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Oct 7, 2008 05:46 PM

Yet another Toronto deli meat thread

Actually, I was quite interested to see a portrayal of the Toronto deli meat scene in Toronto Life (p. 108). They had a list of who does what best where.
-Moe Pancer's for "Toronto Pastrami"
-Steele's Deli for Barrel-Cured Corned beef
-Baby Beef at Yitz's
-Toronto Smoked Meat at Caplansky's
-Hot Tongue at Coleman's Deli

I know most of these places have been slammed by the local deli aficionados (embee, montrealer70, i'm talking about you), and rightfully so. however, i'm wondering are these place good at certain things, as this article would suggest? In particular, has anyone tried a tongue sandwich at coleman's?

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  1. David Sax (the "Death of Deli"), who wrote the review, is a great guy, and passionate about his deli. Toronto really didn't give him much to work with :-(

    I wouldn't go into rapture over Pancer's pastrami. Yes, it's among Toronto's better ones, but I prefer Katz's version (and they aren't a great deli either). Both are okay. Neither thrills.

    I've heard some really good buzz about Steeles Deli. All I can say is that I was underwhelmed. Good deli atmosphere and good prices, Decent, but not great, meats.

    I don't much like "baby beef". David will discover that New York has the same thing, only it's rolled up and called rolled beef there.

    Caplansky's - what more to say? Toronto's own.

    I don't eat tongue anymore. I used to like tongue sandwiches when I was a kid, but lost my taste for it somewhere along the way. The only thing I recommend at Coleman's is the corned beef hash.

    1. would love some feedback on this tongue sandwich at coleman's as well.

      was gifted some tongue but haven't gotten around to figuring out how to prep it quite yet. inspiration would be lovely!

      6 Replies
        1. re: embee

          raw raw raw.... and frozen!

          maybe blasphemous but i'm going to try to split one in half so i have more pieces to experiment with. at least one pickled and one smoked prep... though from recipes it seems that it all gets pickled to begin with anyway!

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            If it works out for you, I have at least one more in my freezer and could probably get another in November.

            1. re: torontovore

              if it all works out.... i'll be banging down your door to get more ;)

            2. re: pinstripeprincess

              You need to peel off the skin. The simplest prep is to just simmer it in stock until tender. You can also simmer it in tomato juice (at least, that's how one of my aunts used to do it).

              To pickle it, brine it as per a simple corned beef recipe. You don't need a curing salt (nitrate, et al), though you won't get that nice red colour without it. Then soak, rinse, dry, and simmer.

              I've never actually smoked a tongue. My sense is that you would brine it first and then give it a short smoke just for flavour.

              1. re: embee

                thanks for the advice... that seems to be the impression i'm getting on the internet though it might be ok for me to leave the skin on while brining (?) i think....

                i've seen recipes that have both a hot and cold smoke. either way for a couple hours at least though i can't vouch that it'll taste the way i want. my biggest worry on that right now is picking the right wood. i unfortunately can't do it the cold smoke method and it might end up being what i prefer, but hey, won't know 'til i try right?

        2. haven't tried the coleman's tongue sandwich.
          do you eat it or does it eat you?

          1 Reply
          1. I did not like Caplansky's too much. although the smokey taste was interesting, the sandwich was dry and tiny. And the slice of dill was way to skimpy. Very disappointing. However, I wonder why neither Wolfie's (on Sheppard w/ Bathurst) nor The Corned Beef House (Adelaide e/ Spadina) never get a mention. In my humble opinion, they're hands-down, the best. They both serve up Lester's meat from Montreal, both perfectly steamed.
            I've heard about Steele's, referred to in the same breath as Wolfie's, but never go that far north. Oh yeah, Wolfie's has great a great smoked meat atmosphere.

            8 Replies
            1. re: toppdog

              The deli meats at Steeles Deli are decent enough, as someone has previously noted, but deli meats aren't its true strength. Try their soups, their main dishes and their daily specials - especially the flanken special on Thursday nights - and you'll experience good, solid diner fare with a Jewish twist. And attractive prices. Just don't expect a taste revelation in this price range. The liver, for example. Pastis does a delicious liver, as does Paese and Coppi among others that I know of - but none do it for a mere $13 like Steeles Deli (even less on special), with a quite tasty, satisfying and substantial portion. It's not a destination place (though Caplansky's IS, in my view), just a place to fall in to if you're in the neighborhood and hungry for some straightforward eatin'.

              1. re: toppdog

                The Corned Beef House is okay (no better than that) if you happen to be in the immediate area. I found Wolfie's to be REALLY bad.

