HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Discussion

Caplansky's - You have got to be kidding me!

My wife and popped in 2 weeks ago on a Saturday night. I have been wanting to give it a try for sometime. I must say that without a doubt that this was the worst meal we have ever had anywhere period.

Do they have a contract with a salt mine? Everything is so salty, the fries, the meat?
it was just awful. How can anyone compare this to any other Jewish Deli? This was a joke!

The meat was so chewy that if you stretched it would snap like an elastic band.

I never write such negative reviews but I just could not hold back on this one. I am sorry but there is no way in the world that this place will be around for long. The staff was nice enough to give us another sandwich telling us that it would be better and less salty (a different part of the brisket). The texture was more moist (slightly) but it had all the salt of the original sandwich. This was one HUGE disappointing experience. Too bad really as we sure can use some additional Jewish deli's in Toronto.

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

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. I cannot express my distaste for this place either in full, because it would get deleted. Beware though, you're one of the very odd few (besides myself) on this board who aren't head over heels infatuated with this place.

    The food is terrible now and hasn't been good since the Monarch when Zane was the one cooking. He cashed out after the articles about this place sent waves of customers at him and no longer spends any time in the kitchen as far as I can tell... That salt issue is always coming and going, I've had it happen before and then on a next visit it's been toned down. They have NO consistency at this place, and seem to be surviving off the blind sheep downtown who have no idea what a good deli is.

    You're about to get 300 responses in favor of this place now, watch

    Caplansky's defines overrated.. sorry you had the misfortune of eating there :(

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

    10 Replies
    1. re: duckdown

      I have no opinion on this place really. Tried it. Not really my kind of food. I would like to make one little point though...if I am looking at a wall and it looks purple, but 300 people are standing behind me insisting that it is in fact green, I would book myself an eye exam. Seems more sensible than assuming everybody else is colour blind. Just sayin'...

      1. re: munchieHK

        Oh but you are forgetting about the bandwagon effect my friend.

        1. re: munchieHK

          Hey if thats your opinion, you're welcome to it. I am quite familiar with good smoked meat though from various trips to Montreal, one that I just returned from. If this is your idea of good deli, you're entitled to it.

          Just sayin'....

          1. re: munchieHK

            That's why I'm so confused about the fantastic reviews here about a Thai food restaurant on Parliament. Everyone raves about it yet I've not had one good takeout meal from there yet. I'm starting to wonder why everyone else sees gold there and I only see beige walls.

            1. re: foodyDudey

              Extremely nice owners (with an interesting background story) + decent thai food (for Toronto) probably account for the rave reviews.

              1. re: foodyDudey

                Also, my two best meals there were when Nuit was cooking "off menu" (which requires calling in advance to set up a meal). I realize that one should be able to judge a restaurant by the regular menu items, but her off menu stuff is really, really wonderful -- complex, layered flavours, while still being incredibly delicate on the palate. Amazing.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  and that could also be because she has complete control over those items. from my understanding, they have had a hard time finding someone who would cook with the same quality control as she would for various reasons (lack of funds to pay, lack of skill and even lack of interest). i can tell when she has cooked my meal vs someone else in that kitchen.

                  and perhaps this is the same issue with caplansky's. he's relinquished control and quality is now highly variable.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    Well I hope someone will organise another event there so I can join in and try some of the good stuff.

              2. re: duckdown

                Finally tried Caplansky's for lunch today. I completely agree - it is most definitely overrated. Montreal smoked meat sandwich was fresh tasting but very stringy and tasteless. It had no saltiness whatsoever. Also, the sandwich was VERY small.
                I will not be back!

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

                1. re: dorillian

                  Where else have you tried?

              3. I've also heard of consistency issues as well but thankfully I've never had a bad meal there (I'm also quite sensitive to salt but never had a sandwich that I felt was oversalted for my taste). I'm not a blind sheep and I do know what good deli is (having eaten it extensively across NYC and Montreal). However, it is rather unfortunate that Zane is having problems keeping a consistently good product to deliver to his customers.

                SWS

                4 Replies
                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  You do not have to be sensitive salt. Just human. I cannot express my disappoint in this place. I was so very excited to try it and after a wonderful day out with my wife this place was not a fitting end. I don't really care if I get 300 positives for this place. we are not fussy people at all and I have had bad meals and never posted a review. I just could not let this one pass. I hope they work it out and turn it around. I want more Jewish deli choices in Toronto. One thing is for sure I will not be back!

                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                    while it wouldn't necessarily be called bad, have you noticed swings in his recipe? before (monarch days) his meat was quite aggressively smoked and it was toned down with the new location. i've given it a few goes and for the most part it has been the right texture (with one or two issues out of half a dozen visits) but at last visit it was much more light on smoke and the spicing seemed very different.... almost as if it were aiming to be more similar to goldin's. it wasn't bad but just not good enough to convince me to go back again.

                    i still appreciate what he is trying to do, but you'd think that as of 3 months ago there wouldn't be such wild differences in the flavour.

                    as for the salt... that always depended on how smart they were. i find the gravy to be quite salty and so they would have to remember not to salt your fires if it was going straight on top. otherwise i haven't had any salt issues, mostly texture.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      I've always had strongly smokey meat and never rubbery, dry or overly salty. I don't ever get gravy so I can't comment on the salt levels in it. I haven't been in about 6 weeks so I should head back to see if the spicing that you describe has changed.

                      It makes me sad to hear that he is still having consistency issues.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        I've definitely noticed this - and I used to be one of the ones baffled by the inconsistency complaints because I had ALWAYS gotten good, consistent sandwiches there. The meat is definitely tasting different (I miss the smokier version he started with), and my last visit was the first time I got genuinely poorly cut meat. That visit was actually pretty awful on all counts (they were clearly understaffed and overwhelmed by the crowd that day - both service and food suffered), so I can see why if someone's first visit were a day like that, they wouldn't be in a hurry to return.

