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Caplansky's Amazing Smoked Meat Sandwich

JonasBrand Dec 5, 2008 01:06 PM

So today my coworkers discovered one of Toronto's most amazing sandwiches... it is a homemade smoked meat sandwich. You must try it.

Caplansky's offer's awesome sides in addition to the smoked meat sandwich. The fries are some of the best I have had, the gravy is also homemade and reminds me of authentic jamacian jerk gravy (it is homemade from the smoked meat), the split pea soup was delicious, and the cole slaw was refreshing In fact, I found the whole meal rather light and well portioned. Of course we were all in a protein induced food coma for the rest of the afternoon.

These sandwiches are currently sold from a table on the second floor of the Monarch. But based on how busy they are, my guess is that they'll be finding new (larger) digs soon.

Website: http://caplanskys.com/
Blog: http://blog.caplanskys.com/
Menu: http://caplanskys.com/caplanskys-menu...

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Caplansky's
356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

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  1. c
    childofthestorm RE: JonasBrand Dec 5, 2008 01:11 PM

    Come here often?

    1. duckdown RE: JonasBrand Dec 5, 2008 01:24 PM

      lmao

      thank you for the information

      1. Rabbit RE: JonasBrand Dec 5, 2008 05:38 PM

        We finally made it to Caplansky's last weekend.

        Loved the room and the food, but we found our first bite of smoked meat... disconcerting. While we were anticipating a "better" version of the deli sammy we've known and loved, what we actually got was an innovation, perhaps a revelation. Spicier than expected, hand sliced and doctored with Caplansky's own mustard, we found the meat mixed the familiar fave with the taste of southern bbq to produce something with a unique taste and texture... and delicious-ness.

        Loved the borscht and the slaw, fries were mediocre (did we hit an off day??)... can't wait to get back for the pea soup, knishes and hopefully a shot at the smoked turkey.

        For photos and a longer report:
        http://www.rabbitreporting.com/restau...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit
          e
          embee RE: Rabbit Dec 6, 2008 06:43 AM

          Nice review on your blog. I think you'll find that the meat in that borscht was the smoked meat cutting scraps. While there's nothing kosher about the place, he doesn't serve any pork.

          1. re: embee
            Rabbit RE: embee Dec 6, 2008 07:06 AM

            Of course you're right!! The meat reminded us of pulled pork in taste and texture, but I'm sure you're correct about Caplansky's being a pig-free kitchen. I'm going to change the blog so as not to mislead.

            Thanks, embee!!

          2. re: Rabbit
            duckdown RE: Rabbit Dec 6, 2008 07:30 AM

            You lost me at "The fries were mediocre" :)

            No offense but they're probably one of the best in the city IMO

            1. re: duckdown
              Rabbit RE: duckdown Dec 6, 2008 07:39 AM

              that's why we think we might have hit an off day (for the fry guy)... everyone has raved about the fries, but we found them meh??

          3. jayt90 RE: JonasBrand Dec 6, 2008 08:16 AM

            Caplansky's blog definitely shows signs of growing pains in the small kitchen. The Monarch has been extremely busy since the Globe and Mail review, and Zane has run out of cured meat supplies several times, even closing down for three days while brisket curing caught up.

            And there are indications that Zane may be looking for larger quarters.
            This might not be a good thing. The crowds will settle down after awhile, and the appeal of a small, dedicated crew in a quaint tavern will remain.

            Parking is manageable on Clinton, and I enjoy going to a unique spot with good food and beer, and no pretensions or trendiness.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jayt90
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              thegory RE: jayt90 Dec 6, 2008 08:26 AM

              Yeah, I love the charm of the Monarch! I hope they stay there for a while. This coming from a guy who has to drive 45 mins from Leslieville to get there. Zane has taken some cues from the old school ambiance for sure.

            2. a
              allanc RE: JonasBrand Feb 14, 2009 02:55 PM

              We went last week and our thoughts were:
              Fries - Great
              Borst (sp) - very good
              Smoked Meat - really enjoyed the 'difference' in the flavour *but* my 'fatty' sandwich was maybe 6 out of 10, my girlfriends lean/medium was very dry. I actually tried half of hers and had to wash each bite down with water.
              The smell in the stairway was .... let's call it ... bathroom deodourizer.

              16 Replies
              1. re: allanc
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                magic RE: allanc Feb 15, 2009 06:40 PM

                I'm not sure why The Monarch sometimes gets flack. I've never thought of it as an unkempt spot, it's perfectly fine, not at all dank or dingy or smelly. It’s actually quite bright and pleasant. If you think The Monarch is bad, yeesh, you should see some other spots. There's nothing wrong with it at all. Take it for what it is. And even for what it is, believe you me, you could do A LOT worse. It’s fine.

                I will say that my 3rd visit to Caplansky’s today echoes yours in some respects. My sandwich, which I ordered fatty, was a 6/10. I will say I love what Caplansky’s has done, and I accept that artisinally-done food will have consistency issues, especially when the business is young. With that in mind I’d have to say that this 3rd visit was my least impressive in terms of smoked meat. It was cut nicely, I just found it a fair bit leaner than I would normally like, which made it seem drier and without as much robust flavour as my previous 2 visits. It didn’t seem as fatty and succulent as I know it can be and has been. Also, I know smoked meat isn’t served piping hot, but my personal tastes would respond better to it being served warmer. This goes for my previous visits as well.

