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Jewish Restaurant - anyone?

Peechie Jan 10, 2007 03:28 PM

Toronto has a big Jewish community but I've never been to or heard of a Jewish restaurant. Is there such a thing around? Or do most dine at home? I'm curious to try. Any recommendations?

  1. e
    ekammin Jun 12, 2009 09:01 AM

    A few remarks about the "Jerusalem". As I heard it, it is owned by Israelis, of Arab-Christian background. It has been around as long as I have lived in Toronto, about thirty-five years. It used to be a hole in the wall to the west of the present location, before they opened the restaurant where it is today.

    IMHO, the idea of Christian Arabs from Israel preparing food for a largely Canadian-Jewish clientele is very much what I like Toronto to be.

    Some people have said that the food there is not, strictly speaking, Jewish. Remember, the Jews are late arrivals there, having mainly arrived in the 19th Century, and again in the 20th, the result of the Holocaust. They all did not even have the same food traditions, the Askehazic being eastern European, the Sephardic being Spanish - North African (all follwed the same dietary laws, however.) The Boujadi restaurant used to be a good example of the latter tradition.

    I doubt that the "Jerusalem" would be considered kosher, or halal, although I have never seen them serve pork.

    The food the Jerusalem serves is typical of that of the indigenous Arab population, which has been there for hundreds of years. Many Jeiwsh immigrants liked it and adopted it; thus the Israeli liking for hummus bi taheena, and kebabs.

    1. e
      ekammin Jun 11, 2009 08:30 PM

      There is a Jewish joke that any food is kosher wem eaten in a Chinese restaurant., and many peole of Ashkenazic Jewish background can recall people who would be horrified to find a [ork chop in their fridge, but happily eat spare ribs in a Chinese place.

      But any way, what is the deal about Sea-Hi? I remember eating there years ago. It seemed like the "Chinese-American" (no difference with "Chinese-Canadian" food I ate as a child in New York. Bland and not topo exciting. I always think it could not withstand the competition from far more authentic restaurants in Toronto, But every time I drive up Bathurst, there it is.

      1. Finnegan Mar 27, 2008 06:57 AM

        Marky's (289 Wilson just west of Bathurst)...comfortable as an old pair of slippers. Best Glatt Kosher in Tronto. It's not fancy, but it remains a Toronto institution. great Kishkas with gravy, the usal deli sandwiches, a very smooth chopped liver and a hearty matzoh ball soup. For real Jewish you can't go wrong at Marky's

        19 Replies
        1. re: Finnegan
          embee Mar 27, 2008 07:10 AM

          Has this place been miraculously transformed? If so I'd like to know. To quote myself from earlier posts:

          "The only kosher deli in town is Markys, which is a horrible, awful, disgusting resto by any standard, to be avoided by even the starving."

          "Perhaps I've simply been extremely unfortunate and hit a few dozen "bad days" over a few decades. In my personal experience, Marky's has served, consistently, some of the worst restaurant food I have ever eaten."

          1. re: embee
            badbhoy Mar 27, 2008 07:23 AM

            While you seem to have extremely high expectations when it comes to deli Embee, I will agree with you about Marky's. I used to work across the street but would prefer to drive to the countless other better delis in the area rather than put up with rude indifferent service and mediocre over-priced food.

            1. re: badbhoy
              embee Mar 27, 2008 08:01 AM

              When it comes to deli, I suppose I'm a creature of a lost culinary era. Italian deli in Toronto seems to get better as time passes, but Jewish deli is a dying art. The revival of New York's Second Av Deli was a major media event. The last great deli in Miami Beach closes forever this weekend.

            2. re: embee
              Finnegan Mar 27, 2008 07:25 AM

              and yet you went back 12 times? Hmmmm...something sounds very Gefilte fishy here.

              1. re: Finnegan
                embee Mar 27, 2008 07:58 AM

                The only glatt kosher deli in Toronto...therefore, with many people, the ONLY choice. If only it was just 12 visits. What I said was "a few dozen" times. I've probably been there more than fifty times.

                I'd love to find a great Jewish deli in Toronto, whether kosher or not.

                1. re: embee
                  badbhoy Mar 27, 2008 08:33 AM

                  What about Coleman's? I know it's not kosher and I haven't been in a few years but that was my favourite when I worked in the area.

                  1. re: badbhoy
                    embee Mar 27, 2008 08:55 AM

                    Coleman's looks right and smells right, but it isn't one of my favourite delis. However, it has been much better than Marky's over time.

                    They have, by far (IMHO), Toronto's best corned beef hash. The sandwiches are okay, though they don't cure their own meat and they machine slice everything. Some items on their menu are bargains and other items (e.g., the knishes) are ripoffs. Their menu is much bigger than they can handle successfully.

                    1. re: embee
                      millygirl Mar 27, 2008 01:18 PM

                      Coleman's is lousy!! My husband and I paid a visit just last weekend and what a disappointment it was. I had the pastrami sandwich which was just okay but the corned beef was horrible. So bad my husband could not finish it. It was so dry and tasteless. I was really surprised. It's been quite a few years since we've been but back then it was pretty good. Everything was cold too, including the fries. I grew up blocks away and we always ordered from them. It's really a shame to see how far it has slipped. I guess maybe Jerry's passing has something to do with it? We vowed never again. Next time we'll drive the few extra minutes to either Pancer's or Katz's.

                      1. re: millygirl
                        embee Mar 27, 2008 05:14 PM

                        I haven't been there for a long time myself. It's sad that they'd mess up a simple deli sandwich after so many (I think forty something) years. Isn't Carol still running the place? Was it empty when you were there? They seem to be busy mainly at weekday lunch. I wonder how old that corned beef was...