                    2. Oh yes, the salt. Thankfully my sandwich was not salty, but the fries were relatively so. And the gravy was unbelievably salty!!! They definitely need to get control of it...

                      1. that really is a shame to hear. I am really debating making the effort to get down there to eat. If its so inconsistent I can't see myself going on purpose all the way there from Ajax. It would be a rare time when I'm actually in the area and would make an effort. Hmm. I'm conflicted now. I'd like to think I'm very open minded and should try it for myself and form an opinion, but geez this one is tough.

                        1. Just a couple of more thoughts. I really don't want be a hater and stir the emotions of all those that love the place. If you love it that's great. The staff were nice and we were not rude at all and mentioned to our server that we did not enjoy our meal. We said this to her only and that no other customers would hear us. I thought maybe we would get 1/2 off but again you order, it's your food and you should expect to pay but giving me another bad sandwich to take and a coupon for a later visit which will never happen is a little funny. The fries came loaded with salt, I think that in this day and age they should at least ask you if you want them salted or not. I had no idea that they would come loaded with salt. What the fries did was just confirm how salty the meat was because after the salty fries the meat still tasted salty to both of us. I wish the owner was there and the texture of the meat was just unbelievable. As I said to my wife after we left " I would have enjoyed a sandwich more from Druxy's than the one I had at Caplansky's" to be honest, I don't think I could offer a worse comment than that.

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

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bjinyyz

                            did you eat every single bite available to you before making the complaint?

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              I think it is very safe to assume that we did not eat everything until we complained. I could not have ate this food no matter how hungry I was. I had 2 bites of my sandwich and some fries. My wife had one bite and none of her fries. She was not touching the fries when she saw how much salt was on them.

                              1. re: bjinyyz

                                it actually isn't clear in your post that that was the case and some people manage to eat a substantial amount before complaining. thanks for clarifying.

                                so they gave you a third sandwich to take? or were you referring to the better sandwich they offered to replace the one(s) you didn't like? if you didn't like the replacement then it is interesting they didn't do more to fix the situation, like perhaps offering something else off the menu. i'm surprised they didn't at least give you fresh fries without salt. but they do come across to me as a place that is more likely to give you a coupon or replace the food than comp it - which would obviously be to the chagrin of a diner like yourself who wouldn't necessarily intend to come back.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                  They gave us a third to take with in what I assume was an effort to save us a customer. I think it was crystal clear to them that we did not like what we ordered and they did not suggest a replacement item which is what I would have done. I have spent the last couple of days searching other sites and it seems that sadly my experience is not the exception. I wish I would known that ahead of time but the reality is I probably would have checked it on on my own. I wrote this review because the food was just plan the worst I have had. I wanted it to be good.

                          2. Now I'll have to go there soon to see if they've slipped or not.

                            1. Our last visit (about a month ago) was very good (meat was tasty, borscht is delish, fries were great, no salting problem... and the cheesecake was fab). But I do miss the charm of the Monarch (I'm serious... I love that space).

                              However, we sent my sister and her boyfriend and they were very disappointed and joined team never-going-back.

                              I'm puzzled by the very polar reports on this place and I can't figure out if we keep getting lucky or what??

                              1. I have been there about 4 to 5 times in the last 2 months. Here's my report based on a semi regular status -

                                Smoked Meat Sandwich:

                                Order - medium fatty

                                Texture - the meat has been really well cut, with the right "give" and chew (not stringy or rubbery)

                                Spicing - Only in 1 out of 4 sandwiches did I get a nicely cured, spiced sandwich. The other three were under spiced, like the cure had not penetrated the meat enough.

                                Smoke - again, only nicely smoked in one sandwich. The other 3 were very light on smoke.

                                Overall - my biggest complaint is about getting a good cure into the meat. As just a straight brisket sandwich, it's still quite good. But if I wanted that, I would order the braised brisket sandwich (which is quite good).

                                Fries:

                                I've never had bad fries here. Fries should be salted when they come out of the fryer, which they always do.

                                Borscht:

                                Dependably tangy hit of cabbage and brisket. Very good when it was still cold.

                                Turkey:

                                Their smoked turkey is actually the best smoked product in the house. I highly recommend it.

                                Tongue:

                                I like tongue, but it's one of those cuts best carved really thinly. The hand carved slices were a little thick and overwhelmingly rich for me. It would probably work better fried with eggs...

                                Knish:

                                Possibly my favourite dish here. Great pastry, wonderful, rich mashed potato and smoked meat with the gravy…

                                However, had a horrible experience with one recently. Was ice cold and rock hard in the middle, clearly being reheated from the freezer. Had it taken back and when it returned, it was warm, but the core was a massed layer of uncooked raw dough, which is probably why it did not reheat properly. I told the server I was not going to eat it and just skipped the knish. He offered some alternatives, but I wasn't interested by then and he took it off my bill with no questions asked.

                                Service:

                                Very good each time. Several different servers all were friendly and efficient.

                                As important as providing good service when things went smoothly, they dealt with the one problem I had (knish) quickly, professionally and with charm.

                                Summary:

                                They have some consistency issues, but in my experience not as bad as described by some posters. That doesn't mean those posters didn't have problems, and I would say they are perfectly justified to never go back if the visit was terrible. I can only say I have been happy with Caplansky's on the whole. My biggest complaint would be the cure and smoke on the brisket. They've really backed off on the flavourings and this really needs to be adjusted.

                                Suggestion:

                                So some people may not like a strong cure. Why not a second cure, called "The Monarch", for those who loved that beautiful combo of Texas brisket and Jewish smoked meat?

                                1. Hmmm. I've been going to Caplansky's since day 2 at the Monarch. I've enjoyed watching the menu evolve and seeing Zane's rise to media domination. I've found that the sandwiches can occasionally be salty, but not so salty as to be inedible. If anything, I've found that the sandwiches can sometimes benefit from a dose of salt, but that's just me. The accompanying fries are some of my favourite in town, albeit with salt.

