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Anybody remember Switzers on Spadina?

Kellz Mar 7, 2013 08:36 PM

It must be my age or something. I've been feeling rather nostalgic about my childhood "food" memories. Feeling like this, I have found myself wanting a true old school corn beef sandwich on rye, the kind I use to eat at Switzers on Spadina. Are there any decent places in Toronto that serve the same type of grub? I've heard of Yitzs and Katzs but I've never been to either. Also looking for beef knish and matzoh ball soup.

Any advice would be great! Thanks!

  1. h
    Herne Mar 7, 2013 08:47 PM

    I recall Switzers and think I went to high school with one of more of their kids. At the southern end of Spadina as I recall and on the west side. As for a current equivalent I only know of United Bakeries but I'm sure there will be many more suggestions coming.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Herne
      Doctormhl1 Mar 8, 2013 11:20 AM

      You're partly right. Switzers was on the west side of Spadina Ave. but it was several doors north of Dundas St. Across the street was Shopsy's Deli, just north of the Victory Theatre. Shposy's was more popular than Switzers, but the real "fresser mavens" patronized Switzers. Further north and west Spadina on College St. were a number of other Jewish Deli's: Weltz's was next to the Playhouse theatre. At the north-west corner of Brunswick Ave. and College St. was Smith's Tokay, now the site of Caplansky's. On the south side of College St. near Augusta Ave. was a Deli called Shapiro's, I believe. I'm old enough to remember when a corned beef or pastrami sandwich cost 25 cents and a hot dog was a dime. Those were the days, although back then 25cents was an hour's wages.
      United Bakeries is a Dairy Restaurant and doesn't qualify as a Deli.

      1. re: Doctormhl1
        magic Mar 8, 2013 12:17 PM

        Correct, United Bakers is definitely not a deli. Although it is Jewish comfort food, so the so I guess it's a cousin :)

    2. kwass Mar 7, 2013 09:07 PM

      Of course I remember Switzer's. Back then, Switzer's and Coleman's were the best deli's in the city. Katz's is not even worth mentioning, so I'd cross that right off your list. Right now your best options are Centre Street Deli, Steeles Deli, (possibly) Pancer's, although I haven't been to the new one up North. And opening soon, Ben and Izzy's, which I think will more than satisfy your craving.

      1. happycamper Mar 7, 2013 09:47 PM

        Switzer's is before my time in Toronto, but a quick search found this:
        So I guess the same deli had transplanted to Mississauga 30 years ago? Can anyone comment on the Missis. location?

        My favorite matz is from Yitz.

        9 Replies
        1. re: happycamper
          MargieEv Mar 8, 2013 06:05 AM

          I like the New York Deli at Bay and Yonge.

          1. re: happycamper
            MissBingBing Mar 8, 2013 06:12 AM

            Switzer's franchised back in the 70s. The Mississauga one is the last of them and is run by the Switzer family iirc. Never been.

            1. re: happycamper
              magic Mar 8, 2013 06:22 AM

              I second Yitz's! I love their fatty corned beef and baked goods to name a few.

              1. re: happycamper
                Kagemusha Mar 8, 2013 06:30 AM

                The Miss. Switzer's is news to me. Deadly location. The old joint on Spadina wasn't always the greatest. United Bakers on Spadina was a pit. The old Shopsy's across the street smoked Switzer's.

                1. re: Kagemusha
                  juno Mar 8, 2013 09:13 AM

                  I remember Switzer's on Spadina quite fondly, though I preferred Shopsy's across the street. My favourite delis nowadays are Centre Street Deli up north and Caplansky's down south. Yitz's is quite acceptable, Katz's not so much. I don't get to Pancer's on Bathurst St. that much anymore since the Pancer family sold it a while back. Something seems to be missing there, though I can't articulate what (possibly the ebullient presence of a Pancer). United Bakery, at Bathurst and Lawrence, is okay (especially the soups), though it doesn't do deli meats. For a pretty good matzoh ball soup, I like the aforementioned Steeles Deli, near Yonge and Steeles - though Steeles Deli is more of a Jewish-style diner (with some deli-style sandwiches on offer) than a classic Jewish deli. As for Ben and Izzy's, should it ever open (as promised), well, we shall see...

