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Katz Deli

I have been to Katz deli over by Yorkdale. Many moons ago. Just wanted to know any other locations by the down town core area? And whats everybodys takes on the food there? Just wondering Tour boi

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  1. Katz's Deli? Had lunch there a couple of times years ago. Feh! Bubbe would not be pleased.

    1. I've mentioned them on other threads. I don't think bubbe would be all THAT put out. Most of our bubbes didn't cure deli meats. They don't have any other locations.

      They've been in business for more than thirty years, expanded three times, and kept everything pretty much the same through it all. Unlike, say, Pickle Barrel, Shopsys, and Switzers, what has always been good still is. (What never was good still isn't.)

      They make all of their own deli, which is unique in Toronto. Their cure is not traditional, but doesn't have the appalling chemical taste of many industrial cures. Their pastrami, ordered medium with their "pastrami sauce", is machine sliced and too dry without the sauce, but it tastes good. Corned beef is also dryish but good. Chopped liver (with egg) also dryish but OK. Beef knishes are actually strudel--dough inconsistent, but filling delicious with that pastrami sauce. Great cabbage rolls. The hot dogs have natural casings and the salamis can be hung to dry, but neither has enough flavour to be great. Soups are boring. Fries are fresh cut, but middling.

      In short, one of the best delis in Toronto, but far from being a really great deli.

      1. I think memories are better than reality.
        I remember the old corned beef from my childhood.
        Even remember sitting in the kitchen of the original shopsy's and being served there, as Mrs. Shopsowitz was my great-aunt.
        Katz's and Pancers on Bathurst are both very good, by any standards.
        If you find the meat dry, just ask for it on the fatty side, and they will cut it from the double part of the brisket.
        It probably tasted better in the past because people were not so concerned with fat, and corned beef was always fatty.

        1. I have to agree with embee on this. Katz's cabbage rolls are great - very similar to those my bubbie used to make. I prefer their corned beef to their pastrami - the flavour and texture are better.

          Their cabbage soup is also good, as are the pickled red peppers they sell in jars.

          The major complaint I have with Katz's is the lack of table service - it's cafeteria style. And I also can't understand why this Jewish deli isn't open on Sundays.

          1 Reply
          1. re: FlavoursGal

            Even worse, there is occasionally nobody available to serve at the cafeteria line outside of peak lunch hours. As to Sunday, there might not be enough business to stay open (it's a very big place) or they might just want a day off.

          2. Maybe it's because the area they are located in has less and less Jewish people to begin with?

            1. Katz's is actually located very near to areas with large Jewish populations - 5 to 10 minute drive.

              I've often driven 20 to 30 minutes each way to get my smoked meat sandwich fix at Centre St. Deli in Thornhill.

              1. Katz's is probably not open on Sunday because it's in a highly industrial/commercial area. Yes, there are residential neighbourhoods about 2 blocks away, but I think that most of the lunch customers are from the businesses and companies that are based in the area.

                1. The sauce seems to be fronds or scrapings from the grill. Not bad, but definitely Romanian-spicy.

                  I was always put off by the way Col. Katz and Ms. Katz barked orders at the mainly black, and sullen counter persons. Haven't been there for quite a few years.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jayt90

                    agreed. I also found the owners surly. Cant say I enjoyed Katz's.

                  2. By Toronto deli standards, which are fairly low, it is good. The pastrami is the one excellent thing that they have. I much prefer Katz's to Centre Street deli, which is way overrated.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: wordsworth

                      I'll have to argue that one. Granted, I happen to be a former Montrealer who prefers smoked meat to pastrami and corned beef, and find Centre Street's "old-fashioned" smoked meat to be better than any in Toronto.

                      However, it's the French fries that clinch it for me. Centre Street's are freshly cut, never-frozen, really good fries; Katz's are miserable, frozen things.

                      1. re: FlavoursGal

                        I've lived in New York, Montreal, and Toronto. Each has its own deli style. All three once rated highly as deli meccas.

                        The sad thing is that Jewish deli (unlike, say, Italian) is a dying art. There used to be at least one great deli in almost every New York neighbourhood. My Brooklyn neighbourhood had three within five minutes walk and several more within fifteen minutes. Now there are very few in the entire city.

                        It's the same in Montreal and the same here. In Montreal, Schwartz soldiers on. Snowdon (read Centre St) and a couple of suburban newbies are OK. That's it.

