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Looking for the best smoked meat in Toronto

Hi, anyone know where i can get some awesome smoked meat/ rueben sandwich in the GTA?

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  1. Nowhere. Yes, really.

    Centre Street Deli is ok, I guess.

    1. I don't know about "awesome" - for that you probably have to go to Montreal. But I find the smoked meat (order the "old fashioned" only) at Centre Street Deli is excellent. Also, their fries are amazing. They are on Centre Street, between Bathurst and Dufferin, a bit north of Steeles.

      If you do a search you'll probably find the old threads discussing this. But I highly recommend Centre street deli, for things other that their smoked meat. For example, they make fantastic party sandwiches (for takeout only), and you can get other tasty treats at the takeout counter, like poppy seed cookies and knishes. Their chopped liver is very good too.

      1. For a great Reuben sandwich, try Coleman's at Bathurst and Lawrence.

        1 Reply
        1. re: FlavoursGal

          Forgive my kvetching, but the state of deli in Toronto is shameful, especially given the Jewish population here.

          I have had Schwartz' meat from Montreal a few times, and I am always blown away. We have nothing like that here. I do like Centre Street, especially with the kids, but it just does not compare.

        2. It's an almost hopeless quest that has been addressed at length on other Chowhound threads. Awesome smoked meat doesn't exist in Toronto. Centre Street's medium old fashioned is as good as it gets. (Some other delis use the same smoked meat brand as Centre Street, but don't have the old fashioned variety and don't know how to cut the meat.)

          Avoid, at all costs, Mel's Montreal Deli on Bloor.

          I can't personally vouch for anyone's reuben, but Coleman's has great corned beef hash and FlavoursGal knows deli, so they are worth a try.

          28 Replies
          1. re: embee

            I agree that Centre Street is the only place in town that even approximates the medium smoked meat at Schwartz's in Montreal. There is really nothing like it in TO. I went to school in Montreal and I've eaten at Schwartz's countless times. I love it so much that my girlfriend and I make an an annual pilgramage. Okay, its supposed to be for a romantic weekend, but truth be told, it's mostly for Schwartz's (please don't tell her that!).

            In fact, I think nothing in Montreal is as good as Schwartz's. The Main, almost directly across the street, is not as good. Ben's (RIP) and Reuben's don't even come close.

            Here is the food schedule (for the summer 2007 long weekend in Mtl.):

            1) Arrive in Mtl at 8pm or so
            2) check into B&B
            3) go to dinner at L'Express, my favourite bistro in Mtl.
            3) wake up, grab the paper and go for croissant and lattes on St. Denis.
            4) Schwartz's for lunch (medium smoked meat - extra spec, karnatzel, pickle, cherry pepper, and maybe, liver entree. Don't forget the cherry coke.
            5) Au Pied du Cochon for dinner (that poutine???? you gotta be kidding me!!! Big hunk of fois gras on top with gravy laced with fois gras. Unbelievable. The seafood "Plateau" is also amazing, as is EVERYTHING on the menu.
            6) Go for breakfast as Cosmo on Sherbrooke in NDG. A real hole-in-the-wall (I think there are 8 seats at the counter and that's it!) but the food is great. There was a CBC documentary about it a few years ago.
            7) late lunch at Schwartz's
            8) back to TO.

            Then, when back at home, I go to the gym every day for three weeks! Not the most heart healthy weekend, but we walk everywhere when in Mtl., so we get lots of exercise too.

            1. re: acd123

              Sounds like my dream weekend! Can I copy your itinerary?

              1. re: redearth

                Of course. Stay at a B&B near Parc La Fontaine. Lots of good ones.

              2. re: acd123

                The documentary on Cosmos wasn't a CBC documentary(although it aired on the CBC & CBC Newsworld several times). The same director is currently doing a Cosmos follow-up documentary. BTW, there's currently out there a new documentary on Schwartz's(it apparently will show up at a Toronto film festival in May, I'm guessing it's the Hot Docs film festival).

                1. re: acd123

                  no more spec in hebrew deli. (Schwartz) or at least when i went about 2 weeks ago.

                  the waiter told me, no one orders it

                  1. re: galambo

                    I suspect that even a big time fresser might draw the line today at eating pure smoked fat. Even cheap bacon is lean compared to that spek.

                    1. re: embee

                      Maybe I exagerated a bit. I only ordered the extra spec once to try it (several years ago) and it was tasty but definitely too much. Medium smoked meat is plenty fatty for me.

                      1. re: embee

                        probably why they don't have it anymore

                    2. re: acd123

                      We have the same Montreal itinerary...except dinner at Lemeac and brunch at Reservoir. Fairmount bagels and Schwartz's for the drive home. Last time we were at Au Pied, they served a table a whole pig's head to a table that (I swear!) squealed. There is nothing cooler. We had to drive to Montreal for smoked meat when I was pregnant. Now my son loves Schwartz's. There is no equivalent.

                    3. re: embee

                      What's so hard for a Toronto deli to get good Montreal smoked meat(they don't want to do it)? I don't understand it. Several of the top Montreal smoked meat delis, don't make their smoked meat(they get a good commercial brand like Quebec Smoked Meat, or get it made according to their specs from a commercial smoked meat supplier). Same would apply to pastrami. Why is it so hard to get great pastrami outside of NYC(Katz deli in NYC doesn't even make their pastrami, like almost all the top pastrami delis in NYC)? Steaming & cutting it correctly is another matter, but sourcing great smoked meat or pastrami is more than three quarters the battle.

                      1. re: BLM

                        I spoke to the producer, Ezra Soiferman, this morning to get a copy of the "Man of Grease". I want my girlfriend to see it before going back this summer. Looking forward to his follow up doc.

                        I just researched Chez Schwartz, the doc you are referring to. There will be a screening at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on May 10th at the Bloor Theatre. Tickets go on sale on April 16. I know I will really enjoy that film. Looking forward to it. The TJFF website reports that there a serving of Schwartz's smoked meat is included :-)

                        Thanks for the info.



                        Does Schwartz's make its own smoked meat?

                        1. re: acd123

                          Yes Schwartz's make their own smoked meat(made the old fashion way). Last year, there was a book out on the history of Schwartz's.

                        2. re: BLM

                          Why bother? We had one deli that made its own, Reuben's. Toronto's restaurant reviewers, most of them Jewish, all panned the place and told their readers that the smoked meat was better elsewhere. They didn't understand what they were getting! Now's reviewer directed his readers to the appalling Mel's Montreal Deli instead! Why make the effort when it isn't appreciated?

                          Reuben's wasn't well run and had many deficiencies. Some Chowhounds dissed them and I often had to agree. But the smoked meat was the real thing and it gradually improved over time. The owner really cared and had some passion. If he saw that you understood what he was selling, he'd hand out free slices and give you a free container of trimmings to take home. He'd show you the meat curing and smoking in the back. The electric smoker couldn't reproduce Schwartz's 80 years of schmutz, but it was the only game in town. It was always edible, often good, and sometimes great. But Schwartz is inconsistent also. That happens when you make a traditional product. Tenderness is all over the map and it doesn't always taste the same.

                          Reuben's was ugly as sin, badly lighted, and uncomfortable. The service (save for one waiter) was horrendous. Their King St W location (opposite the theatres) had an impossible parking situation for take out. When the SARS scare hit, they sometimes had virtually no customers in an entire day. But the bottom line is that Toronto didn't support them. They closed their Steeles location (which should have been successful) in part because the customers kvetched that it didn't taste like Centre St, or the Pickle Barrel, or Dunns.

                          There are places that sell Lester's, arguably the best of the industrial deli products. But only Centre St sells the old fashioned version and few of the other places know how to slice the meat. Bagel House and some other places import smoked meat from Montreal, but it isn't very good to begin with and they don't make sandwiches well. Mel's is absolutely disgusting - it reminds me of chemically impregnated plastic.

                          I know Schwartz doesn't sell wholesale, but a deli certainly could bring in product from Quebec Smoked Meat. If anyone out there has a restaurant, why not give this a try and tell us on this board?

                          1. re: embee

                            The Reuben's location was all wrong. It should have been in a neighbourhood like Bathurst/Eglinton or many others. I hope that there is someone out there that will give it another try.

                            1. re: acd123

                              The King St location wasn't very good. They were counting on office lunches and pre-theatre dinners, but they never marketed themselves very well to either segment. They also tried to make a new restaurant look like a retro dive, but all they pulled off was ugly. Yes, a very bad location. But Steeles and Laureleaf could have been a hit had they known what they were doing.