                                  So, I enjoy it there. According to some of the more informed luminaries on the board, that makes me a downtown blind sheep. If that's the case, I say Baaaaa. Thankfully they don't like dining there, leaving room for the rest of the flock.

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

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: ibraineater

                                    oh, i think there's plenty of room to dine there these days. There are lovers and haters... it seems the haters are in the majority. The food is inconsistent at best. Gave up on the place a while ago, after a very negative experience. Too bad, good concept with poor execution.

                                    1. re: phisherking

                                      I've been to Caplanskys many times, both at the monarch and the college location and never experienced anything close to what is being described here. The sandwiches have been very good to excellent and I've enjoyed all the sides as well. And yes, I've eaten deli in New York, Montreal and Chicago among other places so I have a frame of reference which is apparently necessary to offer an opinion.

                                      Guess I'm just one of those mindless sheep so condescendingly referred to earlier in this thread.

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

                                      1. re: jamesm

                                        Well said jamesm. I've always had excellent sandwiches and sides as well and get confused by the inconsistency and/or bad experience reports.

                                        I'm tired of the haters. They've made their opinions well known. Honestly, I think we could all use a little less hate in the Toronto food community-myself included.

                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                          I'm a third on this train. Always good IMO.

                                          1. re: JennaBean

                                            Me too. I went a few times at the Monarch and several times at the new location and have enjoyed all my sandwiches without any of the issues mentioned in the thread. Some may have been better than others, but never did I not enjoy my meal.

                                            As an aside, I'm also a big fan having a few craft beers on tap since he opened up the new location since this was my biggest issue with the Monarch.

                                            1. re: kwjd

                                              too expensive and the quality very cheap it is crazy

                                              1. re: marthadalila

                                                What did you have when you went? Can you describe what exactly was cheap?

                                                1. re: jamesm

                                                  We tried this place for the first time a couple of weekends ago. It was busy. The smoked meet sandwiches were in my opinion, very good as were the fries and coleslaw. Unfortunately the service was appallingly bad. I am in no hurry to go back for that reason alone.

                                        2. re: jamesm

                                          Not to start a war but even Zane himself admits to the wide variability in his smoked meat product and service levels - so let's not be so quick to dismiss those who have had less than stellar experiences at Caplansky's and call them haters.

                                          If all you've ever had was amazing experience, you're one of the few lucky ones.

                                          Caplansky's is going through growing pains which are extremely public and he's got to take the good with the bad.

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

                                          1. re: Pizza Lover

                                            I wouldn't call myself a "hater"- I've only been once. I didn't really encounter the over-salting people speak of, but the meat in the sandwich .. just wasn't that good. It was stringy and tough, despite having been ordered med-fatty.

                                            Maybe it was an off day, but it was one mediocre $10 sandwich.

                                            1. re: Marumari

                                              I think Kaplansky is just plain mediocre too.

                                              1. re: shekamoo

                                                count me in the disappointed crowd on the smoked meat 'wich. the service was very good and the fries were excellent.

                                                and ... maybe it's my shoes but the floor seemed very slippery.

                                    2. I for one am not a fan of the smoked meat there. However, I think their smoked turkey is out of this world. I love their soups as well. I commend him for putting the deli in the centre of the downtown, where it belongs. I have no problem with the prices and I love the space. I'm sure in year two there, there will be new and interesting things happening, but I will not be quick to dismiss the place.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: MeMeMe

                                        That smoked turkey is one of my fav meat items ever. I really do love it.

                                        1. re: JennaBean

                                          My only experience with the smoked turkey was horrific. They were out of smoked meat, so 2 of us opted for the turkey.

                                          Two pieces of bread with hardly any turkey in them arrived, and were dry as heck! Right after we ordered, we heard our neighbour ask for the turkey, but apparently we got the last sandwiches - I suspect the turkey was sitting around somewhere drying out, and they took turkey that should've fit into 1 sandwich and spread it out to 2.

                                          Have also had bad experiences the 3 times I've been to the new location and have vowed to not waste my money anymore.

                                          1. re: jayseeca

                                            I went there once and the sandwich I got was extremely fatty!!! I would say 33% of the meat of gelatinous fat! It was soo disgusting and it was over priced. When I spent 5 minutes removing all the fat, I have to admit it was quite tasty.. definately not worth the price.

                                            So far the only place that comes close to Schwartz's (sp?) sandwiches in Montreal is Center street Deli up around Center St. and bathurst area. in R.hill (markham?)

                                            1. re: setofdueces

                                              I ate at Schuartz's on St. Laurent this past weekend, and the smoked meat sandwich was very similar in form to Caplanski's, EXCEPT the meat was like butter. So soft and pleasant, not at all chewy. Just meat, mustard and bread. Perfect.

                                      2. We've removed several posts from this thread. Please do share your experiences with Caplansky's food, but speculations about his business model and hiring practices are off topic.

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

                                        1. I also think Caplansky is just plain mediocre, with food & service. Hyped Smoked Meat Sandwiches being the best in Toronto did not live up to the "rep" it has. And to boot, the fries came first, a full 15 mins before my sandwich. I may be odd but I like having my fries which I consider a "side" to accompany my sandwich, not be the main course. Ordered a sandwich as 'take out" , a bag came which I assumed was the sandwich and was on my way out when another associate came with a 2nd bag which contained the actual sandwich. It turned out the original bag contained the coleslaw and not the sandwich...another 20 sec, i would have left and not known until I got home. Not a good thing.

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

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: fooddiva7

                                            Want a great smoked meat sandwich? Go to Free Times Cafe a few doors down. Fries aren't the best, but order the sweet potato fries instead.

