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(Toronto) Thoughts on Caplansky's?

Okay, so, the fries and gravy thread mentioned Caplansky's. It sounded good for the fries so I checked out the site.

How is it for the other things?

Also, what kind of poutine is it? That is, what kind of cheese is it? I'm not a purist, although I love the traditional squeeky cheese curds, I'm pretty okay with a good quality mozzarella or something. In fact, before poutine was a thing people generally knew about in SW Ontario I first had 'fries with cheese and gravy' at a restaurant that was amazing. Fries, gravy then shreeded mozzarella and cheddar cheese (on top of the gravy) then the whole thing put under the broiler for a bit. It was delicious.

So, for the sake of those purists out there... How is the fries with cheese and gravy at Caplansky's?

And the smoked meat?

It really does sound like a tasty place and I'm wondering if I should make the trek to try it out.

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  1. I haven't been personally but here's a review that might help you out:

    http://curdsade.wordpress.com/2008/10...

    1. There are several threads on here about Caplansky's. Check those out - they should give you a good idea of the food and answer your questions.

      Suffice it to say - I love going there, the food is delicious and Zane really knows what he's doing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escoffier

        Finally had a chance to check this out while back home in Oct. Took a friend who lives on the block but didn't know about it.
        We had a combo (fatty) a medium sandwich and the knish. Service was great and Zane said hello. I judge these places by the Katz's (NYC) and Schwartz benchmark as they were my first delis. I've tried all the regular places in Toronto mentioned on this board but never had a sandwich I would return for.
        Sandwich was great. I could taste the smoke when first launching in, but it is kinda subtle, so by the end I had forgotten all about it. Fatty is definitely the way to go. Fries were perfect, as was the meaty gravy on the side.
        Soft drink servings were a bit strange, a huge glass half full.
        Place is definitely popular. Steven Page of the BNL sat at one table, Getty Lee at another.

      2. Great food for sure -- the poutine uses curds but they don't have a squeak.. At least not the time I had it

        I just hope he moves out of the monarch and into a regular store some time

        1. Mmmmm, totally yummy. Went yesterday for a late lunch. I loved their take on poutine and the sandwich was very very good. We tried to order the knish but they were all out. I liked the coleslaw but then I've always preferred my coleslaw to be on the vinegary side. The coleslaw is probably not for everyone but I found that paired with the sandwich it was quite tasty.

          I agree with others that the ordering process needs to be corrected. Alcohol from the guy at the bar and everything else from the waitress/Zane. But since they were so busy the bartender came back and provided us with our pop. I wasn't until I saw our bill from Caplansky's that I realized we had to find the bartender to get his bill. I wasn't crazy about having 2 bills but memories of that sandwich have made up for the slight inconvenience.

          5 Replies
          1. re: jillybean38

            Co-workers and I went in for lunch on Friday. Sat for 20 minutes and weren't even acknowledged by Zane or any of his people. Bartender seemed sad to see us go.

            Is there a specific time/day to avoid?

            1. re: Davedigger

              I had the same experience - wasn't acknowledged and had to go and get the waitress for some assistance.

              Food was mediocre - smoked meat was not as good as when I went in June when Zane first opened (much less smoke and flavour) as was the overhyped knish with a way too salty gravy.

              1. re: Pizza Lover

                Oh that makes me so sad. I've never had a knish and really wanted to try Zane's.

                On another note, the bartender told the waitress twice to come to our table. Instead Zane finally showed up to take our order. I realize that this is a new business and money is tight but after reading Zane's blog and seeing it in person - hire more staff seems like the logical solution

                1. re: jillybean38

                  I hate to say it, "if you want something done.." service just ok, meat was cold and dry, fries were way over salted. BUT Meat had good flavour bread was fresh.Tonnes of potential! I really hope he finds staff to do it his way or stays closed when he wants a day off.

                  1. re: jillybean38

                    Nope, I don't think more staff is the answer; I think taking away her laptop is. I went twice, had the same girl serving, and she spent more time on the web than serving me. Not that I required a lot - I placed my order (combo and drink), she brought my drink after a few minutes, and brought the sandwich over promptly when it was placed up. It was the 10 or so minutes I sat alone at my table before she came over to take my order that ticked me off.

                    On another occasion, I had a young guy serving me, and he was very prompt and efficient. So I think it's attitude, not the number of people.

            2. Hey all, just a bit of a heads-up: according to his blog, Caplansky's will be closing on Wednesday while he waits for his meat to cure. Apparently, he's gotten too much good press lately for his own good. :)

              http://blog.caplanskys.com/2008/11/10...

              Just thought I'd put the word out in case any 'Hounds were planning on a sandwich on Wednesday...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Wahooty

                It's good that people have praised his food. But before his ego gets the best of him, it seems he should work on consistency....