                            2. re: embee

                              I remembered this deli. They originally called themselves Reuben Schwartz's & tried to mimic the exact same menu as Schwartz's in Montreal. That sent alarm bells to Schwartz's. What got Schwartz's deli in Montreal the most furious, was using the Reuben Schwartz's name(Reuben Schwartz's was the name of the founder & long-time owner of Schwartz's).

                              1. re: embee

                                Schwartz's I don't think has the capacity to produce anymore smoked meat product in its current configuration(if they wanted to expand to the wholesale market). They would have to open a separate location to fulfill their wholesale needs. They have had offers to open a location in Toronto, & even seriously considered opening a second location on Crescent street around 2 years ago.

                                1. re: BLM

                                  And I hope they don't expand. Almost every small, personal business of this type that expands or franchises ends up losing whatever made them successful.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    I have a trusted contact at Schwartz's, they won't expand anytime soon(highly doubt if they would ever).

                                    1. re: BLM

                                      What ever happened to the Briskets restaurants in Montreal? They opened up on Bishop St. in the 1980's I think, and their smoked meat was very good, made, I believe, the old-fashioned way. If I recall, they opened a couple of other locations which never took off.

                                      1. re: FlavoursGal

                                        I don't know if they are still around. They opened to raves in the eighties, but branched way out and turned the food into crap. I was in a Briskets in Ottawa in the late eighties. Yuck...

                                        1. re: FlavoursGal

                                          Briskets for most part has been gone from the Montreal restaurant landscape since you moved from Montreal, but they still have the one location on Beaver Hall(downtown Montreal). I suspect they don't make their own smoked meat anymore.

                                  2. re: embee

                                    Boy, I have to agree with pretty much everything you wrote, embee, except I would call Mel's smoked meat rubber rather than plastic.

                                    I used to go into Reuben's King Street location on a regular basis, and for the most part enjoyed the sandwiches. I got to know the owner and his sidekick Jerry fairly well; they were happy to take me on a tour of the operations when I asked. They showed me how the meat was dry brined with spices, and I got a look at the smoker in action.

                                    About the Reuben Schwartz name: the owner told me that as a kid he lived on the same street as old man Schwartz and I think he said that the widow gave him or sold him the original Schwartz recipe. That was the claim, anyway.

                                    The one thing I always found a little off-putting was their New York/New Jersey in-your-face style of hospitality; it was really out of place for Toronto. They kind of barked at the customer immediately upon entering, and I'm sure they scared off more than a few.

                                    But they were always quick to hold out a plate of freshly sliced meat for anyone to try.

                                    I've had Schwartz's on a few occasions, The Main twice, Centre Street a few times, and I don't think any of them are spectacular. In fact I think Schwartz's and The Main are not that much different, with the former being a bit better with the spices and the latter more tender. But neither spectacular (I had an uncle and aunt with their own deli in Detroit, and it remains the deli highlight for me at this point).

                                    I've had sandwiches from the Corned Beef House, The New York Deli, Pancers, etc, and while some of them make a sandwich that'll do, no one makes a great one. I can't fathom why Toronto is such a wasteland in that regard.

                                    1. re: Mississauga Matt

                                      Toronto does not have any good family run deli's that have corned beef or pastrami like they used to make. All the good Jewish delis are gone. The population is too modern. Remember Switzer's on Spadina? That tradition is gone, lost. Montreal still has some families that carry on the old tradition. Kishka?? Some don't know what it is. Panser's, OK Pickle Barrel??

                                    2. re: embee

                                      When I worked nearby I would go to Reuben's as much as my arteries would allow.

                                      I loved the meat. Just about as good as Schwatz's - the only thing like it in Toronto.

                                      It is because of the quality of Reuben's that I was so underwhelmed by Caplansky's meat. Why was everyone fawning over his smoked meat and not Reuben's - must be even better, I thought. Not even close.

                                      I miss that greasy little deli.

                                      1. re: Sui_Mai

                                        You are absolutely right, and I loved that place also. Unfortunately, as I posted above two years ago, they did almost everything they could have done to ruin their business.

                                        Their location, service, and attitude sucked and they never even tried to draw the clientele they really needed. Instead of Jewish Montreal expats and local deli lovers in general, they went after tourists on their way to the theatre.

                                        Their original Steeles location should have been a huge success. However, when customers complained that the meat tasted different from the stuff at other local delis, they essentially told the customers to get lost. Yet they never merchandised what they did have to locals who would have cared. They just chose to shut down.

                                        Jerry, the King St waiter, who I personally liked, used a shtick that frightened potential customers (mostly tourists) away from the door. Trying to "be" Schwartz was also a mistake and nearly got them sued.

                                        Whatever the means used to acquire the recipe and methods, the meat was close to Schwartz at the start and a dead ringer at the end.

                                        Caplansky didn't try to be Schwartz, or anything else. He didn't have a purchased or purloined recipe. What he did have was passion, a willingness to hear his customers, and the personal skills to be a great host.

                                        Zane also got very lucky. When ReubenS opened, a local guy with good North American media connections (David Sax) was not writing a book about the "Death of Deli". His timing turned out, by fluke, to be perfect. Most importantly, he doesn't frighten his customers out the door.

                                        Zane also got the good reviews that ReubenS also deserved. Now gave Zane a great review, but sent smoked meat seekers to Mel's rather than to ReubenS back in the day. Perhaps Now's reviewer learned what smoked meat was supposed to be between then and now.

                                        1. re: embee

                                          V. interesting. Thanks for the insight.

                                    3. re: BLM

                                      part of the reason is there is no expert SM cutters in TO. it makes a differnece on how it is cut.

                                  3. Moe Pancer's on the west side of Bathurst, just north of Wilson is definitely above average. I know, I know, not as good as anything that might be served in Montreal, but it more than adequetly meets most smoked meat or corned beef craving.

                                    1. Senior's restaurant one block south of St. Clair and on Yonge street is operated by Eddie and he has been there for at least 38 years. They have been serving Montreal smoked meat all this time. Eddie is Greek and the place serves standard fare, hamburgers steaks etc.
                                      Nice setting. I had a smoked meat sandwich and it tasted very good. I was pleased. Not dry but tender and tasty. The fries are good too. The portion was agreeable. (I'm not a smoked meat gourmet yet I know something when I like it)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mikervin

                                        There is no Schwartz's in Toronto - nothing even close. The three best choices in Toronto are 1) Centre St. Deli; 2) Pancers on Bathurst 3) a real surprise, Zoupy's on King Street.

                                        1. re: sysimms

                                          I second Zoulpy's, the sammy I had there measured in at 3.5 inches meat alone, not including the bread! Taste was great, too.

                                      2. I can't help you find any smoked meet in Toronto, in London I can maybe you can help, I need to purchase some Raki before May 1, I live in London...any info?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. The Corned beef house on Adelaide will surprise many. The Reuben has been voted Torontos best. The montreal smoked meat is quite moist and flavourfull, I believe they bring it in from Lesters in Montreal

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: iceman1662

                                            Glad to hear. I know CH poster embee would disagree with me, but the smoked meat I've tasted at Lesters in Montreal lately have been pretty good(good amount of fat & very tasty). Plus Lesters was packed with customers at lunch(reminded me of the crowds at Schwartz's).

                                          2. I've said this to more than just a few of my friends, that is, it wouldn't matter even if Schwartz's opened a restaurant right in the midst of Toronto or, for that matter, if another restaurant imported authentic Schwartz's meat into the city. Just as long as the place didn't look like the real McCoy, wasn't truly located amidst the Montreal ambiance, didn't have facsimile of the Montreal waiters, and, last but not least, didn't have the truly diverse customer base that the real Schwartz's has - then people would just continue to kvetch. The fact of the matter is there is only one place in the whole wide wonderful world to get Montreal smoked meat and you guys know where that is! :)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: DrBehavior

                                              No dispute about your ambiance comments, but I'll still take the meat any day at home. I was even happy with the attempts of the much maligned (and justifiably so) Reuben S. to try to make the real thing.

                                            2. Every time this topic comes up on other Toronto boards I frequent, people are so fast to say Katz's Deli on Dufferin.. I *always* disagree with that, but I'm even more surprised not a single person in this thread mentioned it..

