Friendly Chez Boris feels right at home in the Mile End. Owner Boris Volfson, a former McGill student, opened this Russian cafe at the beginning of the summer. His trademark Russian doughnuts and fresh coffee have quickly attracted a devoted clientele. After hearing so much positive hype, I visited the cafe myself to see if it lived up to its reputation.
I stopped by on a brisk and sunny Sunday morning, and found it full of buzzing friendly chatter. The place was already full as people kept pouring in, waiting in line for some coffee and doughnuts to go. The cafe-goers included young students, older couples, and a knitting club that seemed right at home.
The smell of doughnuts frying in oil hit me as soon as I walked in the door. The warm smell and quirky decor give the spot an endearing touch. Sitting in Chez Boris felt like visiting a family home. Volfson’s decor helps contribute to the cozy Russian feel of the establishment.
Large windows looking out on Parc make Chez Boris luminous and airy, while the spacious layout helps avoid any stuffiness. Chez Boris could use a few more tables, as its clientele is continuing to grow. Although the tables are sparse, they are large enough to offer many seats. You might have to share your table with strangers, but that’s all part of the convivial experience. In this communal spirit, Chez Boris offers an exchange library (take-one-leave-one) that also includes some board games you can take advantage of.
The staff, consisting of Volfson and colleagues, are friendly and seem happy to work there. They will gladly explain the menu to you and are eager to answer any questions you may have about the food.
Their coffee is delicious, and can easily compete with the neighbouring Mile End cafes. The doughnuts are perfectly sweet and crispy with a layer of sugar on the outside and a meltingly fresh inside (and this is coming from someone who doesn’t usually like doughnuts). They are fried right after you order to ensure freshness, and while the doughnuts are smaller than the ones you may be used to seeing, their light and airy dough is packed with flavour. There are three flavours of doughnut: traditional (sugar), spiced pumpkin pie, and lime chocolate. Served in a basket at your table, the doughnuts are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Boris also offers some doughnut sandwiches. These “beignwich” come in flavours like pulled pork, cream cheese, and salmon. Aside from the excellent coffee, Chez Boris also serves cold drinks, including homemade Russian kvas, a traditional fermented rye beverage. The food is all made in an open kitchen, so you can watch your order being prepared while you wait.
Best of all, Boris’ wares are inexpensive, with doughnuts coming in at 75 cents a pop. For that price, sample all three flavors with some delicious coffee while you study away at your communal table, enjoying the hospitality of this cozy cafe.
Chez Boris is located at 5151 Parc.