                        I have no argument with your alternatives, assuming that driving four hours to the east for a sandwich isn't practical :-)

                        1. re: millygirl
                          blogs Mar 27, 2008 05:41 PM

                          I was there a month ago on a Saturday, had a hand sliced corned beef that was delicious and the place was packed. I prefer Pancer's for Pastrami but have always had good corned beef from Coleman's and have been going there for 20 years on a random basis. Having said that I was in Montreal last week and went to Schwartz's which is something else altogether.

                          1. re: blogs
                            pearlD Apr 1, 2008 05:28 PM

                            Blogs....My husband just got back from our winter place in Jamaica and his first request is always the same for me when I go back to Baycrest (volunteer)...The request goes like this.....if you're going up there (we live in the Annex) go to Coleman's for a half pound of cold lean corned beef...or if you feel inclined to go further, go to Pancers for half pound of cold lean pastrami. Those are the only choices at either place....If he asked for handcut smoked meat I'd have to go up to the Centre Street Deli (don't think so dear!!). That's how it works at our house...and I don't like Deli (meat) so it's pretty cut and dried so to speak!

                            1. re: pearlD
                              blogs Apr 1, 2008 05:49 PM

                              Pearld, not sure if I have understood your post, but if the point was that Coleman's doesn't hand slice their deli meat then I must tell you that they do, at an extra charge of $1 per sandwich and it does improve the sandwich IMO

                              1. re: blogs
                                pearlD Apr 1, 2008 07:12 PM

                                Basically what I was saying was that there are only 3 places we use/frequent for the various 'deli meats'...corned beef from Coleman's, pastrami from Pancers and smoked meat from Centre St....doesn't matter about the slicing but since that is what Centre St is 'famous' for...that's what gets eaten when we go there! (Me, I eat the wonderful pickled salmon at Centre St!!)

                                1. re: blogs
                                  badbhoy Apr 2, 2008 01:57 PM

                                  Can you explain how hand slicing makes the sandwich taste better? I assume they are using the same cut of meat and you can often request a different thickness when machine slicing so how does it make a difference?

                                  1. re: badbhoy
                                    embee Apr 2, 2008 03:09 PM

                                    Brisket is a curious cut of meat. It must be cut very precisely against the grain, and the grain changes direction. Cutting brisket is a skill - a skill not all that easy to learn. "Smoked meat cutter" was a quasi-profession in Montreal at one time, and possibly still is.

                                    If you do it wrong, the slices become tough and dry and can end up as shreds. When properly steamed and hand cut (while hot), thick slices can be tender and succulent. The cutter must keep watching the grain and turning the meat as required.

                                    Note that this all applies to briskets that are fresh and hot. Cold brisket is normally sliced by machine. Once the meat cools, it doesn't matter all that much. And it doesn't taste the same when the slices are reheated.

                                    Machine slicing is much easier. The blade goes through the meat whatever the grain's direction and paper thin slices are typically tender no matter what.

                                    But I haven't really answered your question. It really does taste different. And the texture is VERY different. But as to why, I don't really know. I don't completely understand this myself.

                  2. re: embee
                    Vinnie Vidimangi Apr 1, 2008 07:24 PM

                    I concur with my brother embee on Marky's. I went only once, first time last time. I had to take to lunch someone Orthodox from Bank Leumi, as it then was. He liked it so much taht he expressed pride that it was kosher. I thought that Marky's committed a " hilul Hashem" by combining high prices with such execrable (I hoped) bad food under the protection of a kosher certification.
                    Notwithstanding that I had to be polite, I sent back the potato salad; I couldn't even tolerate looking at it. It takes a special talent to make a potato salad disgusting.

                    Why did you have to go so many times? Do tell.

                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                      embee Apr 1, 2008 07:57 PM

                      To the very observant, even dairy places like United Bakers aren't considered kosher. In the seventies and eighties, Marky's was the best known glatt kosher place -- and the one most likely to be open. Therefore, Marky's was often the ONLY choice when dining out with someone seriously kosher.

                      It didn't matter what they served, since there was usually nowhere else to go. Today there are other choices, so I don't know how they survive. But they are really the only kosher deli in town, even now.

                      There was a pretty good fine dining place for a while, in the eighties, called Greenfield's. Though it wasn't a deli and the service was often bad, they put out some decent food. Somewhere along the way, Greenfield's morphed into "Marky's Fine Dining". It wasn't, unsurprisingly, and it didn't last. But Marky's deli soldiers on.

                      1. re: embee
                        apetimberlake Apr 4, 2008 12:21 PM

                        CENTRE STEET DELI!

                        The end

                  3. re: Finnegan
                    ddelicious Jun 12, 2009 08:25 AM

                    Ummmm. I don't even know what to say about that. If you are strictly kosher and don't eat in other establishments I could perhaps understand. I've had the misfortune of eating at Marky's several times with people who can't eat anywhere else. If you can and will eat elsewhere, please do.

                  4. v
                    Vinnie Vidimangi Mar 23, 2008 07:50 PM

                    The conclusion that I derive is that Sea-Hi on Bathurst serves Jewish food.
                    This thread is sad comment on what has become of Jewish life Canada.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                      embee Mar 27, 2008 08:15 AM

                      Well, the food Sea-Hi serves could hardly be called Chinese.

                      1. re: embee
                        Vinnie Vidimangi Apr 1, 2008 04:55 PM

                        Success has deteriorated both cultures.

                    2. Moimoi Aug 2, 2007 10:41 AM

                      Me Va Me on Steeles is Israeli. There's a take-out closer to Yonge and a sit-down at Bathurst. the place is packed all the time. The food is inexpensive and DELICIOUS, filled with Israeli's and the jewish community from the burbs. The fried eggplant is the best I've EVER had, the hummous with olives also the best. Schnitzel, grilled chicken, israeli salad -- all amazing. I'm looking to find something like it downtown - that's my next posting... Let me know if you try it. A bit of a drive, but trust me, you'll love it. Do a Sunday dinner take-out/pick up. It'll become a habit.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Moimoi
                        centralepicure Mar 23, 2008 03:39 PM

                        I agree that MeVaMe is awesome... although whenever you go expect to wait for a table, it is always packed. Although that is a great sign. Get a combo plate and share a main course, you will leave extremely full.