                                              I think the best Smoked Meat I've had in the GTA probably comes from Peter's on Eglinton in Mississauga, however, I gotta admit I've never tried Center St. Deli..

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: duckdown

                                                Katz's is one of the best sources of pastrami. It's machine sliced and too dry (even when ordered medium), but there aren't a lot of other alternatives. I wouldn't bother even trying their smoked meat and I've never heard anyone order it when I've been there.

                                                Centre St has been the long time champ (not counting the short lived Reuben S, who made the real dry cured version), but I had a pretty awful batch of old fashioned there last week.

                                                Do you know where Peter's gets their meat? If they make it themselves or it's from Quebec smoked meat, I want to check it out. But colour me doubtful.

                                                1. re: embee

                                                  Peters has a big sign out front announcing that they use Lesters. I have had their smoked meat and it's OK but not dry cured and not anywhere near Schwartz's quality.

                                                2. re: duckdown

                                                  Though I did enjoy my sandwich at Peter's (actually I could only finish half in a sitting), I found the meat was cut too thin and was a bit too dry for my liking. Growing up eating Centre St. Deli regularly, I am used to my meat being cut thick, served warm and with observable fat (ordered medium).

                                                  Something tells me that Peter's clientele would probably be a little taken back being served a sandwich in the style of Schwartz's/Centre St., i.e. thick and fatty meat.

                                                  1. re: duckdown

                                                    I agree Peter's on Eglinton is right up there. The portion sizes are . .er. . . vast. . . feed a family of 4 kinda deals. I also like the Montreal Deli on Dundas just west of the 427. Having been raised in Montreal Katz's does not even come close to what I think of as half decent. I'd rather have a Big Mac. (even if I Mac Throw up and Mac Die). The other good thing about Schwartz's is their cheesecake. . . I've not heard anybody mention them.

                                                    1. re: Alacrity59

                                                      What Schwartz's are you referring to? I wasn't aware that the smoked meat mecca in Montreal sold cheesecake (or any other dessert, actually).

                                                      1. re: embee

                                                        The SMM in M, Schwartz's, does not. Must be some other place.

                                                        1. re: embee

                                                          No desserts at all at Schwartz's. That might change soon, as their take-out counter next door, has finally opened(they plan to add more items to their current menu).

                                                    2. Pancers and Colemans are the most authentic tasting delis in T.O. And surprisingly - if you're near Yorkville, New Yorker deli has some great sandwiches and my fave matzo ball soup in the city.

                                                      1. if you're in to a "real" dining experience - check out Dunn's Smoked Meat at Costco - four bucks and a massive pickle on a multi-grain bun, albeit a wonderbreadish bun, it's a pretty decent sandwich. You can buy a box of six in their food section for about 15 bucks. Much better than Katz's!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: jkmanosque

                                                          The buns are seven grain, from their in-store bakery; not Wonderish, but also not rye.
                                                          I always ask them to give me smoked meat that is freshly steamed and pink. If it is grayish, it has been too long in the steamer. The sandwich is a bit more than $4., maybe $6. The pickle is Moishe's full sour, which they also sell by the jar. Mustard is standard French's.

                                                          The box of Dunn's they sell in the preserved meat section is great to keep at home. Properly steamed, or even carefully zapped, each packet yields a better home sandwich than many restaurants.

                                                          1. I've eaten in delis all over the world, and have never found any place that beats the invariably satisfying Schwartz's in Montreal. But it's a bit of a drive from Toronto, so I'm settling nowadays for the mere half-hour drive north to Centre Street Deli or, closer to where I live, Moe Pancer's, on Bathurst Street north of Wilson Ave. I find none of the others in Toronto are worth considering. These others are either bland total washouts or - like Coleman's - too inconsistent to be worthy of regular deli-food visits.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: juno

                                                              Agreed. We make a Schwartz's and Au Pied du Cochon pilgrimage every summer. And Saturday mornings at Atwater Market. Mmmmmm....medium smoked meat with fries, a pickle, a couple of cherry peppers, and a black cherry pop. We may have to go again this fall too.

                                                            2. For my money-Carnegie's in New York is still the best beef brisket, corned, smoked or pickled...forget the Toronto or Montreal snobbery...let's not forget where the true deli capitol is....

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: robgm

                                                                Carnegie's in NYC - line up to get in, cockroaches crawling all over the walls, the rudest servers ever. No thanks. Doesn't matter what the feed tastes like, it's a dump.

                                                                1. re: Jean Georges

                                                                  Carnegie is a classic tourist trap, though they do actually serve a tasty pastrami sandwich and good cheesecake. I don't think many New Yorkers actually eat there any more. You might enjoy Alan Richman's article about Jewish waiters that explains some of the cultural shtick there.


                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                    Really enjoyed that article.Disappearing breed indeed.Hilarious outtakes,great biograghy!

                                                                2. re: robgm

                                                                  Katz's in NYC is the corned beef/pastrami king of the world, IMHO.
                                                                  Centre Street Deli is the best in the GTA.
                                                                  To be honest, I've never really gotten the whole Schwartz's mystique, but the smoked beef is excellent.

                                                                3. $10.95 for the smoked meat on rye with fries,small coleslaw and a pickle.
                                                                  Taxes not included.
                                                                  Center St. Deli special,to go.
                                                                  Pricey and forgettable.
                                                                  Preferred the $10.00 smoked beef brisket at Toronto's Festival of Beer.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ultrablue

                                                                    forgettable? I have heard many people say it isnt as good as shwartzs, but this is the very first forgettable!! I highly recommend you try it again. And if you have the time, you may wish to eat-in so the fries are at their best!

                                                                    1. re: deelicious

                                                                      Very sadly, my smoked meat (medium old fashioned) at Centre St a couple of weeks ago was rubbery and forgettable. I hope it was just a bad brisket, but they use industrially cured meat, which tends to be consistent. I'd never considered their meat even close to Schwartz, but it has been the best Toronto could offer since the demise of Reuben S. I'm nervous.

                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                        Well if tends to be consistent then it should be consistently good. I would assume it was a bad brisket or handled incorrectly by someone. I doubt it means that we will never get a good sandwich there again.

                                                                  2. Since nobody has posted it yet....My rec is for "Montreal Deli" on Dundas St E in Mississauga (2055 Dundas St E).

                                                                    1. In terms of pure smoked meat, in Toronto you should only go to Centre Street.
                                                                      Any others aren't worth mentioning, though i will not to Dunn's and Mel's strictly because they are so awful. If you wish to see how bad smoked meat can be, then do check them out.
                                                                      The meat at Centre Street is the same as Snowdon Deli in Montreal. They use a specialized Lester's product, steam the shit out of it, then HAND CUT it. My parents are ex-Montreal Jews and they and their ilk all gather at Centre St. on Sundays.

                                                                      In terms of the rest of the city's delis, the top of the heap are Pancer's, Coleman's, and Yitz's. I've heard decent things about New Yorker Deli on Bay and mixed on Katz's. The further it is from Bathurst, the more skeptical you should be.


                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: mutant4

                                                                        Took me a month to get down to Moe Pancers's Deli,3856 Bathurst St.,north of Wilson on the west side.Sunday at 11:30am was a good window of opportunity to tuck into the $9.95 hot beef tongue on rye/sm.potato salad/sm.coleslaw/dill pickle special.Felt good enough to order a smoked meat on rye afterwards too! Signifigant crowd started to build after 12:30.(semingly local patrons/friends of longtime owner)"Bite into History" is the restaurant motto and a Zagat recommend is printed on the bottom of the menu.Still awaiting L.L.B.O. approval,I had a coffee(extra)and I understand they have been at this location for 2 years, after a long tenancy futher north on Bathurst.Enjoyed the old restaurant atmosphere,even though it was my first time inside and preferred the overall experience comparatively to Center St. deli.Saying that,Center St. does offer more of a shopping venue but I still reserve my current opinion on their smoked meat sandwich...untill I go back for another "eat in" special.

                                                                      2. Just wanted to say thanks to the people who mentioned the Costco smoked meat.. I was reading this thread yesterday, and we JUST had signed up for a Costco membership last week... So yesterday I headed over and picked up a box of Dunn's packets and I can't believe how good they are... Very impressed

                                                                        32 Replies
                                                                        1. re: duckdown

                                                                          You can get this meat to take home at the Costco on Wilson, though apparently not at all Costco locations. It comes from a revived Dunn's operation in Montreal and is not the meat served at the Dunn's delis operating in Ontario. Indeed, this meat is better than the dreck that was served by the "original" Dunn's on Ste. Catharine in Montreal. I checked it out, and it wasn't good enough to justify a Costco membership for us. It's hardly special - somewhat bland and you get whatever is in each sealed plastic packet. (Yes, I would have joined for the smoked meat alone had it been good enough.) But it isn't bad. It's a great lunch IF you happen to be at Costco.