                I wasn’t overly thrilled with the house mustard, I found it a bit sharper than on my last visit in October or so, when I remember it being sweeter. This time the same amount of mustard completely overwhelmed my sandwich and I had to take most of it off. Hey, some people appreciate the raucous bite of dijon… I think I prefer my mustard with a bit less zing. A bit sweeter. But that’s just me. The mustard was well made, just not as sweet as I remembered it. Next time I’ll be more careful in how I apply it.

                The fries were great. I enjoyed them even more than when I first had them in July. And a very generous portion I might add. Ditto for the coleslaw, it seemed more flavourful today than on my first visit in July. But still crunchy and bright and fresh.

                I was thrilled to finally try the knish (they were sold out on my previous visit). It was pretty good. Different than I was expecting. I kept on expecting a potato knish, I totally forgot there was meat in the mix. Still, it was good. The meat in the knish tasted more like flunken (beef shortrib) than smoked meat. Am I wrong on that? Flunken isn’t cheap, and is the food of champions so if it was flunken….. good on ya. In any case it was good. I ordered my knish gravy on the side. I’m not sure it added anything to the knish, and I think could’ve used with some more seasoning itself. It was fine and interesting, but I guess didn’t rock my soul to its Rock Lobster core. The pastry was nice and crisp, but I guess not a buttery puff pastry which I was expecting and am used to, though I know there are many ways of doing knishes. Perhaps this was more boureka? That said, it was nice. I thought it could have used a bit more seasoning (S+P) but that is my own preference, not a shortcoming of the knish.

                The split pea soup was nice, but again, for me I would have liked more seasoning. But that is easy enough to adjust on my own with the salt and pepper provided. Perhaps it is underseasoned for that reason…. to let customers decide for themselves how much S+P they’d like. I like my mom’s better :) But there’s nothing wrong with coming close to mom. And really, who is ever going to beat her?! No one. That’s who.

                Sampled some cheesecake, which is apparently housemade by someone on staff there. Not bad! Nothing breaking new cheesecake ground (my sister’s is still my fave) by not bad at all. I love that someone on staff made it themselves. So it was a no-brainer to try that one. My mate loved it. She is a cheesecake freak. I think a strawberry topping would’ve made it even nicer. Still, quite tasty.

                Service was absolutely fine. So far on each of my three visits I’ve had three different servers. All of whom have not only been more than capable, but also really nice. Nothing bad to say about service so far. And I’m especially unforgiving about questionable service. So far service has not been an issue at all for me. The guys at the Monarch have always been nice and chill as well. Which I really appreciate. Also, I love the fact that those that prep that food serve it. That is the kind of confidence that I find beautiful in strong, assured kitchens. Love that pride and showmanship. Wish there were more of it around these days.

                I really appreciate this kind of food being available to the public, especially a young downtown set who might not have been exposed to it, or have access to it otherwise. I think this is one of Caplansky’s biggest achievements so far; bringing in young people with no access to - or even interest in - smoked meat, and opening their eyes to something revered my so many. Bravo Max. Mediocre sandwich today aside I know that made from scratch means not always consistent. No problem with that all. As long as it is made with love and respect I’ll come back and bring my friends. And I will. For sure. All in all I left quite happy. Keep up the outstanding work in progress.

                1. re: magic
                  d
                  deabot RE: magic Feb 15, 2009 07:08 PM

                  Wow, great review Magic-agree with your thoughts the meat can be wildly inconsistent I've had dry as sawdust to very sublime. Yea I usually find it surprising to hear of the Monarch thought of as a 'dive' bar there are much more divey places in town. I would more rather think of it as a hipster bar these days with the hipsters gravitating towards the Monarch for some fifty on tap! I am usually at the Monarch for a smoked meat sandwich from Caplansky's but I gotta say the friendly service and unpretentious atmosphere sure help to make it a comfortable and relaxing time whenever I go there.

                  1. re: magic
                    duckdown RE: magic Feb 15, 2009 08:13 PM

                    The issue isn't that I think consider the Monarch to be the divey-est, dirtiest bar in Toronto... Its that I find it quite divey and dirty as for a place to eat my food in. What I mean is, if there was a similarly dirty bar like that, I certainly wouldn't be ordering food from there. But if its the Monarch, we're supposed to make the exception?

                    it just is totally not the setting I want to enjoy my smoked meat sandwich in.. And I certainly wouldn't bring my kids there... And the parking situation can be quite annoying if you visit during a time when little Italy is packed (Although it often is fine during the day)

                    On the last occasion the bartender was swearing like a drunken sailor, talking about things like smoking joints and bringing home a female he met here last night... which is normal bar behaviour of course -- but just reiterates my feelings on it not being an ideal location

                    And last but not least, my biggest problem with the place -- where is Caplansky these days? Literally on my last 3-4 visits it's just been teenagers in the kitchen. Not that that is a bad thing, because everyone needs work -- but I highly doubt at Schwartzes deli that newbies make it to the meat cutting station right away without extensive training..

