO”, Including Live Streaming

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Musicians Marichka and Mark Marczyk of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra flank owner Judy Perly outside the Free Times Cafe in Toronto | Photo supplied

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The Free Times Cafe, established in 1980, has evolved over the years into a popular and beloved Toronto restaurant, to enjoy traditional Jewish noshes, North American favourites, and Middle Eastern specialties, all made by hand and sourced locally. Owner/operator Judy Perly wanted to bring Jewish food and culture back to College Street, which had once been a thriving Jewish neighborhood. A former artist and art teacher with a strong creative bent, she had a vision far beyond this for her venue.

Perly has always had a deep love of Jewish food, having grown up watching her mother and grandmother, both originally from Poland, prepare authentic Jewish dishes in their kitchen, so she decided to follow in their footsteps.

As a result she created the Bella, Did Ya Eat Buffet Brunch in 1995, the signature event of her restaurant at 320 College Street. It includes large platters of smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, a variety of salads, a  devine challah french toast, salmon patties, cheese blintzes as well as delicious desserts.

Throw in her Romanian eggplant salad that she learned from her father-in-law, and possibly some dishes from England and Wales that she inherited from her father’s side, and you have a spectacular food feast that has been complemented over the years by a variety of programs, performances and lectures, which combined, put the Free Times on the map. 

The Yiddish Vinkl, a program that attracted over 30 seniors and non-seniors on Thursdays once a month to enjoy talks on topics of Jewish interest, was often presented along with the Cafe’s generous buffet brunch. 

The Café has also served as a launching pad for such artists as Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Slean, Emm Gryner and Laura Fernandez.

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Over the past few months, Free Times has adjusted to COVID restrictions by focusing on a takeout menu, specialty dinners, a pickup window, and opening up a patio. Food-wise the menu has introduced a new line of $5 paletas or ice cream desserts for the summer, with unique flavours like caramel cashew crunch, apple beet ginger, blueberry cheesecake and honey orange halvah. “You have to keep re-inventing yourself,” says Perly, “especially now!” 

She has also begun offering a weekly concert of Klezmer music, with social distancing available, led by Mark Marczyk, founder of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Toronto’s only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk Super-Band. 

Marczyk is the resident artist for the series, and welcomes a guest musician every Sunday to join him. He began with his wife, Marichka Marczyk, accompanying him on the accordion, on Sunday, July 26.

The famous Did Ya Eat sign beckons buffet-goers to the Free Times Cafe | Photo: Facebook

The series will continue every Sunday, until the end of August, on the patio.

In case of rain, the musicians will play under a cover outside with seating for patrons inside, close to the front of the restaurant.  

For those wishing to join live on the patio, there will be seatings available at 11:30am and 1pm.  Reservations are encouraged, with 20 seats available. Call 416-967-1078 or email freetimescafe@rogers.com

For customers who are not yet comfortable leaving their home, live streaming will be available from the Free Times Cafe Facebook page at noon and 1:30 p.m.

Judy Weinryb is a published author who facilitates a Creative Writing class on zoom at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living.

She has been a freelance writer for the Canadian Jewish News, the Jewish Tribune and the Markham Review. A social worker for many years, she has an interest in Jewish Community from both a professional and personal perspective.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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