                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                            I happened to be there yesterday getting some fresh haddock. I think I must have picked up a pkg. that smoked meat, but I didn't read about it. I was more interested in the imported proscuitto and speck. So how do you serve that smoked meat? Warm it up? In a sandwich?

                                                                            1. re: Yongeman

                                                                              You dunk the plastic bag into hot water (below the boiling point) and just leave it there until it is hot. The label probably suggests how long to heat it - I don't know specifically. You could also boil the package or puncture the plastic and nuke it, but you risk making it tough.

                                                                              Serve it as a warm sandwich on rye or, a bit iconoclastically, on a kaiser or a baguette. You could also put some into eggs or a hash.

                                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                                That's great embee. Wasn't sure if or how you'd warm it up. By the way, do you have a favourite rye loaf?

                                                                                1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                  The classic deli rye is Silverstein's, direct from their bakery in a paper (not plastic) bag and sliced at the time of use. Silverstein's (pre-sliced in a plastic bag) and Open Window are widely available. I prefer caraway rye, but the Montreal classic style uses plain. It also uses screaming yellow mustard -- I personally prefer German hot, spicy brown, or even fine Dijon.

                                                                                  The sourdoughs from places like Fred's Bread or Brick Street are much better, but I suspect will taste too strong and overwhelm this relatively low intensity meat.

                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                    Yeah, I think it must be difficult to screw up a rye bread. I've often bought one at Bagel Plus (think that's the name) at Bathurst and Sheppard, after getting meats at Wolfie's. It's good, as is Silverstein's and others I've tried.

                                                                                    1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                      Harbord Bakery would be another good source.

                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                        Costco has just added slabs of Dunn's smoked meat brisket, shrink wrapped at $11/kg, and I brought one home. I was able to select a moderately fatty cut. The spice is on the meat, no black painting.
                                                                                        Any suggestions for cooking and slicing this piece?

                                                                                        1. re: jayt90

                                                                                          Which Costco's have these?

                                                                                          I'm flying blind here, never having tried it. I suspect you could give it the "hot water bath in the plastic bag" treatment, but I don't know how long it would take to heat up.

                                                                                          Alternatively, you could treat it as if it were fresh and steam it gently for a half hour, or even much longer. The trick is to hit a spot where the meat is both hot and fully hydrated, but hasn't gone above the temperature it reached originally. I don't know what this is - Mr (I think his name is) Kligman might be willing to tell you - but 180 F or so is probably safe. The temperature must rise slowly, or you can end up with meat that is (seemingly paradoxically, though it really isn't) waterlogged and dry at the same time.

                                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                                            I got my brisket at Ajax, which is nearby. I suspect Wilson Av. would have it, and maybe Warden, or Queensway. Don't have phone numbers.

                                                                                            My plan is to steam a small slab to 180F, and serve on fresh rye. Am I right in slicing 1/8" across the grain?

                                                                                            I should be able to post a photo tomorrow at this time.

                                                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                                                              yes but be careful to turn to stay against the grain. thickness is personal preference.

                                                                                              i would steam it too.

                                                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                When I checked, Warden didn't even have the little packets for sale. (They did sell the sandwiches at their snack bar.)

                                                                                                You need to watch the grain carefully. One of the little nasties of brisket is that the grain runs in different directions and you may need to keep turning it as you slice. That's why restaurants usually don't get it right. I don't know whether it remains true today but, in sixties Montreal, "smoked meat cutter" was a well respected craft.

                                                                                                If it has a real natural cure texture, I'd cut it thicker. But that's up to you. The taste changes with changing thickness - another of those weird brisket quirks.

                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                  As Montreal Smoked Meat is difficult to get in Toronto, I made my own, from 1/2 of a shrink wrapped package from Dunn's.

                                                                                                  I steamed about 1lb. in a small Staub pot, on a bed of onions. There was a good layer of fat in the centre of the meat.

                                                                                                  I sliced after about 50 minutes, and after a ten minute rest, across the grain, and it was tender.

                                                                                                  It was served on very fresh rye (Breadhouse) with a slice of red onion and Maille Dijon. The effective price, for two sandwiches, is about $8.

                                                                                                  It was really fine, especially with the almost dissolved fatty layer.
                                                                                                  Spicing was a bit bland, no smokiness, but all in all, a great sandwich.

                                                                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                    A few comments:

                                                                                                    - Your pictures show the "flat" sitting on top of the fat. Hopefully you steamed it with the fat above. If not, do the remainder with the fat above and see if it comes out tasting better.

                                                                                                    - This particular brisket has too much fat in the wrong place (i.e., waste) and not enough marbled within the meat. If possible, pick a brisket with a more even ratio between the two main sections of the brisket.

                                                                                                    - Do you know how to identify a natural cure? I can't tell from the photos whether the meat is punctured with needle marks or not. If it is a natural dry cure, it has some possibilities. I'm thinking you could sprinkle a spice mixture all over the meat, press it in, and let it sit for a few days. Possibly crushed coriander seeds, crushed black peppercorns, ground ginger. If the meat is NOT especially sweet, a small amount of brown sugar. This is essentially what Moe Pancer's does to their pastramis.(Since you won't be adding salt or a curing agent, the spices won't penetrate deeply, but there will be some rimming every slice.) Then steam it.

                                                                                                    To go a step further, you can improvise a stovetop smoker. Cover the bottom of a large heavy pot (which has a tight lid) with heavy duty foil. Put a full pan of water into the pot on top of the foil. Sprinkle some sawdust (oak might be good - hickory will definitely give you the wrong flavour) all around the outside of the water pan on the foil. Put a rack over everything, put the brisket on the rack, and heat on high until you get smoke. Then cover tightly and steam it.

                                                                                                    The Costco nearest me, Warden, didn't carry the packets, much less whole briskets. Given travel distance, and as a family of two with limited storage, we've never been motivated to join Costco. If some added spice and smoke takes it up a few levels, I might be tempted. It won't match my homemade pastrami, but it also won't take three weeks to make. (I've never had the talent of predicting a craving three weeks ahead and I can't use my smoker successfully on a cold winter's day.)

                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                      There may be a needle groove in the first photo, just above the fat.

                                                                                                      I did not know about fat side up, so I'll change the steaming for the next batch. This one was tender, anyway. The lump of fat in the centre was a surprise, but I was OK with it. The really well-marbled slabs were $20 plus, and I stayed with a moderate piece for the first effort.

                                                                                                      And I will add some spices for a few days. I don't think I'll smoke it, unless the weather is co-operative, on my patio, in a Weber.

                                                                                                      You might want to re-think Costco, embee, as they always seem to have new things coming in, like Moishe's salads, pickles, and dogs, and, apparently, boiled bagels. If you hit a dry period, they will refund the full amount of the membership. Too bad they are not going to Cherry St., as rumored. I have a phone number for Ajax 905 619-6677, and they can find out what is available in the other places.

                                                                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                        The fat on top is about flavour as much as about issues of tenderness. I'm curious as to whether you can taste a difference or not.

                                                                                                        I wouldn't recommend smoking it in your Weber. There's too great a chance of toughening it and drying it out. A real smoker can hold a temperature of less than 200 F with moisture in the air. That would be pretty hard to do in your Weber. The stovetop smoker keeps the meat hydrated - you are smoking and steaming at the same time.

                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                          That's true, embee, but take that brisket, give it a spicy dry rub and do smoke it in your Weber with some mesquite or hickory chips. Mmmmm, Texas style brisket.

                                                                                                          1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                                            I think I'll do that, yongeman, and with care hold the temp downwards, embee.
                                                                                                            Is there a tradition in rubbing and smoking cured brisket? (meaning Texas style, rather than Roumanian).
                                                                                                            The pricing of this meat is attractive, at $11/kg. I have to pay as much or more for fresh brisket, and sometimes it is very tough. This one was easy to work with.

                                                                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                              You won't get a Texas style brisket starting with a Montreal smoked meat! The key issue is that a Texas style brisket isn't cured. The end result might (or might not) be delicious, but it won't be Texas BBQ or Montreal smoked meat.