                    Long story short; if it was up to me, I'd be out of the Monarch for certain.. just my 2cents

                    1. re: duckdown
                      t
                      tjr RE: duckdown Feb 15, 2009 08:41 PM

                      While I wouldn't be at the Monarch if it weren't for Caplansky's (I'm far too young to be the non-deli crowd), I don't think it's a dirty venue. There are plenty of places much worse. I'd much rather eat a smoked meat sandwich at the Monarch than anything at Sneaky Dee's, for example.

                      I've seen the kitchen, and it's clean. The Monarch itself is far from dirty, and the tables are cleaner than you'd get at a McDonald's. The patrons are colourful, but I don't have kids, so it doesn't bother me in the least.

                      1. re: tjr
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                        embee RE: tjr Feb 16, 2009 08:22 AM

                        The Monarch isn't actually dirty, and neither is Caplansky's kitchen.

                        I do think the Monarch has a "dive" atmosphe, but it sure feels different at lunch than it ever did before. The deli customers are a really interesting mix. There was a column about this in the National Post a couple of weeks ago (available on their website).

                        While some of those who hang out at the bar, especially at night, are not my cup of tea, the daytime bartenders are very nice guys.

                        Yes, the stairs are dark and smell of disinfectant. No, this place will never look, feel, or smell like a deli. From reading Zane's blog, it seems there are meat supply issues again and he needs a bigger smoker (for which there's no obvious space).

                        I've had three sandwiches there recently, Two were absolutely perfect. The third, though apparently in cure for four weeks, wasn't really ready to serve. That's why most delis buy their meat already cured, usually by injection, from Lester's, Chicago 58, and heaven knows where else.

                        1. re: embee
                          Brain of J RE: embee Feb 19, 2009 09:33 AM

                          Yeah, the notion that The Monarch is a dive bar is totally off-base. I was there during the day and it was quite a nice place to enjoy a pint and a sandwich. Nice service too.

                      2. re: duckdown
                        y
                        yoyodyne RE: duckdown Feb 19, 2009 10:19 AM

                        Funny thing is, what you dislike about the place's ambience is exactly what makes it charming. Jamie Kennedy went so far as to say Zane managed to capture that elusive 'cool-factor' the time he visited.

                        Last time i visited, families were happily chowing down next to natty-haired hipsters and people were actually talking between tables in that oh-so-deli sorta way that makes places like Schwartz's great. It had a very family feel.

                        Fact is, retro food screams out for retro decor, not some sanitized, starbucksed or subwayed interior and while you can argue it's relative dingy-ness, everyone can agree the place feels pretty old school.

                        And Zane told me that when he does find a place to move into (which he's not in a rush to do since he's got a pretty good deal going right now) he'll set up shop somewhere in Kensington as a tip of the hat to it's Jewish Market past. I dig the kinda moxie it takes to stick that true to your roots and will happily eat at the Monarch until he moves elsewhere.

                        Oh and aside from taking Mondays/Tuesday off regularly now, he's there all the time and has his staff trained well enough to read his mind...

                        sheesh, this was long-winded...

                        1. re: yoyodyne
                          duckdown RE: yoyodyne Feb 19, 2009 12:29 PM

                          To each their own, I suppose

                          I don't enjoy the location or atmosphere really but of course its totally up to the individual :)

                          I respect everyone elses views on the place... Like I said, I like the food, just don't really care for the Monarch

                          ...If I thought parking was bad at this location though, Kensington is probably going to be twice as bad, no? Damn it

                          1. re: duckdown
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                            Atahualpa RE: duckdown Feb 19, 2009 12:40 PM

                            The multi-story lot off of St. Andrew usually has plenty of empty spaces and everything in Kensington is only a short walk from there.

                        2. re: duckdown
                          e
                          escoffier RE: duckdown Feb 19, 2009 12:58 PM

                          Divey and dirty? I don't think so. Zane has set up shop in an honest working bar. There's no wine list, no linen, no reservations. You go in, get some great smoked meat and other treats and enjoy the sights and sounds. I've been to Caplansky's, a lot. I've been to the Monarch, a lot. It isn't dirty in any way shape or form. Sure, the stairs are dark and might smell a bit but hey, so do most places at some time or another. I'm sure the language was colourful, but outside of church, you hear it every day, from the lowest food court to the highest end resto. It's a fact of life.

                          I figure if it's good enough for Madam Justice Abella, it's good enough for me and any kid I know. As to Zane's presence, bear in mind it's a one man show, things have to be bought, delivered, picked up and the like. I'm sure he'd love to be in the kitchen or meeting customers, but it's a business first. I hope he stays there for a while longer, he's brought some great food to the hood, and it's a nice change from California et al.

                          1. re: escoffier
                            grandgourmand RE: escoffier Feb 19, 2009 01:55 PM

                            I bring my baby girl there. She doesn't seem to mind.

                            I love the dive bars, with atmosphere. I hope he stays at the monarch.

