Chef János started his culinary career in Hungary’s military. He and his wife Rózsa then opened up a few pubs and restaurants in their native country, before immigrating to Calgary in 1997.
As they settled into the city, they began to notice the lack of Hungarian establishments and restaurants in the city’s food scene. With a determination to change that, Jonas’ Restaurant was born in 1999 serving up traditional Hungarian cuisine — ‘just like Grandma made.’
We sat down with János and Rózsa to discover how they built this little restaurant into the neighbourhood staple that it is today.
Why did you choose this community for Jonas’? And what makes the restaurant unique?
“János’ sister had already been living in Calgary for a while, so our immediate family also settled here to have family support nearby. We moved here in 1997 and opened Jonas’ in May of 1999. We’re the only traditional Hungarian restaurant in Calgary — just like grandma made.”
What makes your community special and how have they supported you?
“Our community has been so loyal and we’re so thankful. They have pivoted with us and followed regulations in order to keep our business safe. Sometimes people were lined up outside the door. They have shared our business on social media and we have regularly received positive messages from customers all over the province. Some have driven here from out of town, just so they can get takeout, even when dine-in wasn’t allowed. We have been lucky to have made many personal connections over the years allowing many people to associate our dishes with home and nostalgia.”
How did your restaurant fare during the pandemic?
“The pandemic has been tough on our business with a lot of on-and-off and changing of rules. We had to pivot multiple times with first shutting down and then introducing a delivery/ takeout only reduced menu. We also had to cut back our business hours but eventually, we opened back up for dine-in service and had to continue shifting as the Alberta rules changed. We have been fortunate to have a very loyal and caring community behind us and things have started to look more positive lately.”
Where do you see Jonas’ Restaurant growing in the future?
“We will continue to serve Calgary as we have in the past 22 years. We have seen children grow into adults before our eyes. We would like to continue seeing generations come to us for comfort and nostalgia.”
How would you describe Calgary’s small-business community?
“Resilient. The amount of collaboration and support we’ve witnessed between small businesses has been so heartwarming. It gives us hope.”
How do you define the word “community?”
“A community is a group of individuals who — regardless of background, culture, age, gender, etc. — treat each other like family.”
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