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Caplanskys on College St - impressions?

I'm planning on stopping by sometime this week and I'm curious to see how the new location is standing up to scrutiny. Anyone been so far?

Edit: I've done a couple searches on impressions, which seem to be mixed at this point (variable service, new menu items meh, old items faithful), any further insights would be appreciated

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  1. Went there on Sunday and had a delicious and unhealthy brunch.

    First the bad news: the service was simply atrocious and whenever the wait staff had the chance to drop the ball, they did. From forgotten menus (we had to borrow one from our fellow diners), to long delays between ordering something and receiving it (20 mins for OJ), to poorly timed meals (long wait for poutine appetizer followed by mains 2 minutes later), the service was almost amusingly bad. To be fair, the staff made it clear that it was opening weekend and they will screw up and say sorry a lot, and it certainly all came true. As such, I'd like to give them another try in about a month when hopefully they've ironed out their kinks.

    But now to the good news: the food was quite enjoyable. My friend and I split the smoked meat poutine. The fries were golden and crispy and the smoked meat gravy was flavourful, if perhaps too salty. The curds were somewhat mushy and definitely not squeaky. Although certainly not the best poutine I've ever had, it certainly wasn't the worst. The proportions of fries to gravy to cheese were balanced which made the dish tasty from beginning to end.

    I had the 7oz smoked meat sandwich on rye, medium fattiness (rec'd by the server). I'm no Montreal smoked meat expert, but I thought the meat was stellar and would give Schwartz's a run for its money (blasphemy to some). The meat was very flavourful, nice amount of fat, and the texture was utterly melt-in-your-mouth. They have about five different mustards you can slather on - I opted for a blend of the ancient grains plus their hottest one (which wasn't all that hot IMO). I'd definitely return for this sandwich.

    My friend had their breakfast plate consisting of three over-easy eggs, smoked meat, latkes, and challah bread. The eggs were properly prepared, meat delicious as over, but the latkes lacked flavour or interest. The challah bread was drowning in butter, just in case you wanted to raise your cholesterol further.

    All in all, a decent meal, but I'm curious to try out their other dishes once they've worked out their service problems.

    21 Replies
    1. re: vidkid

      I love this place and desperately want it to succeed, but in no way is the smoked meat anywhere near as good as Schwartz's. It's too tough and stringy.

      1. re: Dr. No

        Have you had it more than once? I'm wondering if it was just a bad day. I've found that it's sometimes inconsistent. I've had it once where it was virtually inedible and was given a brand new one.

        1. re: SMOG

          No, so i went back tonight. The meat was wildly different, far superior to my first heartrending visit. While still no Schwartz's, this time it was at least within the same ballpark, and quite good.

          1. re: Dr. No

            It has been discussed almostly endlessly on this board that Caplansky's smoked meat should not be compared to Schwartz's. While Zane did intend to replicate (imitate?) Schwartz's when he started out, he did not realize that Schwartz's does not really smoke with wood, so his was much smokier. Nevertheless, he was happy with the result and to almost universal joy, he has stayed with his version. Many of us don't even call it Montreal Smoked meat, prefering "Toronto Smoked Meat" or "Zane's Smoked Meat"

            1. re: OTFOODIE

              OR just smoked meat.

              The comparison to Schwartz's is inevitable. But it's in Montreal, not Toronto. Appreciate Caplansky's for what it is...a great sandwich. You get some occasional duds...but that even happens at Schwartz's (dang, can't avoid the comparison).

              1. re: grandgourmand

                i've had some of the most disgusting smoked meat from schwartz's... they are definitely fallible. they do also serve great stuff, just as much as zane and all the other smoked meat options out there.

                if we're going to make it toronto centric, then from the sounds of it zane and goldin's are making the most comparable products.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  How is Schwartz's smoked? I have heard that their 1920's vintage smoker has withstood multiple changes including ownership over the years. But what is it?
                  Wood fired? or a modernized burner?
                  Zane had to change to a more modern smoker with higher output, at the Monarch, and this seems to have made the transition to College Street.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    I think Schwartz uses gas. There is wood in the process, but it isn't hickory.

                    Caplansky is using two identical, electric Cookshacks. He keeps talking about using logs. That would be nice in principle, but I think it would need more attention, patience, and skill than is feasible. Not that he listens to me very often....

                    1. re: embee

                      Darryl at B.R. uses a Southern Pride with fired wood logs from local orchards.The oven adds a blast of air when the wood temp gets too low. Impressive results, for a price.

                      1. re: embee

                        I just happened to notice this, and it's wrong.

                        Schwartz apparently hasn't used wood in many years. Seems the smoke is from the meat's own drippings.

                        Caplansky did use electric Cookshacks when this was posted, but now has a commercial Southern Pride. It can burn logs, but I believe he is using pellets.

                      2. re: jayt90

                        i don't specifically know how it's smoked but as embee says it's definitely not hickory... it's so mild.

                        personally, my problem with schwartz was that it was insanely salty and badly textured. very chemical. it got trashed.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          I'm actually surprised that nobody's ever found Caplansky's too be too smokey in flavour. I love it, but most people are overwhelmed by it when they try somethink like that (as in "true" BBQ). The first time I tried it, the smokiness threw me back and shocked me a bit, but I've had good BBQ before.

                          In any case, it's certainly unique and I'm sure the process and technique is different from other smoked meat places. But I wouldn't suggest that it's so far off that it can't be compared. A smoked brisket vs an over braised brisket can't be compared. Caplansky's and Schwart'z aren't that far removed.

                          1. re: SMOG

                            they could be compared, no doubt. but the issue that seems to routinely come up is that people expect a schwartz product from caplanskys and there are actually quite a few differences... spicing, smoke, cure.... so while a comparison is certainly fair i think it's the expectations that we're trying to set appropriately.

                            and i think the smoke intensity did come up before and has just been accepted as part of his product. if i'm not burping up smoke 2 days afterwards, that's just enough smoke.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Well of course it's going to be different. That's like going to Libretto and expecting Terroni pizza. Both are thin and use good ingredients, but they're different. Still comparable. But any proper food establishment is going to put its signature on its food. Diversity adds fun!

                              1. re: SMOG

                                but that's exactly it... there are definitely people out there that aren't celebrating the diversity but very quickly writing caplansky's off as simply just not schwartz. and it isn't... that's fine, but it's more fair to caplansky to identify him as his own product so that he's given a fair shake.

                                1. re: SMOG

                                  Ahh...semantics are fun. I once got a review back on a paper that said, in reference to our statement that our results were "comparable to" those from another method, "I believe the authors mean to say 'similar.' Any two numbers can be compared, yes?" And, contrary to popular belief, it is, in fact, possible to compare apples to oranges. However, it's not generally all that productive. The only people to whom Schwartz's and Caplansky's are not comparable are those who (like me) have never tried one of the two. Regardless, I'm glad Dr. No gave it another shot, because I've never had tough or stringy meat from Caplansky's. Hopefully my luck will continue now that he's moved, but I'm giving it a little time for them to settle in before I pay them a visit.

                              2. re: SMOG

                                Before he got the curing under control, he was making (accidentally) some of the best "Texas style" BBQ brisket I've ever tasted. Part of me says put that on the menu, but another part says it doesn't belong (and starts the slippery slope toward Pickle Barrel territory).

                                Perhaps an occasional special?

                                1. re: SMOG

                                  I wouldn't say it was too smokey, but to me it tasted like cedarwood smoke, not an appropriate flavour for meat, IMO.

                        2. re: OTFOODIE

                          Toronto Smoked Meat. :-D

                          I was in Montreal back in July and of course visited Schwartz's. I do prefer the smokiness of Zane's sandwich. What I liked about Schwartz's was how much of the spices made it into the sandwich. I do hate the nuclear yellow mustard though. Zane's housemade mustard is far superior. I don't care if it's not traditional. I'd like to see more spices in Zane's sandwiches.

                          For the smoked meat poutine, which I love, I'd like to see fresher & bigger curds and a little more liquid to the gravy.

                          We haven't been to the new location yet but plan on going tonight. Looking forward to having several different good beers with my sandwich and poutine.

                          1. re: lister

                            I don't think he uses enough spice. But it isn't my deli :-(

                            1. re: lister

                              YOu might want to order all your beers at once.

                              I actually love the nuclear yellow mustard. Just the right tang to cut through the fat. Personal preference thing, though.

                              They had 4 taps...one of which wasn't available last time I was there. Not sure which it was, though.

                  2. I went there yesterday for lunch. The smoked meat sandwich was just as good as ever, if not better -- flavourful, smoky and just the right amount of fat. The fries were also stellar. Tried the burger as well -- not-so-stellar. It was decent enough, but it was overcooked and somewhat dry. The smoked meat mixed in with the ground chuck was pretty much negligible (if you hadn't told me it was there, I'm not sure if I even would have noticed it). It was fairly mediocre, and a complete waste of time when the smoked meat is so good.

                    As for the service, all the servers seemed pretty frazzled, and I could tell that a lot of the people around me were starting to get a bit frustrated. It was pretty clear that everyone was trying their best, but they just weren't prepared for the amount of customers that they got. I'm sure the service will improve immensely once they get their footing (at least I hope so).

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Michael N

                      On his blog, he emphasized attitude over experience from potential hires. They certainly lacked the experience, but I found them to be good natured staff.

                      Food was good. I'm all about the sandwich. It was as good as ever. The poutine, I think I'm ordering it just because it's poutine. I'm not crazy about it. And they didn't have chopped liver.

                      I'll definitely go back. Hopefully the servers get more comfortable with the job. If he gets it together, Caplansky has a gold mine on his hands.

                      1. re: grandgourmand

                        Went Sunday and loved it.

                        Yes, the service was baaaaaaaaaad, but we knew it would be on opening weekend. Who cares for now, right?

                        Loved the sandwich. Excellent as always. Thought the fries were delicious. Really enjoyed the liver knish with smoked meat gravy.

                        Wanted to try the smoked turkey sandwich but they were out. Wanted to try the matzoh ball soup but they were out.

                        Took a few ruguleh home (chocolate, apricot) -- they were only so so.

                        I love the new place and will go again soon.

                            1. re: EarlyDrive

                              wow, that early and all sold out? would there be anything left at dinner I wonder?

                    2. i won't go into the food quite yet.... but i had pretty good service considering the lack of experience.

                      right up front i didn't have to wait in the line more than a couple minutes to get greeted and an estimate on wait time for a patio table (which was shorter than estimated). when we were seated we had our menus with us and spent a bit of time perusing while we got some waters after being asked about drinks (there's no drink list posted where we were sitting outside so it was rather difficult to decide on a drink that way). when the server did come over to take our orders she apologized that she didn't tell us upfront what was unavailable and immediately offered some pops on the house and gave us extra time to decide. it took a bit of time for her to come back but nothing ridiculous and when she did she was happy to replace the missing smoked turkey from the meat combo platter with some of the smoked meat burger. periodically we were given apologies for and notice about it taking a bit of extra time.

                      when we did get our food, the poutine was VERY undersauced for my liking and almost more meat topping like. we mentioned that we'd be keen on more sauce and they quickly took it to the kitchen and had an extra large ladle of meat and gravy poured on top. after that they made an effort to clear dishes as soon as they saw them empty and packaged up our left overs for us quite speedy. from my understanding, much of the problems on sunday also stemmed from a finicky computer problem irregardless of opening week issues.

                      it was a long wait for the food, but i was consistently updated. i did notice that those ordering sandwiches tended to get food quickest. i could see improvements but for the casual atmosphere it met my expectations for good service.

                      1. Went for a late lunch today (arrived around 2:30-ish). Seated almost immediately outside - very nice. Service was totally scattered but very charming. Maybe if I were in a hurry I'd be annoyed, but I wasn't. My son and I each ordered the sandwich special - me with fries, he with matzoh ball soup. First came glasses of water....then a while later a server came and asked us how everything was and I said the water was delicious. Oh! You haven't been served yet! Then came the fries and soup. Then another server came and asked us how we liked everything. And I said so far so good but we haven't had our sandwich yet. Oh! You ordered sandwiches! About 5 minutes later came ONE sandwich. I said ok...now we need one more. Oh! You ordered TWO sandwiches! Etc.

                        Anyway, we got the sandwiches. Medium fat - very good, I must say. NOT Schwartz's; NOT 2nd Ave. Deli; NOT Katz's Deli - very much its own thing. I liked it a lot. The fries were a tad not hot enough but they looked like Yukon golds and had good flavour. Should probably have asked for a replacement but at that point I really wasn't going to mess with the servers - they had enough problems. My son said his matzoh ball soup was great - and he knows his matzoh ball soup.

                        Very glad to see the place open. They'll get it all together eventually, I'm sure.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Nyleve

                          I was there today about that time also. The servers were doing a good job given the circumstances. (I'm agreeing with you by the way) They, and the patrons generally stayed in a good mood, which definitely helps. We had the latkes (with other items)which were terrible. We expressed this and without a seconds hesitation they were taken off the bill. Now I"ve been once, I will wait till the excitement dies down and then go again to see how good things are. By the way, I think you were sitting a couple tables away from us!

                          1. re: Leslieville

                            Me in black long sleeves. Son with beard facing north.

                          2. re: Nyleve

                            Yikes on service.

                            Tomorrow I'm taking some friends for dinner. Maybe I'm tempting fate by going on their first Friday open...bring it on!

                          3. Variable service remains to be an early problem. Zane says he is hiring good solid attitude (read excellent, friendly, customer service) before experience or knowledge. This will take awhile to sort out.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jayt90

                              I've also heard that they are having some problems with their computer POS system - sometimes orders that were entered by the server didn't show up in the kitchen, etc. That can't help!