                  1. re: juno
                    kwass Mar 8, 2013 09:41 AM

                    Can't believe I forgot to mention Caplansky's. What was I thinking!! As for Ben and Izzy's, my bet is that it's going to open mid-April, after Passover.

                2. re: happycamper
                  pearl3 Mar 9, 2013 07:29 AM

                  Switzer's? From undergraduate days at U of T--raw dills [half-sours], the chicken soup [which varied wildly in quality], pastrami--then a gut-ache from eating too much.
                  Those were the days...

                  Yup, United Bakers--the dairy place--was kind of unhygienic, to put it delicately. Occasionally, we'd make a safari up Bathurst for some decent dairy.

                  1. re: happycamper
                    jono523 Mar 15, 2013 10:14 AM

                    The Mississauga location is still run by the Switzer family and is an old school deli! I am there at least once a month and despite its western 905 location, it ranks as high if not better than Centre Street, Yitz's etc. Worth the trip to Mississauga, but it is more of a lunch place - not sure how late they are open for dinner. My favourite sandwich there is the baby beef (veal), and they have amazing fries.

                    1. re: jono523
                      kwass Mar 15, 2013 11:59 AM

                      That's so funny that baby beef is your favourite. It was my Mom's favourite too, so she was devastated when they closed because Switzer's was the only place in the city that made baby beef.

                  2. l
                    LUV_TO_EAT Mar 8, 2013 12:35 PM

                    Grew up in the neighbourhood so I remember it reasonably well. IIRC, a lot of Toronto Celebs had pictures on the wall - Wayne and Shuster included.

                    The only old school corned beef place still around is perhaps Shopsy's although not sure current incarnation if owned by the family or not.

                    There's a Shopsy's up in Markham on Woodbine, north of Steeles. Perhaps nostalgia will come back seeing the Shopsy's logo.

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: LUV_TO_EAT
                      magic Mar 8, 2013 01:04 PM

                      Oh man, I'm gonna have to disagree.

                      Shopsy's is old school?? I'm not sure Shopsy's has been a deli since perhaps the 80s? Shopsy's seems as corporate and diversified as the disgusting Pickle Barrel. I mean, it's not really a deli at all in my eyes.

                      What about Yitz's and Pancers for corned beef?? They are still pretty good, and privately owned. I'd think they'd qualify as old school corned beef more than Shopsy's, no?

                      1. re: magic
                        kwass Mar 8, 2013 01:26 PM

                        I agree with you magic regarding Shopsy's. I have NEVER considered that to be authentic jewish deli.

                        1. re: kwass
                          justsayn Mar 8, 2013 01:28 PM

                          We need embee here to straighten all of this out!!

                          1. re: justsayn
                            kwass Mar 8, 2013 01:29 PM


                            1. re: kwass
                              magic Mar 8, 2013 01:34 PM

                              A CH veteran. Doesn't talk much these days.

                              A deli maven who is a superb source of Deli/Jewish/Kosher/Smoking info.

                              1. re: magic
                                millygirl Mar 8, 2013 02:00 PM

                                Yeah, where the heck is embee!!!!!

                                1. re: millygirl
                                  magic Mar 8, 2013 02:10 PM

                                  No clue. Hopefully enjoying some smoked meat somewhere :)

                                2. re: magic
                                  kwass Mar 8, 2013 02:02 PM

                                  Interesting! Thanks magic :)

                                  "Deli Maven"...too funny!!

                                  1. re: kwass
                                    magic Mar 8, 2013 02:10 PM

                                    It's an actual term! :)

                                    Yiddish roots I think....

                                    1. re: magic
                                      kwass Mar 8, 2013 02:37 PM

                                      "Deli Maven" is an actual term? I know "maven" but I've never heard of deli-maven...lol!! Is maven a yiddish word? I didn't know that. It's funny when you grow up with certain words, you just assume they're english words.