              2. I just returned from lunch at Caplansky's. I had heard many rave reviews and wanted to go for a very long time, but only finally made it there today. Overall, I found it mediocre. The fries were tasty, although I could tell they weren't being fried in the best quality oil. The coleslaw was delicious - fresh, crisp and with a lot of vinegar, which is my preference. I didn't like the flavor of the meat itself and found it very dry as others have mentioned. The pickle was the worst part - tiny, limp and flavorless. They really need to invest in better pickles - some giant half-sours would be ideal. The atmosphere of the Monarch is relaxing and quaint (felt like I was in a small rundown town in upstate New York) and I liked the vintage aesthetic of the menu etc., but I won't be back there any time soon.

                5 Replies
                1. re: bakemybiscuits

                  How did you order your sandwich? As most have commented, the only way to go is fatty.

                  1. re: bakemybiscuits

                    When I first went to Caplansky's, I found the coleslaw quite bland - not much vinegar or spice, just a light dressing of oil. In a couple of posts here, I said that I thought it would be better if it had more vinegar, and I'm pretty sure Zane reads the posts about him. I think the guy sincerely wants to give his customers a good deal, and has been adjusting his menu based on the comments he reads. As others have noted, he needs to work on consistency first. One day the borscht was just fantastic; the next it was kind of bitter.

                    Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Schwartz's. The guy's been open for less than a year, and the kitchen isn't exactly a palace. Give him time to get the kinks out (and order the full fat), and I'm sure you'll grow to like him.

                    1. re: KevinB

                      I too think Caplansky's has TONS of potential but is not there yet. I think the meat has good flavour but is too cold and too dry, even when ordered medium. You shouldn't have to order the meat fatty to get tender meat. Medium at Shwartz's is usually very tender and the fat is melting. I think the problem is he needs to get into a proper kitchen with a deli counter and large steaming trays, like they have at Schwartz's. The meat needs to be sliced when hot so that the fat remains hot and the meat is more tender.

                      I like his cabbage borscht a lot, but I would like it even better if he didn't use so much vinegar. Maybe replace some of the vinegar with sour salt.

                      The smoked meat gravy is out of this world.

                      I'm looking forward to sticking with them until they get it right. I have confidence that they will.

                      1. re: acd123

                        Yes, his smoked meat gravy is rather incredible.

                        I am embarrassed to admit that I had some just spread onto a piece of toasted rye and, dammit, it was incredible.

                        I think Caplansky's is great. It has renewed our collective interest in deli. And, the guy is a first class mensch all the way.

                    2. re: bakemybiscuits

                      I find this critique over the top. To criticize oil (without saying what was used) is to say rancid, or bargain basement hydrogenated. Well, what was cheap about the oil? A commodity, yet. Most oil available to cooks is good quality.

                      And the "pickle was the worst part"! Where would you get giant half sours, in February? Only from Mexican cukes, if that is what you want. I would rather have full sours from Ontario, last year's harvest.

                      I have never had dried out smoked meat at Caplansky's, but a lot has to do with your order, and preference.

                      I agree, the atmosphere of the Monarch is relaxing, and I'll be back soon.

                    3. If you really want to experience good Toronto delicatessen you have to go to Pancer's on Bathurst. Caplanski's is a joke from the meat to the service. Bad joke.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: howdydoody

                        Service is terrible, and I hate the location -- but that's all I can agree with

                        Pancer's tastes like a spicy "Lester's" to me...

                        1. re: duckdown

                          HD - I really disagree. The Monarch has a subtle charm to it, one that you don't find much anymore and as for the service, give'em a break. They've been slammed since day one and I think they're trying very hard to accommodate everyone and explain the rather unusual system of ordering food and drink.

                          I find the sandwiches are, for the most part, great. When they weren't, I told Zane and he appreciated knowing. As it turns out, he was using a different supplier. As for the fries, the poutine, the slaw and the knish. Suffice it to say I've developed a 12-step program to help me manage my intake.

                          1. re: escoffier

                            Can't say they are always slammed. I visited three separate times around 2 pm, and it took forever to get served by the young lady even though there couldn't have been more than 3 tables in the place any of the times.

                        2. re: howdydoody

                          For the life of me, I can't see how you'd draw that conclusion HD. I've had sandwiches from various delis in TO (Wolfie's, Pancer's, Caplansky's), and I like them all, but love Caplansky's. I was there a week ago with my son. Service was prompt, friendly and attentive, food was delicious (we both had combos--his with fries, mine with borscht), and we left more than satisfied.

                          1. re: Yongeman

                            I’ve only been twice but both times service was not an issue – it was attentive and pleasant. Even if it were slightly inattentive, I think I’d hope to be lenient. It’s not Scaramouche - it’s smoked meat at the Monarch. As long as they weren’t rude I think I’d be ok with slightly inattentive. But so far my experiences with service have been good. I hope it stays that way, cuz although I’m more lenient with places like the Monarch, my fogivability would only extend so far...even there…

                            Although I agree with the sentiment that it is a work in progress, generally speaking the food was fantastic both times - although my dad’s borscht is better : -). I would never dream of ordering anything less than fatty there. To those that do, well, I can’t feel that sorry for you now can I.

                            Can’t wait to try the knish!