                            2. I went for a late dinner on Tuesday night. Had a few beers, 7 oz smoked meat sandwich, 7 oz smoked turkey, poutine and a slice of apple cake a la mode (to share, of course). Everything was decent - smoked meat was delish, smoked turkey a little less so, poutine was low on the curds and actually not salty enough for my taste (but tasty nonetheless), and apple cake was a little dry but moistened by the ice cream on the side. Service was a little hit and miss - servers were super nice but didn't really seem to know what we ordered or where we were in our meal. It was also a bit disconcerting that the servers were being spoken to sternly from time to time within earshot of our meal. There might be kinks that need to be ironed out, yes, but they're probably best left to iron out when customers aren't around. I'll be going back to try out the breakfast sometime soon.

                              1. No, I haven't posted a review. Yes, there is a reason. Yes, the anticipation is frustrating. I'll say here what I've been telling people privately:

                                If you can deal with the realities of the situation - meaning possibly chaotic service, messed up orders, inconsistent food (especially from the kitchen), probable menu and recipe changes - and can do so with patience and good humour, then go. If you hit a quiet moment, you'll likely be fine. The place is beautiful and the patio is great - at least when the wasps are hunting somewhere else.

                                If you are in a hurry, in a bad mood, or looking for a relaxing meal, think twice. Give them a month. Publicity at the right moment is great, but I don't think Corey Mintz, Martini Boys, or CBC 1 did them any favours last week. Last year I was one of the guilty ones. This year, I haven't said a word. I will, but not yet.

                                The POS doesn't work properly. Some orders aren't getting to the kitchen. Some orders aren't getting anywhere. Some of the new dishes need tweaking. Some need a lot more than tweaking. The staff is mainly great, but he very openly didn't hire them for experience. While they are still intending to stay open until 2:00 AM some days, it'll be sandwiches only after ten. I suspect there will be many more changes.

                                The smoked meat is still the same, but - as before - if something isn't right, get it replaced. Brisket is still brisket and hand curing is still hand curing. (how profound....) If you don't like one of the new items, ask for something else and tell him why.

                                For a deli nut like me, the emergence of a new, real deli after decades of doing without is exciting. This may be the most enthusiastically anticipated restaurant opening in Toronto since Note Bene, which makes for some interesting discussion fodder.

                                Last year I threw caution to the winds because I was concerned Zane might fail. This year I'm more worried about burnout. If you do go, and you have constructive criticism, let Zane know. Please. But it's too early to kvetch here. You'll have plenty of time to do that later.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: embee

                                  embee, that's a great post and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I've eaten there (in the old location) several times. Once, I went late at night, nobody was there and the meat was kind of tough. I didn't say anything and regret that to this day. It wasn't bad, just not the great. On another try, it was very tough and almost inedible. I made a point of telling him. Not only did he give me a credit for the next time, but he was very appreciative of the news. Your point is a good one - the feedback to him in invaluable, especially when he's not always in the kitchen and consistency shouldn't be expected when we're dealing with such a finnicky product.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    embee, are you saying that he purposefully hired inexperienced staff?

                                    1. re: wilbroni

                                      embee is closer to this than I am, and i'm sure he'll answer. However, I have been following Caplansky's blog and Zane is looking for inexperienced staff with a friendly, cheerful, helpful attitude, as opposed to experienced wait staff.

                                      This is a tricky path to follow, as some servers will quit under pressure, or fail on efficiency, and just a few will stay and become valued by Zane and the customers.

                                      Experienced servers, between engagements, can be riskier because of of a different type of attitude.

                                  2. went this evening.

                                    me: "how much is the beer?"
                                    waitress: "six or seven dollars, i don't know." (rolling her eyes).
                                    me: "uhhh i guess I'll have the pale ale."
                                    my girlfriend: "i'll have the wheat beer."
                                    waitress: "you do know that's a wheat beer don't you?" uhhhhh yeah, that's what it's called.

                                    then she ID'ed us.

                                    waitress: "sorry, my boss is a nazi" ..... she says in a jewish deli? oy vey.

                                    the smoked meat sandwich was good and came to our table without much delay. the fries were dry and cardboardy -- not good. when asked how everything was, we mentioned this, and they were immediately replaced by more of the same (but hotter). they need to deep fry them quicker. nobody likes fries too tough to stick a fork through.

                                    will go back for the sandwich sometime, i think.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: clamnectar

                                      i went last night with a friend. definitely a smokey smell permeating throughout. i agree with embee's comments-give it time hopefully they work out their kinks. right now it's just pure chaos inside, last night the night servers apparently didnt' show up on time and it was the day shifters holding down the fort. the meat was delicious-we ordered the fatty cut (too fat for me) it was moist, smoked meat poutine and the smoked meat burger. we were disappointed in the burger, the smoked meat was not noticible and the burger was quite dry. the smoked poutine was delicious but we got too many duds for fries-y'know the crisped out dry ends. anyways i'll be back after some time.

                                      oh and I should add, while the service was skittish and novice, we weren't treated rudely and they were quite apologetic about the state of things.

                                      1. re: deabot

                                        Does anyone remember what beers he has on tap? Are they micros or are they industrial swill?

                                        1. re: MattB

                                          I haven't been yet but did press my face against the glass two days before ordering. Two of the three taps that I saw were King Pilsner and Denison's Weissebier. Someone here posted that there is a fourth tap and one of the two I don't know is a pale ale. So good on Zane for going the micro route! I do hope there is some rotation for interesting seasonals.

                                          1. re: MattB

                                            He also has Mill Street Tankhouse. Not sure if he has the other Mill St beers, as I always drink Tankhouse whenever it's available.

                                              1. re: clamnectar

                                                The Mike Duggan #9 IPA is on tap? Awesome! That is one of my favourite Ontario beers. I think IPA's are a great compliment to smoked meat.

                                                1. re: kwjd

                                                  The four beers on tap last night were: Denison's Weissebier, Mill St. Organic, King Pilsner and Mike Duggan's No 9.

                                            1. re: deabot

                                              I also had the burger and felt the same way--that it was overcooked and way too dry. I could taste the smoked meat and appreciated the peppery spice that it contributed. Not sure why "twice ground" is a good thing? I want my burger to have some texture.

                                              The beet-less borscht was really quite good. Maybe a bit heavy-handed with the tomato flavour but the other elements (beef, cabbage, broth) worked excellently together.

                                              As noted by others beer selection is a highlight.

                                              Sat at the bar and can say that the bartender was not one of the "attitude over experience" hires. Not only was he professional, efficient and informative but I overheard him talking to a former co-worker picking up a takeout order about their good ole days together at Canoe (or similar top-ten TO spot but I'm pretty sure it was Canoe).

                                          2. Reporting back!

                                            Went yesterday around 7ish, seated in the patio outside.

                                            All of us had the sandwich combo (medium) with mine being fresser size. Split a smoked meat poutine and had the fries/salad as sides.

                                            Sandwich: I'm used to the fatty so I found medium a bit lean for my tastes, but still very good. A couple slices were a tad tough, so I can't put it up there with my first Monarch experience, but it held its own. I love the homemade mustard (friends prefer the neon yellow variety).

                                            Poutine: First few forkfuls were delicious! The smoked meat/gravy combo as amazing as ever. Not to sound overly gushy, but it may have been my favourite part of the night. The fries and gravy were piping hot. My only suggestion would be to maybe layer the gravy/meat or to just put a little more. Between the sandwiches, our sides, and the poutine, by the time we kept attacking the poutine the lack of gravy/meat made the fries kind of dry and overly crunchy.

                                            Salad: Friend had it, he said he would've liked more dressing but it did the trick.

                                            Fries (side): Very good when piping hot, but reflecting another commenters post I would say there were a fair bit of crunchy bits. Maybe a little less time in the deep fryer? Some were really, really crunchy.

                                            No room for dessert, we all tried the #9 IPA and found it to be refreshing, great fit with the meal as a whole. Friends loved the place, would go back in the near future.

                                            Overall: 7.5/10

                                            Will revisit in a month or two, once the kitchen and service find their sweet spots.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: cabernet05

                                              On the menu, that salad sounds good enough to lure me (a vegetarian) to Caplansky's. I won't make a special trip, but it's good to know I can tag along when my friends inevitably go.

                                              1. re: cabernet05

                                                A group of 3 of us went last night at around 9. We were a little nervous about going so close to the opening but were too excited to wait longer. First off, the new space is beautiful - they really did a nice job.

                                                After reading everyone's comments in this thread we were pretty worried about how the service would be. I'm happy to say we had no problems at all. Our server was very friendly and prompt. She seemed a bit inexperienced, but there were certainly no issues there.

                                                Now for the food! We all had medium fatty sandwiches. The flavour was great, as always, but I echo cabernet05's comment that a few pieces were a little tough. Our meat was a bit dry as well. It definitely wasn't as moist as it was at the Monach, though I'm confident they'll work it out.

                                                We had the poutine as well which was excellent. Fries were perfectly crips and held their own with the gravy. It could have used a bit more cheese by the smoked meat gravy more than made up for it.

                                                For dessert we tried the cheesecake which was delicious - it was creamy and light the crust was amazing.

                                                Overall we had good experience. The only downside was the dryness of the meat. I'll definitely be back but I'll give it a couple of weeks for them to sort out any issues. I definitely want to try a few of their new menu items.

                                                1. re: jmaxi

                                                  We only had the smoked meat combos with fires. I agree the meat was a little dry, made me wish I ordered full fat instead of medium. I found the level of smoke to be just right. The fries seemed different at the Monarch, a little darker in colour at the Monarch. Somehow I remember liking them more at the Monarch. My second half of the sandwich was a little soggy from sitting on the plate, I don't remember that with paper lined baskets. Also the ketchup seemed a little more vinaigery, I perfer it sweeter. I had no problems with service.
                                                  I like the space, I like seeing the old jewish men in their suits and hats, I like the kitsch factor. I miss the crappy double bubble gum with the bill, I miss the secret society feel to the Monarch. My expectations have changed and now its maybe less of a foodie destination. I think he will do well. How picky can we get for a $10 lunch.

                                                2. re: cabernet05

                                                  I suspend judgement on fries at this time of year because this is the worst time of year for good quality fresh fries. It's too early to use this year's product as they have too much moisture and last year's product are just too old.

                                                  Congrats to Zane for being realistic and hiring potential service stars over the experienced and usually lackadaisical folks that pollute Toronto's service industry. He's hired people who reflect his image and they will do him less damage in the long term.

                                                  1. re: iamafoodie

                                                    I gotta say, I agree. I also applaud hiring personality over experience. Toronto service is just godawful and disgusting (generally, not always). Good for Caplansky's for at least trying to get servers with personality and enthusiasm. If that is indeed what it trying to be done there.

                                                    That said, I think I'll let things smooth out a bit before I pay the new location a visit.

                                                    1. re: magic

                                                      a more cynical observer might assume that "personality over experience" means finding workers who can be paid the absolute minimum.

                                                      1. re: clamnectar

                                                        Or that someone is studying to be a rocket scientist, an international law expert, or a professional musician...

                                                        1. re: embee

                                                          Too often the case Hounds. At least it often appears that way.

                                                          It seems to me that there are just far too few people out there who have a service-oriented personality, maybe one in ten. An outgoing, genuinely friendly personality and an others-come-first attitude are not learnable. They are personality characteristics acquired about the age of 5, never later than 7, that too many restaurant operators just don't know or care about. Zane deserves a lot of credit for bravely finding and developing them as he builds another successful restaurant.

                                                          1. re: iamafoodie

                                                            I'm not sure that outgoing personality is necessary. Good attitude, yes, and devotion to the details of the job without showing contrariness or laziness.
                                                            I would not be too happy with two outgoing cheerful severs chatting to each other, while a single serious waitperson put excellence of service first.

                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                              To your point, I think the outgoing requirement may come as a result of the typical clients of Jewish delis. They are usually chatty, so it helps to have someone feel at home. That's just an observation from my experience, but I could be way off :).

                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                Outgoing isn't necessary but it'd be nice to see more servers treat their job with pride and something more than indifference, or in many cases belligerence. Something which has plagued Toronto for God knows how long. Too long. You don’t realize how awful our service is until you travel to other cities within Canada and see just how terrible we have it. We're just so used to it.

                                                                I think Caplansky's is doing something good in at least stipulating that customer service is a serious thing. Because it is. I don't frequent plenty of restaurants whose food I like because of their poor service.

                                                                That said, professionalism and pride is a part of what I’m talking about. If two servers are chatting it up at their customer’s expense that’s not good either. At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer.

                                                  2. To be honest my wife and I were not impressed, either by the food or what they laughingly called service which was sorely lacking even though Zane took our order.
                                                    The kishka was dry. The knish was... I don't know what it was. A knish is usually a potato covering surrounding a meat filling or sometimes just potato only. Flaky pastry, hard on the bottom with no taste of liver filling is just not a knish by any stretch of the imagination.
                                                    The smoked meat was okay. But my wurst and eggs and the hand cut French fries for the sandwich arrived a full 7 minutes before the sandwich. We had to ask for mustard when we could get the attention of one of the many workers rushing past the table.
                                                    The water glasses with tepid water were not filled.
                                                    Were we asked it we would like a beverage? Oh, were there beverages? None are listed on the menu.
                                                    It took 15 minutes to get the bill and when the machine arrived, the swipe card was inserted in the chip slot.
                                                    When I mentioned complaints, Zane said something to the effect “but we're busy”. I must wonder how much is repeat business.
                                                    BTW, don't go in a group of six or more. The service certainly isn't worth the mandatory 15% service fee stated on the menu.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: tawnyport

                                                      Is the knish the same one Ruth Reichl applauded, from Manny?

