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Caplansky's- the emperor has NO clothes

I could never understand how/why Zane's smoked meat deserved such adulation

His PR spin machine is exceptional - from local scribblers to America's foodie oracles, they've all piled on with rave reviews of his artisanal smoke meat

They were swigging the same koolaid

I have eaten at both the Monarch and the new digs, several times, always spotty, and NEVER a really good SM sandwich

Corey Mintz of TorStar fame finally spilled the beans this week, the smoked meat is indedible (NO GOOD) at his own blog this week - http://porkosity.blogspot.com/2011/07...

Just days earlier the same Mr. Mintz (this time as a Star columnist) devoted tons of attention, and heaped additional praise, on Zane's growth/success phenom- but neglected to mention that the much anticipated fleet of trucks will be distributing sub-standard fare that he wouldn't eat himself

So much for a food writer playing straight with his readership (mind you it is the Star, after all



356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

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  1. This was posted up in one of the Caplansky threads earlier today.

    356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: ylsf

      Uhm, he also admitted that the sandwich now is not what it used to be so I don't get the not playing straight part. Isn't that exactly what he's doing? Like his product or not, and it's been awhile since I've had a sandwich there I don't get the delight and glee some people derive from announcing his failure. It's weird. As for the hype and pr machine, it was one guy cooking in the kitchen of a bar so that's kind of a dumb claim. Is it not reasonable to believe that maybe it was good on a certain scale, hence the attention, and now on a different scale is not as good? How far-fetched is that?

    2. I had a lot of great sandwiches at the Monarch, but I also had some practically inedible ones. The great ones were really great though. Unfortunately, I haven't had a great sandwich (or service rivaling the Monarch) since he moved, and after getting nothing but bad sandwiches a few times in a row, I stopped going.

      Some of the other menu options are decent eats, I guess, but I really wanted a good sandwich. I don't mind waiting for the next trip to MTL, or just grab some Goldin's.

      1. The story in the Star wasn't a review, it was about Caplansky's rise as a business.

        356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        1. Ah the Caplansky's pile-on continues. I've eaten at the Monarch since day 2, I've eaten at the new spot since day 1. I've had some great meals and some just so-so. The one common thread has always been that Zane attracts a lot of attention from a lot of directions, and the attendant rise in his profile and his success, has brought out the long knives.

          I enjoy the food. I love the smoked meat hash, and the sandwiches can go from average to stellar. Of course the service can be all over the map, but hey, it ain't Michelin dining so I'm okay with it. You don't like it? Great, more for the rest of us.

          What kills me is the vitriol spewed out because Zane and the resto gets lots of press. "He gets too much press he's a sellout. He doesn't get enough press he's not trying hard enough. He spends too much time in the kitchen so he can't talk to the hoi polloi on the floor, he spends too much time on the floor when he should be in the kitchen. He should have stayed in the Monarch, he should keep the menu smaller, how dare he cater, how dare he have fun, how come my sandwich doesn't taste exactly like it did last year when I was here?"

          356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

          12 Replies
          1. re: ibraineater

            Being a sell-out is one thing. Making smoked meat that makes people wish they were eating Lester's is another story.

            1. re: tjr

              Agreed, but the never ending chorus that goes after the guy is getting repetitive. If someone doesn't like the food or the service, fine and dandy. Going after him for getting press and calling people deluded kool-aid drinkers for liking the food and the service doesn't contribute much to the discussion. I've never thought of it as Montreal smoked meat, because it was never sold as such. It's smoked meat - that's all.

              1. re: ibraineater

                I am not one of the bashers, ibraineater, but he kinda threw himself into the fire when he made references to Schwartz in the Toronto star article ....so some ppl would take that as he is in the montreal smoked meat game.

                1. re: plug

                  I beg to differ. He said that Schwartz's method is a house secret, as is his. If he'd said the Coca Cola formula or the Caramilk secret instead it wouldn't mean he's in the cola or choccie bar game. Using Schwartz in the article is relevant - it was talking about smoked meat - Montreal style or otherwise, not likening the two establishments in any other way.

                  At the end of the day though, I like the food, the atmosphere and the success. If and when I cease to like it, I'll go elsewhere, quietly, like an adult.

                  1. re: ibraineater

                    I concur. I enjoy Caplanskys product. Staff are always friendly to me as well. Admittedly, I haven't been in quite a while, but still order delivery every so often. He wasn't comparing himself to Schwartz's - he's just saying that much like how Schwartz's needs to protect their process, so does he - which is completely acceptable. I didn't find anything off-putting in the article. I will continue enjoying Caplanskys as the best smoke meat being offered in Toronto (note: I only order the 'fatty' variety). Who cares what Corey Mintz says.

                    356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                    1. re: justpete

                      I agree fully with ibrain and justpete. Zane has always made it 100% clear that he is not going after Schwartz's taste or techniques. His reference was simply an example of other proprietors who hold secrets because he is simply too nice a guy to just leave it at NO SECRETS FOR YOU. He prefers to use the "they don't either" defence to back his position. Fair enough.

                      When he closes down you can talk about what a sham he was, but as long as he stays as busy as he is with expansions to a truck, the repetitive naysayers sound like those typical spoiled Torontonian whiners who can't move on until everyone stops eating there.

