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Caplansky's Smoked Meat - The REAL deal - AMAZING!!!

Went to Caplansky's @ the Monarch Tavern for lunch today. It was their first day of business. I had the combo (smoked meat sandwich (medium), fries, coleslaw and a pickle. Oh yeah, and a Cott's cherry :-)

I was sceptical, as I am with every new place that opens up in TO. So many places are disappointing, but this place was anything but.

The smoked meat was great. Well spiced, well marbled, meltingly fatty, tender - just about perfect. I can't believe that I'm actually saying this, but Zane Caplansy's smoked meat is equal to or might be even better than Schwartz's. Definitely superior to the smoked meat at Centre Street Deli, and I don't have to drive up to cottage country to get it.

Fries were good, not JK good, but good. And the coleslaw was excellent. More often that not, coleslaw is way too sweet, more like a dessert than a salad. Not this one. Great vinegar and onion flavour with a hint of sweetness. Best coleslaw I've had in a long time.

Embee wrote that the location inside the Monarch is problematic. For me, it's conveniently located and it feels right. What do those commercials say? - "About as far from Disney as you can get" - or something like that). Not the traditional style Jewish deli - but for me, it works. I think it's cool that a Jewish deli is shoehorned inside a downscale tavern/beer hall in what is now an Italian/Portuguese neighbourhood.

Embee, I hope you're wrong that deli mavens wouldn't go there on a bet. If the deli mavens you're referring to know anything about what real smoked meat should be, they'll be lining up around the corner.

Please, please go eat at Caplansky's. Make Zane's new Jewish deli a success. I want it to last a long time. But I hope it doesn't get too big... (I'm such a pessimist - I'm already thinking that he'll get too big, try to expand or franchise, and end up ruining it :-)

Check out the posting on Save the Deli about today's opening (http://www.savethedeli.com/


Long Live Caplansy's, Toronto's New King of Smoked Meat.

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  1. Good report and good blog link. Must try Caplansky's. Do they sell by the pound? Cryovac?

    5 Replies
    1. re: mrbozo

      What is the exact address? I am going to Mapquest it.

      Also, what time does it close? Maybe I'll pass by tonight if you speak that highly of it

      1. re: duckdown

        You'll want acd123 for that info: I'm just a drooling bystander at present, like you. ;)

          1. re: duckdown

            14 Clinton St. (at Henderson Ave.)

          2. re: mrbozo

            No. There's one sandwich. That's it!

            I'll be posting to the thread at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/526769

          3. This is great news. I can't wait to try it.

            If this is the real deal (the Schwartz's comparison is going to be controversial)...can we dream the dream and hope for a poutine place next?

            2 Replies
            1. re: grandgourmand

              if "Zane's new Jewish deli" was kosher, I'd be there. I'm presuming it's not...Toronto must have more non-kosher "Jewish" restaurants than anywhere else on earth.

              Surely, there must be enough of a market to elicit an altertnative to Marky's?

              1. re: fleisch

                No, it isn't remotely kosher. While Zane would not likely be kosher under any circumstances, I blame the COR for making it so hard to get certified that some people I know who seriously wanted to open kosher delis gave up on even trying.

                There's also the sad truth that there isn't any really good tasting kosher deli meat readily available in Toronto. To be good, a kosher deli would need to cure everything in house or import it from the States (from which Rubashkin - not my favourite - is the only currently available option). Given rents in the neighbourhoods where a kosher deli would need to locate, a simple sandwich would cost a mint.

                There was a kosher deli in First Canadian Place, called Menchen's, for many years. It was hardly great, but was better than Marky's. However, that location was only useful for weekday lunches if you happened to be in the downtown core. Olympia and York undoubtedly subsidized their rent, but they eventually sold the place to a pizza chain. I believe they are still around as a caterer.

                I can understand Marky's success in their early years, as the clientele had no alternatives and no basis for comparison. I can't understand it today. I wouldn't send my worst enemy to eat there. The Miami Grill on Clark Av, though not really a deli, is likely as good as it gets.