                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                        if they haven't changed it since the first sunday they were open, not a chance. the caplansky one has a rather thin crunchy tight pastry in comparison and i think that makes a huge difference to start.

                                                        manny's was truly amazing.

                                                      2. re: tawnyport

                                                        Thats too bad. I thought the kishka was awesome. Shame they overdid yours.

                                                        I cant say Im 100% behind the idea of hiring exclusively based on attitude. There should be someone on staff who knows the early warning signs of service meltdown.

                                                        1. re: Everythingtarian

                                                          If he chose the staff on attitude, he sure didn't add ability and customer service attitude to his checklist. We found the staff to be poorly trained in both service and attitude. They continually rushed by our table. They didn't appear to know what service was all about. You just don't serve two patrons a main course and a side and then bring the second main 7 minutes later.
                                                          Servers should look at the tables as they pass-by. Oh, and the server put down the wurst and eggs and the French fries and said "will there be anything else?" to which the response was 'knives and forks would be nice" as they had removed the dirty cutlery with the appetizer dishes and not replaced them. Our table didn't have a mustard caddy, so we had to find someone to bring one. And then we were asked, "would you like the special house mustard”, which had to be searched out and brought to the table.
                                                          Not very good.
                                                          Reminds me of the attitude of the joksters on "Conviction Kitchen" on CITYTV last night while I waited to watch Law & Order UK.

                                                      3. Can't wait to head out there this weekend!

                                                        1. I just went yesterday for dinner and loved it. I know some people are saying the service isn't great, but it was great service for me. I warned my friend beforehand that the service may suck based on this thread, but I really didn't need to set the bar low. He got there before I did and was already drinking a #9 IPA. As soon as I got there they took my drink order. It was pretty quick too from the time ordering our sandwiches to when they came to the table. We both loved the smoked meat, but I'm not sure if my standards were very high since I haven't had it since April or May. Once we were finished it didn't take long for the server to ask if we wanted anything else. Maybe it was just the server we had was good or that it wasn't packed since it was 6pm on a Monday, but there are no complaints from me on the service or the food (and beer!).

                                                          1. Dropped by for lunch today and while I wanted to try a few different menu items I was craving smoked meat. It was excellent as always. Split a poutine with my friend and I liked it more than I did the first time - the meat is in smaller chunks, and there is a better gravy/meat ratio. Enjoyed the #9 IPA which was an inspired match with the smoked meat. I noticed LOTS of people ordering the bagel/lox platter.

                                                            Space is beautiful, it just looks and feels like a real deli. I could have easily been in NY, and to me there is no higher deli compliment than that. And while the place was rammed, service was efficient.

                                                            This place is a gem and we should be insanely proud of it. All my food-loving, blog-reading friends in other cities ask me about Caplansky's.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: childofthestorm

                                                              Right there with ya, cots. I decided to drop by for dinner last night, since evening patio weather is rapidly leaving us. I agree with everyone above who has said the #9 goes awfully well with his smoked meat. My sandwich was as good as it ever was at the Monarch, and the fries may very well have been the best batch I've ever gotten.

                                                              My service was fine, but then again, I'm awfully low-maintenance. I walked in knowing exactly what I wanted, so it's pretty easy to keep me happy.

                                                              The space also looks fantastic. I'm really impressed with what he's done with it.

                                                              I'm an unabashed Caplansky's groupie, so I'm just happy that none of the basics seem to have gotten lost in translation. I'll be back later to check out some of the new menu items once they've settled in some more.

                                                              1. re: Wahooty

                                                                Nice to see some positive comments are starting to appear! I'm curious - is it still crazy busy or the crowd manageable? If the place is full, do you just line up?

                                                                1. re: SMOG

                                                                  Table for two at 12:15 was no problem, virtually every table was full but they were turning everyone over quickly. I was there for an hour and didn't see anyone needing to line up, although I guess the patio helped. Geddy Lee was eating out there, saw him at the old Monarch too, dude likes his Caplansky's that's for sure.

                                                                  1. re: SMOG

                                                                    Part of the reason I went last night was because, according to his blog, Zane has been tipped off that a review in NOW is imminent. So I figured I'd sneak in before the influx that's going to cause. On a Tuesday around 6-7, it was busy but not packed. No line, but a comforting bustle about the place. But once the patio is out of commission, I wouldn't be surprised if there are lines at peak times.

                                                                    By the way, for those complaining about the service, Zane definitely seems aware. He seemed to be very actively training his staff and staying on top what they were doing. There may still be issues, but it's not for lack of effort on his part. It's only been two weeks.

                                                                    1. re: Wahooty

                                                                      how's the wasp situation on the patio? it was pretty bad the first couple of days, hope they've managed to find a solution to keep them away, my friend and i had to surrender our ginger ales...

                                                                      1. re: auberginegal

                                                                        I noticed no wasps. The evening was, however, just on the cusp of a-bit-too-chilly-for-the-patio, so maybe they just opted for an indoor table. ;)

                                                                      2. re: Wahooty

                                                                        Oh, I'm quite sure he's aware, considering he reads (and has posted on) this site ;)

                                                                2. Caplanskys was written about in the most recent issue of Gourmet. The article is also online. Looking forward to checking his place out.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: LJS2

                                                                    That article had to be written before the College Street location opened. Some of the items - the smoked meat, fries, poutine, etc., - were available at the Monarch, but others, like the lox, beef bacon, latkes, and so on, were not. Just so you know..

                                                                    1. re: FrankD

                                                                      Read to the end, article says that Zane "recently opened" his new place. Author is David Sax, probably the foremost expert on deli culture today and a huge fan of Caplansky's.

                                                                  2. Went last Sunday for brunch with a friend. We were seated outdoors and there was definitely a wasp issue, especially as we were winding down our meal. Friend ordered the Versht and Eggs with a bagel and I the Leo with challah toast, which was nicely executed, but perhaps a trifle under-seasoned. Challah toast could have been more toasted, but the latkes were fine.

                                                                    When the food arrived, there was some confusion because the Versht came with challah instead of a bagel and the bagel came with a dish that wasn't ours. My Leo was nowhere in sight, but this was quickly remedied and as a bonus, my friend got challah toast and a bagel. Also, my friend received apple sauce for his latkes, but there was none for mine. We reminded our server and apple sauce and sour cream came in a reasonable amount of time. Coffee refills were timely and welcome.

                                                                    I also went this past Wednesday for dinner around 7 PM alone. I was seated quickly inside, but the server did take a long time to take my order. Have to say I was squeezed into the back corner, though. I was aware of the service issues with the inexperienced waitstaff and there was some compensation with the server being all smiles and apologetic for the wait. I ordered a sandwich combo with full fat smoked meat and fries.

                                                                    The full fat smoked meat was actually not too fatty, for the most part. I haven't had Zane's full fat smoked meat before, but Schwartz's full fat is far fattier than Caplansky's. There were a few slices that had some pretty big pieces of fat clinging to it, but the sandwich as a whole was enormously satisfying. I do have to say I found the meat a touch too smoky and I was burping up smoke for the rest of the night. The sandwiches I've had before at Caplansky's were much lighter on the smoke.

                                                                    The fries were splendid, but I'm a sucker for this kind of fry. It reminded me of Schwartz's style of fries, but executed in a far better fashion. Crispy with a soft interior and cut the right size sprinkled with crunchy little bits of salt. The basket was far too enormous for one person to finish off, even though I tried my best (and it wasn't a good idea). And this may be a strange point to make, but did anyone find the ketchup to be insufficiently viscous?

                                                                    Also, a problem with the inside is the plethora of flies. I'm guessing this may be more of an issue if you sit in the back, like I did.

                                                                    I'm counting down the days until I can justify going again, but the entire meal was overkill. Next time, I'm bringing a friend instead of tackling the sandwich combo with fries on my own.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: lsk

                                                                      Flies and wasps have been a real problem this summer because of the garbage strike. They had these huge breeding grounds all over the city that they normally don't have. I've observed flies and wasps in restaurants where I've never had a problem before (By the Bluffs was one). I'm hoping this won't be as big an issue next summer with Caplansky's patio.

                                                                    2. Finally hit Caplansky's for lunch this afternoon. I had been wanting to try it since he opened at the new location but held off as I always try to wait to allow kinks to be worked out. And it was fantastic.

                                                                      My DC and I had the lunch combo with salads and shared a basket of fries. The sandwiches were medium, juicy and wonderfully smoked. I actually enjoyed them more than the Montreal style as they were less salty. My DC, who's a Montrealer, was skeptical at first, but absolutely loved it. The fries were perfectly cooked and nicely salted. My only minor quibble is that I would have liked my salad to have a little more dressing on it (there was really none) but in the end, my waistline could use some help anyway.

                                                                      The service was friendly and efficient. I can already see this will be a regular hang out for me-as long as I start running again :)


                                                                      1. I went to Caplansky's at 3:30 this afternoon, thinking that there wouldn't be a line in the middle of the day. I was right, but it seems that the lack of line was as a result of being out of smoked meat. They tell us that it should be ready in an hour, so we head out for a little book/record shopping a few doors down. We return at 4:30 and are told that the smoked meat should be ready at five. We sit down with our books in tow, and order a pickle plate and some cherry sodas. Just before five, we wave the waitress down to place our sandwich order. She then informs us that the smoked meat won't be ready until six. Disgruntled, we ask for the bill, and are promptly served with a full tab - no free pickles, no free sodas for our trouble. Truly, the only time I ever considered a dine 'n dash.

                                                                        What's with this place? They should ensure that they have smoked meat, at all times. It's just ridiculous.

                                                                        43 Replies
                                                                        1. re: eatravel

                                                                          Caplansky's method of curing is slow and manual. His smoker is brand new, It's his third, and requires a new learning curve.

                                                                          If smoked meat was promised in the window blurb, or verbally, I would still wait for a week or three until production increases smoothly. This is not a service problem as much as trying to meet the demand, with new equipment and a longer cure.

                                                                          1. re: jayt90

                                                                            I am sorry, but, there is a service issue here. Saying that there will be product at a given time and then not delivering is bad. If the situation is unpredictable don't make promises.

                                                                            This is like a place saying "30 minutes" when you order take out and then not having it ready before an hour.

                                                                            1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                              I'm all for Caplansky's, but I agree.

                                                                              1. re: Pincus

                                                                                I'm all for Caplansky's too. Twas there for lunch today and had the Turkey and the poutine. The poutine was exceptionally good today and the Turkey was much better than I expected. My mom had the latkes and liked them very much as well.

                                                                            2. re: jayt90

                                                                              Oh come on, I make my own smoked meat, and after a single experience of under-cured brisket, I knew exactly how much time I needed to cure the meat for. He's not exactly new to this, so I would have definitely expected him to be better prepared than he is. I have also found his product to be very inconsistent, which I had difficulty understanding, considering he was using a fully automated smoker... I'll stick to my meat, thanks very much, at least until the reviews start becoming a little more consistently favourable...

                                                                              1. re: redearth

                                                                                It's always easy to be an armchair quarterback at home, but there is a big difference between curing one brisket vs 50 briskets at a time. The logistics of large production is tricky to say the least. You're at the mercy of a lot of variables that aren't controllable, much more than at home.

                                                                                That's the thing most home cooks don't understand about the restaurant business. Unless you've walked a mile in their shoes......

                                                                                Not making excuses for him, this is the reality.

                                                                                1. re: aser

                                                                                  Sorry, but I've walked a mile in those shoes, and this is not the way you do it. The time of curing and the amount of briskets needed is NOT the customers problem. The customer just wants to consume your product, and in his case, in an almost evangelical way. Excuses on food, service, and atmosphere problems are NOT acceptable to me when you've opened your doors for business. And those in the restaurant business know this.

                                                                                  In fact I think you are kinda making excuses for him, just as we all have, and it needs to stop. It's called tough love. It's hard, but it works.

                                                                                  I was making excuses for him all up until it became too sad to be funny. This is NOT rocket science (as much as some would like you to believe) it's an art, sure there's some science behind it, but it's alot of trial and error. That trial should have started BEFORE he opened the Monarch location (as all restaurant kitchens do), but it didn't. Restaurants don't usually wait for their doors to open before perfecting their techniques. Look at the kind of flaming Hwy 61 got when they first opened! OMG, people on this board didn't even give them a DAY to open before they were in there asking to taste their BBQ. And probably because of the nasty reviews of the place, it never pompted me to even try them out, even though I live quite close to them.

                                                                                  The point I'm trying to make is that Caplansky realized that people will still come and if he's this dorky little guy who smiles all the time, and throws in a couple pickles on the house or a side of poutine on the house that all will be forgiven. So now we've allowed this likeable character all this extra time, all these extra excuses, and all these benefit of the doubts. And I for one can't just sit back in my armchair and not comment when these excuses keep flowing. I wasn't planning on posting on this again, but your comment prompted me out of retirement on this thread to do so.

                                                                                  Name ONE other restaurant/burger spot/pizza place/salad spot that any of us have given THIS much time to get it right??!! I can't think of a single one.