                      1. re: justsayn

                        That's absurd. I supported Caplansky's since he opened as long as he delivered quality food. He stopped. I stopped supporting. Simple as that. His smoked meat isn't nearly as good as the smoked meat I enjoyed numerous times at the Monarch, which, imo, is the same reason people are complaining (including Mintz).

                        This isn't about revealing a secret or otherwise, it's about producing a quality product. Caplansky used to; he no longer does.

                        356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                        1. re: tjr

                          Yep, that's my take as well. I gleefully brought friends to the Monarch. College Street - never mind the wait - the food's just not as good. most of the time. Consistency is a virtue.(And I confess I haven't been there for six months at least.)

                          I have to admit a sneaking admiration for McDonald's; even though their food is not chowish at all, a Big Mac is the same in Toronto as it is in Tonawanda, Tacoma, or Tallahassee.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            No it is not.. A few years ago, when my children were younger , I tried McD in a number of locations in Torotno to see if I could take them there. I was amazed by the inconsistency. The burgers ranged from palatable to yuck.

                            I ended up taking the children just to the McD play area. Again remakably inconsistent. Ranged all the way down to yuck. My favourite was Eglinton and Bayview.

                            The best opinion came from one of my kiddies.
                            Daddy: We are going to McD (meaning to the playground).
                            Kiddie: Daddy, do we have to eat there?

                            That's my boy!

              2. re: tjr

                You couldn't have said it better. Hit up Caplansky's last night. Both my table and the table next to us were saying the same thing - "This makes us wish we were at CSD." Personally, I think CSD does deli better, and any U.S. BBQ chain does better brisket and smoking. Wish I had been able to try a Monarch version.

                (***edit) - Just so that there is some substance to my gripe, here were the problems. First off, everything tasted like the meat - The knish, the "gravy", the sandwich, my lemonade (jk), tasted like the meat. I realize that the smoked meat is a constituent of all the aforementioned articles, but the problem arises from the fact that the intensity of the meat's flavour and SMOKE is so high that it overpowers everything else.

                And it was salty - I found myself grasping for empty drink and water glasses to quench my thirst as our server, who was a little cutie with a cheerful attitude, left us hanging for the majority of the dinner; the restaurant wasn't that busy. Unless you are giving free samples away, I expect a certain level of service when I am exchanging cash for goods and services. However, I would add that I didn't think the prices were that unreasonable, especially in respect to Caplansky's location.

                Back to the food. The Knish, which I actually kind of liked (love the pastry) came surrounded by "gravy". The gravy was actually something more akin to coney sauce in texture, and was almost completely comprised of SM scraps & trims. This consistency and flavour did nothing to contrast or compliment the knish, but rather just added to the assault of the meat's flavour.

                And finally, the meat. While I didn't hate the pieces that were good, too much of the sandwich was inedible pieces of rubber-fat. I should have returned the sandwich but I didn't.

                Overall, although I enjoyed some aspects of the fare, the experience just wasn't that enjoyable, especially in relation to how some CH'ers rave about it. I stand by initial statement - CSD does deli better than Caplansky's (granted, at a somewhat inflated cost), and BBQ joints in the states do smoking much better. It's a unique product he peddles, and it's interesting dining experience, but it wouldn't be worth going back for at anytime. If I was a tongue eater perhaps...

                On a side note, someone mentioned to me that Caplansky's reminded them of deli they had in Philly.

                1. re: FishinWitGummyWorms

                  Who raves about it??

                  Years ago maybe. Certainly not anymore.

              3. re: ibraineater

                Yes? Hi! You make the great point. It is more the happiness for the rest of us now for the goodness (and sometimes the mediumness) of the smoke meat. The Caplansky is still the good and maybe the press will make the inquistiveness of the rest to see for themselves that it is still the good smoked meat with out the silly attitudes from the 'cool peoples'.

                356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

              4. Why limit the thesis put forth in this discussion to Caplansky's ?
                I feel that the same complaint can be made against almost any restaurant. I exclude, of course, the fast-food chains whose food and service remains constantly the same.
                Doesn't the quality of food and service of independent eating establishments always seem to deteriorate over time? Or perhaps this phenomenon is also partly the result of human nature.
                Isn't it a fact that when we recall a past experience, our memories always seem to magnify pleasant experiences and minimize unpleasant ones? Why, for instance, do we always remember the past as "the good old days"? In fact they were not nearly as good at the time we experienced them as they seem when recalled later on.

                356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                1. Caplansky;s launched their food truck at the Beaches jazz fest. Here is a write up on Blogto:


                  I am guessing this is going to add more fuel on the fire for the haters. I think there is demand for the product out there but at $10 a sandwich.... or $2 a pickle! ???

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: ylsf

                    Plus, I can't imagine a decorous way to eat a pickle on a stick in public.

                    1. re: ylsf

                      That's quite the price increase.According to Toronto Life it was going to be $7. $10 is totally stupid for a skimpy sandwich.


                      1. re: sbug206

                        Ibraineater: I believe "vitriol" is the exactly correct term. One wonders why?

                        1. re: sbug206

                          have you seen the sandwich size?

                          kindly make your claims only if its an informed claim.

                          if its piled high, I'm sure you would pay $10 for a sandwich. remember: people at the Beach Jazz Festival are spending $2 or $3 on a ear of CORN. CORN!

                          1. re: atomeyes

                            There was a picture of the sandwich on that blog, but even still there is no way to judge the true quantity or value or context for that matter. It would be awesome if people only wrote about their own and actual experiences on here...awesome for sure!!!!

