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Oct 18, 2009 02:08 PM

Caplansky's: What the @#$%^&*?!!!

I can't understand what the fuss is about. Can you?

VVM- a boychik from the 'hood.

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  1. I loved Caplansky's at the Monarch, but I haven't been to the new location.

    If you really want to get into it, you can engage with the 170+ entries on this thread:

    It would help if you said something substantive about the food, space, or service.

    R! - from my hutch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Rabbit

      I finally ate at the new location last Friday (I enjoyed the old location and its food several times). I love the space and atmosphere, one of the servers (quirky guy with big glasses) and the smoked meat knish. However, the smoked meat sandwich was so extremely salty, that for the first time ever, I couldn't finish my sandwich and was horribly disappointed. The server agreed it wasn't the best and cited "growing pains".

      1. re: Food Tourist

        The recent price increase will allow them to toss any bad stuff out and give you another piece.

    2. Not really... the sandwiches seem small to me.. the meat is hit and miss

      I much prefer Goldin's IMO

      1 Reply
      1. re: duckdown

        7 oz of meat is not a small sandwich, is it? That's your entire day's requirement of "meat and meat alternatives" according to Health Canada's food guide.

        If 7 oz is too small, the 13 oz fresser has to be sufficient, no? If not, how big would you like?

      2. Vinnie, why did you feel that you had to start a new thread, when there are already a couple on the go. Just to bring your negative opinion of Caplansky's to everyone's attention?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Yongeman

          Actually i agree . I haven't seen any place get the press Caplansky's has. ANOTHER article THIS weekend. Post this time

          1. re: bruceter

            The Post article wasn't about Caplansky's. It was an excerpt from the new David Sax book, "Save the Deli". Caplansky's was only mentioned in a sidebar because the photos were of Zane's sandwiches, and the Toronto stop on the book tour is at Caplansky's this Thursday.

        2. The "fuss" is a result of a rabid desire for a halfway decent deli downtown. Someplace that makes real food from scratch, somewhat reminiscent of the good old days. A place that has big fat sandwiches - cholesterol be damned - and all the stuff some of us remember from when we were kids. Is Caplansky's the epitome of this kind of food? I don't think so, but neither is anyplace else in the city - uptown, downtown, suburbia, wherever. I find the nitpicking criticism of the place utterly ridiculous. It's NOT fine dining, it's CHEAP and it's pretty damn good for what it is. Is it perfect? No. Will it ever be perfect? Good grief - what is? My comments are based on, yes, one single visit. I liked it - it has a vibe. Would I go back? Certainly. If I was downtown and wanted a pretty good sandwich and whatever else. We had a good lunch the ONE time I visited. Will they work out the kinks? I suspect so, eventually. Look I grew up on NY deli where the waiters were insulting, rude and ignored you or overwhelmed you. Caplansky's is probably going to settle into that kind of dining experience. I hope.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            I don't know if "cheap" is accurate. Most of the delis in NYC charge around $15 for a sandwich (which, with the loonie at current levels, is about $15 Cdn.), but you get at least twice the meat you get at Caplansky's. Plus they put a bowl of pickles on your table instead of the lonely slice you get at Zane's. I like his smoked meat, and his borscht, but his quality is up and down, service is iffy, and I don't think it's inexpensive if you want a full lunch. And I've visited both locations a number of times, so I think I have a better take than you do from a single visit.

            1. re: FrankD

              Caplansky's is hand sliced, but most N.Y. deli sandwiches are machine sliced. The thin machine slices will fluff out in a sandwich, much like pulled pork, dare I say.
              Zane's sandwich's have 5-6 oz thick sliced meat.
              To compare, you can prepare a Dunn's (Montreal smoked meat) 4 oz pouch at home, or get one at Costco, and it will appear larger.

              1. re: jayt90

                The 13oz for $13 is the solution for those who complain of smaller sizes. If they complain about the high price, then you can point to Katz or 2nd Ave which charge even more. Yes those sandwiches are gigantic.

                I haven't had the 13oz yet but I assume it's still pretty damn big,

                Probably better to close this thread so discussion can continue on the existing 2nd location thread.

                1. re: jayt90

                  Gotta disagree with your observation about hand sliced vs. machine sliced. I had a fantastic smoked meat sandwich at the Carnegie deli in New York that was nearly 9 inches thick. I am a hearty eater but it was so large that it was good for two meals. Don't care how it was sliced but there was at least 4x the meat of a Caplansky's sandwich. Followed by NY style cheesecake.... heaven (followed by a cardiac event lol)

                  1. re: cynalan

                    The sandwich was almost 9 inches thick? Now that does seem like an extreme exaggeration to me. Most people would have a hard time eating a 2" thick piece of anything, so what is the point of making it 4x higher?

                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      Quantity is viewed, correctly or not, as "good value". If you go to the Carnegie Deli homepage, you are treated to a picture of one of their sandwiches. Although very large, it doesn't look like nine inches. I also note the Carnegie prices range from $14.95- $17.95 USD for their sandwiches. So, yes, they are charging you more money and you get more meat. That doesn't make them better than Caplansky's, and by the time I finish a normal (not fresser's) Caplansky's sandwich and fries, I am waddling out the door.