                                                                                  So, I guess it begs the question, is it because his end product is so amazing, have these customers become friends and feel they need to defend til the end, or, is it that the people of Toronto are so hungry for great smoked meat? If there are any other passionate restaurateurs out there who love smoked meat, this might be the time to come in and give Caplansky's a run for their money. My hunch tells me that if there was even one other real competitor out there for him, he'd get his act together a bit faster. And I'm not talking the delis already serving smoked meat sandwiches because I don't think you can compare to his smoking and freshness. But if another came onto the scene, I'd love to see the dynamics of this.

                                                                                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                    For the most part I agree with you RD, but I just wanted to point out than in many of the negative reviews that Highway 61 received, the very poor attitude of the management was a big factor. I think that is a crucial difference if you're going to compare.

                                                                                    1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                      Well there you go, you've made up your mind and it is w/i your right to do so. If you don't want to patronize his business, that is your decision.

                                                                                      I'm willing to put up w/ these issues because I've tasted his product when all cylinders are running.

                                                                                      Your comparison isn't too apt because Hwy 61 "never" served anything good, it was horrendous from the get go. Zane had production delays, but his product was good. He would rather stop selling than serve product not meeting his standards.

                                                                                      Is it annoying smoked meat has been AWOL for this long, of course. Will it stop me from going in the future, no.

                                                                                      For the record, I have no affiliation w/ Zane. I have not been comped for any dishes. I just like his smoked meat, plain and simple.

                                                                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                        RD, I have to say that HWY 61 food was bad. The ower/manager's attitude was worse. There is no comparison at all.

                                                                                        Secondly, nobody says you need to go there. Obviously you have it all figured out and Zane doesn't. You walked the walk with perfection and he is tripping.

                                                                                        Let's just let the people decide and hopefully Zane will catch up before people give up.

                                                                                        I for one have not given up and I applaud his mission!

                                                                                      2. re: aser

                                                                                        I've worked in both environments, and I have to disagree with you on this one. I think consistency is much easier to achieve on a larger scale, using the same purveyors and using automated equipment. Please enlighten me as to exactly how curing 50 briskets is different from curing one... Sure, you're using a lot more brine or dry cure, but shouldn't that result in a more consistent product? I'm not really following you here. And armchair quarterback? Really? Trust me, I've walked the walk.

                                                                                        1. re: redearth

                                                                                          Zane's dry cure is inherently less even, more unpredictable than brining, with high tech syringes and related equipment.
                                                                                          The rate of dry cure penetration varies slightly from one brisket to another, and the thickness of the briskets varies also. From his blog, Zane indicates that more time is necessary. As I recall, he tinkered with curing and salt content at the Monarch, changed meat suppliers three times, and is now on his third smoker. That's a lot of demand on consistency, for an even more demanding public.

                                                                                          Another reason Zane is cut so much slack by some of us is that he is developing a unique product, here in Toronto, and there is a lot of underdog sympathy out there.

                                                                                          1. re: redearth

                                                                                            Okay, here's my take on this.

                                                                                            I have been curing briskets for more than 25 years. Briskets don't dry cure evenly with any reliability.

                                                                                            If, hypothetically, the briskets are of relatively uniform thickness, fat content, fat distribution, and grain coarseness, the curing time should be similar. A 1" flat should dry cure reliably in two weeks.

                                                                                            Thicker briskets need more time - possibly much more time. I cure for a minimum of three weeks, and often for four. It took years of practice before I could judge probable curing times at all accurately. (And note my use of "probable".)

                                                                                            The reality is that all of the meat delivered by the purveyor will not have similar physical characteristics. I'd separate the briskets by the characteristics I know to be important and cure similar cuts together. In a production situation, I'd probably have 2, 3, and 4 week batches. I don't know whether Caplansky does this.

                                                                                            The smoking is a less important variable. I have a fully automatic electric smoker that holds its temperature accurately. A cured brisket gets 3-4 hours of smoke (set at 200 F), depending on size. I then finish it in a 200 F oven, tightly sealed over liquid, for up to 8 hours. I adopted this technique very recently. This is a much more reliable technique than steaming, but you can put a lot more meat into a steamer than you can put sealed pans into an oven.

                                                                                            Caplansky's new smoker is a log burning Southern Pride. I don't know when it will be operational. I suspect it will have a learning curve.

                                                                                            Wet curing is much, much faster. I'm usually fine with 5-7 days in brine. I will brine corned beef, but I prefer my pastrami with a dry cure.

                                                                                            Injection curing - as little as one day - has cornered the market. The pitiful taste of these foods is just one of the reasons why I want Zane to succeed. I'm willing to give him time to work out the kinks so long as he doesn't give up.

                                                                                            Most new restaurants aren't jammed from day one, which should make the "pent-up demand" pretty obvious. They have time to build skills as they build up their business.

                                                                                            The Monarch was supposed to be the trial run, and it got slammed from the first day. The new place has been open for all of one month. I'm not an "apologist", and I probably kvetch to Zane more than anyone. If Caplansky's isn't humming along by about March, I may reconsider, but right now there's a fine line between trying to meet customer demand and falling on your face.

                                                                                            The first time I get Lester's or Chicago 58 in a sandwich, I'm out'a there.... But I expect better things of Caplansky. I can excuse the Chicago 58 salami because there isn't anything better in Toronto. I hope he'll add Nathan's franks, which he supposedly can do next month. Beyond that, I'm looking for home made. Most of these menu items are new. One month? C'mon.

                                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                                              I agree with absolutely everything you said here, embee. However, I will note that it is exceptionally frustrating that right now I am running on a 3/11 success rate in actually getting a SM sandwich when I go/phone there. He shouldn't out of meat more than twice as often as he has it (and this does not count the week-long announced hiatus to allow the meat to cure more thoroughly, I didn't go for that week).

                                                                                              1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                                One month. Yes, one month. At the Monarch, there was smoked meat, fries, and soup. Everything else on the menu is new. The Harbour 60 moving analogy doesn't fit. Also, most of the staff is new, and this certainly doesn't help.

                                                                                                I'm not blinded by anything, but there's no alternative in downtown Toronto and no real old fashioned smoked meat (of any style) in the GTA. If they don't keep getting better, I won't keep going, but if they don't make it, there ain't nowhere else to go.

                                                                                                1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                                  Caplansky has the blessing of instant demand along with the curse of too much, too soon. The phenomenon is not about Toronto's "Chowhounds". It's about single-handedly reviving a disappearing, almost dead, food culture.

                                                                                                  A lot of people have been longing for a place like this for more than twenty years. A surprising number of people you might recognize eat there almost every day. (I don't actually get there very often.)

                                                                                                  When I was a kid in Brooklyn, delis were everywhere and more were good than not. A good pastrami sandwich was simply our "fast food". It has become a cultural artifact.

                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                    At a restaurant, yes, it is only real old fashioned smoked meat in the GTA. But don't forget about Goldin's. Yes, you have to pick it up and prepare it yourself, so it's not a fair comparison. But it's definitely made the old fashioned way, it's available in the GTA and it's EXCELLENT. I far prefer it to Caplansky's. I like Caplansky's smoked meat but I LOVE Goldin's.

                                                                                                    1. re: acd123

                                                                                                      All true, I agree. Goldin's smoked meat is good, but you can't go to Goldin's to eat :-(

                                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                                        For those of east of Yonge St., there is Dunn's smoked meat in cryovac at Ajax Costco, at $12/kg. This is authentic Montreal, not a black painted surface.

                                                                                                        1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                          I'm sorry, but Dunn's is not authentic Montreal smoked meat. Dunn's is mass produced for an inferior deli chain. If you want authentic Montreal smoked meat, Schwartz's offers a fed ex service. I'm a Montrealer and a food snob, but I'd be game to give Caplansky's ago. Keeping in mind, of course, that it's not supposed to be like Schwartz's and that the dude clearly has little restaurant experience.

                                                                                                          1. re: Scrumdidiliumptious

                                                                                                            To be fair to Dunn's, this smoked meat is apparently not related (either corporately or as food) to the garbage sold by some GTA family restaurants trading under that name.

                                                                                                            (I haven't sampled one of their whole briskets, so can't comment personally. )

                                                                                                            1. re: Scrumdidiliumptious

                                                                                                              Schwartzs's Fed'xed is not realistic for me, when Dunn's in the slab, spices still intact is $12/kg. It offers the Montreal smoked meat taste, which goes out all over Quebec to non Jews who like the taste, and is as good as some pretenders appearing in Toronto. Not as good as Zane's, but that is hand rubbed, home smoked, somewhat variable, and a restaurant product.

                                                                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                Please describe hand rubbing as it relates to briskets.

                                                                                                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                                                  I heard early reports (Monarch era) that the cure was rubbed and took two weeks to penetrate. They may have gone brining followed by a rub of spices before smoking, but I'm not privy to any inside information..

                                                                                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                    The cure is hand rubbed. I was told they are now dry curing for something like 18 days. The briskets aren't brined. I don't know how they do the turkey or the tongue.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                      Most commercial smoked meat is brine-cured with the smoke flavour added through the brining process. I recall chatting with Zane back in the old Monarch days, and he told me that when he started out trying to come close to the Schwartz's smoked meat recipe, he had not realized that Schwartz's doesn't actually smoke their smoked meat anymore. Brine-curing is faster and more consistent, but not the old fashioned, authentc product that many of us seek. (BTW, Centre Street Deli/Snowdon's "old fashioned" MSM is brine-cured as well.)

                                                                                                                      There is a sign on the wall of Caplansky's that says something like "The world was created in 6 days, our brisket takes 14."

                                                                                                                      1. re: OTFOODIE

                                                                                                                        I've been three times to Caplansky's since the move to College and the sandwiches haven't even been close to what I usually got at the Monarch. The meat has been tougher with either a bad fatty piece that is tough to chew and just doesn't melt away in your mouth or a really tough piece that is inedible. The sandwiches haven't been served warm. On top of that the wonderful smokiness is gone. (I usually order fatty.)

                                                                                                                        For long-time Caplansky-goers, has this been the case for you? I've just about given up on going back.

                                                                                                                        1. re: lister

                                                                                                                          I have had something between 3 to 4 dozen sandwiches (depending if you count those of my companions) between the Monarch and the new location.

                                                                                                                          My best sandwiches from College are as good as my best from the Monarch. The worst are as bad as the worst from the Monarch. Caplansky's biggest issue is consistency.

                                                                                                                          You are right though that the sandwiches from the new location have been less smoky on average than at the Monarch. I think that is too bad. I liked it smokier.

                                                                                                                          The sandwiches aren't noticeably different in any other way. He just has a few people who don't know how to cut as well as others and let things get by that shouldn't.

                                                                                                                          At the college location I have had borderline inedible meat due to being way too salty. I have also had tough pieces and bits of gristle (most if I go late – post 10 pm). There is also one cutter (don't know the name – he is a bit older than anyone else and has been with Zane since the Monarch, but I don't see him as much any more) who doesn't seem to "get" fatty. You order fatty from him and you get lean meat and chunks of fat – often bad, chewy fat that shouldn't get served.

                                                                                                                          Anyways, the best sandwiches are simply fantastic. I had a fatty yesterday about 2pm that was as good as I've ever had. A bit smokier than my last few, less salty and deliciously moist with good marbled fat. The bread's top crust was crisp and the whole thing was plenty warm. I almost ordered another sandwich even though I was plenty full.

                                                                                                                          For me, and this is a personal call, the bad experiences are vastly outweighed by the exceptional ones. When things are done right, the experience can make me happy for a good couple of days.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                                            The older guy, Heshy, "gets" fatty just fine. He has a strong belief that nobody should eat fat, and a constitutional inability to make a really good fatty sandwich. At the Monarch, he used to throw all of the exposed fat away. In short, Zane still guarantees your sandwich. If it's too dry, do what I do and send it back for a replacement.

                                                                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                                                                              Hard to do if you're getting takeout, as I often do.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                                              Had a sandwich there a few months ago and one on New Year's Day. The one from a few months ago was much smokier. I would like it if he could get the smoke level 75-85% of the way it was a few months ago and leave it there.

                                                                                                                            3. re: lister

                                                                                                                              My sandwich experience remains what it has been from the beginning - mostly good to very good, sometimes ethereal, and sometimes pretty poor.

                                                                                                                              The smoke level is, indeed, lower than it was. I don't think they've really mastered their new Southern Pride smoker yet. The smoke is more consistent then it was earlier on, but the unique deli/BBQ fusion taste has been muddied. I have mentioned this. They were going to add more wood part way through the smoking process to address it. We'll see.

                                                                                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                Yes, definitely more consistent in smoke now. Consistency is a virtue. Still, I'd like a bit more smoke. I hope you're right and they can (and do) address it a little.

                                                                                                                                I do remember a short period at the Monarch were it was so very smoky that you'd smell the smoke on your breath for hours and even (unless I'm imagining this) through your pores/sweat. I kind of liked it (except you couldn't really taste the cure/spice), but, I remember most of the people I took there in that time found it overbearing.

                                                                                                                                It would be interesting to do a brisket that intensely smoked and then just greatly increase the spicing to match the smoke level. Probably a much more niche item though, and even harder to pull off consistently.

                                                                                                                            4. re: OTFOODIE

                                                                                                                              I saw the movie Chez Schwartz and they do in fact have a huge smoker that smoke their meats in. Or that's what it looks like, anway.

                                                                                                                              1. re: acd123

                                                                                                                                According to David Sax in "Save the Deli", Schwartz doesn't use wood any more. The smoke comes from the meat's drippings.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Scrumdidiliumptious

                                                                                                                        A Costco shopper brought me a Dunn's MSM brisket last week, so I now have an opinion. It was not bad at all, though hardly great.