                            1. re: escoffier
                              duckdown RE: escoffier Feb 19, 2009 02:08 PM

                              Like I said -- just a matter of opinion! Not everyone shares the same definition of clean I suppose!

                              I understand what your saying, I just don't agree with it!

                              I didn't mean any offense by it, I just respectfully disagree with you

                              1. re: duckdown
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                                escoffier RE: duckdown Feb 19, 2009 02:37 PM

                                We'll all disagree on thing or another, fact of life. But we all (for the most part) agree that it's some damn fine smoked meat. Hell, if he were serving it at the 'cafe' at Bathurst station, I'd be there...

                                One thing about the Monarch experience. It is one of the last of its kind. It's not a chain, you can bring your own food in and it's not staffed by overly perky servers trying to sell you the latest flavoured shooter or frozen delicacy right from Sysco foods.

                                1. re: escoffier
                                  torontovore RE: escoffier Feb 19, 2009 07:25 PM

                                  I agree with escoffier. If you don't support those independents that really are into food (even if you're not totally happy with the venue, preparation, or menu selection) all we'll be left with is fast chain outlets all sourced from industrial food factories,.

                                  1. re: torontovore
                                    duckdown RE: torontovore Feb 19, 2009 07:43 PM

                                    Which is why I still go :)

                                    I just do take-out only though...

                                  2. re: escoffier
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                                    escoffier RE: escoffier Feb 20, 2009 05:27 AM

                                    Just as an aside - I was at Caplansky's last night for the Mines Action Canada fundraiser. Packed house which is good to see. Zane went out of his way to support what I think is a very worthy cause. And...wait for it...he made a very delicious vegetarian chili. I mean really, really good. Not too fiery and there was a hint of chocolate to it...

                                    And of course the sandwich, slaw, poutine and fries were excellent as usual.

                        3. torontovore RE: JonasBrand Feb 15, 2009 06:49 AM

                          My first visit was on the 'grand opening' free sandwich day. The place was packed to overflowing but I did grab a couple of sandwiches and ate them from a wobbly hand-held paper plate while standing against the wall to avoid being bumped and crushed. I really enjoyed them but was expecting a more smokey experience based on earlier reviews.

                          I went back last week to try more of the menu and see how the kitchen has responded to all the feedback they've been receiving. I know many will disagree, but I like lean meat. Yes I know that the fat enhances flavour and texture but I don't want that fat in chewy chunks (I almost gagged on an inedible fat chunk in a Pancer sandwich). So my sandwich was ordered lean and it was great! Nice and smokey. For hours after holding and eating my sandwich I could still sniff and enjoy a very distinct smoke aroma lingering on my fingers. Any perceived dryness was easily compensated by slapping on the grainy homemade mustard. The only change I'd make would be to have slightly larger bread slices so I could add more mustard and also keep all that delicious meat from falling out of the sandwich. I like the double bread slices that you get at Wolfie's that let you split all that meat into two smaller and easier to handle sandwiches.

                          I was expecting better of the fries though, again after reading all the glowing reports. I found them overcooked, just edging into a burnt taste, and way too many. I ate about half of them, picking out the least cooked ones. They came pre-salted with a nice coarse salt, but that also might be a problem for anyone trying to take control of their salt intake. I also tried the knish which was served with an excellent meaty gravy that covered the knish and most of the plate as well. Although the gravy was very good I found that the overflowing quantity took away the distinctiveness of the knish, overwhelming its own excellent taste.

                          Service from both the kitchen and the bar was friendly, attentive, and efficient. I'll go again for sure but will order my knish with gravy on the side so that I can control the mix of gravy and knish. I'll also give the fries another chance and probably order an extra sandwich to take home. Unlike allanc, I didn't notice any odd smell in the entrance stairway, but it is very dark so when leaving take that first step down slowly and carefully!

                          1. GoodGravy RE: JonasBrand Feb 16, 2009 08:21 AM

                            My wife and I went there last week and had the medium smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. Our sandwiches were a little dry considering they were medium, but not so dry you needed to wash down every bite. The poutine was yummy and the black cherry sodas always go good with this kind of food.

                            1. b
                              bsv RE: JonasBrand Feb 16, 2009 11:38 AM

                              I have some issues with the place,
                              I do not eat red meat and other then fries there was nothing on the menu that I could eat.
                              but my sister LOVES the place and was rabid about having us go and my family was so not impressed by it, it was freezing in the place and they had left the back door open on a cold winter day. My mom and bro both found the sandwich not that impressive compared to the reviews they heard. My brother said it was so-so but not worth all the hassle.
                              I am not bashing the place but it seems to me to be a one trick pony who only does smoke meat and sees how many dishes they can put the meat into (yes, I know they do a smoked turkey once in a blue moon but so rare I do not count it)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: bsv
                                aser RE: bsv Feb 16, 2009 11:54 AM

                                umm yeah......It's a one trick pony because that's what he wants it to be, the best smoked meat in the city. I personally prefer cook's that focus on mastering one item instead of trying to please every demographic.

                                If you don't eat red meat, don't go to Caplansky's, simple as that. I don't go to a vegetarian restaurant complaining about the lack of red meat.