                      1. re: foodyDudey

                        Carnegie is known for piling it on. The sandwiches are served with wooden bbq skewers holding them together in place of toothpicks because the sandwiches really are that thick. They're also really good. No smoked meat, but the corned beef and pastrami are good. You can ask for extra slices of bread to make more manageable sandwiches. In the case of Carnegie, quantity and quality are both high.

                        As for Carnegie being better than Caplanskys, you can't compare them on the basis of smoked meat since Carnegie doesn't offer it. You could compare them as delis, but ultimately, they're in different cities and when you're craving some deli, the only thing that matters is which city you're in at the time. Both will satisfy your craving although you might be leaving with a football sized doggy bag from one of them.

                        1. re: GoodGravy

                          Yep, I worked for a couple of summers in Manhattan, and visited Carnegie often. That lunch time sandwich ended up being dinner as well every time. Supplement that with some salad from the ubiquitous salad bars in Korean groceries, and I'd get two very good meals for less than $20.

                        2. re: foodyDudey

                          It is certainly an exaggeration, but not an extreme exaggeration. Carnegie's sandwiches are humongous, and certainly can't fit into any typical mouth.

                          This is size for the sake of itself. Their sandwiches were never small - NY portion sizes are much larger than those here - but a Carnegie sandwich was MUCH smaller 45 years ago.

                          Few people can eat one alone, but you get charged a few bucks extra if they catch you sharing it. They are machine sliced, which also increases the apparent thickness of the sandwich.

                          1. re: embee

                            Wow, imagine the outcry if Caplansky's charged extra for sharing.

                      2. re: jayt90

                        What is the difference between hand sliced and machine sliced??


                        1. re: Davwud

                          thicker slices by hand.
                          more density.
                          more meat.

                          a machine makes it more like a cushion or a bunch of mini coils.

                          1. re: Davwud

                            A few things:

                            - Brisket is a weird cut of meat. The grain keeps changing direction, and a skilled hand cutter will turn and flip the meat when necessary. It's very tempting to put the chunk of meat on the machine and just let it slice away. Since the machine slices can be very thin, the badly sliced portions remain edible.

                            - Hand cutting provides an opportunity to remove the "bad" fat that has the texture of rubber. (Caplansky's cutters don't all know how to do this.)

                            - The texture and mouth feel of hand sliced brisket are different, at least when it is freshly cooked and still warm. Many people, including me, find it more satisfying.

                            - It is extremely difficult to hand slice a cold brisket. You can do it at home, but it wouldn't make sense to hand slice a cold brisket in a deli.

                            - If you know what you are doing, you can fold and stack thin machine slices to make the sandwich seem much thicker than it really is.

                            It's not whether hand slicing is superior or inferior to machine slicing. They give a different result. I like my pastrami/corned beef/ smoked meat sandwiches warm and cut by hand. However, I'm fine with machine sliced corned beef on a cold sandwich. I prefer a cold, rare roast beef sandwich when it is thinly sliced by machine.

                            1. re: embee

                              Yep, I was there for the training session when Zane was teaching his new slicers. He brought in an old pro, who told them that the lean part of the brisket is the toughest part to get rid of - everyone wants a little fat in their sandwich. But no one wants a big piece of fat (about 1/4" on a slice is about right), so the trick, according to the pro, is to put a few slices of lean on every sandwich, and mix in some of the medium lean for a medium fat, and some of the fattier slices for a "full fat".

                              As Embee points out, the grain changes frequently, and the pro made a point of asking each novice cutter to identify the grain at all times. If you're handcutting, the thick slices HAVE to be across the grain, else the meat is very chewy. Machine slicing, because it slices thinner, overcomes this problem, but again, as Embee says, the meat is rarely trimmed properly before going on the slicer, so the results can be uneven vis-a-vis fat.

                              This may also account for the uneven results at Caplansky's- in a rush, the novice cutters probably aren't adjusting for grain, trimming fat properly, etc.

                    2. I imagine the discussions around the first New World delis. "Pffff. This kid doesn't know what he's doing. This is nothing like what we had back in Minsk. Now that, THAT was real food."

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Pincus

                        The New York style deli was transplanted from Germany, not Russia nor Poland, as it sometimes was. Of course it was adapted to American conditions- for eg, beef was plentiful in the USA; brisket became king. German immigration to America preceeded immigration from Russia and Poland by generations. Massive Polish and Russian immigration adopted the deli as their own, but I still don't remember much if any egg in the chopped liver in delis.

                        1. re: Pincus

                          Huy Pincus, To my knowledge all the original delis in T.O. and Mont. wher started by Jewish butchers or restauranturs that came from Poland,Russia and other countries. They knew how to make corned beef and pastramie, and it was better than anything you get today. They wern't worried about fat or calories. Not only that but the Jweish bakeries.