                                                                                                                        It's much better than average for a mass produced product, and represents a real bargain to someone who isn't looking for a very strong flavour.

                                                                                                                        It really does hit a point between Lester's (the best of the full-blown industrially cured meats) and the hand made products from Caplansky's and Goldin's.

                                                                                                                        From the ingredients list, I was expecting it to be at least somewhat "denatured", with that weird rubbery texture, and chemical after effects, that are a characteristic of Lester's products (and are even worse in most other mass produced brands).

                                                                                                                        Most mass produced MSM has a chemical taste and soft, rubbery texture that makes it indistinguishable from a poor quality supermarket ham. Some of it is painted black to suggest real smoke. I was pleased to find that this isn't the case with Dunn's.

                                                                                                                        My impression, from careful examination, is that the meat is brine cured using a high speed, high pressure injection process. They have come up with a cure (given the ingredients list, not a pure brine) that retains the integrity of the meat. It still looks like, and has the texture of, a beef brisket.

                                                                                                                        Unfortunately, their curing solution has no particular flavour. It doesn't ruin the meat, but it doesn't add anything either. Without the external spice layer, this the meat could easily be sold as corned beef.

                                                                                                                        But, ah, that spice layer. The spices - though extremely muted - are the real thing. I'm guessing the spices are sprayed on - not hand rubbed.

                                                                                                                        The flat section of the brisket, unsurprisingly, was very dry and the deckle section was not well marbled, and thus also dry. However, there was a decent fat cap, which was succulent after steaming (it took about 40 minutes in my steamer - much less time than indicated on the Dunn's website).

                                                                                                                        The spiced, steamed fat, and some of the meat just underneath it, was genuinely delicious. Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, the spice flavours did not penetrate very far into the meat. The remaining meat was okay, but devoid of any special flavour.

                                                                                                                        Smelled after steaming, the fat layer did have an MSM aroma. Away from the fat, this wasn't detectable. Perhaps most telling: after 40 minutes of steaming, my house did not smell like a deli.

                                                                                                                        MSM has never been really smoky, but this meat (despite "smoke" on the ingredient list) had no smoke flavour or aroma - none at all.

                                                                                                                        Dunn's owner Kligman's comparison with "his grandfather's deli" does not do this product justice. I don't know what Myer Dunn served in 1926, but I do know Dunn's smoked meat as of the late sixties (it was horrible).

                                                                                                                        This product is MUCH better. It is nothing like the awful smoked meat served at "Dunn's Famous" locations in the GTA. In terms of its style, my taste memory tells me it is more similar to the Brown Derby's smoked meat than anything else, but I don't recall the Brown Derby's being so dry.

                                                                                                                        This product is sold fully cooked, so I tried a slice before steaming it. It had very little flavour. When I sliced some for lunch the next day, I again tried it cold and got a big surprise. While it lacked the succulent fat it had when freshly steamed (the fat was close to inedible cold), the lean meat slices actually had more MSM flavour than they had when hot. (Not a lot of MSM flavour, but enough to notice.)

                                                                                                                        Taking the Dunn's brisket on its own terms, it's a very good mass produced product that I wish was more widely available. As to my personal taste, I'd probably pass on it as too bland.

                                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                                          Thank you for your very thorough review of Dunn's MSM brisket. As always, embee, highly readable and shockingly chock-full of knowledge. Kudos.

                                                                                                            2. re: redearth

                                                                                                              Ok, here's how curing 50 briskets is different: when you're doing literally tons of meat you have to go through different meat suppliers. You end up getting inconsistencies in the meat (and yes they have people whose job it is to inspect the meat but the volume means you get lots of different size pieces which then require longer curing). That was one issue.

                                                                                                      2. re: eatravel

                                                                                                        Agree with you 1000%. (That's the second time today I've said 1000% and I guess I really mean it when I say it...).

                                                                                                        No smoked meat at Caplansky's is like no Peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel. Like no rotisserie chicken at Swiss Chalet, and no pizza at Libretto.

                                                                                                        Also, if he doesn't watch it, his young, very very green staff will ruin it for him. Maybe sometimes it's best to shut down at night, pay the staff a little extra and TRAIN them. I too experienced VERY frustrating service issues. He's lucky he's a likeable guy with a quick laugh to diffuse things, otherwise, it would take alot for me to go back.

                                                                                                        I hope for his sake, and selfishly for mine, that he gets his smoked meat together soon.

                                                                                                        1. re: eatravel

                                                                                                          I was there yesterday a couple of hours before you. I checked Zane's blog and saw that they were running low so I phoned before we went to make sure they were going to have meat. The person I spoke to on the phone said they would be ok until about 2:00 or so. We got in just under the wire and they were in fact telling people that they were running low as we were leaving. I wonder why they kept telling you to check back? I don't blame you for being annoyed - I would have been too.

                                                                                                          I hope the service and communication issues improve so they don't drive customers away. It was my first visit since the Monarch and I really enjoyed my sandwich, fries and pickle. The space is nice too.

                                                                                                          1. re: eatravel

                                                                                                            I don't think they were really trying to irritate you. It's hard to know when it will be ready - this happens to me at home. Still, I'm surprised that they didn't comp the pickles and pop.

                                                                                                            1. re: eatravel

                                                                                                              did you explain to the server/Zane your frustration or were you silent with your complaints?

                                                                                                            2. According to his blog, the new smoker hasn't arrived yet. It burns logs, so there certainly will be another learning curve.

                                                                                                              1. Am I the only one who feels that everyone needs to chill out and let them get themselves together before getting upset about things not running smoothly? If I showed up and there was no smoked meat, I'd get something else. Not the end of the world. If the service were sloppy - which it was - I would excuse them as long as they were nice about it - which they were. This is casual, inexpensive deli dining - in the olden days (yes, I'm old enough to remember that) you'd go to a deli and get abused, ignored and aggravated and call it a great meal. I'm not saying it HAS to be annoying but please get over it. McDonalds is predictible and reliable. Obviously that's not the whole answer either.

                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                                  I have to agree wholeheartedly with "Nyleve" with ALL that he has posted!
                                                                                                                  I also think that "eatravel" who also posted earlier re being charged for the pickles and the soda's SHOULD have been compted and not have had to pay...it's just good business to do that...'good will' is very important no matter what the size of the Restaurant, new, old, established or whatever...

                                                                                                                  1. re: pearlD

                                                                                                                    Seconded. I agree they should have been comped, and I agree this place needs to be given some grace while Zane finds his rhythm. The reason places like McDonald's always put out a consistent, boring product is because they have everything automated and processed to death. Zane is an artist, and he is trying to adjust to working on a much bigger canvas, so to speak. While it would be great to have everything perfected by now, I think this place is a rare exception in the resto biz that should be given some extra latitude until they get things going properly. There isn't another place quite like it, so it would be a sad loss for Toronto if it went under (ptoo, ptoo, ptoo).

                                                                                                                    On a similar note, BBQ restaurants in the states are well known for selling their meat until it runs out each day. People don't want to buy yesterday's leftovers, so they can't afford to overproduce. Their customers know and understand this and take it in stride. It's the same at Buster's in Whitby. When an item liked smoke meat takes such a long time to cook, it can be very tricky to prepare ahead the right amount of food. I hope Caplansky's is able to get their supply and demand worked out when the new smoker is up and running, but until then I'm waiting and not passing judgment yet.

                                                                                                                    1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                      You bring up a couple of excellent points that I hadn't thought of before. And I regularly go to get BBQ in the U.S. South, so I should have correlated the two.

                                                                                                                      Now having said that, I will also say that yes, while the great BBQ places in the south run out each day - not only from not over-estimating their numbers but also from the sheer volume of people they tend to get each day. Sometimes on a weekend the whole small town goes to eat at "the place". So I get all that. And to be honest, it's even a bit of good PR to say, you know we were so busy that we ran out!

                                                                                                                      But here's the thing, when an item on your menu is so intricate to who you are and let's face it, while there may be other delicious things on his menu, people are going for the smoked meat sandwich in far greater numbers than anything else - so when something is so important to who you are as a place, it boggles my mind that you can't get it together enough to make sure it's up and running when you open your door for business. I mean, he had some of the same issues at the Monarch in terms of smoking but everyone gave the benefit of the doubt there because it was all very "new". Well, it's not "new" anymore just because the place is. And as someone in the business of hospitality myself, it blows my mind that these equipment purchases/issues weren't worked out in advance! I mean when Gourmet editor praises your sandwich, man, get your shit together and DELIVER! That's one of those once in a lifetime golden tickets.
                                                                                                                      I mean really, it's like being a burger joint and saying you can't get your meat ratio figured out or that all of a sudden you're getting a new grill. I mean I don't know Caplansky personally so I don't know how much restaurant experience he has, but surely he gets that he should have purchased any essential equipment BEFORE he opened and not tested DURING?

                                                                                                                      I will end on a similar note though, I hope he makes it through this once again, but I have to say that in all my years I have NEVER seen customers give SO much benefit of the doubt, SO much room for error as I've seen this guy get! It's almost magical that he keeps getting forgiven! Love it!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                                                          I think there may have been a bit of pent up demand for his product. ;-)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                                                            Really enjoyed reading your post RD, and totally agree on both counts. Thanks for posting this.

                                                                                                                            1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                              Hopefully the new smoker is there already! His blog said today! Also... there was a link to a book opening that they are holding there in a couple weeks (Save the Deli - by David Sax) that should be awesome! I'll be there!

                                                                                                                              1. re: MaraW

                                                                                                                                I made quite a long trek to head here today. I don't read these threads all the time and I was unaware of any problem with a smoker. They did not have any smoked meat (they said it was broken) but since I'd headed there I thought I'd try some other stuff. I like their poutine then I remembered its smoked meat poutine. I asked for the liver and onions (dinner menu) to be made during lunch time but they said they were out of the sliced liver. I was very disappointed. I left and picked up an empanada in kensington market which also disappointed me.

                                                                                                                                1. re: szw

                                                                                                                                  The smoked meat was broken?? Damn. I was planning on checking out the new place this weekend, but now I may not be able to? In all seriousness, I'm very patient and fully supportive of Caplansky's (and will continue to be), but this is starting to get a little silly.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: SMOG

                                                                                                                                    Oops, I meant to say that I was told the smoker was broken.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: szw

                                                                                                                                    That really sucks. I'm sorry - food disappointment hurts.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                                                                                You make some excellent points, and I'm not sure exactly why there have been so many issues with the smokers/smoked meat. Perhaps even his wildest expectations of demand have been greatly exceeded? Don't know.

                                                                                                                                Did you read any of the posts after he closed down the Monarch location? People were positively bereft at not being able to get their Caplansky's fix and were really champing at the bit to hear the news that the new location had opened. Then they were trying to wait a few weeks to give him a chance to iron out the kinks, but many couldn't resist and went in the first days or weeks anyway. Maybe he's using more than wood in his smokers ;) .

                                                                                                                                1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                  doesn't his process take a full two weeks to complete? if not a bit longer than that? it's one thing to be doing southern style that is for the most part whatever time it takes to absorb smoke (6hrs seems to often be enough with the rest cooking time for large bone-in items). but this deli style takes quite a bit of time. i've been hestitant to try a CHers excellent recipe because of the amount of time it takes to cure (several weeks) and the lack of fridge space i'm constantly faced with.

                                                                                                                                  i don't disagree that he should be testing out his new smoker on the side to work out the kinks of a new piece of equipment... but this isn't exactly a quick product to make regardless. we probably shouldn't be babying him but i think we're more focused on making sure that a great unique artisanal product doesn't get snuffed out in toronto. if he fails then we all lose out as well.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                                    I wonder if it's in part because of the intimacy of the old place. All of his regulars probably feel a bit like friends now, and they're being more supportive than they'd be of an unknown entity. And I agree 100% with what you've said about his unique artisanal product and that it'd be a loss for us all if he didn't succeed.

                                                                                                                        2. Zane's blog indicates that he wants to increase the cure time, so that is part of the current problem, but quality will be better. We may be impatient, but waiting for a better product need not dissuade us from going there, now, or later.

                                                                                                                          The new smoker will apparently be similar to one in use Whitby, and may be somewhat automated while burning logs. If so, the smoke quality will be amazing, and the output considerable. I don't expect Zane will have a problem adapting to it.

                                                                                                                          1. After reading about this place for ages and ages, it is finally on my bike ride home - and I went in!

                                                                                                                            Aside from the fact that the tables didn't seem crowded together, and the aisle was enormous, (I'm used to more cramped delis), I thought the atmosphere was fantastic. The menus, the sign on the door, the colour scheme, the lighting... all excellent.

                                                                                                                            My chicken soup with matzo balls - BLECH. Added salt and tons of pepper, and it was mediocre-ish.

                                                                                                                            My smoked meat poutine (not even sure it can be called a poutine) was INCREDIBLE. This is now be my favourite poutine-like product in Toronto. It definitely could have used a bit more cheese, but oh my god was it good.

                                                                                                                            The Caplansky Salad looked great on the menu, but is not a filling meal for the (depraved and possibly sickly) vegetarians among us. Also, it was overdressed.

                                                                                                                            I will definitely be back to have a sandwich (sandwich + poutine = death from overeating) and will post my review.

                                                                                                                            p.s. Crotchety old man beside me commenting on how everything used to be better at the old location made the experience all the more endearing.

                                                                                                                            p.p.s. Moved from my lonesome independent thread... glad the post has found a home.

                                                                                                                            1. i left pretty disappointed yesterday. i understand how everyone wants to support zane, but after a few strikes, you're out.