                                I admit consistency is an issue considering his rapid expansion in staff in the last half year. I will cut him some slack for that.....

                                1. re: bsv
                                  jayt90 RE: bsv Feb 16, 2009 02:22 PM

                                  The Monarch has a long tradition of allowing patrons to bring in food they have purchased from the sandwich shops or the pizza place, so some white meat or vegetarian dishes are easily accessible there.

                                  1. re: bsv
                                    e
                                    embee RE: bsv Feb 16, 2009 02:42 PM

                                    Tis true. He said he's going to add a big salad to the menu and bring back the smoked turkey. Even if he gets his own place, I don't think it will "evolve" as the ("always something for everyone") Pickle Barrel" did.

                                    As jayt90 notes, you can also bring in a pizza or sandwich from Bitondo's or San Francesco's.

                                  2. t
                                    turkish335 RE: JonasBrand Feb 16, 2009 04:04 PM

                                    BEST SMOKED MEAT IN TORONTO! Definitely a fantastic spot to eat - Zane came out and chatted with us for during our lunch there. Don't miss it!

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: turkish335
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                                      szw RE: turkish335 Feb 16, 2009 07:38 PM

                                      Can I get a sandwich and poutine pretty much anytime (during normal operating hours) or do I have to call ahead or something? I noticed early posts mentioned they were out of meat sometimes but nothing about that recently. Never been there but would like to take some out of town friends in the coming weeks.

                                      1. re: szw
                                        d
                                        deabot RE: szw Feb 16, 2009 08:22 PM

                                        Yes I think so the meat situation seems to be stablized past few times I have been. Even though I still preface my greetings to the monarch bartenders by saying 'there is meat eh?' lol Enjoy, Caplansky's is an unique take on smoked meat. Personally I find the poutine gravy to be too chunky for my liking, (needs more sauce less meat) but it is a novelty.

                                        1. re: deabot
                                          duckdown RE: deabot Feb 16, 2009 10:24 PM

                                          I agree about the gravy -- and I don't like the chunks of onions

                                          1. re: deabot
                                            GoodGravy RE: deabot Feb 17, 2009 07:15 AM

                                            I like the poutine/gravy fries chock full of meat. I wouldn't change a thing.

                                            1. re: GoodGravy
                                              j
                                              juno RE: GoodGravy Feb 19, 2009 01:13 PM

                                              The only thing I got against Caplansky's is that it's a major safari for me to get there from where I live. Though I live only a five-minute drive from Moe Pancer's, which does a decent deli sandwich, and has done so for decades. But since I tasted Caplansky's product, I haven't had the heart to go back to Pancer's so quickly. The Centre Street Deli, the only other deli in Toronto worth considering, is also out of the question for me - quite a long drive away, and when I get there it's always packed, probably with deli buffs who simply can't rev up for that tortuous drive south to Caplansky's from the fringes of northwest Toronto. If Caplansky relocates, let it be at the corner of Yonge and York Mills. In the meantime, I'm forced to invent excuses to find myself around College and Clinton around lunch time.

                                              1. re: juno
                                                a
                                                allanc RE: juno Feb 19, 2009 01:26 PM

                                                I think that the smoked meat sandwiches and platters at Centre Street Deli started to go downhill several years ago. So, I have not been there in about a year.

                                                An interesting aside .... the last time that I checked, their stuffed chicken contained pork.

                                      2. p
                                        Pincus RE: JonasBrand Feb 19, 2009 01:37 PM

                                        Oh man, I think a Saturday afternoon pilgrimage to Caplansky's is calling me. Calories be darned.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Pincus
                                          j
                                          jamesm RE: Pincus Feb 20, 2009 05:30 AM

                                          That's not dirt, it's character. I love the atsmosphere at the Monarch and have been going there and Lounge 88 below for years. On Fridays after our pickup game of basketball we head to the monarch for some sandwiches and pitchers (because after running around for a couple of hours you're going to want to get as much smoked meat and beer in you as possible) The servers are friendly and familiar can give and take a joke and Zane couldn't be friendlier or more accomodating. If you still have room after your meal one of the waitresses there makes her own cheesecakes and they are fantastic.

                                          1. re: jamesm
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                                            Pincus RE: jamesm Feb 20, 2009 08:48 AM

                                            Yeah, it's an older bar but very bright upstairs during the day and the clientele (the one time I went) were totally non-threatening. The servers were very friendly, both the barkeep and the waitress from Caplansky's.

                                            That's it, I'm definitely going tomorrow. All those new things on the menu to try + nostalgia = visit.

                                            1. re: Pincus
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                                              millygirl RE: Pincus Feb 21, 2009 05:24 AM

                                              Is he open on Sundays lunch?

                                              1. re: millygirl
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                                                Pincus RE: millygirl Feb 21, 2009 06:40 AM

                                                Should be open at noonish. Maybe shoot for 1 pm.

                                                1. re: Pincus
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                                                  cakelover36 RE: Pincus Feb 21, 2009 07:14 AM

                                                  I'm pretty sure it is open sundays for lunch. He just catered my buddy's superbowl party a few week ago and I am hooked now.