                                            -----
                                            Free Times Cafe
                                            320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

                                            1. re: McIntoshC28

                                              Free Times gets their meat from Goldin's. I will leave comments on how authentic or masterfully replicated it is to experts in the field, since I don't usually equate "authentic" with "tastiest", but every mailbox brisket I've retrieved from him has been nothing short of a glorious piece of cow. Some people eat birthday cake, I eat 3 lbs of Goldin's medium birthday brisket.

                                              I still like Caplansky's smoked meat burger, and think that was a clever idea. I'd actually like to see Caplansky's work on more novel recipes/specials every so often. They've obviously got both skill and equipment, but I just don't get the sense that the staff is enjoying the process as much as when I first started going. When I visit a place like the Black Hoof, for example, I get the sense that the people there are really proud of what they're putting out, and they're excited to tell you about it!

                                              -----
                                              Free Times Cafe
                                              320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

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

                                              1. re: Underdog Rally

                                                I'm looking forward to the Goldin's mailbox brisket I got last week. It will be devoured with my father on father's day.

                                              2. re: McIntoshC28

                                                Agreed! Goldin's is amazing.

                                                PS: If you're buying it for take-home, DO NOT STEAM it. Use his preferred method of boil in the bag.

                                                jayt90 hates Goldin's because he says it's dry and chewy after steaming, which I can't even begin to imagine because every piece of Goldin's I've ever made has practically shredded apart under the weight of my knife and been super succulent.

                                                1. re: duckdown

                                                  No, I don't hate Goldin's, but at the price and cloak and dagger sales, I won't soon go back. Maybe I'm plebeian, but the $12/kg well marbled Dunn's from the big box place placate me, simply steamed.

                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                    ahh ok, I like the Dunn's too. Especially because it's readily available and affordable.. Just that my personal experience with the Goldin's product has been the best to date in the city

                                                    cheers

                                            2. I do not know what is compelling me to write this. I should know better.

                                              Anyways, I am a regular at Caplansky's. I stop by roughly 2 times in every 3 weeks. I have been doing so since the early days at the Monarch. I am not a die-hard Caplansky's defender or a hater.

                                              I have had some of the soups, I have tried the tongue a few times (good), I had the turkey once (dry), but, mostly I have the MSM. I usually order fatty. I sometimes get medium. I mostly order take-out, but sometimes I dine in.

                                              1. The MSM product has some consistency issues. Totally true. The rest of the items seem fairly consistent (the fries, soups, knishes, etc. . .).

                                              2. I have had 1 inedibly salty sandwich from the college location (more from when he was at the Monarch). I complained and was offered a free one (for a return visit).

                                              I have had two others that I am sure others would have found inedible, but which I ate.

                                              3. I have had three dozen sandwiches that I liked as much as anything else I can buy in downtown Toronto for under $10.

                                              Some were drier than others. Some were saltier or less salty. Some spicier and some less. All of these variables within a fairly narrow range, however. The smoke level is seemingly now very consistent. I actually wouldn't mind it going up a bit like it used to be in the late Monarch days.

                                              4. I have had 6-7 ethereally good sandwiches that made me feel so happy that my entire mood for the day (or more) was altered. Several of these were better than anything I had from Schwartz (which has some consistency issues in my experience as well).

                                              If Caplansky could get every sandwich as good as those, he could charge twice the price!

                                              Am I upset by the poor consistency? Yes. Will I still go? Yes.

                                              As for the service, I have found it nothing worse than well-meaning-but-inept and mostly it is exemplary (but, then, I am now pretty well recognized when I go and I tend to be there at off-hours).

                                              Take these open and honest observations as you will.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                Like Atahualpa, I've had mostly good times at Caplansky's. It was wonderful the half dozen times I trudged up the steps at his original location - partly due perhaps to the delightful surprise of finding a good deli in a scruffy bar room - and only slightly less so at the College and Brunswick premises, where I've been another half dozen times. The cabbage borscht seems more watery, but tasty nonetheless. The fries are invariably among the best in Toronto. Sometimes the smoked meat sandwich is better than at other times, but still passes muster. Consistency is a problem all delis must wrestle with - it's in the nature of brisket, a cranky cut from which deli meats are derived. Service is better, as Atahualpa has noted, when you get there - as I do - at off hours. The staff are mostly gamers in their rookie season, but they're trying. It helps to INSIST - politely, of course - that the fries come at the same time as the sandwich. If you don't like the wide range of mustards on offer (I've tried them all), you're clearly a fusspot so bring your own. When I'm uptown and lusting for deli, it's Centre Street Deli, or Moe Pancer's further south, but when I'm in that central part of town around lunch, it's Caplansky's (unless I get a hankering for the paninis at Negroni, just west of Caplansky's).

                                                Note: prices at Caplansky's are about the same as at other delis around town.

                                                -----
                                                Moe Pancer's
                                                3856 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M3H3N3, CA

                                                Centre Street Deli
                                                1136 Centre St, Thornhill, ON L4J3M8, CA

                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                  Last time I was there, I couldnt get through my over salty sandwich, but had eaten half already. I told the server and made sure he knew that my comment was in the interest of the rest of their stock, not getting a refund or voucher. They still took it off the bill, which I appreciate. I remain a huge fan of this joint.

                                                  But that sandwich...man, oh man, it was waaaay too salty.

                                                  1. re: Atahualpa

                                                    I've been several times as well and have had very similar experiences, except for an overly salty sandwich. I agree that the times when the sandwich was at its best, it was something truly special. Unfortunately, I haven't had one of those ever at the College St location. For some reason, the uber smokiness has consistently dimished and the last few sandwiches had barely a hint of smoke.

                                                    It's a shame. I want to love it, but I don't think it will ever get back to what was more consistent at the Monarch. I, too, will go back, but not nearly as often as I used to.

                                                    1. re: SMOG

                                                      I asked Zane about the smokiness on a recent blog entry and he replied:

                                                      http://blog.caplanskys.com/2010/06/03...