                                                                                                                              firstly, construction during the hectic lunch hour - this is just unacceptable. if i have to yell at a man pulling thick metal wires directly in front of the womens washroom so he'll stop and so i can hop over them to get out, this is bad.
                                                                                                                              fine, theres no smoked meat. i ordered the smoked turkey because nothing else really interested me, and blandblandbland. barely a hint of smoke, and i was slathering so much mustard on that thing.
                                                                                                                              the matzo ball soup was pretty bland.
                                                                                                                              forgot my fries. fries seem to be a problem there, not being able to push them out fast enough.
                                                                                                                              and, charged for a pop i didn't order. not a huge deal but annoying after trying to wave someone down.
                                                                                                                              this is pretty much a fail for me.

                                                                                                                              1. I've eaten Zane's food twice.

                                                                                                                                The first time, at the Monarch, I got a lukewarm knish. I have this quirk about hot food being served hot. If the knish was supposed to be served cold (I'm not an expert on Jewish food), I guess that would have been fine. But tepid food makes me cranky, so fail on the first attempt.

                                                                                                                                I went to the new digs to check out the chopped liver. It probably isn't fair to compare Zane's to Barney's on Queen West many moons ago, but, man, I wish someone could replicate that.

                                                                                                                                For these reasons and the others mentioned, I'm not in a hurry to go back to Calansky's. I wish the dude well, but he's not doing it for me.

                                                                                                                                1. I went recently during the SM outage. I had the slow-roasted brisket as a sandwich, which was quite tasty, but not a pefect substitute for the smoked meat. (The new smoker has been held up at the border, apparently - then it has to be installed and set up and then it will take 48 hours to get the first finished product from it.) The starter of split pea with smoked meat soup was delish. Took a versht sandwich to go for a buddy who called me while I was there that smelled wonderful - I probably should have eaten it and told him I forgot, but he enjoyed it.

                                                                                                                                  I like the looks of the new place, but I need a smoked meat soon.

                                                                                                                                  1. Having heard great things about this restaurant, I was in T.O. for a meeting and decided to give it a try. I've had great smoked meat in Montreal at Schwartz's deli and thought that Toronto may finally have a spot that comes close to meeting my yearning for a great sandwich.

                                                                                                                                    Imagine my disappointment when I arrived at 6:00 on a Thursday night to find they had no smoked meat. I thought to myself: "How does a deli run out of meat so early?" (Guess I should have read this site first as I did not know that they smoker was being replaced.)

                                                                                                                                    As I was already there, I decided to stay. Order the braised BBQ brisket with fries. It was adequate... nothing that I would rave about or make Caplansky's a destination spot for me. The brisket was tender enough, the portion a reasonable size, but... it was bland. There just wasn't much flavour to it. For supposedly being labelled BBQ and braised in tomato and onion for six hours (per the menu)... I did not pick up any of those flavours. I've had better in other Toronto delis. The fries were limp and soggy - nothing to write home about so I can't see how their poutine would be stellar. After all the hype, this was a disappointing experience. Not a bad one, just did not meet the expectations generated through this Board.

                                                                                                                                    When the smoker is installed I will watch comments on this thread to see whether a second visit is warranted. I hope the SM is really good because right now... don't see it happening.

                                                                                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: cynalan

                                                                                                                                      The problem with comparing Schwartz and Caplansky's is they are quite different beasts. Having eaten Schwartz throughout my college years, I found Caplansky's bland too. I didn't like his fries and cornichons neither. Ditto for his smoked meat hash. No doubt he has some interesting braises (like the tongue sandwich), but after tasting those dishes, I've found the place is just not for me. I'm not sure one can like both styles of smoked meat.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Wandering Foodie

                                                                                                                                        is the tongue braised? i thought it was only smoked.... looking at the slices of meat it looks like he's peeling the skin off with a knife.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                                          You're probably correct with the smoked tongue. I may have misheard but I didn't order it because we were too full that day. How was it?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Wandering Foodie

                                                                                                                                            i had it as part of the platter and i'm not sure if that changes the texture (sitting out in thin slices too long will dry it out quickly) but i found it less fatty than i was expecting and had a good amount of smoke. it wasn't anything exceptional and i've made much better at home myself using bison tongue. it was mostly that silky texture and fattiness that it really seemed to lack. wouldn't have it again though i'm waiting on a dinner of liver and onions soon.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                                              Please let us know how the liver and onion are. Looking forward to that, although I'm not sure if anything could beat the seared calves liver I had at Pastis Express the other night.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: acd123

                                                                                                                                                Liver and Onions are good. Pretty simple. Liver, caramelized onions using Schmaltz although I'm not sure what kind, maybe Duck or Chicken? Side of boiled veggies. I would get it again. Liver was of fairly good quality nice richness to it with a very mild iron flavor.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Wandering Foodie

                                                                                                                                          I actually thought the fries at Caplansky's where the best I've possibly ever had in my life. I guess it's hit or miss.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sarnya

                                                                                                                                            I'm going to add my vote for the fries. In Toronto, I'd say only Jamie Kennedy's are better. Caplansky's fries are just awesome. As fries should be, crispy outside, soft inside and nice chunks of salt. Limp and soggy? Probably a bad batch. Yes, even Jamie Kennedy has made a less-than-perfect batch of fries. But I've had Caplansky's fries about 5 times and each time they were perfect.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: SMOG

                                                                                                                                              They make excellent fries. I agree.

                                                                                                                                      2. I just called Caplansky's to ask if they had smoked meat available. She told me that the big industrial smoker just arrived and that they were firing it up as we spoke. She said that they would have smoke meat tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. i have been tossing this around in my head... and if what you say is true about hundreds of pounds of meat being tossed.... then i'm seriously afraid of what those briskets were like.

                                                                                                                                          i have had very disappointing smoked meat come out of caplanskys. what i like about this new venture is all the other stuff he has (i don't know what a kishka is supposed to be like but save for the way to hard exterior of caplansky's the shmaltzy matzoh is tasty enough for me to eat) that i can order when i think other people's sandwiches don't look up to snuff. but chewy, dry, plain meat shouldn't be served. with all the equipment issues and the mass numbers of people going to his restaurant... i fear he's putting out a far inferior product even with all the "thinning" he's doing. perhaps he needs to slow down with all the changes and really work on consistency otherwise there's little reason to go back. as much as i want to support him... i haven't been back because it wasn't worth it. i'm still keen on trying the liver dishes he's putting out but his place certainly doesn't come to the forefront of my mind the way it used to.

                                                                                                                                          and yes... i know about the dry curing and all the difficulties there and schwartz's i'm sure hasn't changed their method in ages and i've had truly disgusting product from them along with ethereal. so consistency is difficult. but still... so many changes without having a consistent product to start with.

                                                                                                                                          24 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                                            Perhaps I've been lucky because the 5 times I've been so far (4 old vs 1 new location) the quality has been consistent. The fries have come out the same each time, as has the smoked meat. Well the visit to the new location was sans smoked meat, and I had the chopped liver. It was very good....

                                                                                                                                            I'm not doubting the inconsistency issues, but I must say I've been lucky if it is as wildly inconsistent as a lot of posters indicate.

                                                                                                                                            The only weakness has been the servers. I overlook that as long as the food delivers, I'm a low maintenance type of guy.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: aser

                                                                                                                                              i haven't noticed much consistency issues with the fries... actually what some seem to call crispy i would say it is far from. i find that it has those crisp edges but along the flat edges it is quite soft and it is a very pliable fry. still tasty but i wouldn't exactly describe it as crispy. i'm also not as finicky about my fries, i like good ones but have a serious addiction to anything potato and will devour it regardless.

                                                                                                                                              every smoked meat sandwich i've had from caplanskys has been different, not always wildly so but different... i would say we're at a total of 5 visits as well. i don't blame him for not always having it available.. but i do think that it should at least be good when you do put it out. it makes me wonder if he tastes it!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                                                I agree in that I have never had the same sandwich twice and that is not a good thing in my experiences with Caplansky. I can also say I have never had a truly bad one.

                                                                                                                                                So I keep going and I keep enjoying and I hope for a time where I can say he's nailed it.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: deelicious

                                                                                                                                                  This is exactly what's kept me from going. I'm way out of the area, if I'm going to make the trip I want it to be great. I can't rely on wildly varying accounts on quality and chance it. For me it's going to be a destination as I can't remember the last time I was in the area.

                                                                                                                                                  I don't have the benefit of giving the place a bunch of chances waiting for a great sandwich. Frankly, I don't understand how many of you do.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Dr Butcher

                                                                                                                                                    Just order a deckle and brisket from Goldin's, you will be very glad you did. I've never been to Caplansky's and doubt I'll ever make a special trip over there. You will be able to make quite a few great sandwiches at home, as I have.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: foodyDudey


                                                                                                                                                      foodyDudey speaks the truth.

                                                                                                                                                      Goldin's reigns supreme.

                                                                                                                                                      8 bucks for a 3oz Caplansky's sandwich... or $20 for a whole fucking brisket made by someone who really cares and adjusts the recipe upon feedback.. I'll go with Goldin's. Although of course Caplansky's is the only logical choice if you're looking for instant-deli-sandwiching

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: duckdown

                                                                                                                                                        It's $7 for a 7 oz sandwich. A $20 brisket that doesn't include the overhead of running a restaurant and that you have to heat yourself is a deal for someone w/ a lot of mouths to feed. It's great for someone on a budget w/ a large family. Caplanskys and Goldins both fill a need and have their markets. There's more than enough room for both. So far, I've been satisfied with the food at Caplanskys simply because good deli is hard to find in this town. If you go expecting the grail, you'll be disappointed every time.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: GoodGravy

                                                                                                                                                          In terms of flavour, I've found the grail (outside of Montreal) and it's Goldin's.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: duckdown

                                                                                                                                                          You can't really compare them like that.

                                                                                                                                                          Caplansky does not charge 8 bucks for a 3 oz sandwich. It's $7 for 7 oz or $13 for 13 oz - or $1/oz, net, including bread and pickle, plus the usual taxes, served to you at a table.

                                                                                                                                                          I don't know whether he still does this, but unsliced briskets for takeout (at the Monarch) were cheaper, with no tax. These are also fully cooked. There's no particular reason why he couldn't sell you an uncooked smoked brisket if you order it in advance.

                                                                                                                                                          Goldin sells raw, smoked briskets. Since you need to cook the meat, you will lose, on average, about 50% of the original weight. In other words, a Goldin's brisket costs, net, roughly twice what you pay for it, plus the cooking time and effort.

                                                                                                                                                          Caplansky has the more reliable supply. It may not seem that way because you might expect a restaurant specialty to be 100% available. (There was no such pretense at Sonny Bryan's in Dallas, I note.) With his new, commercial smoker, running out often will be much less excusable than in the past.

                                                                                                                                                          Goldin makes batches from time to time. There is no pretense of 100% availability.

                                                                                                                                                          My grail is at home, where I eat my own recipe (which does not come out identically every time, BTW). Since I can't smoke in the winter, Caplansky and Goldin are both a pleasure to have vs what was available in Toronto before.

                                                                                                                                                          Caplansky's and Goldin's are not at all similar. Caplansky's is much smokier. My own recipe is less smoky than Caplansky's and much spicier than either. I like my own best, but Caplansky's and Goldin's are both very fine. I don't see a contest here. If you like one more than the other, enjoy that one.

                                                                                                                                                          I have had two briskets from Goldin's. The first was flawed; the second one was perfect.

                                                                                                                                                          My Caplansky smoked meat experiences have ranged from ethereal (more than once) to inedible. Most have been good to excellent.

                                                                                                                                                          There's plenty of room for both of them in Toronto!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                                            I'm not talking about availability or reliability or shrinkage or cost. Just flavour and texture. And when it comes to flavour and texture, Goldin's wins every time. I've had several Goldin's briskets. Other than the first one, which was a tiny bit too salty, they have all been PERFECT. As I've written before, I like Caplansky's but I love Goldin's.

                                                                                                                                                            I'm really looking forward to trying the liver and onions at Caplansky's. If anyone has tried it, please let me know what you thought.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                                              My very unscientific #'s tells me Goldin's is slightly more expensive, but it is worth it if you have the time.

                                                                                                                                                              I bought a 2lb deckle, which is 32 oz pre-cooking. I was able to squeeze out 4 ok sized sandwiches on silverstein rye w/ kozlik's mustard and Bubbies pickles. The sandwiches were less than Caplansky's 7oz's. So let's say 24oz/$20 (Goldin's minus bread/condiments/service) compared to 28oz/$28 (Caplansky's).

                                                                                                                                                              For the distance I travel to pick up Goldin's (gas + time), plus ingredients, factoring cooking/resting time, it is far less convenient and more $. As a result it's reserved for special occasions.

                                                                                                                                                              I do prefer Goldin's to Caplansky's, but will visit Caplansky's more often due to convenience. Plus it's still pretty damn good.

                                                                                                                                                              I get the feeling the whole Caplansky's vs. Goldin's debate is a pissing contest amongst posters. I'm just glad we have both options available to us. Remember 1.5 yrs ago when we had nothing?

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: duckdown

                                                                                                                                                              Do you really get a whole brisket for $20? A whole brisket can be over 10lbs. Fresh, it costs you $2-$3 a lb, at least. I doubt Goldins is selling cured and smoked for less than that.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                                                                                                                No, these are not whole "packer" briskets. Most of them weigh a couple of pounds.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                                                  The Goldin's brisket I picked up on Saturday cost $27.50 and weighs 2.75 lbs. Deckle is available next on Oct 24.