                                        2. p
                                          Pincus RE: JonasBrand Feb 22, 2009 07:09 PM

                                          Finally made Sunday dinner, Saturday I was fighting the common cold and not much in the mood to do anything.

                                          Got the combo, medium, with the borscht.

                                          Borscht: Good, not like mom used to make, but very good, especially on a damp day like today.
                                          Coleslaw: It seems Zane has bowed to the market and produced a less piquant product than the one I had the first time I was there. It was OK, but frankly I like my coleslaw full of pep and acid and fighting my tastebuds all the way down.
                                          Sandwich: Medium, good, not as smokey as the first one I had, but a more subtle spicing to it. Maybe next time I will get fatty and see how it compares.
                                          Homemade mustard: You know, I wanted to like this, but I didn't find it adding much to my enjoyment of the sandwich. I think next time simple French's mustard (or equivalent) will be my choice of topping.

                                          Blueberry pie for dessert, not bad, but checking things on the way out the chocolate pecan pie looked yummy.

                                          Still good, I will return, but with some changes in my next order there. Fatty meat and fries and then salads for three days after.

                                          Service was very friendly and very good. Zane wasn't in the kitchen, but the food wasn't suffering because of it, as far as I could tell.

                                          Also didn't smell any bathroom odors on the stairwell, and a family of four came in and had a meal and no bikers showed up (that I knew about). Seriously, though, calling this a dive just because it has older furniture and finishings just tells me that you haven't seen any real dives. A couple of places on the Danforth spring to my mind, but I'm sure you can think of your own examples.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: Pincus
                                            s
                                            stonewall36 RE: Pincus Feb 27, 2009 01:20 PM

                                            I finally made it as well.
                                            Borscht: good. 9/10
                                            Coleslaw: egh. 6/10...seems the same as pickle barrel
                                            Sandwich: pretty good, but not worth the trek. 7/10? It's probably better than anywhere in toronto, even centre street, but not nearly as good as schwartz's and far off the new york delis. I got the medium.
                                            Mustard: egh.
                                            People: sketchy customers and dive bar.

                                            1. re: stonewall36
                                              duckdown RE: stonewall36 Feb 27, 2009 03:47 PM

                                              Sounds like a fair assessment.. People on this board seem to be blinded by sentiments rather than giving the bar an honest look. It is sketchy and divey. Sandwich can be really good when Caplansky himself is working, but I haven't had as good of experiences when the teens are working...

                                              1. re: duckdown
                                                jayt90 RE: duckdown Feb 27, 2009 04:44 PM

                                                I get the impression that stonewall is slumming.

                                                Maybe upscale is better, paying what the traffic will bear. Perhaps the people will be better as well.

                                                1. re: jayt90
                                                  y
                                                  yoyodyne RE: jayt90 Feb 27, 2009 07:07 PM

                                                  Agreed. And to DD's point: I think what most of the people on this board have in common is a slightly more open-minded attitude as to what constitutes an acceptable eating establishment and aren't scared off by a place that may not have linen table clothes or bone china plates.

                                                2. re: duckdown
                                                  a
                                                  Atahualpa RE: duckdown Feb 27, 2009 07:28 PM

                                                  "It is sketchy and divey."

                                                  I don't know where exactly you draw that line, but I've frequented with repeat visits A LOT (at least a dozen) of places more sketchy than the Monarch.

                                                  Other than the very dark stairwell, I'm not sure what, exactly, makes the Monarch sketchy?

                                                  1. re: Atahualpa
                                                    t
                                                    tjr RE: Atahualpa Feb 27, 2009 08:56 PM

                                                    I don't really get it either. It's not like anyone is trying to mug you while you're eating, and it certainly isn't a dirty place to eat.

                                                    So, it's a pub. So, there are working class people who drink there (during the day). The times I've been there have been a few colourful characters, but they were harmless, and there were probably more younger people my age than there were middle-aged people anyways.

                                                    If you feel afraid to go to the Monarch, how can you walk around Toronto during the day (god forbid any large cities in the world)?

                                                    1. re: tjr
                                                      t
                                                      tribe RE: tjr Mar 1, 2009 10:04 AM

                                                      I agree with stonewall. It's not enough to stay away from the place, but it is kind of sketchy. not to say that there isn't great food in sketchy places in this city. i think stonewall was just giving a full assessment of the place so people know what it is like. on that note, i agree with the review. the sandwich is good, but not fantastic, and is better than most in toronto, but not up to par with other cities' sandwiches.

                                                    2. re: Atahualpa
                                                      e
                                                      escoffier RE: Atahualpa Feb 28, 2009 12:17 PM

                                                      Funny. My wife and I, several of our friends, even my in-laws and my folks all frequent the Monarch. Are we sketchy customers? Guess we must be if we're dining in such a dive.

                                                      I was in a while ago and realized that there were two senators at one table, and another had some rather prominent businesspeople, the ones you read about a lot. I guess they're sketchy too...