                                                      1. re: lister

                                                        Interesting. I'll give it some more time before I go back. Anxious to hear whether it makes a difference.

                                                        1. re: SMOG

                                                          Just went again today for lunch. The sandwich was great as usual-tender and juicy with those awesome fries. No saltiness issues, although I definitely noticed a drop in the smokiness levels since the last visit. Service was excellent. Another good visit for me!

                                                          1. re: SMOG

                                                            We plan on making a return trip, first time since I think April 2009, sometime during late July or early August when the in-laws are in town. I really hope the smoke level returns as those sandwiches were sublime back during the Monarch days. We went many, many times back then and only had one sandwich that was sub-par. My only wish back then was for more spices to make it to the sandwich like at Schwartz's.

                                                            1. re: lister

                                                              Since I was in the area I decided to stop by for the first time since April 2009. This was around 5:30pm and the place was fairly empty. There were a few people out on the patio. Service was prompt and friendly. I ordered fatty and the poutine. Asked for both at the same time and got them both at the same time. The sandwich looks smaller than what I remember. It was served hot, the fat was tender without any gristly bits. The smokiness was still nowhere near what it used to be. The poutine was served in a smaller bowl and had no issues other than the smoke level not being what it once was. Beers on tap were good.

                                                    2. I don't have an issues with the fans chatting the place up as long as they are honest about the potential issues, but too often we get unwarranted hype.

                                                      What I particularly find silly is the number of times here it comes up as a place or THE place that out of town visitors should go to, without appropriate qualifiers. I go to Austin a lot for business and my colleagues know I'm a "foodie" so I get hit up for dining advice. I'll always try to get them to try Texas BBQ but I'd never do this without explaining that I'm suggesting a "joint" when you eat off butcher paper (or if it's fancy, paper plates) at a picnic table (or the hood of your car) and make sure they understand what they are getting into. We owe the same full disclosure to those not already in the know.

                                                      For myself I had a couple of good sandwiches and some great borscht at the Monarch. I had a less satisfying couple of visits at the new location early on but put that down to working the kinks out. Then a while later, when the kinks ought to have been done with, I got so thoroughly screwed over trying to do a catering order that I wouldn't care if he was handing out free gold bars I wouldn't touch the place. And yes I did complain and got not a peep in response, not so much as oops, sorry about that.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: bytepusher

                                                        Had to eat breakfast there a few weeks ago while waiting for my computer repair. For twelve dollars I couldn't believe how small and mingy the breakfast was! Big plate with tiny bits of all kinds of things: melon with the rind on, cantaloupe with the rind on, orange slice, about a teaspoon of each. And these little cat turd looking things that were supposed to be latkes! They were hard and tiny and looked they were shot out of some icing bag, maybe the size of a twoonie!, followed by a dab of applesauce. Additionally it was the first day of the current heatwave, NO AIR CONDITIONING! I mean really for twelve bucks plus $2.50 for coffee, what a rip off!

                                                      2. Having just relocated from Vaughan to downtown Toronto I was finally able to try Caplansky's. Pity, no comparison with the Center Street Deli, Great service but my Smoked meat on rye too dry, chewy and small. And what's with the mountain of fries.

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

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: mexivilla

                                                          smoked turkey-dry, like really dry, no smoke, no mayo in the restaurant....
                                                          smoked meat-dry, banal mustard selections
                                                          matzoh ball soup, bland beyond belief
                                                          fries and beer were excellent

                                                          1. re: ingloriouseater

                                                            And what is with the 'no mayo in the restaurant'? I like mayo to dip my fries in and got the exact same response a couple of months ago. Weird.

                                                            1. re: buster67

                                                              i ran into one of the cooks and apparently they have a horseradish mayo for their beef-i guess we have to ask for it another way...like can i get a side of the horseradish mayo-hold the horseradish? i've been to jewish delis in nyc, montreal and other cities and they have had mayo...i think one could create or buy a kosher mayo or similar....

                                                              1. re: ingloriouseater

                                                                there's nothing unkosher about mayo - eggs and oil are not traif, it's just not traditional jewish deli condiment

                                                                1. re: pescatarian

                                                                  poutine isn't traditional jewish deli fare, but they have it.

                                                                  no mayo is kinda lame.

                                                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                    Well, I I was really just responding to your suggestion that mayo could prepared in a way so as to make it kosher. Kosher/not kosher is not th problem with mayo.

                                                                    I don't think it's a big deal personally. Sometimes I like mayo with my fries, Euro style and sometimes I like vinegar. I don't expect a restaurant to every possible condiment available for the fries. If they only want to have ketchup for their fries, that's their perogative.

                                                                    It's hard to explain also, but I can understand the no mayo thing, having been in many jewish delis from birth. It's different than poutine. Mayo on a turkey sandwich or any jewish deli sandwich is just not done traditionally. No problem at Casey's or something.

                                                                    Either way, I think it's their choice. And your choice, of course, to think this is lame.

                                                        2. We had lunch at Caplansky's on Tuesday and I think it has turned into a very serviceable and pleasant player on the Toronto restaurant scene. The meat still varies in quality from visit to visit, but I've never actually had a bad sandwich and I choose to be charmed by the draftsmanship this reflects. Borscht remains one of our favorite menu items and the lemon square is a tasty bargain.

                                                          I think perhaps over-elevated expectations and too much hype make people leave this place disappointed. And it's certainly not jammed to the gills like in the early days, but I really like what Caplansky does and his deli remains on my list of stand-bys.

                                                          The lack of air conditioning is admittedly painful this summer and so I'd recommend taking this into considering when you're planning your visit.

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

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: Rabbit

                                                            Well stated. I agree 100%.