                                                                                                                                                                  I've probably bought 5 briskets and 4 deckles in total, I took a break over the summer as I was too busy to drive out there but all this talk of smoked meat made me make a small detour when I drove to my sister's for Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                                  I've fount that although the first few were a bit salty, everything was perfect later on.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for clarifying. Do you notice significant weight loss after its been cooked?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, you will get quite a bit of liquid that comes out of the meat. (around 2 cups from a 2 to 2.5 lbs brisket) I use it to make soup.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: duckdown

                                                                                                                                                                May want to doublecheck your math. A pound of caplanskys would work out to 16 bucks, including, bread, mustard and a pickle. Goldin's is 10 bucks a pound so overhead aside factor in bread, travel costs, mustard, pickles the energy required to cook it and the inevitable shrinkage they aren't even that far off in price. In fact, all considered Caplansky's may be cheaper. Gas and energy to cook it might sounds like nitpicking but it's part of your own overhead to make it.

                                                                                                                                                                Not sure where you're getting your numbers from but they're wrong and misleading, especially considering they don't sell 3 ounce sandwiches as you indicated.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes. Goldin's is expensive, with a high mark up. I'm going to order a deckle and compare it to Dunn's of Montreal. If you look over the brisket slabs of Dunn's at Costco, a few will be very well marbled at one end, like a good rib eye steak. The price is $12/kg., and as noted in another post, only available at Ajax or Queensway Costco warehouses.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                                                                    And, oddly, Peterborough. I bought one last week and it was...ok. Not sure I love the spicing on it. But you can't beat the price.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                                                                                      Goldin's is out of deckle until November. I'll order one then and compare it to Dunn's.

                                                                                                                                                            3. re: Dr Butcher

                                                                                                                                                              "Frankly, I don't understand how many of you do" - one word Dr. Butcher - nostalgia.

                                                                                                                                                              I've given this place several tries and frankly will leave it to others to fawn over it - I understand the product Zane is trying to produce but I've been less than impressed with each subsequent visit - I'll stick to making my own.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pizza Lover

                                                                                                                                                                To those who are dismayed: You may be pleasantly surprised with the results from a Southern Pride log burning smoker. I can hardly wait .

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Pizza Lover

                                                                                                                                                                  I have supported your same observations since I've been posting on this site (and believe me, it's gotten me alot of deleted posts and flak from other posters)...

                                                                                                                                                                  However; I am with jayt90 on this one. I think the new Southern Pride smoker should do some greatly improved things to the already "successful" recipe. Fresh burning wood flame-kissing the meat... Can't *NOT* be a good thing.

                                                                                                                                                                  Keep us posted, Caplansky's fans

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Dr Butcher

                                                                                                                                                                  I have had more than a dozen sandwiches from Caplansky's. None have been bad. 3-4 have been so good as to be bloody close to revelatory. The rest are still solid, excellent sandwiches.

                                                                                                                                                                  Would I drive across town for his best? Yes.
                                                                                                                                                                  Would I drive across town for his average? Up to 20 minutes drive, yes. More, no.
                                                                                                                                                                  Is there any other sandwich, or take-away, I would drive further out of my way to get? No.

                                                                                                                                                                  I am not Jewish. I am 26. There is no nostalgia involved for me. It is solidly good product. It is sometimes an unfathomably great product. I will be back.

                                                                                                                                                        3. well, finally made it to this place last nite, got there around 10, near closing. reading the mixed reviews i wasn't sure what to expect but damn, nobody mentioned how slippery the floor can get, not sure what the cause is there. but i digress. i had julia serving me, cute pleasant waitress, hey service is important to me. ordered the fatty smoked meat on rye, hand cut as advertised. it was decent, a bit salty and a little bit hard to bite into in portions. slicing the meat is sooo important and i think the guy (andy?) could do better. i like the selection of mustards though, i mixed some hot with some kozliks. julia did say the fries were top notch so i ordered some and they were very good, mine were freshly made. with soup and pop the bill came to $18. i like the service so left $25. eh, didn't have to pay for parking.
                                                                                                                                                          now, i wouldn't be rushing back there anytime soon, but i'll give it another go when i'm in the area. i still prefer the fatty old fashioned at montreal deli on dundas w and the pastrami at steeles deli.

                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: doubledown

                                                                                                                                                            We finally got there this past Friday afternoon. Again, line up out the door but we perserved and after approx. 30 minute wait we were seated and order taken. I was concerned it would be another wait 'til we saw food but no, the service was fine. No complaints. Our waitress was pleasant and efficient. Although I did see one bus boy struggling. Maybe trays would be a good thing??

                                                                                                                                                            We ordered two smoked meat sandwiches with fries and a pea soup. Soup was good. On par with United Bakery. The fries, excellent! The sandwiches - just okay for us. In fact, hubby did not care for his. Although we asked for regular/fatty we found them to be on the dry side, and like doubledown said above - tough in some spots. Perhaps she made a mistake - not sure but we were too hungry to bother asking.

                                                                                                                                                            We've been to the Monarch location and loved it so again, maybe we just got the wrong order but regardless, never say never, but we won't be in a hurry to return.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                                                              It's possible they made a mistake - the last time my husband and I were there we both ordered 'fatty' but they somehow brought me a leaner one (they were running low on meat that day so maybe that's why). We had already waited in line for a long time and were starving so I didn't bother sending it back. We each ate half of the fatty and half of the leaner one and the difference in texture and tenderness was noticeable to both of us. The fatty one was fantastic but the leaner one was just ok.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                                                                                                                  We were in the line about 1:10 or so, and seated by about 1:30ish. Why do you ask??

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                                                                    Just wondering what time you went that it was so busy.

                                                                                                                                                            2. Went yesterday around 1. The lineup was out the door, but we stayed as it was my SO's 40th birthday and he really (really, really) wanted smoked meat for lunch. The wait was around 30 minutes. They did have smoked meat, and our medium sandwiches were FANTASTIC. Our friends had the burger and the special club (smoked turkey, beef bacon, challah, arugula, tomato). I got a bite of the burger - found it very beefy, although i'm not sure that i would have identified smoked meat as the unusual ingredient if i din't already know it was there. The club was fantastic - far better than many I've had in the city. The table also split two poutines (very yummy, but could have used a bit more gravy) and a knish, which was enjoyed by all. Oh, we also had soups to start - the borscht has a great salty/tangy thing going on. The split pea was also good, although I thought it was a bit undersalted.

                                                                                                                                                              But the true revelation on this visit? The lemon meringue pie. When it arrived I didn't have great expectations - the meringue looked like it got a bit mangled on the way to the plate, and some of the crust was missing, but OH MY GOD was it good. nice, tart lemon curd, fluffy meringue - the the crust, THE CRUST - short, buttery, but not too crumbly. I loved it. The server mentioned to me that b/c of the set up of the place, desserts are plated by the expediters rather than in the kitchen, and the pastry chef despairs of the mangling they sometimes get, and has been experimenting with the crust to try to strike a balance between texture that will stand up to an inexpert plating, and taste. Seems to me like the pastry chef got it right on the taste side, at least(although it was a travesty that some of the crust of my pie went missing en route to the plate). The sharpness of the lemon was a perfect foil to what was otherwise a pretty heavy meal. I would absolutely go back for the pie alone.

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: wickalicious

                                                                                                                                                                Aren't the pies from Wanda's? She's famous for that lemon merengue pie (tho it gets bad reviews here all the time, go figure).

                                                                                                                                                              2. Ate at Shwartz's for my first time. It exceeded my expectations. The meat was very moist and fatty. I didn't find it very smoky. I liked the spice rub, black pepper and coriander seed (I think), around the outside of the meat. But what impressed me the most was the full on beef flavour. The flavour sort of reminded me of the tongue sandwich at the Black Hoof.
                                                                                                                                                                To compare I had Caplansky's recently. If Shwartz's is a 10/10, then Caplansky's is a 7/10. I found the same level of smoke, I actually prefer a little more. I ordered full fat, but found it a little dry and salty. There is no present spice rub. The main thing is the meat flavour is bland compared to Shwartz's. I should say the fries have improved and were better than Shwartz's.
                                                                                                                                                                Maybe we need the Black Hoof to open a take counter that serves tongue on brioche.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Went there last week with friends. It was really disappointing. When Caplanskys was at the Monarch tavern, it was so cool. Great pub food. Amazing fries. Gravy you could stand a spoon in. But it was like you had stumbled on a little-known secret place that only got passed on by word-of-mouth to select friends. What a difference with the new place. To the point of glaring lighting. Abysmal service. The fries to our sandwich combo came out a long time before the sandwich appeared. When I commented to the server that it would be nice if we could get our sandwiches with the fries, he shrugged his shoulders. The chalk board advertised that the soup of the day was the pea soup, which we were really looking forward to. Our server informed us that the board was wrong and that the soup was carrot-parsnip. The soup was okay but the pea soup would have been better. The table next to us were already complaining about how stale the bread was. I'm not inclined to go back.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Just went there twice last week (my theatre company was running a show in the area), and I have to say it was blissful. The first time I had the smoked meat hash -- food like Mother would have made if she were a better cook! The smoked meat, potatoes and onions worked well together, it came with perfectly-fried eggs, admittedly the rye toast was underdone (and soaked with butter) but wasn't terrible. Second time I had the chopped steak -- the steak was good and done to a T, the grilled veggies were a lovely touch, and the mashed potatoes were the best I've had in the city. I'll be back many, many times.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I finally got downtown and had a chance to try Caplansky's. It was just me and I ordered a fatty SM sandwich on rye and a "side" of fries. I use the quotation marks, because that is the hugest basket of fries I've ever gotten as a side, and at $4, they put to shame many places that are now charging $5 or more for a much smaller order. They were amazing: hot, crispy yet fluffy inside, with a really nice brown on them that tasted great. I was only able to eat about half, and brought the rest home. Though I was stuffed to the gills, the smell of them in my car made me almost want to finish the bag, but I got some smoked meat gravy as a side and will use that to overcome the loss of crispiness when I eat them tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                                      I never tried Caplansky's sandwiches at the Monarch, so my only frame of reference is other smoked meat I've tried. I enjoyed my sandwich a lot, but I think it could have been sliced better. There was the occasional bite that would be crunchy with some kind of gristle, and then another would be chewy and hard to get my teeth through. I think some of it was cut perfectly, with the odd bit that needed to be trimmed or wasn't cut properly against the grain. All in all, though, I did enjoy it. The Koslik's mustard varieties were such a nice treat. I had Double C on half and horseradish mustard on the other. I didn't see any "house" mustard. I had to ask for the Double C, as they seem to spread out various types of Koslik's among the condiment caddies rather than have the same ones in each.

                                                                                                                                                                      I didn't find the meat to have a very strong smokey taste, though it was definitely more smokey than MSM. I'd say it was about a 7 in smokiness compared to the 11 (out of 10) of B.R.'s brisket.

                                                                                                                                                                      Zane came by and asked me if everything was okay, in a voice so quiet I almost didn't realize he'd spoken at first. I didn't complain about the sandwich, because I was really enjoying it...but as much as I was, I have a feeling it could have been even better. He wasn't doing the slicing, and I'd love to go sometime when he is.

                                                                                                                                                                      The service was friendly and efficient, with at least two people looking after my table. There were only about 4 tables in the place at the time, so perhaps they were double teaming, lol.m It was about 10:45 on Halloween night; the staff assured me they are still dealing with long line ups during peak times.

                                                                                                                                                                      I'll definitely go back when I can get down there again.

                                                                                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                                                        Good report. They are getting into the swing of things.
                                                                                                                                                                        It's nice that Zane came by to talk to a single diner.
                                                                                                                                                                        The Southern Pride smoker is capable of more savory smoke, as at B.R.'s, but delicatessens in North America have downplayed this for many years. Too much of a throwback to 19th century Europe.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                                                          I shouldn't type up posts at 3:00 AM, as my memory can sometimes be a bit spotty. I was thinking about it later and remembered there was only one bite of my sandwich that had gristle in it, and 2-3 that were overly chewy. The rest was really good.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                                                            They didn't have the house mustard when I was there a week ago, so they may still be out. I am not a mustard expert, but it is the best mustard I've ever had.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                                                              Great review - at least it fits very closely with my experience. Balanced, but without the 'love-it-or-hate-it' aspect of many of the reviews above.

                                                                                                                                                                              I was at the Monarch once - and it wasn't that great (for me). The best part was the Koslik's mustard - the sandwich itself was disappointing and the fries greasy.

                                                                                                                                                                              Last week at Caplansky's my experience was very similar to yours. The mustards had to be collected from many tables - my favourites were the Double C and the Honey Mustards.

                                                                                                                                                                              Huge serving of excellent fries, topped with a scattering of kosher salt.
                                                                                                                                                                              Haven't noticed any comments above on the 'deli smell' that one encounters upon entry - it's stronger than the smoke in the meat.
                                                                                                                                                                              But I would still prefer some 'alternative' slicing. I also got a little gristle (OK it IS a deli - but I can't imagine anybody who PREFERS their meat with gristle - I know, somebody will disagree). And the hand-slicing with some chewy bits really destroys the 'sandwich' aspect - if you try and eat it as a sandwich, the meat comes out in chunks (at least my teeth couldn't bite completely through it) so you end up with almost no meat in the final bites of the bread. I found I had to use a knife and fork to cut the sandwich into smaller pieces.