                                                      It ain't a dive. It's old yes, but not too run down. The food is, in a word, working-class fare. Meat, fat, starch, with veg low on the list. The staff and patrons can be a tad rough around the edges but that does not mean hygiene, cleanliness in the kitchen and proper food handling go out the window.

                                                      To each their own. If some people find it too divey and the patrons too sketchy, well, that's too bad for them. They're missing out on a lot with that attitude. Either way, it means more seats for the rest of us who deign to dine with the proles.

                                                      1. re: escoffier
                                                        Googs RE: escoffier Mar 1, 2009 07:45 AM

                                                        You're all making me glad I grew up in Scarborough. We don't have such issues separating us from our food. Clean inspection record and no chairs flying by my face. Okay, I'm in!

                                                        1. re: jamesm
                                                          s
                                                          Snarf RE: jamesm Mar 6, 2009 07:26 AM

                                                          Was there yesterday to finally try the fabled fare. Definitely lives up to the hype, though I would have preferred freshly to pre-sliced. The fries are up there in the pantheon of local spuds, definitely. The aging yet clean room had a scent which stemmed from the food, mostly fresh and not the fried smell you would expect. The crowd was surprisingly well-dressed, and there were a number of ladies of a certain age who one would normally expect to see at somewhere like the four seasons who were greeted as regulars. Not quite as sketchy as the Rebel House crowd, but close.

                                                          1. re: Snarf
                                                            s
                                                            szw RE: Snarf Mar 9, 2009 01:11 PM

                                                            Finally checked this place out and brought a friend that was visiting Toronto. I was wondering what to expect after reading the reviews here. I mentioned to my friend beforehand that some people called it "sketchy". When we finally got in the place we laughed pretty damn hard since its pretty far away from "sketchy" and not even close to a dive bar. Clientel? Its a pub! There were two tables of young asian customers, a couple groups of older folk wearing sports jackets and khakis...lol @ sketchy characters!

                                                            Anyways the fries were great but I would have liked more cheese and less meat in the poutine. It was still good though and I'm looking forward to my next visit. Sandwich was great but I did not like their house mustard.

                                                            1. re: szw
                                                              a
                                                              acd123 RE: szw Mar 9, 2009 01:32 PM

                                                              Yeah, I doubt very much that the people calling it sketchy are 416ers, or are partial to places like Kelsey's or the Keg.

                                                3. c
                                                  childofthestorm RE: JonasBrand Mar 12, 2009 12:09 PM

                                                  Grabbed lunch today and had the best sandwich I've had yet from Caplansky's. Got the fatty and the fat was not excessive, but was well-distributed through the sandwich, giving the needed moistness. The brine and smoke flavour were spot-on and the slicing nicely uniform.

                                                  Zane was serving and working the room, the place was packed at 1pm on a Thursday. Great to see. I'm a Montrealer and my grandpa first took me to Schwartz's when I was 3, and I've got to say today's sandwich gave me the same sort of happiness.

                                                  1. f
                                                    fooddiva7 RE: JonasBrand Jan 14, 2010 12:52 PM

                                                    I wish Caplansky's was worth the hype as I LOVE authentic Smoked Meat Sandwiches but it dissapointed. Located in building that used to be 'Harvey's back in the 80's, the look of the new location was the only good thing for me.

                                                    I took my sister here for her birthday lunch on a Sunday- pleasant waiter took our order pretty promptly..should have had a better look at him as we didn't see him much after that. My sister ordered Lox Platter & I orderd Smoked Meat Sandwich with french fries.

                                                    Runner brought my sister her Lox Platter & my french fries but no sandwich..not a big deal as i'm sure it was on it's way. 10 minutes later as my fries were getting stone cold, still no sandwich. I asked the owner who I recognize from all the reviews if I can make a suggestion of having the wait staff bring the sandwich along with the french fries as most individuals like to eat them together or or least have the french fries present as a side option.

                                                    He was honest and replied that the kitchen was currently in disconnect- the fries coming from the kitchen and the sandwiches coming from another area. The reason being that the intent was for the sandwich was to arrive at the patron's table warm.. another 5 mins later, pretty close to straving at this point and my sister has finished her Lox Platter..my sandwich finally arrives - stone cold not warm as the reason the Sandwich was suppose to arrive from another area of the kttichen...and the meat was cut in chunky thick slices vs more thinkly shaved...looking at the back where the 'sandwiches" were supposed made, there was only 1 staffer- a young guy cutting meat for sandwiches with a full room of patrons.

                                                    No refills on coffee was offered either because there were people waiting at the door.....when food lacks, one hopes that service makes up for it...but not in this case.

                                                    Amazing Smoked Sandwich at Caplansky's -eh...NOT

                                                    14 Replies
                                                    1. re: fooddiva7
                                                      m
                                                      magic RE: fooddiva7 Jan 14, 2010 12:59 PM

                                                      I've read a lot of reviews that note that fries and sandwiches are brought separately.

                                                      I have not been to Caplansky's since The Monarch, where both the sandwich and fries were brought at the same time every time I ordered them.

                                                      Why are the two being served separately at the new location? Am I missing something?

                                                      1. re: magic
                                                        redearth RE: magic Jan 14, 2010 02:02 PM

                                                        To your second question: no, not really.