                                                                                                              Thinking about this, one exhibitor at the downtown Toronto ribfest a few years ago (I haven't been to one more recently) was serving "Montreal smoked meat sandwiches" that tasted like hickory smoked pastrami - probably more or less what you'd get. It was pretty good, though not "wow".

                                                                                                              For the Texas style, you just rub the surface of a raw brisket with whatever appeals (plain salt and pepper is quite common; any commercial rub that you like would probably be fine). Then you smoke it "low and slow".

                                                                                                              For my most recent Texas style brisket, I set the smoker temp to 210 F. I filled the water pan and smoked it over hickory with a small amount of mesquite until the meat hit about 195. This took about 11 hours with a six pound double brisket. That's it!

                                                                                                              A pastrami doesn't smoke nearly this long, but is steamed to complete the cooking. The Texas brisket isn't steamed, though you might want to leave it sealed in a paper bag for a few hours before carving.

                                                                                                              I don't have the kind of expertise with Texas BBQ that I have with Jewish deli. But I was surprised at how easy this was, given the mystique of Southern BBQ. I've only done this a few times, and it hasn't met my definition of perfect. But it has been much better than anything served at a GTA "BBQ joint". I really don't understand why so many people seem to have so much trouble with this process - or perhaps I've just been lucky.

                                                                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                                                                I doubt that it was luck, embee. More like TLC. I've done slow cooked brisket and pulled pork, as well as ribs and chicken in my little Weber kettle. Mine was more of a Southern style rather than Texas. They came out delicious and smokey and not dried-out, because I was checking constantly, adding charcoal and wood chips as needed.
                                                                                                                Yeah, I was referring to raw brisket in my previous post.

                                                                                                                1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                                                  I shouldn't admit this and spoil my image :-)

                                                                                                                  With the insulated electric smoker, I don't need much TLC. It isn't quite set it and forget it, but it's close. I just put a thermometer probe into the meat, set the therm to my end point, and close the door.

                                                                                                                  The smoker holds its set temperature more precisely than my regular oven. Damp wood chips get added from the outside. I need to watch the exhaust stack and add more wood when the smoke stops. That's about all the care it needs.

                                                                                                                  The issues I still need to sort out are:

                                                                                                                  - Whether to marinate the brisket in a spicy oil and, if so, for how long
                                                                                                                  - The spice balances in my rubs (and marinade if used)
                                                                                                                  - How many hours of smoke to apply - smoking for the entire time isn't necessary. It's beginning to look like half the cooking time is plenty
                                                                                                                  - The specific woods and combinations I like best.

                                                                                                                  That sounds like a lot, but, really, it's only because I'm being picky. I have found that I can use any commercial rub I like, put the brisket into the smoker, add an 80:20 mix of hickory:mesquite, refill three times, and cook (6 pounds) for eleven hours. What comes out is tender. The juiciness depends on he fat content of the deckle, but it has never been unacceptably dry. There is no need to mop the meat with a wet sauce while cooking. The meat is redolent of the smoke, and is still wonderful after several days in the fridge. It is best warmed up by steaming, but a gentle nuking wrapped in a wet towel works also - in both cases, the aroma perfumes the house. (Sauce when serving is always a possibility, but has never been necessary for palatability.) Yet Thuet and Phil can't get it right very often.

                                                                                                                  There's no smoke ring, which may or may not be inevitable with an electric smoker, but this doesn't impact the taste at all.

                                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                                    Wow, sounds great. Do you have to do the smoking outside?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                                                      Yes, indoors is impossible. It would mess up the house, make us gag, and possibly poison us, even with the 550 CFM kitchen exhaust on high. The unit is very well insulated, but I suspect that it won't do the job in the dead of winter. I will try heating it up on a very cold day to find out, though. It is so much better than I expected it to be that perhaps it'll surprise me.

                                                                                                    2. re: jayt90

                                                                                                      It is now almost two years since Costco sold slabs of Dunn's smoked meat in the GTA.

                                                                                                      It's back!.

                                                                                                      I picked up a slab today in Ajax. There was a lot to choose from, so I looked for something well marbled, and small enough for my limited fridge space.
                                                                                                      They also had the SS wok steamers , now at $40. I may get one.

                                                                                                      Over the past two years they have had Dunn's smoked meat packets. Useful for a quick microwave fix, or lunch in a bare lunchroom.
                                                                                                      I don't know how long they will have slabs of Dunn's briskets.
                                                                                                      The price is $12/kg., about half as much as Goldin's, or Schwartz' take out.
                                                                                                      The packing plant numbers are Canada 501, 36833, which should identify the packer.

                                                                                                      I think the photos show an honest, though commercial, spicing and smoking job.
                                                                                                      I know I really enjoyed the meat I got two years ago, gently steamed and served on really fresh rye from my neighborhood baker, Terrance at Breadhouse. .

                                                                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                        how big of a vessel to fit that? looks like i wont have anything that big :(

                                                                                                        1. re: duckdown

                                                                                                          They were all cut long and thin, many from the deckle end.
                                                                                                          I'll be dividing mine in two pieces, will report on the first one on the weekend.
                                                                                                          The stale date is at the end of July.

                                                                                                          As I mentioned, they have a SS wok/steamer at $40. How did you manage steaming or simmering Goldin's?

                                                                                                          1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                            the goldins one was just borderline too big, but the one in your picture looks longer for sure... long enough that it'd only probably be 3/4 submerged in the boiling water :(

                                                                                                            maybe i'll look into this steamer...

                                                                                                            1. re: duckdown

                                                                                                              Yeah, me too. It would definitely handle the size, but (1) it is SS, not the best for stir fry (Not a factor for you!) and (2) it has a rounded bottom so electric heat may be out. I'd have to look at it more closely.

                                                                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                I bought the steamer. It is flat bottomed, and quite large, two lobsters would fit in.
                                                                                                                I'm steaming the Dunn's smoked meat brisket, plus a smoked tongue of my own, and some new potatoes. Out at 10 PM.

                                                                                                        2. re: jayt90

                                                                                                          Steaming was just right for this slab of Dunn's smoked meat.
                                                                                                          After two hours, the meat fluffed up, and was tender, with all the flavorings of the original cure.
                                                                                                          This $18. slab of smoked beef was well worthwhile.

                                                                                          2. re: embee

                                                                                            N.B.: I was very surprised to learn that Silversteins is not kosher. Great products, but they don't keep separate kitchens.

                                                                                            1. re: Ginsugirl

                                                                                              Depends on your definition of "kosher". Since they are not under supervision, they can't use the word kosher. And since they operate on Shabbat, they can't get supervision in Ontario anyway. But I'm not aware of anything made by Silverstein's that contains non-kosher ingredients or meat. The kitchen issue is probably not relevant.

                                                                                2. Whatever happened to Yitz's Delicatessen Restaurant at Avenue Road and Eglinton Avenue West?
                                                                                  I used to live in Toronto and, at least at that time - 14 years ago - , they made fine sandwiches and had wonderful bread for sale.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: DrBehavior

                                                                                    They are still around at the same location and serve edible, but very mediocre, food. Not worth a journey, though useful in the neighbourhood. Possibly Chicago 58 meat - I'm not certain. They do still have an onsite bakery. They've never been a smoked meat deli.

                                                                                    I assume Yitz retired some time ago. I believe he was the manager of the original Spadina Shopsy's in the early seventies and then opened his own place.

                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                      What about Coleman's at Bathurst and Lawrence....last time we were there about a year ago, the pastrami was quite good. Our other go to place is Katz's....great french fries too!!

                                                                                      1. re: millygirl

                                                                                        It's been a few years since I've been to Coleman's but I remember that the meat was good. I probably had Pastrami too. It seems to be under-rated for some reason.

                                                                                        1. re: Jean Georges

                                                                                          The reason Coleman's is under-rated is because it's not consistent. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not (though it's never terrible). Moe Pancer's, just north of Coleman's, on Bathurst St. north of Wilson, is more consistent. If you insist on going to Coleman's, try during lunch hour, when it's usually busy, and the meats don't spend any appreciable time drying out in the steam table.

                                                                                          1. re: Jean Georges

                                                                                            Coleman's isn't a "bad" deli. It has the right ambiance and the right smells. It's mobbed at lunch, though mainly deserted at other times. Their food is not consistent and many things are extremely expensive for what you actually get. There seems to be an identity clash between being a neighbourhood deli and "Coleman's the Corporate Caterer". But their corned beef hash is amazing, and is worth a special trip if you love corned beef hash.