                            1. re: atomeyes

                              Maybe you should try reading the article. There are photos accompanying it. Does this look like a sandwich worthy of $10???


                              1. re: sbug206

                                You cant tell size from the picture but I will still respond to your question. Drake bbq was selling sandwiches for 8 and 9 dollars plus tax all day long. Drake sandwiches were very much on the small size and they weren't conveniently located at an outdoor festival!

                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                    Wasn't much of a fan either but when they were good they hit the spot. Nothing at all special!

                                1. re: sbug206

                                  If you check Zane's post at to blog you'll see the sandwich price is actually seven dollars, a buck cheaper than the restaurant.

                                  1. re: terrycar

                                    It was ten dollars at the jazz fest. Have a look at the Blogto article posted above. You can see, in the second photo, the price clearly visible on the side of the truck.

                                    1. re: 5secondrule

                                      And if you read Zane's comment on BlogTO: It sounds like the Jazz Fest is "Gouging" the vendors but implementing a "high landing fee"... i.e. Zane has to pay the Jazz fest to be there, which he of course has to pass on to the customer...

                                      " You may notice in the photos that the menu is printed on a vinyl banner. What you don't see is the regular menu underneath. We created a Festival Menu for two reasons: 1. Because this was our first event we wanted to keep the menu limited and 2. Because the landing fees were quite high so we had to slightly raise our prices. In the deli we charge $8 for a 7oz. sandwich. That's $9.04 with tax. The regular truck price is $7 per sandwich because of the lower costs in operating a truck. "

                                      1. re: RogerDoger

                                        7 bucks is reasonable. 10 is definitely on the higher end of acceptable.

                                        1. re: RogerDoger

                                          Its always entertaining to read people jump all over Zane.
                                          look, if you don't like his food (now or ever), that's fine.
                                          Food prices are rising. You pay $8+ for a sandwich at Sandwich Box. No complaints. There's certainly more meat in a Caplansky sandwich than what's in Sandwich Box.
                                          Then there's the price. Ever go to Brickworks? Do you see what they're charging for waffles? Waffles, made from milk, flour and eggs - the cheapest ingredients out there. Its because there's a cost to be present. Zane isn't parking his truck for free - someone's charging him for frontage.

                                          Its as if people are looking for reasons to see someone fail.

                                          356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                          Sandwich Box
                                          43 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M4P1A1, CA

                                          1. re: atomeyes

                                            Is it really entertaining or is it just sad?

                                            1. re: atomeyes

                                              For $8, Sandwich Box sandwiches come with a very nice salad.

                                              Sandwich Box
                                              43 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M4P1A1, CA

                                              1. re: iMarilyn

                                                and a thin layer of meat (1/3 of a butterflied chicken breast, if i recall correctly). but I digress

                                                1. re: atomeyes

                                                  Even if they do give you some lettuce I'd never think of the sandwich box as a 'value' lunch.

                                2. This problem has a very simple solution. Mass produce for the trucks, but keep the restaurant's prep artisan.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: Googs

                                    Rumour has it he got backing on a yet-to-air episode of Dragon's Den to go national. So it makes sense he would argue that he now produces a consistently great product, as he's about to make a whole lot more of it, in theory.

                                    As I said in the other thread, I like the deli, and eat brunch there fairly often. But the sandwich is not what it was, at all. And what fried me in that Star article was when Zane compared his need for secrecy to Schwartz's not revealing their methods. There's a reason Schwartz's has never had chunks of smoked meat for sale at Costco and Loblaws, and that's because they could never make the same product at that scale.

                                    1. re: childofthestorm

                                      I don't get why this "fried" you. Doesn't KFC and Ben and Jerry need their secrecy? In fact, it occurs to me that the value of knowing how to create a mass produced, acceptable product that remains consistent is of much more value than your one location dry cure!

                                      Sorry but Zane and Schwartzs have equal need to preserve their secrets!!!

                                      1. re: justsayn

                                        Well of course it's nice to know how to make a Big Mac, especially when one is selling them. I'm speaking as someone who likes to eat, not someone with a stake in Caplansky's.

                                        Schwartz's vs. Caplansky's now, one sandwich is far better than the other. One sandwich is produced in small batches using artisanal methods. The other used to do that, and I loved it a lot, but now it tastes like it is made using the same injection process that the mass producers use. The trucks are even machine slicing, and moving forward that's the plan for the bigger picture. How then is this different from, say, Lester's?

                                        My problem is with creating the association between the two, ie. Schwartz's = Caplansky's. This just isn't the case anymore, and I'm pretty bummed about it. Fried, even.

                                        1. re: childofthestorm

                                          Zane is so modest and humble about the whole thing that has unfolded. Perhaps you would allay your anger at him by reading more about the process he went through.

                                          Maybe he will give you the original recipe if you promise to slave away at it day after day trying to make a consistently awesome artisinal brisket while people on CH are spitting in your face that the meat was salty yesterday.

                                          It takes many years to perfect such a process from brisket to brisket. Schwartz's paid their dues. Were you around for their beginning days? I am quite certain there was a learning curve and equally certain it didn't play out in real time in the newspapers and online every hour...

                                          Zane has a secret to keep. You are the one reading deeper into that.