                        1. re: centralepicure
                          KitchenVoodoo Aug 15, 2008 10:27 PM

                          I'm longing to try MeVaMe - and I'll eat anything except offal. What would you recommend? Are the open all day?

                      2. orangewasabi Mar 19, 2007 08:09 AM

                        interestingly, this weekend someone informed me that the some of my regular favourites at The Ethiopian House (goman wat and shiro wat) are actually Ethiopian Jewish dishes. Certainly NOT what first comes to mind when I think Jewish food.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: orangewasabi
                          embee Mar 19, 2007 09:21 PM

                          There isn't really surprising. You'll also notice a conspicuous absence of pork at most Ethiopian restos. However, I believe most if not all of the Ethiopian Jewish population was airlifted to Israel some time ago.

                          1. re: embee
                            FlavoursGal Mar 20, 2007 06:29 AM

                            The majority of Ethiopian Jews (known as Beta Israel and by the very derogatory term "falasha") were airlifted out of Ethiopia by the Israeli government, in three airlifts beginning with small airlifts known as Operation Moses and Operation Joshua in 1985, and ending with the airlift of all airlifts, Operation Solomon in 1991, during which 34 El Al (the Israeli national airline) jumbo jets flew back and forth between Israel and Ethiopia for a total of 36 hours, airlifting over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews out of the land where they'd been persecuted for centuries.

                            I don't know about the ethnicity of the owners of Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto, but it would be interesting to find out if they are, indeed, Beta Israel. A number of Ethiopian Jews did make their way to Montreal when I was still living there, and would have coffee ceremonies and showcase their handicrafts at Israeli fairs. I would imagine that many also made their way from Israel to Toronto.

                            For more info, go to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/j...

                            1. re: FlavoursGal
                              orangewasabi Mar 20, 2007 11:19 AM

                              that's all very interesting -- I didn't know any of that history

                              1. re: orangewasabi
                                FlavoursGal Mar 20, 2007 12:51 PM

                                Most people don't.

                            2. re: embee
                              mikeb Mar 20, 2007 02:03 PM

                              Pork and shellfish are also not used in traditional cuisine because Ethiopia's Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church and Islamic law prohibit them.

                          2. f
                            fleisch Mar 15, 2007 01:36 PM

                            The Umami Cafe besides Sobey's recently closed. A mild surprise. That location has changed hands a few times over the last few years. A Second Cup has VERY slowly been coming in further down the plaza and I'm wondering if they were waiting on this other location to open...

                            And as for some comments above - why is it so hard to clarify whether the two Jerusalem restaurants are related?
                            Surely there are legal issues with two restos in the same city having the same name and very similar signage...I don't see how they could have opened a new restaurant without being affiliated without lawyers being invovled. (Which reminds me of the Maggies/Meggies thing that went on a few years ago.)

                            Lastly, I remember there very briefly being a Wolfie's branch up at Yonge and Steeles way back when. For some reason north branches of succesful southern restos have NOT worked. United Bakers lasted for a little while (in the same plaza as the ex-Wolfie's) and Marky's tried twice at two different locations and failed.

                            It's awfully weird - there are surprisingly few kosher restos in the Thornhill area and not a single kosher deli.

                            1. pescatarian Mar 15, 2007 04:58 AM

                              Yes, Delish! It was definitely their knishes - they were the reason my Mom stopped in. I too remember eating them cold, for some reason :)

                              1. pescatarian Mar 14, 2007 08:20 PM

                                Thanks - I remember Regina's now. They've been around a long time too. My Mom used to pick up prepared foods from there occasionally. I think they had a location further north at one time too.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pescatarian
                                  Delish Mar 15, 2007 04:40 AM

                                  mmmmm - I remember biting into their beef knishes cold out of the fridge. They are a side, but if I recall correctly, they were huge and could have been a meal unto themselves. Nothing else stands out in memory, but those knishes... I wonder if they are still as good...

                                2. pescatarian Mar 14, 2007 07:58 PM

                                  FlavoursGal, it is near Wilson Heights. I'll have to check it out one day. I remember enjoying their pastrami when I was a kid. That, and their baby beef, of all things.
                                  I went to Junior High around there. This is a bit off topic, but there used to be two good places around there which are gone - a great fish and chip place that served their fish and chips in newspaper - it was at Sheppard and Faywood. Also, at the plaza at Overbrook and Wilmington, there used to be a place called Fresser's. it was a regular for fries and BLT's, etc. back then.
                                  Thanks for the tip re Regina's. I might check it out too.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pescatarian
                                    FlavoursGal Mar 14, 2007 08:09 PM

                                    I just found a website for Regina's. Here's the link: http://www.reginasfinefoods.com/index...

                                  2. pescatarian Mar 14, 2007 06:12 PM

                                    Has anyone been to Wolfie's lately? We used to get meat from there when I was a kid. I thought it was gone, because I haven't heard about it recently, but apparently it's still there (Sheppard West). Does anyone know if it's good?

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: pescatarian
                                      FlavoursGal Mar 14, 2007 06:43 PM

                                      pescatarian, is that the place on Sheppard, east of Wilson Heights (around Wilmington)? If that's the place, I dropped in a few years ago and had a pretty good smoked meat sandwich. I'd forgotten about it. My daughter goes to school not far from there - maybe I'll stop in again on one of my carpool days.

                                      There's also Regina's in the same general vicinity. It's a bakery/prepared foods shop with great soups and lots of Eastern European-style Jewish foods. I love their cabbage soup with meat - just like Bubby used to make.