                                                                                    2. O.K., there is smoked meat for Montrealers and smoked meat for Torontoians. Toronto loves Yitz's and Katz Dedi, whereby Montrealers love Centre Street Deli, allbeit overpriced!!! and Mississauga Deli on Dundas Street...(AHA!) Reminds me of Lesters Smoked Meat..and by the way...their Pizza's are like the ones you would remember form Mike's Submarine.... sigh...smoked meat withdrawl....

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Foodie Boy

                                                                                        Do they have also have subs that evoke Mike's submarine? Note that my memories are of Mike's the family owned dive on Somerled in the sixties; not the glitzy franchise operation that came later.

                                                                                        1. re: Foodie Boy


                                                                                          Where is the Mississauga Deli? Are you speaking of the Montreal deli on Dundas?


                                                                                          1. re: bjinyyz

                                                                                            Sorry bjinyyz....I meant Montreal Deli on Dundas. Still the best Montreal smpked meat sandwich in the city and reasonably priced, too.

                                                                                        2. I don't know why everybody always slags Mel's Montreal Deli. Sure, you would never want to sit in there, the place has all the ambiance of a penitentiary, but getting take out is perfectly fine. Maybe it's just me, but I love those slabs of heart-cloggingly fatty brisket, much more satisfying than the much leaner, thinly sliced stuff you get everywhere else.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Ginsugirl

                                                                                            I'll try to give you a direct answer to your direct question...

                                                                                            To me, Mel's serves extremely bad food in an atmosphere that is (as you imply) depressing beyond belief. With the added bonus of bad service and physical discomfort. But I'd happily deal with that atmosphere to get great smoked meat.

                                                                                            A Mel's smoked meat sandwich is sort of edible when freshly steamed and sliced. They know how to slice brisket, which is unusual in Toronto, and is important. But the meat has a strong chemical aspect that overwhelms my palate and often has digestive after effects.

                                                                                            The texture of the meat just isn't meat like. It is somehow denatured by its accelerated injection curing process and it has no chew. Indeed, it strikes me as some kind of vaguely plastic or rubbery substance. The slices are shiny and multi-hued. When cold, you can see chemical traces on the slices. There is NO actual spice on the meat. Instead, flavouring concentrates are injected with the curing solution. The briskets are literally painted black to appear smoked. When cold, and sometimes even when warm, this stuff has neither the taste nor the texture of real meat (even though a cow did meet its end at some point in the process).

                                                                                            If you like it, enjoy it. Taste (along with smell) is an extremely personal sense and evokes strong emotional reactions in addition to its more objective attributes. Sure, other places are worse than Mel's, but Mel's positions itself as a smoked meat specialist, and they don't actually serve real smoked meat.

                                                                                            You might not even like a "real" cured, spiced, smoked brisket if you encounter one someplace else. It is a very different food. The "old fashioned" sold at Centre St isn't actually old fashioned and isn't even close to first rate but, when steamed thoroughly and sliced properly, it retains characteristics of a brisket that Mel's version just doesn't have.

                                                                                            This situation exists with many foods, and often causes the real, artisanal, version of the food to disappear. If you've only eaten canned ham, a Smithfield might make you gag. The bakery manager at my local Loblaw's can't stand the newish PC cream pies because he finds their topping, whipped cream, "weird and disgusting". To him, something akin to Cool Whip tastes "right". If you've only eaten
                                                                                            the "roast turkey" and "roast chicken" products sold in every supermarket that are really bolognas, you have no basis to compare them with a natural chicken or turkey - for better or for worse.

                                                                                            So I'm especially slagging the smoked meat, their claimed "specialty". But Mel's has also served me "homemade" chicken soup with no taste (though the matzo ball wasn't bad) and chopped liver that was truly awful.

                                                                                          2. There are some good places a little ways east on the 401.


                                                                                            1. Nobody has mentioned Peter's in Mississauga? I was just there for the first time in the summer. I'm ot of touch with my smoked meat, but it was pretty tasty. There sandwiches are huge, and, with fries and coleslaw, it'll run you about $15. I hate to pay a lot for a heart attack, which is why I haven't been back.

                                                                                              edit: I finally just took a refresher on this post, to find Peter's had been previously mentioned. I'll note that the meat I had there was juicy and not dry.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: dlw88

                                                                                                I'm also a fan of Peters on Eglinton..

                                                                                              2. Well I think I can say I've been to almost all of them. Switzers in the 70s put Shopsy's to shame, damn they made good beef knishes there, and their sandwiches when Eddy Switzer was alive were the best. Montreal definitely the best and I mean in the whole wide world is Schwartzs. Second place goes to Katz's in NYC and third a tie between Carnegie and Stage. But I'm surpriised that none of you here know where the best pastrami is in TO. Yep that little place that has been there for years and years called Steeles Deli Warehouse on Steeles with out a doubt puts Centre St and Kats and Colemans and Pancers all to shame. It's not Montreal Schwartz's but its damned good and its a Chinese gentleman and his wife that owns the place. And yes they make thier own briskets.So how did this happen? The original owner Steve who ran the place in the late 70s and early 80s got very sick and sold the place to the chinese couple that own it now and taught them how to cure briskets which in my opinion are the best in the city since Reuben was here for a short while on Steeles. So give it a try I've been around and I stake my reputation on it ...........JD

                                                                                                13 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Mr.D

                                                                                                  I have heard about this place on previous threads but have not been there yet. No negative comments as far as I can recall.

                                                                                                  1. re: Mr.D

                                                                                                    I agree with you about Switzer's, Schwartz, and NYC Katz's.

                                                                                                    I don't remember Eddy Switzer. The guys I do remember were named Wagman and Beck. But, yes, they had good, house cured, meat and possibly the best beef knishes on the planet. Lousy chicken soup, though. They also imported (probably smuggled) Nathan's, HN, and Hod Carmel franks from New York. They were fine until they started to franchise - maybe even for a time after that - before they tanked.

                                                                                                    I also agree with you about Carnegie and Stage, but that would be as of the sixties. I had lunch there regularly when I was in high school on West 54th St. I know the Stage went through an appalling, mob-ridden time after Max Asnas died. I stopped going there following some really bad experiences. I tend to think of today's Carnegie as a tourist trap (though with good food). Are you indicating that both of these places are again in top form?

                                                                                                    Which brings us to the Steeles Deli. I tried them for the first time recently. I can't recall specifically, but it might have been following a post of your's. I know about the Chinese couple, though they weren't there at the time. What I found was a plausible old fashioned deli with good service and okay food. Indeed, quite haymishe. I should remember to mention them. But I didn't perceive their pastrami to be particularly special or to have any house cured characteristics. It was, to be sure, a very good sandwich, and well priced. But I'm not sure about "best in the city". I sense you have some real deli cred. Is there a particular way to order that gets one a better calibre of food? (e.g., like knowing to order hand sliced with extra spice at Pancer's, or pastrami sauce at Toronto's Katz's.)

                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                      Oh ya Hy Beck and Mel Wagman remember them well. Eddy Switzer who started the place was getting old and he took those two in as partners. They just moved to Toronto from Montreal and they were very hard working guys but they got greedy and started using grades of meat that were not the best to save a buck and make more profit. Eddy died soon after and they took over the show and literally destroyed the place. It realy was an institution and I'm sure that Eddy was rolling over in his grave a couple of years after he died.
                                                                                                      As for Carniegie and Stage you and I do not have to worry about them. Was there last month and both places were hopping and the food is just as good as it always has been. But $15 a sandwich and a 3 dollar charge for sharing is getting a little kind of pricy even for NYC Still like Katz's the best down there.
                                                                                                      As for Steeles deli I hope you ordered the pastrami not anything else. The meat is usually a nice burgundy colour and it is so juicy I can't think of where I have had a better sandwich in a very long time. You must have ordered the corn beef if it was not up to par. Corned beef is more pinky and not much flavour. Try it again Embee I guarantee. By the way if you want a great sandwich and your down in South Florida on the 17th causeway in Ft. Lauderdale next to Pier 66 is another fabulous small deli that makes it like the way the Rascal House use to 20 years ago. When I remember the name of the place I will post it. JD

                                                                                                      1. re: Mr.D

                                                                                                        I did have a pastrami at Steeles. I'm way downtown most of the time, so I don't get up there very often, but I'm willing to give it another try. It was a good sandwich made with okay, but not special pastrami.