                        Here we have Centre St, Katzs, and Pancers. There aren't any other good ones in my opinion (however much I like Coleman's corned beef hash). We have no source of traditionally cured smoked meat OR pastrami. It's hard to believe that Shopsys and Switzers (and even the original Pickle Barrel) were once worth a special journey.

                        I feel that Centre St has better food overall than Katzs. But Centre St does NOT make its own deli and their Lester's Old Fashioned, while it tastes good, isn't anything like the real thing.

                        Katzs sticks to the basics and doesn't have Centre Street's wide ranging menu. They could achieve greatness if they wanted to, but they found a successful formula and haven't deviated from it for at least 3 generations. Their meat is too dry even when ordered medium and I don't think it could be successfully hand sliced. I think their fries are fresh, though I agree they don't taste very good.

                        1. re: embee

                          I've also lived in NYC, Montreal, and Toronto. I wouldn't say it's dying but Jewish deli is restricted to a few institutions passed on by generations. I wouldn't think anyone would open a new one nowadays.

                          In Montreal, I would rely on good ol' Schwartz's for smoked meat and Fairmount for bagels. Apparently Bens is closing due to a labour dispute.

                          I don't know much about Toronto's scene since I only moved back here last year but I think it's the weakest of the three. The bagels here suck big time (especially compared to NYC and MTL with their own styles). And living downtown without a car, I can't really go to Thornhill or easily shlep to Bathurst and Wilson areas.

                          As for NYC, probably best out of the three.

                          There is the best meat in town - Katz's - where Meg Ryan had her orgasm on When Harry Met Sally. Unfortunately, everything else there sucks, including the matzo ball soup. But the meat is the best so I go for an unadulterated carnivore fest with piles of pastrami, corned beef, and tongue.

                          Second Ave Deli is quite good, and is the only kosher one of the major players, I believe. Good meats and matzo ball soup, chopped liver, etc. However, it is quite pricey.

                          Carnegie Deli is known for its sandwiches piled so high you can't even open your jaw tall enough to bite into it. But who's complaining? Also, big hunks of NY style cheesecake.

                          Stage Deli is a Carnegie competitor (next door) and is pretty much the same. Just comes down to personal preference.

                          Junior's in Brooklyn (also now at Grand Central station) may not have such great food but it is known for one thing, and one thing only: the legendary NY style cheesecake. It is simply the best in town. Each and every one hand mixed, with perfect consistency. One bite represents what NYC is all about.

                          There are also a whole host of others, some of which are listed here:

                          http://gonyc.about.com/od/restaurants...

                          As far as I can tell, the NYC ones are all thriving, popular with locals and tourists. During my 8 years there I always take out of town guests to one or some of them as part of my culinary tour of NY.

                          Even many bagel places all over town serve NY style bagels with scallion shmear, lox, or chopped liver to give you that "Jewish deli" feel.

                          I haven't yet had a really good knish in NYC, although I really haven't been actively searching. The famed Yonah Schimmel in the Lower East Side, few doors down from Katz's, is highly overrated. I can probably simulate a better knish with leftover mashed potatoes on my own.

                          1. re: ah123

                            FYI, some updates to your post:

                            New York does still have the best deli scene, but (as with Montreal and Toronto) it has been shrinking for years and now consists of a mere handful of places.

                            I haven't been to Katzs in a long time and have heard that the appalling neighbourhood around it has been gentrifying. Can the pastrami survive this onslaught?? Ah the pastrami. Meg may not have been fooling -- that pastrami is orgasmic stuff.

                            Second Ave Deli closed suddenly a while ago, supposedly due to a landlord issue. I'm told they still answer their phone and claim to be reopening at some point but, as with many other places, they've been living on past glories for years. Last time I was there, a pastrami on rye was more than $20 US.

                            Stage Deli had pastrami as good as Katzs in the 60s, but that was longer ago than I want to think about. It wasn't very good on my last visit, though it has since changed hands.

                            There's a kosher place called Ben's Best that has gotten some raves, but I've never been there.

                            Juniors was a major teenage hangout for me and made the best burgers (if ordered rare) and cheesecake. But they never had a great reputation as a deli. They now have a Times Square location, which I've never tried.

                            The best knishes used to come from Mrs Stahls in Brighton Beach. The place still exists, but Mrs Stahl has been dead for many, many years and I don't know whether anything (other than the name) is as it was.