                                      1. re: pescatarian
                                        Yongeman Mar 15, 2007 06:16 AM

                                        I go to Wolfie's about 3 or 4 times a year to pick up deli meats. I bring them home cold, buy a couple of rye breads from the bakery in the plaza just east of Wolfie's, and do make-your-own sandwiches for our family dinner. Of course with Strub's or Mrs. Whyte's or Moishe's old dills.
                                        He's such a character, and the meats are great. I almost went yesterday, but plans changed at the last minute.

                                        1. re: Yongeman
                                          pescatarian Mar 15, 2007 08:41 AM

                                          That's good to know. I remember their meat being good, but it was so long ago.
                                          I do vaguely remember him being a character too. Also, his daughter was a teacher at my elementary school, so I remember the place in that regard as well.
                                          Will have to check it out soon.

                                          1. re: pescatarian
                                            embee Mar 15, 2007 10:43 AM

                                            If I remember it accurately, he was, indeed, a character and the place had a decent old fashioned deli ambiance, but the meat was just ordinary Lesters.

                                      2. r
                                        rita walters Mar 14, 2007 05:14 PM

                                        Yitz's, Panzer, Jerusalem are quite good, but the very best is Katz's Emporium on the west side of Dufferin Street, just south of Yorkdale Shopping Centre. It's a deli restaurant, with a large seating area, and they have just about everything. No dairy products though, as they serve the most lean and delicious corned beef and pastrami etc. One drawback, they only make Chicken Soup, Noodles and Matzo Balls on Friday for the shabbat crowd.
                                        But their other soups of the day are also delish. Prices are reasonable and servings are huge.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rita walters
                                          FlavoursGal Mar 14, 2007 06:39 PM

                                          Jerusalem is not a "Jewish Restaurant." It is owned by Palestinians, and there's nothing "Jewish" about the food.

                                          That begin said, Jerusalem IS a great restaurant.

                                        2. superchick Jan 19, 2007 11:13 PM

                                          don't get the liver and onions @ centre st - dry like leather. Stick to the "old fashioned" smoked meat.

                                          1. The Chowhound Team Jan 17, 2007 05:10 PM

                                            Some interesting posts about Jewish food in Montreal have been moved over to the Quebec board. If you'd like to follow that thread of the conversation, you'll find it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                            1. f
                                              fleisch Jan 15, 2007 01:56 PM

                                              Sobey's sushi is passable grocery-tore sushi. not great, not as horrible as that Bento Nouveau stuff.

                                              There are 3 Umamis: A takeout place near Wilson, a proper restaurant on Eglinton and a Cafe at the Sobey's plaza. I've eaten at the latter and IMHO it's perfectly good sushi but at "kosher" prices - ie really expensive. An $8 roll there would be 1/2 the price at a "normal" place. But the quality is solid.

                                              Same goes for Gladstones who have good, expensive sushi.

                                              You can also get sushi at My Zaidy's Bakery (Bathurst/Chabad Gate) and it looks decent but I haven't eaten it.


                                              1. t
                                                tartetatin Jan 14, 2007 01:04 AM

                                                I thought there was a kosher sushi place on Bathurst, beside Toronto Kosher. Unami? also own Umami Fusion on eglinton and Unami Cafe on Clark.

                                                1. p
                                                  Poppyseed Jan 13, 2007 07:40 PM

                                                  Good Jewish food - Bagel Haven (Bathurst and Steeles) has yummy breakfasts - fabulous bagels. They just closed for renovations for 2 weeks. Marky's deli at Bathurst and Wilson is good too (not fantastic) but good basic food.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Poppyseed
                                                    embee Jan 13, 2007 09:14 PM

                                                    I'm becoming boring about this, but innocents be warned. I have been compelled to eat at Markys many times over many years. Perhaps I've simply been extremely unfortunate and hit a few dozen "bad days" over a few decades. In my personal experience, Markys has served, consistently, some of the worst restaurant food I have ever eaten. At one time, there were few kosher alternatives. Now there are many. Although they seem to be the only deli type kosher place in Toronto, they don't serve anything that you can't get elsewhere.

                                                    1. re: embee
                                                      DDD Jan 13, 2007 11:46 PM

                                                      I agree, Marky's has been bad ever since I can remember.

                                                      1. re: DDD
                                                        oralfixation Mar 16, 2007 02:22 PM

                                                        I actually have a soft spot for Marky's fries. That and the liver bring me back. . .

                                                  2. r
                                                    rbc Jan 13, 2007 07:38 PM

                                                    Kosher sushi is limited in Toronto. Apparently you can buy it ready-prepared at the Sobey's at hilda & CLarke. But this is just what i've heard.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: rbc
                                                      embee Jan 13, 2007 09:07 PM

                                                      Sobeys at Clark & Hilda has takeout sushi. Umami and Gladstones have sushi. I know there are other places as well. Note that I have not personally eaten at any of the kosher sushi places in the Toronto area.

                                                    2. r
                                                      redcoconut Jan 13, 2007 01:59 AM

                                                      Go to Bagel World if you want to spend 5-6 $ on a bagel with cream cheese and loks that aint' even that good. Actually, Toronto's bagels are crap compared to Montreal's.

                                                      Free Times is kind of a cool hang out (among left-wingers esp) but I used to deliver beer, and ever since the owner was a real *&!@ to us over something that wasn't our fault during the delivery, I never went back.

                                                      Bathurst north of Lawrence, up to about Steeles I guess, is kind of the Jewish area since most Jews left Kensington, but even now they are moving further north and the area is becoming more Philippino.

                                                      You can find lots of Kosher Pizza, delis, supermarkets, etc. around this area. The No Frills at Bath / Wils has two isles of Kosher stuff (used to work there).

                                                      A good place on the south side of Wilson is Beirut, though it is Christian Lebanese.