                                                                                                                                                                              But no complaints about the taste or quantities. My report would probably be 'Good performance but could try harder'.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                                                                                                                                I went on Saturday, for lunch. Our group of three arrived around 12. There was no lineup--yet, and we were seated promptly, by a fellow with a very lively personality. To address the smell, there was no tell-tale smokiness outside, as I have found at Viking Milbree, where you can follow your nose to the place sometimes. However, on entering, I was struck by the intense smokiness; it definitely made me hungrier. We each ordered a 7 ounce smoked meat sandwich, one fatty, two medium fatty, plus a poutine, an order of latkes, and a smoked meat knish. We all enjoyed our sandwiches, though they weren't as smoky as we expected, especially in contrast to the smoky smell of the room. The fatty one was fairly gristly in parts, and my companion tried to cut that piece of meat with a knife, with great difficulty. No complaints regarding the other two sandwiches, however. Though I've eaten smoked meat sandwiches at a variety of places here and in Montreal, I don't purport to be any sort of expert. That said, I did enjoy my sammie and felt there was plenty of meat for my needs; but is it just me, or are the slices of bread thinner than one would typically expect for this quantity of meat? We all enjoyed the poutine--the fries were uber-crispy, so there was no sogginess issue; curds could have been more plentiful, but when have I ever not thought that about poutine? The only problem was that the gravy was excessively salty, which we found when we ate it with the knish as well. The latkes were a little disappointing with a rubbery texture which I believe was a result of their being precooked sometime earlier in the day, and just quickly refried before being brought to the table. We ordered a slice of cherry pie for dessert (apparently, the pies are from Wanda's, but the cakes are made in-house; however, the waiter told us they'll soon be making the pies in-house too???). The pie was disappointing, as many pies are at room temperature, but the crust on this pie was cardboard-like, not flaky at all, but just solid, and very heavy. The cherry filling was tasty, but sandwiched between those crusts, I don't think I'd order it again. Shame.

                                                                                                                                                                                I liked the atmosphere; I liked that there were a variety of people eating there, some young hipsters, older couples, three generations of the same family at one table, plus a middle-aged Canadian rocker and his companions tossed into the mix.... Not a convenient location for an east-ender like me, but if I'm in the area I would drop in for a sandwich and fries, gravy on the side, next time, till I can see how salty it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                Edit: By the time we left, it was getting close to 1:00 p.m., and there was a line-up of perhaps 15 or so people. So, it pays to get there early.

                                                                                                                                                                                133 Laird Dr, Toronto, ON M4G3V5, CA

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Full tummy

                                                                                                                                                                                  "...but is it just me, or are the slices of bread thinner than one would typically expect for this quantity of meat?"

                                                                                                                                                                                  Any time I've been there, the bread has been normal thickness, at it would be at CSD, Wolfies, or any other deli.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: OTFOODIE

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hahaha, maybe I just like bread!!! Or maybe I'm not used to seeing so much meat on a sandwich!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                                                                                                                                                                      I thought my bread was normal thickness, but the slices themselves were smallish -- like maybe from near the end of a loaf. It's not about the bread for me, so I didn't mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                                                                                                        The bread used at Caplansky's, CSD or Wolfie's is single rye, which is a smallish diameter. At CSD you can order a larger sandwich on double rye that is noticeably larger. You can compare the size of single and double rye most places that sell Open Window bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Like you, the bread is mostly something to hold the meat, but it does need to be a decent rye.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: OTFOODIE

                                                                                                                                                                                          As a non-Jew, I was surprised when I found out that their sandwiches were not buttered. I soon learned that the warm juices of the meat went into the rye bread, combined with the mustard, into a sauce in my mouth. Butter wasn't necessary,as long as the rye was fresh.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                                                                                            It's not nearly as bad now as it used to be, but I remember when just about every sandwich place in town would butter your sandwich whether you asked for it or not. I used to have to watch like a hawk and constantly call out, "excuse me, no butter, please", and often the sandwich maker would look up and ask, incredulously, "no butter!?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm glad that doesn't seem to be a problem at Caplansky's.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Made it there tonight for dinner with two others. The service was actually really great! Our server was friendly and efficient, and food came very quickly and well timed.
                                                                                                                                                                              Among the three of us we tried (a lot, ha):
                                                                                                                                                                              Split pea soup with smoked meat- very nice, could have used a bit more salt or spice. The smoked meat was nice though.
                                                                                                                                                                              Matzo ball soup- bleh, bland. Mine is far superior.
                                                                                                                                                                              Borscht: the best soup of the night. Perfect for a chilly evening. Big tender chunks of beef with a perfectly seasoned broth.
                                                                                                                                                                              Smoked meat knish: really delicious, especially with the gravy. The pastry was perfectly flaky and the filling was moist and flavourful.
                                                                                                                                                                              Smoked meat sandwich- ordered medium. I agree with others, I didn't really taste much smoke, but our sandwich was a nice balance of fat and lean, no grizzle to be found.
                                                                                                                                                                              Beef brisket sandwich- really delicious and tender, I'm curious now about the beef brisket dinner. Has anyone tried it?
                                                                                                                                                                              Smoked meat hash- so delicious. Not at all overly greasy, as I sometimes find corned beef hash to be.
                                                                                                                                                                              Poutine and orders of fries- As others have mentioned, the fries were perfectly crispy (kind of reminded me of swiss chalet fries) and I was surprised to find that they held up so well to the incredibly generous serving of cheese and gravy on top. This poutine could easily be a meal upon itself (it was a huge platter full).
                                                                                                                                                                              And just a tip for those who haven't been yet.. If you think the side of fries is just a side, its not. Its a massive basket easily split between two hungry people.
                                                                                                                                                                              So with 3 cups of soup, knish, 2 sandwiches, the hash, 2 orders of fries, poutine, 3 beers was $76.00! I am already planning another visit. I hope I didn't get unusually lucky with the good service.

                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                                                                                                                                I was there for the first time, too. About 9:30pm. It was a spur of the moment decision and I was with my non-foodie, vegetarian partner, who graciously indulged me.

                                                                                                                                                                                The service was friendly and efficient. A reminder from us for a forgotten coffee resulted in it not being put on the bill.

                                                                                                                                                                                My SM sandwich was moist and there was no gristle. The meat was less salty than I expected, but smokier. The bread - a big deal for me - was perfect. My only quibble was that the mustard selection I was offered all contained "honey-something" mustard. I prefer something with more of a bite.

                                                                                                                                                                                The fries were hot and fresh and my partner really liked them. She dove in when she saw the size of the order. Again, a condiment quibble. White vinegar only. Loved the pickle.

                                                                                                                                                                                My partner was very impressed with the cole slaw. I thought it was fine and the mildness of the dressing complimented the strong flavour of the sandwich.

                                                                                                                                                                                My partner had also ordered a potato knish. I've eaten many knish and would have to say this one was excellent. Maybe a little salty, but otherwise good. Flakey pastry. Very full. The only problem was the gravy, in that there wasn't any. We asked for the Wild Mushroom gravy on the menu, but were told that they don't have it. Now here's the part that bemused me:

                                                                                                                                                                                My perfectly pleasant server looks at my partner and says, "We don't have it because Zane wants to make sure it's perfect before we start serving it." That was met with a blank stare and then a quizzical look at me. As I said, she is no foodie, and certainly no Chow, but very polite. After the server left with my partner's assurance that it was okay, she leaned over and whispered, "Who's Zane and why doesn't he get one of those other boys in the kitchen to make the gravy if he doesn't know how."

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pastina

                                                                                                                                                                                  Re: the mustard situation. Unfortunately, you needed to go mustard hunting. They have several Kozlik's mustards with plenty of kick (I had the hot garlic when I was there), but they don't distribute them equally about the tables. I think people grab them off other tables (like I did) and they don't get moved back.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                                    had lunch at Caplansky's today. overall a disappointing experience - smoked meat sandwich was ok - most disappointing was service and lack of recognition from host/hostess. Waited in line for about 30 minutes, while tables of 2 sat empty. Party of four who arrived after us did an end around and the people in line watched as "Sandy" let them in the side door and sat them at a table, while we continued to wait. won't be back..

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I ate at Caplanskys earlier today for lunch with a friend
                                                                                                                                                                                Seated immediately, no wait, however, we were forgotten about for a good 20 min before we could order anything for drinks or food.

                                                                                                                                                                                We each got the combo with the soup, both medium, both borscht.

                                                                                                                                                                                I was done my sandwich before I got the borscht which I didn't really mind but would have preferred to have the soup first.

                                                                                                                                                                                Sandwich was pretty good, had it with some Kozliks mustard - and this is completely subjective but I prefer Goldin's meat. I haven't tried it at Free Times down the street but have gotten it at home a few times and much prefer it.

                                                                                                                                                                                We also split a smoked meat poutine which was pretty tasty and a liver knish which I did't find very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                To top things off I ordered a shot of Chopin vodka and a slice of sour cherry pie - I got more of a glass with at least 2oz in it and for 9 bucks thats a steal and a half. The pie was okay at best. Nothing special.

                                                                                                                                                                                I'd say it had its ups and downs. I had a breakfast there a couple of months ago which was pretty good - I liked their smoked beef bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                I'd return if I was in the area and hungry but I'd prefer going to Negroni in the area.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Went back tonight for another smoked meat poutine.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Not have enough cheese curds, was a little too dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                  AND.. was freaking spectacular. I would like to reconfirm that this is the best "poutine-like/poutine-inspired" dish in the city.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Finally tried the turkey sandwich. It was chunky and had some cartilage (this really doesnt bother me!), but was totally delicious. With it, I took another run at the smoked meat pea soup, which in my humble opinion is amazing. I could eat a gallon of it. I also found out that nitrites, which my dad is very allergic to, is absent in everything except the smoked meat, and possibly the tongue.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I usually go outside of "rush" hours, so I haven't had any problems with service or lineups. Of the dishes that my wife and I have tried, our favourites are the borscht and the burger. The burger is a bit novel... from reading other (not so positive) reviews, I think I may have been fortunate in the way mine was prepared. It definitely had a distinct and pleasant taste of smoked meat, and the quality of the beef, rareness and seasoning were all excellent. As for the smoked meat, I have to admit I didn't really enjoy the texture. My sandwich was dry, to say the least, and I spent much of that lunch trying to remove chewy strands from my teeth. I prefer melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat, so next time I may ask them to cut it thinner, or will try the fatty cut.

                                                                                                                                                                                      The smoked meat poutine is as tasty snack. It's similar to what used to be available at Mel's, but in a smaller portion. The brisket made for a satisfying dinner, though I would have liked it more strongly spiced. All in all, I've been pretty happy with my experiences, and with what I've paid for them. It's a great neighborhood diner/lunch spot, but I wouldn't really call it a must-eat destination.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. My first trip to Caplansky's today - New Year's Day at around 11am.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Amazing. Loved everything we had and we tasted a LOT. My favourite was definitely the kishka. Served in this wild, nontraditional sauce laced with smoked meat. It was insanely good.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Service was superb - fast and attentive.

                                                                                                                                                                                        By the way, a great surprise was their excellent coffee. Really nice and reasonably strong - very well-balanced.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Will definitely return.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: YYZSolly

                                                                                                                                                                                          We had the kishka too, and it was served with their version of gravy, which is definitely laced with, or chock-full of, smoked meat bits. It was the same thing that was on the knish, and in the side of gravy ordered with the fries.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Very yummy. Sometimes too salty, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Was there NYE. My third visit.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Like any mother's chicken soup - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's meh. This time, the broth rivalled anything a bubie would serve. The Matzoh ball soup was amazing on a rainy cold day. The coleslaw was divine and plentiful and the smoked turkey, once again, was heavenly.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Finally made it to Caplansky's today after a year of trying to swing a visit. Was there around 10 am, which was unfortunate in that I was limited to the sandwich-less breakfast menu. But it forced me to try a part of the menu I might have otherwise neglected.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I went for the smoked meat hash - scrap bits of smoked meat grilled up with onions and potatoes, and served with two sunny side-up eggs and challah toast. After waiting so long to pay Caplansky's a visit, I can say I was definitely not let down. If this was leftover smoked meat, I can't wait to taste the real thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Coffee was good and the service was prompt and friendly (as it should be at 10 am with only 3 tables seated, but still worth noting). About the only thing that didn't live up to expectations was the challah toast with my order, which tasted far more like ordinary toasted white bread than I was expecting... though after that much food, I wasn't overly concerned about toast.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Check out the full review and a photo of my meal on my blog at http://be-log-blog.blogspot.com/2010/...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. This has been a very good post to track the trials and triumphs of the new location. I went to the new location for the first time today. Obviously the location is a vast improvement over the Monach, and whatever the problems with service appear completely resolved. The food however , specifically the smoked meat is no where near where it was at the Monarch. I tried the 7oz Smoked Meat today, and it was cold and chewy, almost impossible to eat in a sandwich, so I did what it appeared most others were doing take the top off the sandwich and eat it piece by piece, not exactly world class smoked meat. The waitress asked how it was , so I told her not so good, she took it away immediately (Like I said really great service) and brought me another, unfortunately it was identical to the first. I really think this is a 911 for Zane, its been 6 months in the new location, and it appears consistancy is a huge issue. I really want him to succeed, I will not give up on him yet, but I doubt I will be taking any of my Montreal friends there anytime soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Super Dave

                                                                                                                                                                                                My sense is that Zane needs to find himself a couple of experiences meat cutters. I think the importance of the meat cutter is underestimated my some.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Have now been to new location several times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Really like Caplansky's full fat but one thing I feel that would help them (other people might disagree) is cutting the meat less chunky. I'm not talking machine-type slicing; all I'm saying is not as chunky. Chunky cutting was the same at the old place.