                                      1. re: kwass
                                        magic Mar 8, 2013 03:43 PM

                                        Oh yeah! It sure is. Maven certainly. Can apply to many things. Deli among them for sure :)

                          2. re: magic
                            LUV_TO_EAT Mar 8, 2013 02:27 PM

                            From Wikipedia...not that it's 100% accurate.

                            In 1921, the husband-and-wife team of Harry Shopsowitz and Jenny Shopsowitz opened an 18-seat ice cream parlour at 295 Spadina Avenue at Dundas Street West in Toronto. It became Shopsowitz Delicatessen and by the mid-1940s was selling products under the Shopsy's brand name.

                            That's a fair bit older than 1980's.

                            1. re: LUV_TO_EAT
                              justsayn Mar 8, 2013 02:30 PM

                              I think you and magic are using the term "old school" differently....that's all.

                              1. re: justsayn
                                kwass Mar 8, 2013 02:38 PM

                                Exactly! I think magic means "authentic" Jewish Deli. The kind that's hard to find these days.

                                1. re: kwass
                                  justsayn Mar 8, 2013 02:43 PM

                                  Yes, magic is saying not authentic (old school) since at least the 80s, while LTE is saying old school as in one of the originals.

                                  1. re: justsayn
                                    magic Mar 8, 2013 03:39 PM

                                    Ahh. I see.

                                    Yes they're certainly one of the Toronto originals, I would never argue that.

                                    I apologize if I misinterpeted LUV_TO_EAT's meaning.

                              2. re: LUV_TO_EAT
                                magic Mar 8, 2013 03:38 PM

                                Oh I'm not arguing that at one time it was a true deli.

                                What I was saying was that it stopped being a deli in the 1980s. Perhaps before.

                                1. re: magic
                                  MattB Mar 9, 2013 06:28 AM

                                  My father used to take me to Shopsy's on Spadina many, many years ago. I can tell you for sure that it was there in the early 60s.

                                  As I recall, the difference back then between Shopsy's and Switzer's was that at Shopsy's they would hand cut the corned beef ... Switzer's used a machine. My father preferred the hand cut.

                                  Both were great. Shopsy's sold out to corporate interests and was never the same.

                                  1. re: MattB
                                    magic Mar 9, 2013 08:42 AM

                                    I think people are misunderstanding what I wrote.

                                    I am well aware that Shopsys has been around for decades. I just meant that it hasn't been a real deli for decades now.


                          3. c
                            Calam1ty Mar 8, 2013 02:40 PM

                            I preferred Switzers over Shopy's. I loved their kishkas and knishes and always had those with a cream soda. Back in those days I would also get the hot dog on a steamed moon bun or whatever it was called. These days I can't stomach hot dogs.

                            I don't like Yitz's. Free Times has a good smoked meat sandwich that I like better than Caplansky's and I prefer their matzo ball soup too although occasionally it lacks flavour. Prices are just so high these days.

                            1. k
                              Kellz Mar 10, 2013 11:27 AM

                              Wow, I didn't expect to have so many people respond! Thank you! I always thought Switzers was better than Shopsys. There was just something very neat about the atmosphere. My parents use to take me there every Friday night. I'm wondering if anyone remembers the little counter restaurant on Dundas street, around the corner from the Terrace. They made a good corned beef sandwich too. Tops on young street was run by family friends and Aaron made the best Latkes I'd ever had. My Mom also loved his chopped liver. Sadly, I was too young to be able to appreciate the goodness of it. Now I'm much older, I crave such things.

                              As for Caplanskys, they were on hand for a local festival a couple of years ago and I wasn't impressed. The corned beef sandwich was over priced for the serving size. Perhaps, the fare would be better in house. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to visit Colemans very soon. Hopefully I won't be disappointed! :)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Kellz
                                MissBingBing Mar 10, 2013 11:56 AM

                                Didn't Coleman's close about 5 years ago?

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