                                                            1. re: Pincus

                                                              well stated but i disagree 100%

                                                              1. re: ingloriouseater

                                                                I'll second the disagreement.
                                                                Zane seems to have lost it and it's too bad; we really really needed a Schwartz's taste-alike here in T.O. And Zane's win at the Smoked Meat Duel at Wychwood is not going to help matters any. I'll have to start frequenting the Free Times Cafe to get that Goldin's meat. (Yum.)

                                                                -----
                                                                Free Times Cafe
                                                                320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

                                                                1. re: yaddayadda

                                                                  A close friend of mine, who was a Schwartz's devotee during his time at McGill, praised Caplansky for not trying to be Schwartz's. He liked Caplansky's smoked meat, but it was different from Schwartz's. As he said, "They should all be different. They're about the man."

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

                                                            2. re: Rabbit

                                                              I agree. And furthermore...

                                                              I don't get the outrage about the price. Considering some of the crap that passes for food in this city...why...a person oughtta be ashamed, as Dorothy once said.

                                                              A smoked turkey sandwich and an order of fries is 12 bucks. I just checked the lunch menu at Milestones and a smoked turkey sandwich that comes with "curly fries or garden salad" is 12.99.

                                                              I will wager that whatever comes out of Caplansky's kitchen is closer to what is commonly known as "food" in it's natural state than that which is exiting the kitchen at Milestone's. Too salty, too smokey, to fatty...whatever. Don't go if the food isn't to your taste. Same thing if you feel the service is poor. But truly, it's not fair to say that the prices are too high. It's a labour intensive process that requires quality ingredients.

                                                              1. re: pastina

                                                                A sub from quiznos is almost the same price and a crappy minuscule wrap and salad from the cafeteria in my office building is 10 bucks. I don't get the outrage over the price either, seems fair to me. It's not like I eat there every day. But whatever, apparently deli is a divisive topic but he has my business and recommendations to others.

                                                                1. re: jamesm

                                                                  It is never about price for me never. It is always about value.

                                                                  I wouldn't pay .50 cents for this smoked meat. I just can't believe that people like this place. The food is awful. They gave me 2 sandwich's and they were being very careful that the second one was their best. It was just plan bad. Not much else to say. If you enjoy dry, rubbery and salty smoked meat that this is the place for you.
                                                                  Enjoy!

                                                                  I am upset as this is a tragedy. It would be great to have a Jewish Deli in the city that was good.

                                                                  1. re: bjinyyz

                                                                    There are pretty good delis in the city! New Yorker, Pancer's, Centre Street and yes Caplansky's. They all have different styles and different things to offer, that's all.

                                                                    1. re: MeMeMe

                                                                      A friend took me to Pancer's for lunch and I had a much better experience both in food and atmosphere than lunch at Caplansky's. The smoked meat sandwich was great, fries were great (overdone at Caplansky's), free sampling of the pastrami for next time and the server was this sweet older Jewish lady that looked after us like your Grandma would. Caplansky's was ok but no reason to go back (for me).

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

                                                                      1. re: buster67

                                                                        Pancers gets his pastrami pre-made. you might as well go to Loblaws and buy a lb of it yourself and eat it at home. its basically the exact same.

                                                            3. Having been to Montreal's Schwartz's and NYC's Katz's within the last year, I'd have to say that IMO, Caplansky's smoked meat doesn't compare. It's fine, just not as good as these others. I don't think it's nearly as awful as some of the other reviewers say but I don't love them either. I'm only comparing the smoked meat as I haven't had other menu items at any of these places .

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

                                                              1. And how long ago was it we had NO smoked meat to argue about in this city? :)

                                                                1. consistency is the biggest problem. it's more hit than miss; but, it misses enough where it won't be a regular spot for me.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: dickiegreenleaf

                                                                    Bingo. As a champion of this joint since the Monarch days, I've lately been disappointed too often. Last night, I ate the last Caplansky's smoked meat sandwich I will eat for a long time.

                                                                    Tough and with muted flavours. This is the consistent product I've been reading about?This is what a couple of years of tweaking and testing and new smokers and new techniques has led to?

                                                                    oh well.

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

                                                                  2. Everything is so salty, the fries, the meat -
                                                                    thanks for this post because actually started to think that something is wrong with my taste buds, because most people I know praise the place.

                                                                    1. Center Deli is the one (IMO) that is the closest to good smoked meat sandwich. Not always the best but close to what we can expect in Toronto. It's cut by hand and the taste is there. Of curse, it does not beat Schwartz on the Main... but still, when in need...

                                                                      1. I'm glad other people have noticed this. I ate there at the old location and a few times when the new one came up. I had a friend from Montreal in and I was looking forward to him being able to have some good deli in Toronto. I wish we'd just gone for dim sum instead, I was so embarassed by what we were served! The hash looked store bought although it was full of smoked meat that wasn't very impressive when it was totally dry and cold. I was so disappointed in the flavour as well the spicing was different and honestly tasted like the first time I made brisket at home. I'm really disappointed by it cuz it used to be a real treat for us. Oh Well.

                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                        1. re: LexiFirefly

                                                                          I went to C's a couple times at the Monarch and though the MSM was fabulous - rich and sweet and smoky. The first time i went to College street it was also a religious experience, and having grown up in NY I count myself a deli maven. I thought the place was great, a real shrine. This all changed on my last visit. Four of us turned up fairly early, salivating for smoked meat only to be told there was none. The catering department had used it all. Well, excuse me, but that's not what you do to your walk in customers who have travelled to you for the meat. I got something else that was boring. But, worse, one of us was served. A full five minutes later another guy was served. Twenty minutes after that - I'm being accurate here- the other two guys finally got their meals. Will I go back? Never.