                                          I also have to ask - exactly how small do you think Schwartz's "batches" are? Is this something you know?

                                          1. re: justsayn


                                            and its also clear that Zane has bigger visions. Sad that its no longer as artisinal as some would like. yes, things will be mass produced. but Buster Rhinos mass produces his meat. Goldins mass produces it. I don't see anyone's complaints about that.

                                            if you don't like it, eat elsewhere. just don't be so eager to watch one's demise.

                                            Buster Rhino's
                                            2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

                                            1. re: justsayn

                                              Zane is many things, but "modest" and "humble"? Not words I would ever use to describe him, and I actually worked for him.

                                            2. re: childofthestorm

                                              childofthestorm, it tastes like injection because it IS injection. Zane humble? Oh yeah, riiiiiight.

                                              1. re: Googs

                                                Of course he's humble - he says so all the time on his blog.

                                                He lost me when I told him his meat (and the slicing) was better at the Monarch and I missed it, and he responded that the meat is now the most consistently delicious, and most expertly sliced it had ever been. Then two weeks later he wrote about how he finally replaced his steamer so the meat was no longer over-steamed and tough.

                                                Don't tell me your product is perfection when you know for a fact it's not up to snuff. I haven't been back since he put in the new steamer. I don't wish him failure...I just no longer care.

                                                1. re: Googs

                                                  Well said Googs, he may come across as humble on his blog, but then again he also states how much he respects his staff in his self indulgent pontifications. I was eating a terrible sandwich in his restaurant one day and watched and heard him yell at and berate an employee in the middle of the restaurant. It was a very uncomfortable moment for everyone in the room. I've never returned. People don't like him because he's successful... people just don't like his ego.

                                                  1. re: phisherking

                                                    Licks is the best example. They perfected the homeburger in Toronto. Although I knew people who found it to be too garicky, most LOVED it. The place was always hopping.

                                                    They expanded and expanded and then went the grocery route. Through the expansion they had to produce commercially, and to a different standard. Now a whole new group of people love Licks and a whole bunch hate it and miss the good ole days.

                                                    That's how it works. Some call it selling out and others call it progression to higher success.

                                                    Truth is that Zane didn't even get to the point where his product was perfected before he "sold out". Yet some have this memory of the one (or two) great sandwiches they had. Because Zane was a public figure people are taking it so personally and are now lambasting him. Because he showed us a glimpse of what was possible with smoked meat and then took it back, people have turned their disappointment into anger. Licks was a company and people didn't have a personal connection so life went on.

                                                    Zane did not have a master plan to bait and switch. He did not set out to hoodwink you.

                                                    You have watched the real life drama of a man trying to do something in the public's eye with equal success and failings. Zane has been the first to admit his mistakes and many shortcomings. If you read what he says and not just what you want to read, you will see he is very upfront and clear that he has made many mistakes through naivety and ignorance.

                                                    Do you want to see an example of insincerety and abuse? Read the crap the owner of that butcher shop spouted out as he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the the people of Toronto. He is the person to hate. But people still go to his shop because they are so two-faced when they love a product.

                                                    1. re: phisherking

                                                      Maybe he was stressing to his employee not to make terrible sandwhiches like the one you were eating... If the employee was not doing things right maybe they deserved to be yelled at...

                                          2. One thing to definitely keep in mind about the difference in price is the cost there is to run these booths on a weekend, many things that you may not know include;

                                            Some booths are upwards of $4000 for a weekend just to have space.
                                            You need special tools (food truck, booth, coolers, etc)
                                            In many cases you have to bring staff and for out of towners that also means putting them up for a night.
                                            Hiring extra staff just to make it through the weekend.
                                            Extra product to ensure you don't sell out,
                                            Extra insurance waivers for doing outdoor festivals,
                                            Extra insurance for your vehicles

                                            Then you have the potential Failures;

                                            Too hot for the crowd to eat,
                                            Too Cold for the crowd to come out,
                                            The venue brings in too many vendors for a weekend (this surprisingly happens a whole lot)
                                            It rains for the entire weekend and nobody shows up.

                                            These things all increase prices at events, it's why you pay $3.00 for a 500ml bottle of water (extra ice, coolers) - I don't always agree with the pricing either.

                                            If you take all those into account even if Zane's cost's were 2000 for the booth for the weekend at an extra $3.00 per sandwich, he has to sell 666 sandwiches just to pay for that space alone (not including staff, lost buns, insurance etc etc.)

                                            Just my two cents as an insider,

                                            1. I am glad to hear that the pricing was festival pricing.

                                              Here is a link to a photo of his truck without the banner in front so you can see the normal pricing:


                                              I could also understand that a higher price might have helped to limit the number of people buying the product. If this was their first public outing I imagine staff hadn't had much practice yet!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: ylsf

                                                How can he justify charging an extra 3$ because its a "festival"? Does the meat taste more festive or are festival goers just bigger suckers when left with a dearth of choices?

                                                Also, why would you want to limit the number of customers? If you sell out, you pack-up and leave. What am I missing?

                                                1. re: 00CP

                                                  It was explained that the extra three dollars was to account for the additional costs associated with participating in the festival.

                                              2. $10 is a bit pricey, but the smoked meat sandwich in that photo is NOT tiny. And you don't like the $10 price, don't buy a sandwich there. Problem solved.