                                                      1. m
                                                        miranda Jan 13, 2007 01:36 AM

                                                        Machu Machu...in the Forest Village is owned by Israelis...and serves wonderful Israeli-like food...give it a try...Miranda

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: miranda
                                                          FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 03:22 AM

                                                          Mashu Mashu is okay, but nothing to go out of your way for. Humongous portions at reasonable prices, if that's what you're looking for.

                                                          A better bet and not too far away, is Halleluia, on Eglinton just west of Bathurst (in the location formerly occupied by Lox Stock and Bagel). It, too, serves Israeli food, in addition to a few dishes from the owner's native Uzbekistan. In all of these Israeli restaurants it's best to request that the garlic sauce that is brushed on certain dishes be served on the side. More often than not, it is made using bottled chopped garlic, and the resulting flavours can mar a perfectly good dish.

                                                        2. f
                                                          fleisch Jan 12, 2007 06:14 PM

                                                          I mentioned Boujadi earlier and, at the risk of venturing into too much Judiaca, they do use kosher meats. They also have no dairy on the menu and prepare dairyish desserts (like Mhalbi) with what I guess is soy milk. Thus they fall into a sort of "de facto kosher" class.

                                                          To be certified kosher you have to (among many other things) close shop on Friday night/Saturday. I believe that aside from this "technicality" Boujadi is kosher. I gather there are 1 or 2 other Moroccan places in the city but Boujadi is very authentic and delicious and regularly cited in "mainstream" reviews despite being "Jewish."

                                                          Their Moroccan mint tea is a must-have and you can't go wrong with any of the tajines, IMHO.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: fleisch
                                                            FlavoursGal Jan 12, 2007 06:41 PM

                                                            Boujadi also has no "mashgiach" supervising the kitchen, another technicality.

                                                            The tagines are great, as are the various couscous platters, one of which contains a combination of various main course offerings, as well as appetizers such as cigares (spicy meat-filled pastries), pastels (potato filled) and merguez (spicy sausage).

                                                            Another great dish is the chicken "pasha", which is served with a prune sauce (Moroccan dishes are often stewed with dried fruits).

                                                            Also, as embee mentioned, not to be missed is the "dafina", a Moroccan version of the Eastern European cholent. The dafina is made without meat, and Boujadi is actually a great restaurant for vegetarians, as they have many non-meat dishes on the menu. Even their bouillon is meat-free (and delicious).

                                                            Always make sure when ordering a couscous dish here to request a bowl of bouillon (slight additional charge) and some harissa (hot pepper paste), the bouillon to moisten the couscous with, the harissa to add more heat.

                                                          2. d
                                                            downtown Jan 12, 2007 05:25 PM

                                                            Again, this is not typically jewish food but Boujadi is an amazing moroccan restaurant and if memory serves they use only kosher meats. Given the number of jews that come from Morocco (sephardic) this somewhat fits the topic. Oh, and their soups are incredible.

                                                            1. t
                                                              to_frankie Jan 10, 2007 10:47 PM

                                                              jewish food? wow. have to admit that's a cuisine i havent really thought about before!

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: to_frankie
                                                                berbere Jan 12, 2007 04:05 AM

                                                                pardon my ignorance, but i thought chicken soup was considered a very "jewish" dish (tho i find every culture, cuisine, has their own version of the soul-soother) ...and if so, i'm surprised that the mention of this dish has not come up in this discussion. one of my most memorable experiences was at The Chicken Nest on Bathurst, south of Lawrence. it was memorable for more than the chicken soup but i liked the chicken soup so much , i had a second order... couldn't figure out the chinese dishes on the menu, tho, esp among the highly orthodox clientele there

                                                                1. re: berbere
                                                                  embee Jan 12, 2007 04:25 AM

                                                                  Yes, it certainly is. I didn't mention chicken soup because I find most of the chicken soup at Toronto's Jewish restaurants (kosher or not) is insipid and a surprising amount of it is fake (e.g., Croydon or Osem "chicken flavoured" vegetarian powder). Although chicken soup with matzo balls and kreplach is one of my great comfort foods, I'm more likely to get tom kha kai or pho when I feel the need.

                                                                  [In contrast, the Jewish "dairy" soups (e.g., mushroom & barley; split pea; cabbage borscht) can be wonderful. United Bakers does these well and the best I've had, oddly, are from Caroles Cheesecakes on Castlefield.]

                                                                  I tend to avoid restaurants that are kosher but not "Jewish" deli/dairy because better food is usually available at similar mainstream places. There is nothing wrong with, say, Dairy Treats or Miami Grill or Gladstones, but I'm not kosher, so why pay much more for food I can get elsewhere (more conveniently, cheaper, and usually better)?

                                                                  Tell me more about the Chicken Nest. It seems to fashion itself as a chicken shack for the orthodox. What do they have and what is/isn't good there? FYI, it is quite typical for kosher restaurants to serve Chinese food, which most people wouldn't be able to cook at home. Much of it is charmingly (or, possibly, scarily) "retro". One quite good kosher takeout, Eli's on Bathurst, seems to sell Jewish food only on Fridays and mainly Chinese food the remainder of the week.

                                                                  1. re: embee
                                                                    berbere Jan 13, 2007 06:24 PM

                                                                    I've only been to the Chicken Nest a couple of times and both times with an ultra orthodox friend who chose the resto. Very interesting experience indeed: most of the other patrons were orthodox families out for mid-week dinner, there were prayer cards on every table and an area to wash hands. we bumped into a rabbi friend of his too. my friend had a Chinese beef stir fry dish which came accompanied by rice on the side (sorta like canadian diner fare) and I had the chicken soup (rich chicken flavour, no dumplings/matzo, mostly broth, not too much veggies), served brusquely by a not-too-friendly (almost rude) waitress. Having to recall the experience, it now occurs to me that it was actually a very long time ago (more than 5 yrs ago) so things may have changed! Despite the stares I got (being the only very visibly non-orthodox, non-jewish patron there at the time), I've been longing to go back but whenever i get the urge and drive by, i find it closed. I could not understand my friend's eager downing of the Chinese beef stir fry which looked very much like it was made from frozen vegetables (peas, cubes of carrots, etc). anyways, i didn't realize that many jewish restos carried chinese food - i thought Chicken Nest was an exception...