                                                        1. re: magic
                                                          Full tummy RE: magic Jan 14, 2010 02:24 PM

                                                          The same thing happened to me when I was last there. My friend ordered the sandwich and fries combo. There were four of us at the table. The three who ordered items other than the sandwich all had their food first, along with the fries to go with friend's sandwich. But, no sammy for a good 5+ minutes. Seems as though they need some sort of system so the sandwich person can communicate to the kitchen staff when he/she is getting the sandwiches ready for table whatever and they can be better coordinated. Fries take minutes to cook. Hope they can figure out a better solution.

                                                          1. re: Full tummy
                                                            m
                                                            magic RE: Full tummy Jan 14, 2010 03:11 PM

                                                            Again, haven't been to the new location, but yeah, by the numerous comments made about this it would seem some basic system should be in place to ensure fries come together with the main event. I'd be miffed if this happened to me.

                                                          2. re: magic
                                                            f
                                                            fooddiva7 RE: magic Jan 22, 2010 06:36 AM

                                                            The owner of Caplansky's explained that the fries & the sandwich come from 2 separate sections of the kitchen and acknowledges there is a disconnect between when the sandwich and when the fries are done which is why it comes at different times. Hopefully the issue is being retified.

                                                            1. re: fooddiva7
                                                              m
                                                              magic RE: fooddiva7 Jan 22, 2010 08:17 AM

                                                              Thanks for the info, it's appreciated.

                                                              Hopefully this will be resolved soon...

                                                              1. re: magic
                                                                Delish RE: magic Jan 22, 2010 09:07 AM

                                                                It was like that way back in early nov, when I was there last. Doesn't seem like they're rushing to find a solution.

                                                              2. re: fooddiva7
                                                                w
                                                                Wandering Foodie RE: fooddiva7 Jan 22, 2010 09:12 AM

                                                                Hahahaha. That's the funniest thing I've heard today. Does he run a restaurant? ;-)

                                                            2. re: fooddiva7
                                                              jayt90 RE: fooddiva7 Jan 14, 2010 02:26 PM

                                                              fooddiva7, thinly shaved slices are served in other places because they resurrect tough cuts, and when each slice is folded they fluff up making a sandwich appear larger than a traditional hand cut pastrami or smoked meat. Caplansky is doing everything right, except the service. You could have asked for a warm sandwich and fries at the same time.

                                                              1. re: jayt90
                                                                Googs RE: jayt90 Jan 14, 2010 03:10 PM

                                                                Most people don't expect to have to special order their side dish to arrive at the same time as their entree. If they don't serve at the same time, that's on management to fix that not the customer.

                                                                Personally I pig out and go with the poutine plus a sandwich. That way I don't have to care what arrives when. Just dig in and enjoy.

                                                                1. re: Googs
                                                                  Full tummy RE: Googs Jan 14, 2010 03:18 PM

                                                                  Now that's a compromise, hahahaha.

                                                                  1. re: Googs
                                                                    m
                                                                    magic RE: Googs Jan 14, 2010 03:21 PM

                                                                    I'm gonna go ahead and agree with that.

                                                                    Fries should arrive with the entree as a default. No special requests necessary. This to me is an obvious no-brainer.

                                                                    1. re: magic
                                                                      p
                                                                      Pincus RE: magic Jan 15, 2010 12:41 PM

                                                                      Agreed. Last time I was there, I got soup instead of fries and the soup came first, but I would expect that. But to have fries arrive 5 minutes before the sandwich? Insane.

                                                                  2. re: jayt90
                                                                    f
                                                                    fooddiva7 RE: jayt90 Jan 22, 2010 06:32 AM

                                                                    jayt90- thank you for the info, much appreciated. If I do decide to go back a 2nd time, I will ask for the sandwich & fries at the same time...I just never had to do that before.

                                                                2. Platoputas RE: JonasBrand Jan 19, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                  I've only had smoked meat in Toronto from two different places, but I'd have to say Caplansky's was the best by far. (The other was the Corned Beef House on Adelaide that insisted theirs measured up to Schwartz's in Montreal. It didn't.) Caplansky's tasted different from Schwartz's, but it was still mighty good.

                                                                  I went for the medium-fatty sandwich and it was juicy. The other thing I love here are the 5 different types of mustard at each table. My favourite is the nasal-clearing Horseradish Mustard by Anton Kozlik. The other awesome thing is that they have Putter's pickles (which Schwartz's serves also). These aren't easy to find in Toronto, but order up Caplansky's Pickled Plate ($4) and you will be in heaven with pickles, pickled tomatoes and peppers.

                                                                  Quick word to the wise, I went during lunchtime on a weekdy with a party of 6, and there was a 45-minute wait. The second time I went around 5pm on Saturday and walked right in. Off hours are the way to go.

                                                                  Is it weird that as I ate my Smoked Meat Sandwich, I considered ordering one to-go as well?

                                                                  For pictures of my meal and a bit more about my experience at Caplansky's, feel free to check out:
                                                                  http://www.platoputas.com/2010/01/18/...

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