                                                1. Folks, we've removed a number of posts from this thread. While you're welcome to share your opinions about Caplansky's, we'd ask that you keep your opinions of your fellow hounds to yourself. Rate chow -- not chowhounds.

                                                  356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                  1. Respectfully, you're all eating the wrong thing. Say what you will about the smoked meat, Caplansky's tongue sandwich is a revelation, a dream, a gift from the heavens. Zane's tongue sandwiches settle disputes. They save orphans. Pretty sure they cure cancer (or at least hangovers). Outstandingly, terrifically, shockingly good.

                                                    Seriously. You're trying the wrong thing. Get the tongue and don't look back.

                                                    356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                      I basically only eat the tongue sandwiches when I go to Caplansky's or get take-out. I like them a lot. I find the smoked meat sandwiches too salty for me. But I tend to undersalt (sensitive taste buds!).

                                                      356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                      1. re: always_eating

                                                        how do the tongue sandwiches compare to the now defunct hoof cafe's version?

                                                    2. It really saddens me to say it -- I've been a big fan since the early days at the Monarch -- but I think I'm done with Caplansky's (for the foreseeable future, at least).

                                                      I used to justify eating bad sandwiches there by telling myself they just had consistency issues. And when they were good, they were damn good. But the consistency issues seem to be a thing of the past -- they are now consistently bad. Today's sandwich was the latest of a string of bad sandwiches I've had there over the last year or so, and was the last straw.

                                                      The first thing I noticed was the look of it. The colour was weird. The meat was partially red, like it's supposed to be, but it also had large swathes of gray, which made the sandwich look a bit off-putting. It was probably 70% red and 30% gray.

                                                      The whole thing had a fairly smoky flavour, which was nice. But the spicing was off. Some mouthfuls seemed decently spiced (not great, but decent), others not at all. With some bites, you could have tricked someone into thinking they were eating a smoky roast beef sandwich.

                                                      Perhaps worst of all, the whole thing was nearly inedibly dry despite being reasonably fatty. It was so dry and stringy that I had to take small, deliberate bites to prevent my mouth from drying out like I was trying to eat a handful of saltines.

                                                      You could try to justify Caplansky's decline in quality by saying that with the food trucks and whatever other expansion plans they have in mind, they have to make their meat in much larger quantities. But there is no excuse for a sandwich this bad. Besides, the Dunn's meat they occasionally sell unsliced at Costco is way better than anything I've had at Caplansky's in recent memory, and they obviously make that in huge quantities.

                                                      Maybe if I hear that they've really turned things around I'll go give them another shot, but until then, I've eaten my last Caplansky's sandwich.

                                                      356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Michael N

                                                        This could be my exact post based on my experience yesterday!! The smoked meat was exactly as you described in every way and it was DISGUSTING! I too give up! Not long ago I posted how lucky I was and how great my sandwich was but I too am tired of trying. I couldn't even finish my sandwich. He needs to throw that crap away and not try to serve it to unsuspecting people. DISGUSTING!!

                                                        An insult to people wanting to enjoy his smoked meat - DISGUSTING!!!

                                                        Never again!

                                                        1. re: justsayn

                                                          In addition, I want to add that Zane was there overseeing everything so he was, or should have been, fully aware of the crap meat he was putting out!

                                                          1. re: justsayn

                                                            So why does no one speak to Zane directly about this?

                                                            1. re: terrycar

                                                              For me? I was with 3 business guests and I am not the type to raise a fuss in such a situation. I did write Zane an email.

                                                              1. re: justsayn

                                                                Ok that's understandable. I was wondering if all the other CH'ers gave him any feedback, either directly or via e mail. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of it at his blog. Personally it wouldn't be my first pick for a deli sandwich, but that's just my personal taste.

                                                                1. re: terrycar

                                                                  He responded and wished I had called him over also. But I really feel he needs to be in better control of his product. I believe he knows he is losing ground with his inconsistency so in my opinion, only he can fix that.

                                                              2. re: terrycar

                                                                I too wrote Zane an email after one of my disappointing recent visits. He wrote me back and said that "the method of meat curing that we use lends itself to inconsistency." But like Googs said, Schwartz's is always consistent. Any good deli worth its salt is consistent. You might get a sandwich that isn't quite as good as the last one, but you'll never get the wild variations in quality that you'll find at Caplansky's.

                                                                I think Caplansky's is still riding the goodwill that it built up over its stellar first couple of years -- but it's starting to fizzle. The last couple of times I've gone, it hasn't been as busy as previous visits. People are starting to realize that the food just isn't that good anymore.

                                                                I really hope Zane stops cutting corners or doing whatever he's doing to make the smoked meat so poor, because his sandwiches used to be pretty special. If not, he's going to keep losing customers until there aren't any customers left to lose.

                                                                356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                          2. re: Michael N

                                                            In the 30 years I've eaten at Schwartz's, either at the deli or bringing back briskets or having friends fetch them, I have never had a bad sandwich. It can be done. I hope Zane rises to the level of talent he posseses.

                                                          3. With this current reviews popping up I realize I never posted about my brunch experience a few weeks back.

                                                            I had the Smoked Meat Hash dish as I had seen good reviews of it here. I saw that the description said something about added spices (I think brisket spices) but I did not like the flavour at all of the actual hash. I ate the fried eggs but as much as I tried I could only finish less than half ot the smoked hash (I thought I was missing something and kept giving it another try :) )... I found the latkes were really greasy too compared to other latkes I have had (up at a cafe off of Lawrence and at Free Times cafe). I wasn't a huge fan of those (side dish). However, the deep fried pickles were really good.