                                                                    since then, my friend has been eagerly awaiting the opening of a kosher sushi place -- is there such a resto in toronto now? unfortunately, my friend has since decided to head back to israel...

                                                              2. p
                                                                Peechie Jan 10, 2007 09:16 PM

                                                                WOW! THANKS everyone.. some of you are a wealth of info! (embee, especially)

                                                                Unknowingly, I've eaten Jewish food before - Jerusalem, to be more specific. Some of the stuff was good and to my liking. Unfortunately, I'm lactose intolerant so couldn't try everything.

                                                                I will certainly visit some of the places recommended!

                                                                1. e
                                                                  embee Jan 10, 2007 08:38 PM

                                                                  OK, here I am...

                                                                  Most of the info ahead of this post is pretty good, though I don't agree with all of the recommendations.

                                                                  This is a multi-layered topic. What is Jewish food anyway?

                                                                  - Firstly, there is kosher food. This is the core element of Jewish cooking. But most "Jewish" food in Toronto is not kosher. And kosher food need not be "Jewish". Locally, there is kosher Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Israeli, and Moroccan. In other cities, there are kosher restaurants representing many different cuisines. Italy has a kosher cuisine of its very own, seldom seen here.

                                                                  The primary elements, over-simplified, are some forbidden foods (best known: pork and shellfish), some rituals around animal slaughter, and a prohibition against mixing meat/poultry and dairy products at a meal. Many foods (eggs, fish, veggies, fruits) are "neutral". All kosher foods are also Halal, though Halal foods are not necessarily also kosher. A kosher restaurant will serve either meat or "dairy" (meaning no meat) -- never both.

                                                                  - Secondly, there is Israeli food. This cuisine developed within the past 75 or so years. It is more similar to Lebanese food, or even Greek food, than to what most of us consider as Jewish food. In Toronto, only some Israeli places are kosher. Most of these (e.g., Tov-Li) are dairy only and sell the likes of falafel or pizza. The most common meat in Israel seems to be turkey, which local Israeli restos seldom have. At a non-kosher Israeli place, you'll find menus similar to those at Lebanese or Armenian restos, though Israeli falafel and hummos taste quite different from the nearby versions. Jerusalem is a decent Israeli resto, not kosher and owned, I believe (not sure), by Christian Arabs.

                                                                  - Third would be "Jewish food" in a conceptual sense. As mentioned previously, there is Ashkenazic food and Sephardic food. Ashkenazic food is typical of Eastern European foods generally: starch, root veggies, and cheap cuts of meat. This is what you probably mean by "Jewish" food. Sephardic food is typical of Mediterranean cuisines generally: lots of fresh fish, fresh fruit, fresh veggies. Little of this food is explicitly Jewish.

                                                                  In terms of trying things, you'll probably want to start with "deli", which is more rooted in New York and Montreal than among Jews collectively. As noted, it isn't health conscious but, more to the point, it is a dying art and much of what's available doesn't taste very good. Best purveyors in this are are Centre St in Thornhill, Katzs on Dufferin, and Pancers on Bathurst. None of these places is great. Centre Street has the best cooking of the bunch. Order the old fashioned smoked meat, chopped liver, knishes, kishka, karnatzel, and such for the real experience. (Avoid places like Shopsys, Druxys, Dunns, or the Pickle Barrel.) The only kosher deli in town is Markys, which is a horrible, awful, disgusting resto by any standard, to be avoided by even the starving.

                                                                  The other basic Jewish food experience is "dairy". There are many dairy restaurants, but what you are looking for is fairly narrowly defined. Bagel World and Kivas are closest to the old time experience, but are primarily bakeries. United Bakers also has the right ambiance (if you go for lunch) and a broader menu , though the food isn't anything like it was back on Spadina. Although the Free Times Cafe has been soundly dissed here, their Sunday brunch is also an authentic dairy experience. And many of our bubbes didn't cook better than this. None of these dairy places is kosher.

                                                                  I can second the recommendation of Boujadi for Sephardic food, though again, standards have fallen over the years. Whatever else you have, order the dafina.

                                                                  There are many more places in Thornhill, and I'm not an expert on that area. Perhaps others will chime in.

                                                                  As a general comment, the kosher restos doing more than deli/dairy aren't worth your time. Some of them are OK, none are great, and some are VERY bad. The only reason to go for kosher steak or sushi is because you are kosher. Otherwise, why pay more money for a limited cuisine.

                                                                  If you want to know anything more specific, feel free to ask. You can look for books by Claudia Roden and Joan Nathan that have much more detailed information than is practical here.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: embee
                                                                    DDD Jan 11, 2007 01:33 AM

                                                                    Good post embee, I would add that for really good Ashkenazi Jewish deli food, Montreal is the place - Schwartz's, Lester's, Benn's and Willenski's offer a unique experience - sure the service at Schwartz's is miz, and their deli may not be the tops (although it's usually very tasty), but the experience and energy is worth it at any of these.

                                                                    As well as for a good Montreal Ashkenazi Jewish steak houses - Moishe's and Gibby's.

                                                                    Although for great blintzes in Toronto, Mimi's at Queen and Bathurst is worth a try for brunch. I agree that some of the offerings at Centre Street Deli are also worth the drive esp the chopped liver with onions on the side.

                                                                    Now for Israeli type food in the Bathurst and Steeles area - 1. Sababa (Steeles few blocks east of Bath on north side)- amazing humous (in my opinion, one of the best in Toronto), also wonderful and cheap falafel...I think this place is also run by israeli arabs or possibly palestinians (not that this really matters), and 2. Me Ve Me restaurant each offer solid meals with great fresh middle eastern salads, falafels, grilled chicken etc. at north west corner of bath and steeles.