            2. Tried this place today. Sandwich was good: noticeable smoke, decent marbling and very tasty spice.

              Only complaint I could have is that the texture of the brisket itself is just a bit too tough for my taste. I always remember the montreal places being like butter! I literally had to fight with this sandwich on a few occasions...

              Still, it will be nice to have a smoked meat deli in the area. Until I can get a sandwich at 2:00 AM I won't bother comparing it to Schwartz's.

              1 Reply
              1. re: robopope

                Traditionally cured smoked meat varies in texture. The "cuts like butter" stuff is all industrially cured. The injected chemicals create the texture. Schwartz smoked meat doesn't cut like butter. Nonetheless, you shouldn't need to fight with your sandwich.

              2. Is it better than Carnigie Deli (in New York - the VERY BEST GOLD STANDARD)?


                Is it better than Centre Street Deli?

                15 Replies
                1. re: 5andman

                  There is no reasonable comparison with either place. Carnegie and Centre St are both full service restaurants with very large menus. Zane serves one kind of sandwich, fries, cole slaw, and possibly soup.

                  I disagree that Carnegie is the "very best gold standard". They have always served tasty food when I've been there, but I haven't been there in a long time. It was much better when I went to high school in that area many years ago. It is also a tourist trap, and my understanding is that few New Yorkers eat there today. I rate Katz's as the New York gold standard and Schwartz as the Canadian.

                  1. re: embee

                    I am a Schwartz/Katz man myself, and finally got to pay Zane a visit last night. The fattier cut was indeed melt in your mouth. I personally loved the smoke, as it reminded me of pitstop BBQ in the southern states. Personally I would put the sandwich ahead of Pancer and Centre Street overall, and say that if Canada has Schwartz, than Toronto has Caplansky's. Sides could use some work, but are clearly not the focus here. The fact that the sandwich held up to the hot San Francesco veal, in my other hand, is saying a lot. I'll be back!

                    1. re: dlw88

                      dlw88, I love the image of you with a great sandwich in each hand--lol. Would have been a great photo-op.

                      1. re: Yongeman

                        Stopped in for a bite tonight and a beer at the Monarch in the sweltering heat. I found the sandwich to be deliciously smoke, a few bites of spice here and there but the texture of the brisket needs improvement. I had the medium cut which I found to be a tad dry and tough....fries are nice with fancy salt and the coleslaw has a nice perfect tang. I'll be back to try the fatty cut next time.

                        1. re: deabot

                          The girlfriend and I stopped in last night as well. Finally! :-)

                          We both had the combos and the sandwich medium as we figured that would be a safe bet on the first try. We both liked the sandwich very much and I ordered a second though this time fatty. On subsequent visits we'll be ordering fatty. Very tasty.

                          I understand with fries and coleslaw that personal tastes run all over the place. I like my fries crispy which these weren't. They were definitely freshly fried though from the heat coming off them. The course salt is nice.

                          I usually wind up hating most coleslaws as something winds up getting screwed up. However I didn't hate this coleslaw, I just wish it had a little more oil and vinegar to it. My all time favourite coleslaw is St Huberts vinegarette with Loblaws version coming the closest.

                          Had a couple visits from Zane. Nice to see such passion in what he does.

                          I just wish the Monarch Tavern had a better microbrew lineup. I've never cared for Amsterdam Blonde and while the Steamwhistle was in fine form, I like to mix up my beers.

                    2. re: embee

                      After Carnegie, I have not found anything better in Toronto or Montreal.

                      I can still taste it -- It was a total accident that I even went to Carnegie (I didn't know about it's fabled reputation -- I was younger then) ... first bite I went WOW! ... Since then I haven't found anything better.

                      1. re: 5andman

                        Were you thirty years younger, Carnegie's glory years?

                          1. re: 5andman

                            I was at Carnegie last September and it was one of the worst meals I had in NYC. A huge plate of gross.