                            Bens in Montreal hasn't had decent food in 40 years and will not likely be missed by anyone.

                            1. re: embee

                              Second Ave Deli closed? Oh, well ... I never went there anyway since it was too expensive and I'd just sooner go a few more blocks to Katz's. And I never really went to Stage Deli even when one opened and closed for a while near where I lived. If I had to choose, I'd pick next door Carnegie Deli any day.

                              On that note, I could use a Junior's cheescake right now ... hmmm. Plain and orginal. None of that yucky, gunky strawberry or pineapple on top. Best cheescake I've ever had. It was always a stop on my NY tour when I lived there and played host to out of town guests.

                              1. re: ah123

                                The recipe at:

                                http://www.cooksrecipes.com/dessert/j...

                                looks like it would work really well, though I wouldn't bother with the sponge cake layer.

                            2. re: ah123

                              Bless you whoever you are. Mrs. Fanny Stahl,(1885-1961) was my mother's oldest sister. I always knew, growing up in Brighton Beach, that Aunt Fanny would always give me a free knish when I was hungry. She was also known for working "hands on" alongside her workers, some of whom were my cousins and other aunts. My mother (still alive at 98) never worked there.
                              I have heard that an Italian baker in Vineland New Jersey bought the recipes and he may be the source of the continued availability of the knishes. Her grandson still lives in her old house on Banner Avenue right near the belt parkway exit. the store is no more and the russian knishes you get in Brighton Beach are good in their own way--but I miss Aunt Fanny's. They were the best.

                          2. re: FlavoursGal

                            French fries are not deli food and I would never even think to order them in a place like Katz's.

                            1. re: wordsworth

                              I'm from Montreal. In Montreal, French fries ARE deli food.

                        2. Sad, isn't it? While I still make traditional Jewish dishes (including cholent, which my bubbie never even made) at home and crave good deli food, I guess the trend is to move away from the old cuisine, the old ways, etc.

                          My husband and I ended up at Coleman's last night for dinner - I happen to love their Reuben sandwich (with Thousand Island on the side/no Russian dressing here). The place was pretty empty, as it usually is. One wonders how much longer they'll remain in business.

                          Centre St. seems to be doing a thriving business. How do you think they'd do if they opened a second branch in midtown Toronto?

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: FlavoursGal

                            I'm sure Coleman's still does pretty solid business at lunch. I used to work in the area and tried all the local delis and this was my favourite by far. It was busy enough at times that I would go for dinner to avoid the crowds.

                            It has been a few years but I still get cravings for their Big Moe (I think that's what it is called) and occasionally make the trip to have one.
                            I know it wasn't "authentic" per se, but it was reasonably priced compared to Katz's or Marky's and found their service the best as well. It still had a real family deli atmosphere.

                            1. re: badbhoy

                              I'm glad to hear they're busy at lunchtime. I must agree - the service is very friendly and efficient. It still does have a real deli atmosphere (and smell - which is a good thing!).

                            2. re: FlavoursGal

                              Colemans is busy for weekday lunch.

                              If Centre St opened a branch, it would probably mean the end of a good thing, even if it didn't go under. Personal supervision seems to be important to a deli's success. Look what happened to Shopsys, Switzers, and the Pickle Barrel when they became chains. There is a US chain called something like "Deli Corporation of America". They seem to buy up famous delis and turn them into crap. They now own the Rascal House in Miami Beach, one of the best delis anywhere. It'll be interesting to see if it is still good in a couple of years.

                              In the early 80's, the Brown Derby (arguably Montreal's best deli at the time) opened at Yonge & St Clair. They got great reviews and they served great food (both deli and full meals). They were busy for a couple of weeks when the Montreal expats came by. Then they fizzled and died. I think being in a Jewish neighbourhood is part of a successful package.

                              The scene is even worse if you are kosher. Markys must be one of the worst restos anywhere and the kosher deli products (both local and from Montreal) are pitiful.

                              1. re: embee

                                Actually, you're probably quite right about personal supervision with regard to a deli's success. I can't recall a single time that I've been to Centre St. Deli that I haven't seen one of the two partners at the front of the house.

                                Actually, The Rascal House in Miami Beach has already fizzled. Although I haven't been there in about 3 years, I've heard that the long line-ups are a thing of the past, the portions have shrunk, and the prices have gone up.