                                                                    That's my 2 cents having lived in Israel for 7 years and being married to a montrealer.

                                                                  2. dlw88 Jan 10, 2007 04:25 PM

                                                                    Sorry, but my previous reply was directed to this post in general.

                                                                    The reason why there aren't any other places around like this is beacuse traditional Eastern European Jewish delicassies cannot survive alone in such a health conscious era. Most dishes contain high concentrations of salt, butter, and oil. In Toronto today, you are much more likely to find high concentrations of Jewish people eating at a Sushi restaurant, and not at Free Times or any deli.

                                                                    For Jews who keep strictly Kosher, they will only eat at restaurants that are kept strictly kosher. Although they do exist in Toronto, I certainly wouldn't recommend any of the finer dining restaurants that I've been to as good chow. However, there are some kosher take-out spots that are great. A favourite of mine is Tov Li, in the new Shoppers Drug Mart Plaza a few blocks south of Bathurst and Steeles. Here they sell fallafel, soups, mediterranean sides, pizza, and some hearty desserts.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: dlw88
                                                                      wordsworth Jan 14, 2007 01:11 PM

                                                                      "The reason why there aren't any other places around like this is beacuse traditional Eastern European Jewish delicassies cannot survive alone in such a health conscious era"

                                                                      This is ridiculous. McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King do quite nicely selling double bacon cheesebergers. The reason that Eastern European Jewish delicassies don't survive is because, first Jews are a very small minority and second, because Jewish culture is being diluted by the same mass media and corporate culture that is turning eveything into whitebread.

                                                                      1. re: wordsworth
                                                                        dlw88 Jan 14, 2007 05:00 PM

                                                                        "Jewish-style" drive through - an interesting concept. I think my original point was understood. Have you seen the numbers of the restaurants you've mentioned, as compared to even ten years ago?

                                                                        1. re: dlw88
                                                                          Cereal Killer Jan 16, 2007 01:57 PM

                                                                          That drive-through wouldn't be very busy Friday after sundown ....

                                                                    2. f
                                                                      fleisch Jan 10, 2007 04:03 PM

                                                                      Jerusalem is actually owned by ... I forget, it's either Lebanese or Israeli Arabs.

                                                                      As others have said, "Jewish food" is a bit hard to define.
                                                                      Bagel World, Kiva's and United Bakers are all fine dairy restaurants; sandwiches, salads etc.
                                                                      Yitz's, Coleman's Centre Street Deli, and Pancers are all Jewish-style delis, but none are kosher.
                                                                      For kosher deli there's basically Marky's and not much else.
                                                                      There are numerous Israeli grills and falafel/pizza or falafel/shwarma places around Bathurst/Wilson and Bathurst/Steeles.
                                                                      Lastlty there are (finally!) some upscale kosher places along Eglinton; Gladstones and Bistro Grande in particular.
                                                                      Boujadi, also on Eglinton, is an awesome Jewish-Moroccan place. I highly reccomend it.

                                                                      So, the answer is kinda that there isn't REALLY any "Jewish" food ... deli is probably the most Jewish, but it's co-opted by places like Druxy's and Shopsy's. All the others are basically Jewish versions of things. I tend to find Israeli places make better falafel than Lebanese but that's a generalization with a few exceptions.
                                                                      It really depends what kind of cuisine you want. But you can't go wrong with Bagel World, United Bakers, Centre Street Deli and Boujadi if you enjoy those kinds of foods.


                                                                      1. u
                                                                        Ubervache Jan 10, 2007 03:59 PM

                                                                        On Bathurst (starting at Wilson), there are a couple of Kosher restaurants and take away counters.

                                                                        Bathurst & Wilson - Marky's
                                                                        Not too great, but they tend be open all the time

                                                                        Bathurst & Baycrest - Tov-Li Falafel
                                                                        Not exaclty "Jewish" food, but reflective of what Jews eat in Israel. They also have a selection of Kosher pizza's (I'm not a big fan, but pizza tastes differ)

                                                                        Bathurst & Lawrence
                                                                        There are several places in and around this intersection (I can't remember them all), they range from Bais Burger and the Chicken Shack to United Bakers (it has a Kosher dairy restaurant). There also used to be another Falaflel joint a bit South of Lawrence on the West side of Bathurst, but they have closed.

                                                                        As for take-away, the grand daddy of them all, Perl's, recently had a fire in their facility but they are reopening soon.

                                                                        There really isn't any specific "Jewish" food really. Since Jews have come from everywhere all over the world, the food that they eat in their homes really reflects where their roots are. Ashkenazi Jews (mainly from Europe) tend to eat the kind of cuisine you would see in Polish, German, and Russian and other Northern and Eastern European cultures. While Sephardi Jews (mainly from southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East) tend to have foods that you would see from Morocco, Spain, Italy, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Ubervache
                                                                          kasey j miller Jan 10, 2007 09:09 PM

                                                                          United Bakers is owned and operated by a Jewish family. It is a typical dairy restaurant (no meat) and has fantstic homemade soups, and bagels platters (a bagel and a scoop of cream cheese, tuna, chopped egg or smoked salmon) and also more traditional fare such as gefilte fish, etc. Try their cabbage borscht (only available on Fridays) or their pea soup (available every day).

                                                                          1. re: Ubervache
                                                                            FlavoursGal Jan 12, 2007 04:32 AM

                                                                            Just a note: Bais Burger has been closed since the adjoining Perl's burned down - I think it will be a number of months before Perl's reopens; I think you're referring to The Chicken Nest, not Chicken Shack; United Bakers is a Jewish-owned dairy restaurant, but it is NOT kosher; there are still a number of pizza/falafel joints on Bathurst just south of Lawrence.