                                                                                                        BTW, Switzer's lost me as a regular customer over a dumb non-deli related incident. When I was working in the downtown core in the seventies, Switzer's opened their first branch in the TD Centre. I'd eat there at least once a week and often more frequently than that. I also used to hold informal business meetings there at very un-busy hours. So I was very well known, very good customer.

                                                                                                        One day I came in carrying a freshly squeezed orange juice (they didn't sell this). The guy who ran this place sold me a large pastrami and a beef knish. The juice was on my tray. Once I was eating, he came to my table and, without saying a word, grabbed my juice and tossed it. I was dumbfounded. Many fast food places have a "no outside food policy", but this place had never said anything. And even with such a policy, it would seem reasonable to flex for a good customer eating a large meal. At the very least, he could have come over and quietly asked me not to do it again. But he just grabbed my juice and trashed it.

                                                                                                        Not knowing whether this place was franchised, I called Spadina, where I was known very well indeed. They told me it was the guy's right to toss me out. Bye, bye Switzer's. When I next ate there, this time on Sheppard years later, the food had become crap.

                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                          Just came back from Steeles deli restaurant, 180 Steeles ave w, had the medium pastrami on rye, it was ok, it seemed to be lacking in the taste department. also the cabbage borscht soup is forgettable.

                                                                                                          I would recommend the medium smoked meat s/w at montreal deli on dundas w before this place.

                                                                                                          1. re: doubledown

                                                                                                            Allow me to put in a vote for Steeles Deli, not because it does great deli sandwiches, but because it does good, satisfying deli sandwiches at an attractive price. Sure, Centre Street Deli and Pancer's do deli somewhat better, but Steeles Deli does it well enough at its price point. Indeed, it does most things well at the price (e.g., grilled liver, with potatoes and vegetables, and soup to start, at about $12-$13), which explains why it's always busy and popular with an older Jewish clientele from the neighborhood, who crave the filling, unfussy, haymishe dishes of their youth. Now that I think of it, I've rarely seen a Gentile face in the place. It's a Jewish-style diner. with good service, a bustling, jovial atmosphere - and the right price. It won't blow you away, but you will leave contented, with not much of a hole in your pocket.

                                                                                                            1. re: juno

                                                                                                              I need help.

                                                                                                              It has been mentioned before on this post. The Montreal Deli in Mississauga on Dundas. Is this the deli that also has greek food?

                                                                                                              If so, I was there last week finally to give it a try. I cannot understand how anyone can like the smoked meat in this place. It was just terrible. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing or I hope was in the wrong place otherwise...I just don't get it!

                                                                                                              Please help.

                                                                                                              1. re: bjinyyz

                                                                                                                There's nothing to "get". There IS no top notch smoked meat anywhere in the Toronto area. See the gazillion other posts on this board.

                                                                                                                For Montreal style, the best you'll do is medium old fashioned Lester's at Centre St. Don't go near Mel's Montreal Deli on Bloor.

                                                                                                                You can get "regular" Lester's at Jody's, Corned Beef House, and a few other places around the GTA. It's machine sliced and not spicy, but it is satisfying. Zoulpy's serves a "pastrami" that tastes more like this "regular" smoked meat and also makes a satisfying sandwich.

                                                                                                                For pastrami, you'll find the best at Katz's on Dufferin. They make it in house, but it is too dry and machine sliced. Order it medium with extra "sauce". Alternatively, Pancer's on Bathurst serves a custom tweaked Chicago 58 pastrami sandwich. Ask for it medium, hand sliced, and with extra spice.

                                                                                                                Most Toronto delis also serve Greek food. Even one of the partners at Centre St is Greek.

                                                                                                                Some (definitely not all) Costco stores sell a packaged version from the revived Montreal Dunn's that isn't bad. But avoid the Dunn's restaurants in the GTA, which serve something else entirely.

                                                                                                                Save the deli, are you here? Is Mel Wagman serving housemade meat again at Switzer's or is it just a nostalgia trip?

                                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                                  I grew up and lived on Red and Harvey Pancer's food at Bathurst and Steels when I went to public school. The pastrami was great and Pancers at Bathurst and wilson is still very good. I used to live 2 mins form the Centre street deli and I know the very good quality they sell there. I was hoping for a secret location out near me at Royal York and Eglinton but no lucjk I guess. The reality is Toronto is not Montreal in bagels or smoked meat both are different and both enjoyable.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bjinyyz

                                                                                                                    The bagel situation is a bit better. Bagel House makes a very creditable Montreal style bagel (though you need to go to Leaside to get it hot from the oven).

                                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                                      Salvador Darling -- a decent coffee place in Parkdale has a sandwich menu's that includes smoked meat from Lester's in Montreal. I haven't had it but read it on the blackboard menu outside.

                                                                                                                    2. re: bjinyyz

                                                                                                                      My uncle once told me about a place called Red Pancer's. Where exactly was it and when did it close?

                                                                                                                      1. re: Brain of J

                                                                                                                        Just looking through this old thread, surprised nobody replied, well the place has been gone for decades, then located in the south east plaza at Bathurst and Steeles. The place was always busy, traditional Jewish deli. After a lunch, we'd buy some of their freshly sliced meats to take home,

                                                                                                    2. Swartz or however you spell it is vasty overated. From the best to awfull it is not consisten. Good 80% of the time but can be dry.
                                                                                                      Peters on Eglinton is as good as any Montreal Deli if not better. Lean to fatty and in between allways moist never dry. Get out to Mississauga you will have Montreal smoked meat to die for. Kats on Dufferin is also very good.

                                                                                                      For you sheltered Torontonians Peters and Katz do not take a back seat to any Montreal place period. Dunn's in late 70's early 80's was untouchable and made Shwarzts look like dog meat.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Natnic

                                                                                                        Tastes differ and, clearly, your palate and mine are miles apart.

                                                                                                        Agreed, Schwartz is not consistent, because it is an old fashioned, artisanal product. Different briskets don't necessarily taste the same. If you get it lean, it can be too dry to eat. Good 80% of the time (I don't disagree about this) is better than anything Toronto has to offer.

                                                                                                        I don't know Peter's but, if they sell Lester's, as has been posted on this board, it is exactly the same as many ho-hum Montreal delis. Since it's an industrial product, it is much more consistent. The best source of Lester's in the GTA is Centre St, where they have the "old fashioned" (which really isn't, but that's another topic) version and cut it properly. So try Centre St (which has Montreal roots) and be impressed.

                                                                                                        Katz's is among the best in town, but the pastrami there is definitely not top of the line. Their smoked meat, rarely ordered, isn't worth the bother.

                                                                                                        As to Dunn's way back when, go to Mel's on Bloor St (Toronto's worst real deli), where they sell cured rubber as bad as Dunn's sold in the era you mention.

                                                                                                      2. Oh man, we need this, badly.

                                                                                                        I would love your store... one request -- open up in BRAMPTON :)

                                                                                                        Steamies & poutine rules!

                                                                                                        1. wow that is a thought . . . I get where you are coming from Duckdown

                                                                                                          1. Michigans too!? High-density knishes? Cheesecake?

                                                                                                            1. While this bit of information won't satisfy the OP's quest for the best smoked meat in Toronto (now at Caplansky's), there's some news on the Montreal smoked meat front.

                                                                                                              Lester's Old Fashioned turned up at the Leslie Street Loblaw's last week. Given the abominable status of this store, it's undoubtedly available at other Loblaw locations. The briskets are flats, machine sliced cold, and very dry. However, unlike anything sold previously at a Toronto supermarket, this is, indeed, real (industrial cure) Montreal smoked meat.

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                                                                So Loblaws managed to do this just in time to be irrelevant. Great. Are they trying to put Caplansky's out of business or just unaware that they're now offering an inadequate "me too" product?

                                                                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                                                                  ...now offering an inadequate "me too" product...

                                                                                                                  IMHO that has always been Loblaws' MO.

                                                                                                                  1. re: grilledcheese

                                                                                                                    I agree with your "inadequate me too product" comment..

                                                                                                                    What saddens me most about Loblaw's is that they didn't always offer just "inadequate me too" products. For more than a decade, they were the most innovative mass market food retailer in North America, studied by grocers from around the world. Dave Nichol and Jim White were likely the most innovative grocers of all time and Loblaw's was considered a good place to work. Some of the PC products remain the best mass market products you can buy anywhere.