                1. re: embee

                  I've only ever had the smoked meat sandwich at Wolfie's, but it's always been a satisfying meal. I enjoy my meat lean and I know that turns off those who want a fatty sandwich. Also Wolfie's is my closest neighbourhood deli. I can grab a sandwich and be eating it at home in 5 minutes. All my food friends that I've introduced to the Wolfie's smoked meat sandwich have totally enjoyed it. Being Torontonians, maybe we're not sophisticated enough to distinguish what a great smoked meat sandwich should taste like. Could you explain further why you find Wolfie's to be 'really bad', so much so that you used captials for the 'really'.

                  For a pastrami sandwich I go to Pancers.
                  As a destination deli, I'd spend time traveling to Caplansky's for the artisanal touch. Nice smoky taste but I found even the lean cuts a little too fatty.

                    1. re: embee

                      Embee...I read and read and read as you suggested in the above ...what an amazing bit of research/commentary ...almost worthy of publishing...I don't even like Deli meats as I have mentioned many a time ...but really was fascinated by the length, breadth and by the sheer discourse on the subject of 'smoked meat'. KUDO'S to you for suggesting reading!..
                      No Doubt in my mind that there will never be a consensus on 'smoked meat' in Toronto to which I say...'chacon a son gout' or more prosaically, to each his/her own!!!.............Thanks again for your above post.

                      1. re: embee

                        I re-read all your posts in that thread. You mentioned that you had been to Wolfie's many years ago and remembered both good and bad experiences. When you went back recently you never actually got a sandwich to try because of an ugly, dirty strip plaza (we have a lot of them in this neighbourhood), panhandlers (just like downtown), poor service, and the lack of a skilled hand cutter on site (he was at the dentist). All these factors resulted in you leaving without any food. Nothing wrong with your opinion of the place, it's just that I thought your 'really bad' comment was about the sandwich and wondered why.

                        1. re: torontovore

                          My comment is about the place, but a relationship to the sandwich is implied. When I tried to order a sandwich supposedly sold there, I simply couldn't. I couldn't even try to get something else to go (some karnatzel) because she just walked away.

                          You can get the same Lester's sandwich at Centre St without the hassle and the BS. You can get a good machine sliced Lester's regular (though not old fashioned) sandwich at Jody's on Kingston Rd, or at the Corned Beef House, without the BS.

                          I wouldn't have minded the plaza had there been something decent inside. I don't go to a restaurant for the decor. As to the panhandlers, I have never been panhandled this aggressively downtown. That's not the fault of Wolfie's. but the place overall is depressing and the "service" was in a class of its own.

                          They don't deserve the business and I don't think they really care. It all came across as a place that remains open so the owner can hang out with his old friends and schmooze rather than as a real business.

                          1. re: embee

                            Sure sounds like you had a bad Wolfie experience! Guess I've been lucky (never had that female server) and so missed the BS. Until I get the BS routine, which would really annoy me, I'd still rather travel 5 minutes for this sandwich than spending 20 minutes each way to the Centre St Deli for the same thing. Heading down to Jody's on Kingston Rd. and back would probably take up to an hour each way, so that's out of the question.

                            There's more than one place that I continue to boycott because of service so I understand and agree your reaction, but I still wish you'd had a chance to comment on their smoked meat sandwich itself. My imagination can taste it now, and I want it now,,, Oops, forget it, they're closed Saturdays.

                2. I tried pancers a few weeks back and was horribly underwhelmed

                  The product was reminiscent (to me) of a Lester's smoked meat

                  It was a little spicy if i recall, but I wasn't blown away by the flavor or anything.

                  Also, it was machine cut I'm pretty sure... At the end of my visit I noticed a little sign (i think) that said for hand-cutting, add $1... Not sure if this makes a difference in the quality of the sandwich, maybe someone can tell me

                  I really like Caplansky's but I will admit that the last 2 times I was there, it hasn't been as good as some of my previous experiences.. Caplansky himself hasn't been in the kitchen lately, he has a young teenage meat cutter who;s been there on my last 2 occasion.. And while the sandwich wasn't BAD or anything, it was pretty dried out, maybe like the meat was cut already and pre-sliced? Or maybe just overcooked?

                  Either way, still the best smoked meat sandwich in the city, but it's too bad Caplansky himself hasn't been there lately

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: duckdown

                    I've been twice in the last couple weeks, and he's been there each time. Actually only once in the 10 or so times (usually a friday night or a saturday day) has he not been there. I've had bad meat cutting once, but again, it was just the one time.

                    I spoke to him last time I was there about the meat and lack of consistency. Seemed like the salt levels were really lower, which was fine by me. But he explained that he had switched to a different producer a while back whose briskets are huge, and therefore the brine doesn't penetrate as well. He's switching again, to a producer of smaller briskets, so we'll see.

                    I still plan on getting my smoked meat fix from Caplansky's. With the one exception when it was too salty, I've had nothing but really good sandwiches. I will however try and stop ordering fressers in favour of the smaller one. But that's another matter.

                    Oh, if he's got tomato soup available, try it. Amazing.