                                                            Overall the staff was pleasant (but forgot my friends coffee order until I reminded her) and she seemed a little overworked on a Sunday morning.

                                                            I will likely be going back for dinner at some point soon as I have a voucher to use. I think I will order the grilled tongue and maybe try my luck with a smoked meat sandwich (split with a friend).

                                                            BTW, does this place not have A/C? It was REALLY hot in there the day I went. It was cooler on the patio so we took that option. I probably wouldn't go on a really hot day though if there is no A/C inside.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: ylsf

                                                              I was there recently on a hot day and found it very uncomfortable. Definitely steer clear on a hot day, unless there's space on the patio and that's where you want to be.

                                                            2. I ate there recently.

                                                              The meat wasn't disgusting. It wasn't salty. The texture of the meat was great. But it wasn't that smoky or spicy, either.

                                                              I'll try again sometime, but the sandwich I had was quite boring.

                                                              1. Since a dialogue has been reopened I will add by two redundant cents.

                                                                Finally, I went there for the first time since its Monarch days, just last week. Overall experience: mixed but good enough to return for.

                                                                I decided to go for the tongue as I’d never had tongue, and I’d heard great things about Caplansky’s version. I liked the flavour and it certainly was not dry, but I found it quite mushy. I’m not sure if this is common for deli-style tongue when cut thick. At any rate, flavour-wise I found it pretty similar to decent but not mind-blowing smoked meat. I was not vibing the texture at all and would not order it again. Again, not sure if that is how the texture should be so….

                                                                Superb and plentiful.

                                                                Had beautiful flavour but it was clearly nuked (SHAME!), which destroys the crust, rendering it useless and not worth he fat. If it wasn’t nuked I’d give it a 10. Nuked, I give it a 7. But for the fat it delivers I need more than a 7 and will likely not reorder it, despite it being a generous portion.

                                                                Lox/Eggs Breakfast:
                                                                I tasted most components from my friend’s plate and thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed the latkes but can understand why some find them greasy. I did not find them greasy but they did look the part, yes. I think the comments on this and other boards about the latkes should be listened to, as while I liked them I would not go out of my way for them (as I would for United Baker’s latkes). And yes they did look quite dark, which is not how latkes should look. Golden. Brown. Yo.

                                                                Surprisingly fresh squeezed and tasty.

                                                                Not good. I believe some are supplied by Wanda’s and maybe some other places. I found my lemon blueberry cake to be of similar quality to a Dufflet cake. Which does not say much. My friend’s cheesecake had funny blue spots (did not look like mould but it did not look like it should have been there either) that we could not identify so we had to send it back and it was nicely taken off our bill. Desserts will not be ordered again.

                                                                Was certainly nice but not attentive at all and we had to stay on top of them with reminders. The food took forever to come, as it did for other tables. But it was a lazy Sunday so I did not mind much. Still, I noticed that and I would mind on a weekday.

                                                                The Space:
                                                                I agree with ylsf’s comment about the A/C. My friend and I found it far too hot inside, and opted to eat outside, which even though quite warm was still cooler than inside. The decor was not as nice as I was expecting. It was dark and had a bit of a cheap, grimy feel. It felt unloved and uncared for. Almost an afterthought. It’s funny, I recall defending The Monarch to people who felt it was shady and dirty – which I completely disagreed with. Ironically I found the College St. location to be not a super pleasant space to eat in, which might influence my choosing to dine there in the future. I don’t expect much, believe me. I have eaten in many dumps, so that generally doesn’t bother me. But for a deli I was hoping for something a bit brighter and more celebratory and maybe not as cheap looking, as harsh as that might sound.

                                                                Misses aside I was happy overall and know a little better what to avoid and order next time. I will stay away from the tongue and based on countless reports will stay way from the smoked meat. There still seem like lots of options. Someone’s BBQ brisket sandwich looked drool-worthy and I think I’d try that next time. And there will absolutely be a next time. But maybe on another lazy Sunday, when slow service is not as bothersome.

                                                                Please fix:
                                                                I still think it is unacceptable that fries are served separately from the entrees. The kitchen must deliver both at the same time. To me at least, that is a big put-off and takes away from enjoying my meal.

                                                                IF YOU READ ALL THIS, THANK YOU, AND YOU RULE.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: magic

                                                                  Yeah, I had a cold beet soup that was to die for with my sandwich. So I think other foods on the menu are still worthy of eating. And I didn't have any issues with my service. But that smoked meat was a bit of a disappointment after what I had at the Monarch and even since he moved to College Street.

                                                                  I like the decor there and don't find it cheap, but that's just my opinion.

                                                                2. I was back on the weekend to use my 2nd voucher.

                                                                  Had the smoked meat sandwich (medium) and cabbage borscht soup along with a side order of deep fried pickles again and my friend had the ratatouille (yeah, a vegetarian going to Caplansky's.... oh well).