                                                                                                                    I care less about the failings of Sobey's (previously Food City) and Dominion (recently A&P; now owned by Metro). These grocers were never special.

                                                                                                                    If you're ever in Buffalo, check out the "A-level" Wegman's on Sheridan Drive in Williamsville. Wegman's used to emulate Loblaw's 25 years ago. They are now in a different league. Even the "C-level" Wegman's in Niagara Falls is better than most Loblaw stores.

                                                                                                                    I was hoping that Loblaw's would become more like Wegman's (rated best place to shop for food in the US last year and best place to work in the US a couple of years ago). Unfortunately, their fantastically expensive repositioning effort is going in the opposite direction. They are even screwing their employees with massive salary/benefit cuts.

                                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                                      I agree and recall those heady days when Loblaws revolutionized grocery shopping in Ontario. They were trendspotters that transformed home kitchens from meat and potatoes into the kind of casual and comforting exotica you wanted to serve to friends and family. Others may say what they will about Dave Nichol. I miss him greatly.

                                                                                                                      The only saving grace for Loblaws in my mind is that they didn't manage to gut Maple Leaf Gardens. If they really want to get on the feel good side of Toronto, they may consider giving it back to the the families with skating, hockey playing children as they should have done in the first place. A mea culpa if you will.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                                                                                        As a great fan, I miss Dave Nichol too and, as a small-time newspaper columnist at the time of his zenith, I remember touting him (tongue in cheek) as a possible leader of our country (this was during the time when whats-his-face was pushing free trade).

                                                                                                                        Loved Loblaws in those days.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Googs

                                                                                                                    Forget the conspiracy theories ;-)

                                                                                                                    I doubt that Loblaw's is sufficiently in touch with Toronto foodie tastes to know Caplansky's even exists. They probably got a good deal from Lester's vs their previous supplier. The smoked meat sold under their own label seems to be made from fat free bottom round.

                                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                                      Wanna hear something weird? The Concord Food Centre has this product at the deli counter (which comes from Hamilton of all places) called Montreal Smoked Meat. It's actually quite good. Of course nothing compares to the real McCoy, but this stuff is great on a crusty bun with green pepper slices and provalone. Just for fun, put a SCHMEER of dijon.

                                                                                                                      It's actually one block away from the CENTRE STREET DELI...
                                                                                                                      1438 Centre St
                                                                                                                      Thornhill ON, L4J 3N1

                                                                                                                      1. re: bubbly

                                                                                                                        Provolone on smoked meat???!!!
                                                                                                                        This really seems to be an Italian sandwich,
                                                                                                                        A true deli sandwich is no more than rye bread, sliced meat, and some mustard. There may be a religious background for this which would preclude buttered bread, or cheese, but the sandwich evolved so that the meat was front and center, with no intrusions. If those three items were not good, the deli owner would hear about it.

                                                                                                                2. As a smoked meat aficionada, I have to say my experience is rather limited. My reference is Schwartz's on the Main, in Montreal. For Reuben sandwiches, Reuben's on Ste-Catherine in MTL. I did not find yet in TO a place that beats both of them. Here are my comments:
                                                                                                                  Centre Deli has its up and down. The smoked meat can be melting in the mouth or dry and tasteless; the fries can be good or really bad. It's a matter of landing there on your lucky day.
                                                                                                                  Coleman's: the place is overdue for a makeover. The last time I was there, the seat were about to callapse under my light weight. Also the management had decided, for the sake of our health, to switch to some sort of non descript oil that made the fries absolutely unedible. Exit.
                                                                                                                  Katz's Deli on Dufferin: factory style. The meat is machine cut. I found it tough and not very tasty. The caferia atmosphere did nothing to improve my opinion about the place.
                                                                                                                  Pancer's? I pass by at least twice a week but - for some unknown reason - I cannot resolve to stop by and take a chance. So, may be I'll follow acd123's suggestion and spend a week-end in MTL, sampling their smoked meat sandwiches. Hoping I won't be disappointed.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: BeauSoleil

                                                                                                                    This is a sparse sampling, not really broad enough to form an opinion on Toronto deli or smoked meat. Coleman's is defunct. You have tasted two others, Katz and Centre St Deli.
                                                                                                                    That leaves Pancer's, Steele St., Wolfies, and Caplansky's. Each has their own following, and you may find something worthwhile; hopefully you will report back.

                                                                                                                  2. Macy's in Clarkson (Mississauga)
                                                                                                                    I haven't found anything quite the same as in Montreal but this is certainly good, and the service is amazing. Don't let the little old dinner fool you, their food is fantastic.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: fosterro

                                                                                                                      After trying to get there for many months, I finally went to the Montreal Deli in Mississauga. I have no idea why so many have raved about its smoked meat. Mediocre at the very best. Dry tasteless meat between thick dry bread. The coleslaw was also not very good. Yes, the meat was lean. I made no mention to the server lean medium or fatty, but it was without taste. Mustard was already on the bread without me asking for it, though I do like mustard. Was this perhaps a sandwich that had been made for someone in error and then served to me...again perhaps, except that we were the only customers in the place. 4:00 on Labour Day Monday. Also, what's with the French's mustard at the tables? Why would they not have a special deli mustard available? The only redeeming item was the very hot and crispy fries. The frozen variety. We also had a veal cutlet dinner. There is veal and there is veal, and this was not a tender piece of white veal. Dark in colour and not at all tender.

                                                                                                                      The only good thing is that I can take the Montreal Deli off my list of restaurants while I search for a great smoked meat sandwich in Mississauga. so far, Peter's on Eglinton has this place beat, hands down. I may try Shwartz's north the Pearson Airport, next.

                                                                                                                    2. Stockyard on St. Clair and Christie has pastrami that is excellent. It is more often than not sold out but, despite the misnomer (pastrami?), it is awesome smoked meat.

                                                                                                                      1. Upon the recommendation of someone further down in this discussion, we tried the Montreal Deli (on Dundas about 1/2 KM west of higway 427 on north side). The decor was quite dated, but the parking is free the service was reasonably friendly. I am no expert in smoked meat, frankly, but I got all excited about the topic after reading all the empassioned discourse below. Anyway, I got the regular sized smoked meat sandwich. It comes in regular and old fashioned (a bit more spiced up, as the waitress explained). I went with the old fashioned style -- About $7 for the sandwich and a pickel. I very much enjoyed it, so I endorse the endorsement below. The place did a brisk business on Saturday afternoon, with a full range of clientel demographics -- but defitnitely a noticeable retiree population. It is kid friendly -- with a $5 kid menu (burger, cheeseburger, smoked meat or something else, plus home fries, bottomless pop and desert). We'll go again after our arteries unclog. ;-)

                                                                                                                        1. Wolfies Deli...670 Sheppard ave west. A block west of Bathurst, as good as Schwartz's

                                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: stevezissou

                                                                                                                            i'll try it but that's almost certainly not the case

                                                                                                                            1. re: stevezissou

                                                                                                                              I haven't been to Wolfie's for many years, but their recommendation made me look up stevezissou's history. Before you go, call and ask them where they get their smoked meat.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                                                                Looks like Bill Murray makes it for them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                                                  I would like to believe that there is at least one other person on the board who would have the same question: who is Bill

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                                                                    based on photos it looks like their smoked meat is machine cut. is this the case?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: frogsteak

                                                                                                                                      I haven't eaten a sandwich from Wolfie's for a few years, but they were always good. Machine cut for sure. If I recall correctly, they get their meat from Lester's.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                                                                        In Montreal, Lester's is despised by all connoisseurs

                                                                                                                                      1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                                                        Now I understand. I thought that Bill Murray was somehow connected with The Murray House.
                                                                                                                                        Please link those pics of Robyn ( Rivka?) Cohen. She's Jewish and my son is looking.

                                                                                                                                2. re: stevezissou

                                                                                                                                  I'm no connoisseur but I enjoy deli sandwiches. Wolfie's is my local. Great decor too (a coca-cola shrine). I like the smoked meat, cut thin, not too fatty. Often I just buy the meat rather than a sandwich so I can have it on an All Stars Bakery light rye with caraway & my own choice of mustard. I've tried most of the other delis more than once and don't find a lot of difference between them. One recent exception is Ben and Izzy's on Bathurst south of Wilson. Excellent sandwich! Just too far for me to walk and being certified kosher means restrictions on hours of operation.