                                                                            I think that, when people think of traditional "Jewish" foods, they're looking for Eastern European foods like chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, roast brisket, carrot tzimmes, chopped liver, etc. These traditional Ashkenazi foods can be found at delis like Pancer's, Yitz's, Coleman's, Centre St., etc.

                                                                            A reminder: all Kosher-certified restaurants, such as Marky's and Chicken Nest, are closed from Friday afternoon through Saturday; some reopen after sundown on Saturday night, depending upon the time of year.

                                                                          2. deelicious Jan 10, 2007 03:52 PM

                                                                            I am sure embee will help out here. But there is a huge difference between food common to Israel and Jewish Style food.

                                                                            For jewish style food and culture (patrons, wait staff) you are generally talking deli. I recommend Centre Street, Bagel World and Kiva's. To me those are the most pure to the jewish style and patrons. You will feel like you are in a movie when you eat at Bagel World or Kiva's. It can be very interesting people watching.

                                                                            Personally I would say try Centre Street for the great smoked meat and fries and anything else on the menu that appeals to you.

                                                                            Then for another experience choose either Bagel World or Kivas as they are pretty close in their offering all the way around. When at either one, you will want to enjoy a bagel despite what Toronto bagel naysayers say. A fresh twister from Kiva or Bagel World is a treat - NOT TOASTED. Throw on some salty butter or cream cheese for the full experience.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: deelicious
                                                                              dlw88 Jan 10, 2007 04:06 PM

                                                                              Toronto Jewish culture food = Sunday brunch at Free Times Cafe. This is as close as you can get. It's located on the north side of College just west of Spadina.

                                                                              1. re: dlw88
                                                                                deelicious Jan 10, 2007 05:05 PM

                                                                                Yes that is true too.

                                                                                1. re: dlw88
                                                                                  Canada Eats Jan 10, 2007 06:08 PM

                                                                                  I've been to Free Times a couple times and was sorely disappointed. I'm always amazed by the line-ups they get and the good press. The first time I went I actually had to send my coffee back (a first for me, even after years of travelling and certainly my share of coffee drecks). The latkes were hard as rocks, and everything was generally of poor quality. The second visit turned up a flavourless hummous, and frozen, cubed veggies in my cous-cous. Oh, and cold pita fresh from the bag (likely from the Dominion down the street).

                                                                                  I really wouldn't take Free Times as an example of either Jewish or Israeli food.

                                                                                  - Lea

                                                                                  1. re: Canada Eats
                                                                                    deelicious Jan 10, 2007 07:31 PM

                                                                                    I agree it is inconsistent. But to somebody wanting to experience that type of food, I thought "it couldn't hurt". Personally I don't eat there anymore. It was SO much better before the world found out about it.

                                                                                    1. re: deelicious
                                                                                      francelonian Jan 20, 2007 06:59 PM

                                                                                      I eat there often and love it. I've never had the problems that Lea reports.

                                                                                    2. re: Canada Eats
                                                                                      red dragon Mar 23, 2007 01:19 PM

                                                                                      Have to agree with Lea, we had brunch (and an expensive one at that) last fall and it was really awful. I was extremely disappointed. DH was not impressed. I personally would never go back, nor recommend it, but that's just my opinion.

                                                                                2. Cereal Killer Jan 10, 2007 03:45 PM

                                                                                  Generally, Jewish dining is what other's would consider delicatessen (smoked meat, bagels, blintzes, etc.). Here is a good thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                  Historically, Jews were settled all across Europe (until WWII), so Jewish cooking strongly resembles most Eastern European cooking.

                                                                                  I prefer Bagel World on Wilson West of Bathurst for my deli fix. Others will tell you Centre Street Deli for smoked meat (true that) or Yitz's on Eglinton West of Avenue Road or Pancer's (much debate about that spot).

                                                                                  Hope that helps.


                                                                                  1. orangewasabi Jan 10, 2007 03:43 PM

                                                                                    One of my alltime favourite places is "Jerusalem" on Eglington, west of Avenue Road.

                                                                                    I dunno if it's strictly "Jewish" by ownership but it sure is by customer base.

                                                                                    Great! food.

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: orangewasabi
                                                                                      FlavoursGal Jan 12, 2007 04:22 AM

                                                                                      Jerusalem is not Jewish-owned. I believe it is owned by Palestinians. The food is very good, but it is not "Jewish" food, nor is it typical Israeli food - it is more like the foods one associates with Lebanese cuisine.

                                                                                      1. re: FlavoursGal
                                                                                        dlw88 Jan 12, 2007 06:15 AM

                                                                                        The Jerusalem now located in Nymark plaza has gone way down hill. Even the last few years at Leslie/Finch produced blah experiences. For middle eastern cuisine, the places I frequent most are Tov-Li, Sababa, and Armenian Kitchen. Interestingly enough, they are each owned by different cultures.

                                                                                        1. re: dlw88
                                                                                          FlavoursGal Jan 12, 2007 12:56 PM

                                                                                          I've never been to the Jerusalem up north. I've only been to the one on Eglinton, and it's consistently good.

                                                                                          1. re: FlavoursGal
                                                                                            foodyDudey Mar 14, 2007 05:52 PM

                                                                                            The people running that one on Finch Ave responded that they are another branch of the one on Eglinton, when I asked about 6 years ago. But in fact if you ask the one on Eglinton, they will say they are not associated in any way.

                                                                                        2. re: FlavoursGal
                                                                                          apetimberlake Apr 4, 2008 12:21 PM

                                                                                          I believe they are chirstian palestinian

                                                                                          1. re: apetimberlake
                                                                                            Vinnie Vidimangi Aug 16, 2008 10:09 AM

                                                                                            Jerusalem Don Mills (the buffet) and Jerusalem Eglinton (sit down only, white table cloth hummus) now share a web site. There seems to have been some sort of reconciliation in the family.

                                                                                            The family is Christian Arab from Lod, which is in a country called Israel.

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