                                                                  I think for her the ratatouille was just "meh" . Deep Fried pickles were no where as good as last time (last time they were perfectly done, even coating of batter, just the right about of fry time). The smoked meat was okay and not as bad as others recent experiences but it also wasn't as good as teh first time I had it (a few months after they opened up on College). Borscht was good but I wish I got the cold beat soup! (didn' t know the special... I was on the patio again so didn't see any signs and waiter didn't tell me but then I overheard someone else order it after).
                                                                  Again it was really hot inside so we sat outside. I think they need to work on keeping the place cleaner/fresh. I was talking to a friend on the weekend about the place and she said it was like they were "letting it go" and I kind of felt the same way.

                                                                  Anyway, after having been twice in the last month I have no real desire to go back any time soon. I wish Zane the best though.

                                                                  1. We just had breakfast at Caplansky's and it was great! I don't even like smoked meat so I'm not going to wade into that argument but the scrambled eggs were perfection. It is really hard to find scrambled eggs done well. The beef bacon is really great, kind of like jerky. The rye toast was perfect, my husband's hash was great. too. Service was great. No complaints here.

                                                                    356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: crawfish

                                                                      Totally agree here. There breakfast is fantastic. Service can be spotty at times, but the food has always been good for me.

                                                                    2. Went for the first time on Saturday night. Got there at 7:30 and stayed until 9:30, and the place was mostly dead. First, the service was really good, the waitress was nice and friendly and informative. The food, however, was really meh. I had the burger, and it was really dry and the bun was dry, too. The fries were average, although the smoked meat poutine was really very nice. Our food came out at different times, which was really strange, and the waitress just gave us food not based on what we ordered, sort of random (we were a group of 10). The washrooms smelled disgusting and were really gross, which surprised me. Overall, I'd say if I was invited back by someone I'd go to be polite, but I wouldn't pick it as a destination.

                                                                      1. The episode of Dragon's Den that the previous poster mentioned aired last week. Zane did not receive any offers - the Dragons felt that his evaluation was way off the charts. They suggested that he focus on possibly franchising his actual restaurant and forget about the food trucks. I will admit that the business model and evaluation that he presented was somewhat unrealistic. They had no issue with the quality of his product just didn't feel that the food trucks would be successful.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Aislyn

                                                                          Thanks for the heads up. Just checked and found it on CBCs website for anyone that missed it and is curious:


                                                                          If that link doesn't work it is Season 6, episode 7 under "tv" and "Recent episodes"

                                                                          EDIT - watching now.... Was he seriously thinking these guys were going to invest at his valuation or was he just hoping for the free exposure? Anyway, from what I understand Dragon's Den is a lot of "talk" and very few completed deals.

                                                                          1. re: ylsf

                                                                            He really wanted the deal, but he is Zane so he got carried away. That being said, in my humble opinion I thought he answered the questions so much better than 90% of the people on that show. I have found the same to be true about how few deals actually make it through due diligence. And to Aislyn's point, I would say that their reaction was a lot more positive about his sandwich than "they had no issue with it". They gushed over it!

                                                                            1. re: justsayn

                                                                              The dragons were very narrow minded about the truck concept. Not a good risk assessment.
                                                                              But Zane wasn't about to give away too much, similar to the B.R. episode a few years back.
                                                                              It is probably better to develop the trucks slowly without a lot of debt or hooks.

                                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                                DD does not reveal the whole story. I have to think more was discussed (on the editor's floor) because I agree that the Dragons looked unbelievably narrow and closed minded.

                                                                                Zane can't give away too much because he is already on the hook with other investors.

                                                                                1. re: justsayn

                                                                                  I have a little bit of experience with this, and think I can answer a couple things...well 1 thing for sure.

                                                                                  Rarely is there ever a good deal that takes only the 8 minutes they show you. It is after all a TV show, they need to ensure they have a show people want to watch. Most people don't want to see the boring part of business negotiations. I would bet Zane was there for close to an hour being asked questions, any by the simple fact alone that the Dragon's weren't upset it meant he had his Sh*t together. We were in for almost a full hour, they cut it to 8 minutes.

                                                                                  Personally I think Zane did a fine job. It's way harder than most people realize to a...be on TV... and b..be grilled by five people in rapid fire fashion for an hour and still hold it together.

                                                                                  1. re: BusterRhino

                                                                                    buster... side question... what happned to your sauce @ costco.
                                                                                    They carried it for 1 season or so and i never saw it again.

                                                                                    1. re: plug

                                                                                      Lots of things, too much to go into here, and I am sure that the man would consider it a plug. Contact me off list if you want specifics. Sorry,

                                                                        2. I had lunch at Caplansky's today with two friends. I tried Caplansky's shortly after they opened, and it was okay, but nothing special, so I wasn't in a rush to go back. Anyway, despite all the negative press, my friends and I got good, and good service. We all left happy.

                                                                          I had the borscht and smoked meat sandwich, and was happy with both. Since Schwarz's is always the comparison point, I'd say that Caplansky's was not 100% as good, but it was close - it was uniformly tender (better than last time I was there), juicy, consistently cut, and an ample amount of meat. Personally, I would have liked a stronger smoke flavour, and a stronger spice flavour, but I'd say that about MSM as well, so I suppose that's just a matter of taste, and/or style. Also, actually, I'm surprised that I'm saying this, but I would have liked a stronger mustard.

                                                                          Anyway, despite all the fire and brimstone proclamations about this place, it was a good lunch, and I'll be happy to go back and give them another chance.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: trombasteve

                                                                            I tried the truck and asked for low fat sm sandwich, guess what there was a huge chunk of fat. Knife cutting is supposed to allow for better ability to tune out the fat, so that is now debunked. Furthermore I prefer my sm to be machine sliced, those this slices make a better sandwich for my taste. Am in no hurry to have another.