                            1. re: airsey

                              What was the gross you paid for the gross versus what you paid for the schmeck of Schwartz's and/or Caplansky's?

                              1. re: mrbozo

                                Although I can't specifically recall the price I'm sure the schmeck of Schwartz's/Caplansky's is far cheaper and better than that of Carnegie!

                              2. re: airsey

                                I guess Druxy's at the local Mall is better ...

                                1. re: 5andman

                                  Toronto Star gave this place a good review in today's paper. If I was computer saavy I would have attached the article....sorry folks.

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      Hey thanks googs....Jamiek must be sleeping on the job. Either that or busy making frites and poutine :)

                    3. To be honest, I have never been to Montreal, nor do I know what a Montreal smoked meat sandwich is supposed to taste like, but I love smoking meat on my grill. I tried Caplansky's for my first time today where before I was always going to the corned beef house or Katz's for my meat sandwich fix. The HYPE IS REAL, Wow it was smoky and moist and ya........wow. It was one of the better sandwiches ive had in town, it crushed both Katz's and corned beef house " to which I wasnt surprised because they dont actually smoke anything". I seen several people finish their sandwich and than order one to go! I should have taken the hint because after I finished mine I wanted more. I will be back and I just hope the consistency is their. You rule Hounds!!! Keep the amazing recommendations coming!

                      1. They are right at the extreme end of my walking distance for lunch. Think I will have to marathon it and get back to the office all sweaty but it sounds like its worth it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MindGrinder

                          I visited Caplansky's last week and I certainly agree with the positive reviews. But is it the best smoked meat I've had in Toronto? Tough to say. I wouldn't necessarily say they serve a better smoked meat sandwich than let's say the Centre Street Deli. One thing is for sure, the fries at Caplansly's are superb; some of the best you'll find anywhere.

                          Nice atmosphere too. The review in the Star called The Monarch "dank." That's harsh. It was a fairly bright and cheerful place. The bartender was friendly and always quick with your drink order. And I love the idea of being able to bring in an Italian sandwich from one of the nearby sandwich shops in case you want something to eat other than a smoked meat sandwich. I saw several people doing this.

                          All in all, a great bar with some great options for food.

                          1. re: Brain of J

                            Yeah, not quite sure where that "dank" came from. Was totally bright and open when I was there. Not dank at all.

                        2. Went back for my second time yesterday. Had the medium this time instead of the fatty and I was very pleased that it was still quite juicy. The big upfront hit of barbecue-like smoke is still there, but it seemed like there was a bit more of the traditional smoked meat spice following it up this time. The slaw was a tad dried out, but it feels petty to complain about anything that accompanies that heavenly sandwich. Easily my favourite sandwich in the city.

                          After lunch, Zane gave my father, sister and I (quality sandwiches are cause for a family reunion among the tbonetaks) a quick tour of the kitchen, showing us how the smoker worked and giving us a quick synopsis or the curing process. He said he's got a thousand pounds of brisket curing now, so there's no danger he'll run out of meat again.

                          Took a quick shot of the combo here. Planning to head back to take some that show a little more meat.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tbonetak

                            I went by for my second time too. This post won't be as effusive as my first one. Regardless, I like Caplansky's a lot, and I'm willing to give them lots and lots of chances.

                            The meat was good but not as good as my first time. There were moist, fatty bites, but several really dry bites too. I guess that speaks to the inherent inconsistency of hand made, artisinal products that Embee mentioned. That kind of inconsistency is just fine with me, I just hope the next time I'm there, it is moist throughout.

                            The fries were a huge disappointment, especially after really enjoying them the first time. They were burnt on the outside and undercooked on the inside. I'm sure it was just an off day. I only ate a few and the rest went into the garbage.

                            Also, I really loved the slaw the first time, but this time the flavour was AWOL. And it was a little dry.

                            Again, I'll be back again and again as I'm sure it is a work in progress.