                                The Brown Derby was a great deli, but they went under once or twice in Montreal, too, over the years before their final collapse. Pumpernick's wasn't bad - they had great cakes and pastries (do you remember the pu-pu platters?) I went to Delly Boys in Cote St. Luc a few weeks ago, and was sorely disappointed in the food, including the smoked meat. Having grown up in Cote St. Luc, this was my family's local deli.

                                1. re: embee

                                  Just wanted to chime in for Colemans- discovered this lovely little spot on a walk in my 'hood one day. Sure it's not Montreal, but it's darn close, clean, fast, & friendly. Just don't go for weekend brunch- the lineup is generally out the door. Artery clogging goodness (the aformentioned big Moe is good stuff)

                                  Re- Montreal- I hear that a couple of previous cutters from Swartz's opened their own and are quite comparable- forget what the names of the locations were tho.

                                    1. re: EPIcureanTO

                                      Personally, I prefer Lester's on Bernard Ave. to Schwartz's. I've always found Schwartz's smoked meat to be too dry and chewy.

                                      I used to love ordering the rib steak at Schwartz's - it came with a small appetizer of grilled hot dog and calves' liver, and I'd order the steak with fresh garlic and steak spices.

                                      And Coleman's IS pretty good. I love their Reuben sandwich.

                                2. Although I mentioned it on an earlier thread, haven't heard too many comments on Pancers.
                                  Was there a couple of weeks ago, and the corned beef (which my hubbie ordered (fat) was perfect.
                                  I ordered the Pastrami and it was not quite as good as his (fat) sandwich, but was very good indeed, along with the spicey sauce.
                                  The sandwiches were so thick that I couldn't finish mine.
                                  I prefer it to Katz's only because of the table service.
                                  I don't care for Centre Street deli's meats.
                                  Although I haven't been there in a couple of years, I always suspected that they used hip beef rather than brisket.
                                  Possibly they have changed.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: erly

                                    I always forget about Pancer's! It is quite good, and their chicken fricasee tastes just like my bubbie used to make, except Pancer's does not include "pupiks", "gorglakh" and "fisslakh".

                                    Haven't been to their new location yet. Is it still old-fashioned-deli-like?

                                    1. re: FlavoursGal

                                      It's similar to the old location, though VERY badly designed. I suppose it's the last of the really old fashioned delis, but it's just Chicago 58 pastrami with some extra spices. Enjoyable but, as I find myself saying again and again about places in Toronto, not a really great deli.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        I agree that the new layout stinks. The other thing is that orginal location had that wonderful deli smell, I suppose that the new place will need a few years before it gets that wonderful smell. I still enjoy Pancer's sandwiches (both the pastrami and the corned beef) and have been eating there for the past 10 years (both locations).

                                  2. Originally from Montreal, I grew up eating Smoked meat. Even though I still go from time to time to Schwartz's in MOntreal, my favourite deli is now Moe Pancer's. I prefer Corned Beef!

                                    1. Speaking of smoked meat, Bens in Montreal closed today. I suspect that it won't be missed by anyone.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: embee

                                        Although I was born in Montreal and lived there for the first 38 years of my life, the one and only time I went to Ben's was as a student at McGill in the late 1970's. Once was enough.

                                      2. How does Zoulpy's rate in the Toronto deli scene? Just curious if any others have tried - it's close to downtown near King/Sherbourne area.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: spades

                                          I remember Switzer's on Spadina right across the street from (non-kosher) Shopsy's. Was Eddie Switzer the guy who used to make change at the cash register from an old cigar box? For some reason I still see his face in my memory. The food at Switzers was so good I used to drive up to Toronto and buy Pastrami and Corn Beef fpr the College at Fredonia (145 miles away in new york state) I guess I was legal to do that and customs never stopped me except for one guy who asked what the delicious smell was. I told him and he didnt say a thing or stop me. lol

                                        2. I have lived in Toronto all my life and use to love going to Switzers on Spadina Ave.when Eddy Switzer use to run the show. When he died the restaurant died with it, the quality went down the toilet as the guys that toook over just wanted to make a quick buck on his name. Katz's is good, but dry,Pickle barrel is so so,Pancers use to be great when Stan Pancer was alive but there is one place that still ,makes the best pastrami sandwich in the city of Toronto as good as the way old man Switzer use to make it and that place is Steeles Deli Warehouse. Definitely the best Pastrami sandwich in the city of Toronto. That is the only thing that I will order there!!!!