                                                                          1. re: gilbert1111

                                                                            I finally went to Caplanksy's last week, and I must say I was extremely disappointed. The sandwich was dry, chewy, and bland. It looked sliced by a machine and an unappealing colour. I've had many schwartz's sandwiches, and they are well spiced and succulent. I went in not planning on comparing tastes, because it is a different product, but I still hold it to some standards. SMoked meat should taste like something and be really succulent, not bland and dry. My friend had the smoked meat hash and it was also dry overcooked mess. The potatoes in the hash were burnt, and the meat itself tasted like salty rubber with a weird and unappealing spicing (that wasn't noticable on the sandwich at all) Another friend had a regular breakfast and the latkes were over cooked, the apple sauce far too nutmeggy to be good. The fries were the only decent part of the meal, and let's be honest, good fries are EASY to make. I know most places in Toronto can't manage it because most places use prefab fries, but as long as you cut your own and blanch before service, it's the easiest thing on the menu to do right. The service was horrible. Everything came at different times, the server seemed confused, and the runner/busboy seemed untrained. The hash was cold, the eggs were overdone, and the plates were dirty (food ALL over the bottoms and sides, gross) I'd give Caplansky's a 4/10 for food and a 5/10 for service. I doubt I'll return. How on earth did this sandwich win an award? Is the rest of the deli in the city THAT disgusting?

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

                                                                            1. re: Scrumdidiliumptious

                                                                              You will note that neither of the competitors in that thing Caplansky's won is actually a deli.

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

                                                                              1. re: Scrumdidiliumptious

                                                                                Naw, there is nowhere worse, so on the plus side, any other deli you go to will be a better experience..

                                                                                As for it winning awards and being the apple of everyones eye on here? I will let you arrive at your own conclusions as I don't want my post to get deleted.. Because God forbid someone else doesn't like Caplansky's...

                                                                                My experiences have been like yours, and even worse.. So I do agree completely

                                                                                cheers :)

                                                                                PS: Check out Free Times Cafe, they are selling the Goldin's smoked meat product apparently. I have only prepared Goldin's at home, personally. But it's a far, far superior product (in my opinion)

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Free Times Cafe
                                                                                320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

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

                                                                                1. re: duckdown

                                                                                  Most of this thread veers toward the negative side of things, Duckdown, so I think it's a little conspiracy theory to suggest that we're not allowed to dislike Caplansky's around here.

                                                                                  I do like the place, but I've already posted to that effect above.

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

                                                                                  1. re: Rabbit

                                                                                    Yeah, look at the title of the thread.

                                                                                    1. re: Rabbit

                                                                                      We're allowed to dislike Caplansky's, we're not allowed to make personal attacks. Just like on any board on Chowhound.

                                                                                      Man, I will have to drop by there soon and see what is up with the place.

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

                                                                                      1. re: Pincus

                                                                                        Until this thread started, for several months running, any attempt to criticize Caplansy's would be dismissed with one of a rotating series of rationalizations such as opening jitters, artisanal variation and the like. Especially ridiculous when it was recommended as a place (or even THE place) that out of town visitors should not miss without qualification. Since this thread things seem to be much more balanced.

                                                                                        1. re: bytepusher

                                                                                          Yeah, I guess most folks here were giving him an extended honeymoon period. I never had any issues either at the Monarch or at his new place, but this thread makes me want to go there and see what is going on.

                                                                                          1. re: bytepusher

                                                                                            Also some people just didn't share the same experience and enjoyed their meal there, with no need to rationalize.

                                                                                            1. re: jamesm

                                                                                              I didn't get excited about the Meat at the Monarch, but I am a Torontonian, not from New York or Montreal and prefer the Pancer deli, even Katz's Pastrami, but..
                                                                                              The Liver and Onions is really well prepared very thick and tasty,
                                                                                              I think for anyone who enjoys the artery clogging Kishke, they do the best dish in Toronto.

                                                                                      2. re: duckdown

                                                                                        The two Free Times sandwiches I had six weeks apart made with Goldin's were not better than Caplansky and I've had Goldin's at home and prefer it over Caplan's. They're not cooking it right and slice it like salami. Not worth the bother.

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

                                                                                        1. re: Herb

                                                                                          That's disappointing. When I make it at home it's hand carved and super tender.. Almost shreds under the weight of your knife

                                                                                          1. re: duckdown

                                                                                            I've had the same experience with my steamed at home Goldin's and thus have always been puzzled at the less than glowing reports about the Free Times sandwiches. I would have assumed it's the same product and cooking technique so what is going wrong?

                                                                                          2. re: Herb

                                                                                            I have to agree with that. It's really not the same at Free Times; you can taste the same spice mix, but it's just not prepared well. They seem to cut at random angles, so that one bite will be stringy, the next will be chewy, and the next will disintegrate. They also don't make much use of the all those drippings. When I make sandwiches out of Goldin's meat at home, I get twice the flavour with half the meat.

                                                                                  2. For me, the problem is that when Caplansky's smoked meat is good I find it decent and enjoyable, but when it's bad, it really verges on unacceptable.

                                                                                    Something has to be going seroiusly wrong with the process, quality control, meat supply or something to have so much quality variation.

                                                                                    1. We went to Caplansky's last night. We too have had Katz's/Stage/Carnegie/Schwartz's/Pancer's etc. Of the 4 of us, the liver & onions was WAY over-done; the smoked meat was cut very thin & quite dry (though the smoke/spice flavour was very good); the 2 different versions of breakfast were ok, but not particularly notable. the soup was delicious, and the fries were really good. I had some beef bacon that had a difficult time convincing me it was not beef jerky. Not a fan, though that could just be me. The servers were friendly enough, but terribly inattentive, and could have cared less when one of our number send back the awful liver & onions.

                                                                                      The service was really not very good - we waited ages for our food, and at one point, when needing sour cream, 3 of had our hands waving in the air & were totally overlooked. The place wasn't even 1/2 full, so it's not like they were slammed or anything.

                                                                                      It's obvious from reading the posts that there are some serious issues with consistency at Caplansky's. i think everyone desperately wants zane to succeed, but he's going to have to focus on correcting that issue before he does it here. If i were to compare, the food at the Monarch was better (though much smokier).