                                                                            1. re: mikervin

                                                                              They should have cut to order, without the fat. However, preferring machine cut smoked meat is unorthodox, and with no guarantee of low fat.

                                                                          2. Was at Caplansky's for the first time in ages (might have been a year) just before TIFF. Tried the smoked meat to see how it was going. Last time I remember it being a little too salty, like it was over cured, aggressively spiced and maybe a bit dry - i ordered medium fatty.

                                                                            This recent sandwich was a huge improvement and was closest to the home runs I had at the Monarch. Perfectly sliced, beautifully tender, rich and moist. A good spice level was there and a decent smoke level, though still not as much as I'd prefer.

                                                                            I have no idea if this is standard fare these days or if this is the same product that's selling on the trucks, but it made me want to go back and check in on a more regular basis.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Pantz

                                                                              Mr. MG and I have a hankering for Caplansky's and hope to pay a visit this weekend.

                                                                              I was just on his website to check out the menu and stumbled upon his blog....very entertaining.

                                                                              Man oh man, he sure has a hate on for Chowhound. Quite funny actually....

                                                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                                                  ...by food writers, front of house, back of house, and members alike at times.

                                                                                2. re: millygirl

                                                                                  And this hate is without my posting on CH in a serious way and at length.

                                                                                  I had felt sorry for him. I had thought that he was a novice in the food business and deserved a chance. Also, for some reason still unknown to me, I didn't want to be the sole dissenting voice and start a war with his many acolytes.

                                                                                  But he is established now; I learned, believe it or not , that he had had experience in the food business and he now is full of himself. It seems for some time. So here goes.

                                                                                  In three trips, Monarch and College St,, everything that I had was screwed up and bad, as a whole and in its parts. Caplanskýs is the worst restaurant that I have ever been in. It won out over a certain stupid chi-chi yup-yup because at least the latter had large aspirations. Caplansky's revelled in the ordinary and failed in every aspect. Even service, something that I generally don't care about , was incompetent both in planning and execution.

                                                                                  You may say in defence that he was inconsistent. That he was. But all his inconsistency was on the failure end of the continuum.

                                                                                  If Caplansky's is deli food, then I would rather do without .

                                                                                  My opinions are considered and not bombast..


                                                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                    VVM, I'll only add this: His 15 minutes are up.

                                                                                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                                      Caplansky's is the worst resto you've ever been in? All this time, based on a previous sweeping denunciation of yours, I coulda sworn it was Dr. Laffa, near Dufferin and Steeles, which I don't think qualifies as the "chi-chi yup-yup" joint referred to in your missive above . But no matter. You're a hard, hard man, Vinnie, a man of cruelly exacting deli standards. But hyperbolically - if not bombastically - entertaining nonetheless. My own experience of Caplansky's, to which I get every few months (starting with his stint at the Monarch Tavern), has been more satisfying. I stick with the basics: smoked meat sandwich, fries, pickles and, occasionally, first-rate soups, and am rarely disappointed. So long as the meat-cutter knows what he's doing, there's no problem. The smoked turkey is pretty good, too. No problem with service either. At worst, they're well-meaning amateurs, doing their best. Kinda fun, actually. At best, they're what you'll find at most Toronto delis, solid pros. Between Caplansky's and Centre Street Deli uptown,Toronto's respectably-served in the deli game (though no match for Montreal's best). Though I miss Moe Pancer's in its prime. As for Caplansky being full of himself, as you suggest, I wouldn't know (or care. It's his food that counts). He certainly seems civil enough when he comes round, occasionally, to see how I like my sandwich. And he doesn't get snarky and defensive should I suggest a modest improvement in this or that.

                                                                                      1. re: juno

                                                                                        It seems he's edited his original posting. It's still entertaining but much less angry. Initially he mentioned some CH'ers by name but has removed them. Unfortunately I do not recall who he took exception to in particular.

                                                                                        1. re: juno

                                                                                          I just had a smoked meat sandwich at Pancer's on Saturday (medium fatty, hand cut) and I have to say it was one of the best I've ever had (in Toronto or elsewhere). Meat was moist, tender, and had a perfect spice level. It was truly fantastic. On the other side of things, my wife had a pastrami sandwich (lean, not hand cut - both against my recommendations) and it was decidedly mediocre (at best). The meat was dry and didn't have much taste. Sure it was lean, but I still don't expect it to be dry.

                                                                                          Anyway, just had to throw props to Pancers for the smoked meat. Absolutely delicious.

                                                                                  2. For those who love to hate Caplansky and Caplansky's, he was on Dragon's Den again this past weekend. I just watched it online yesterday (The CBC stream wasn't working but I found it in the "usual" places)... I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it.... He talks about his finances a bit though, how much his restaurant has made, and how much the food truck is making. Definitely seems like he went on again for the publicity.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ylsf

                                                                                      He said as much. Win or lose, his restaurant will be slammed after DD.

                                                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                                                        Keep in mind too, if you know they aren't going to go through due diligence (i.e. you're just going for publicity and not because you want a deal), you can say your profits are whatever you want them to be advertised as --- no one will hold it against you.

                                                                                    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.


                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                                                        Sounds like you had an authentic deli experience.