                                                                                      For now, our deli dollars will be spent at Centre Street Deli - the best we've had outside of Katz's.

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

                                                                                      Centre Street Deli
                                                                                      1136 Centre St, Thornhill, ON L4J3M8, CA

                                                                                      1. Why haters gotta hate? ;-)

                                                                                        So, part of the reason I came up to Toronto is that I'm working on something about revivalist/artisan delis, the new breed of delis trying to bring back turn of the (20th) century flavors and techniques. Caplansky's is one of only a handful, the others being my own Kenhy & Zuke's, Mile End (probably the most famous because it's in NY), Wise Sons, and Stopsky's.

                                                                                        I guess it's necessary to give other credentials, like that I've been pretty much everywhere most people name, scores of places in NY, LA, and Montreal, plus delis wherever I travel.

                                                                                        I've had two meals now at Caplansky's. I'll probably have one more before I leave town. I thought the food was very good. The only weak items, I think, were a salad whose vinaigrette needed more vin and a couple of the pickles on the pickle platter that were just okay.

                                                                                        The smoked meat was quite good. It has a nice real smoke flavor. A lot of the revivalist places are curing and smoking their own pastrami/smoked meat. So many of even the most famous delis outsource the product, often using the same thing everyone else in town uses, so it's just a matter of who happens to heat it and serve it best that day. I thought the smoked meat had a nice balance of cure and smoke. Both days I got it at the end of the day and it wasn't dry. Slices were thick cut, but still tender enough that they fell apart with a slight tug. The fat cap was translucent and though my wife avoided it, I loved how it melted in my mouth like pastrami flavored chocolate.

                                                                                        The tongue was also terrific. Very luscious and tender with a nice pickled flavor. I like my chopped liver a little chunkier with hunks of egg showing, but it tasted good. I liked the salami a lot, too. Milder than the stuff we get from Empire National in Brooklyn or from Katz's. I think it'd be great in a simple cheese sandwich like at Wilensky's.

                                                                                        Love some of the specialty items, too, like the smoked meat poutine. The gravy was a little different from what I got at places like Banquis in Montreal, but it was still good and the smokier smoked meat works great. Very good fries, too. I think the knish is brilliant, unlike any I've had. They say it's puff pastry shell, but it reminds me more of the crust of bread, seeded with sesame, I believe, and then stuffed with mashed potatoes and smoked meat. And then they put more of that smoked meat gravy around it. Huge step up from most knishes, especially those evil hockey pucks places like Katz's sell. Ugh.

                                                                                        Desserts, which too often at modern delis are about size, not quality, were quite tasty, too. Had the s'more cake, which was chocolate cake, chocolate icing, graham crackers, and browned marshmallows layered was fun and tasty. Even better was the sour cherry pie we had tonight. Nice crust and very good filling. Just the right tartness vs sweetness.

                                                                                        I was a little worried when I got to Toronto and I was looking up other places to eat and saw this thread on Caplansky's. I was thinking maybe I came all this way and spent $1000 on our plane tickets for nothing. I'm glad the bulk of this thread, imo, was so off the mark. I think they've exceeded the hype.

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

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: extramsg

                                                                                          Was on College the other day for a computer purchase and parked in front of Caplansky's. I took it as a sign from above that I should take a pass on the microwaved 250 calorie 'Steamer' and eat there.

                                                                                          I want to love this place. I want for there to be an awesome Montreal Smoked Meat place in Toronto (at least something to save a trip to the Centre Street Deli). The fries are amazing but the rest of it just isn't there.

                                                                                          Asked for 'extra mustard' and they said it would be 'in the bag.' I got two packets for my naked sandwich.

                                                                                          And on both halves of the sandwich, I had to reach into my mouth and pull out huge pieces of rubber (fat) that my teeth couldn't deal with. I can't remember when this hasn't happened at Caplansky's. Sigh.

                                                                                          The flavour is interesting but the flavour is closer to southern U.S. BBQ smell than what I think about when I want something I'd find on St. Laurent Street in Montreal. Not bad by any means, but just not the same.

                                                                                          Anyway, the guy is trying and obviously a lot of people worship at the altar, but I will continue to beg the people at Schwartz's to reconsider and take pity on poor Torontonians... and open a location here. They never will, but...

                                                                                          1. re: gregmacp

                                                                                            We hear you, brother. Amen.

                                                                                        2. Hey Hounds

                                                                                          I just had my first visit to Caplansky's and so far, so good. The Bingo sandwich is the Friday special and I thought it was great. On an onion bun you get fried salami, cheddar, slivered onion and honey mustard.
                                                                                          The meat was good. Cheese a bit lacking and onion fine. I thought the honey mustard was a bit weak. I made 3 mustard puddles on my plate from the provided caddy. The Super Extra Hot was a clear (ahem) winner here.

                                                                                          Had the Bean with Bacon soup as well. Much like the waiter described, looked almost exactly like chili. Had a nice balance of tomato, smoky richness and earthiness. I do however think a dash of something acidic would've helped nicely. Quite good as it was.

                                                                                          DT

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                                            Caplansky's has figured it out! Don't try to be authentic! From anywhere! Now he is in a class by himself! But he always was! The worst restaurant that I have ever been in! And consistent ! Each and every of my trips! Only in Toronto!

                                                                                            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                              Why oh why do you keep going back?!?!?

                                                                                              1. re: JennaBean

                                                                                                I couldn't believe the awfulness of it. Everything , and I mean everything was bad and inconsistently so on its own spectrum of bad. But it was getting rave reviews and if I was going to get into a fight with all of TO CH I needed to give the place a chance and I needed to be certain in my opinion. So I went three times. However in the end I decided not to post so as not to start a war. You know, I am diffident and congenial. Also I felt sorry for the owner. Then I found out that I didn't need to feel sorry for him. Too bad, I could have had a war going!

                                                                                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                                  You funny man!