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Anybody remember Switzers on Spadina?

  • k

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!

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  1. 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

      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

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

    2. 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. Switzer's is before my time in Toronto, but a quick search found this:
        http://switzersdeli.com/
        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.

        11 Replies
        1. re: happycamper

          I like the New York Deli at Bay and Yonge.

          1. re: happycamper

            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

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

              1. re: happycamper

                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

                  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

                    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

                  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

                    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

                      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. re: happycamper

                      I ate at the Switzers near the Airport and it is the daughter of the original owner who runs it. The food is the same as the old Spadina location. I would recommend it

                      1. re: Steve66

                        I have to go up to that neighbourhood for work once a week and my boss is Jewish so we go to Switzer's a lot. He loves the matzoh ball soup. I'm not a fan of deli meat so it's pretty much wasted on me. They've got some of the old signage though and that is pretty cool.

                    3. 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

                        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

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

                          1. re: kwass

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

                              1. re: kwass

                                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

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

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    No clue. Hopefully enjoying some smoked meat somewhere :)

                                  2. re: magic

                                    Interesting! Thanks magic :)

                                    "Deli Maven"...too funny!!

                                    1. re: kwass

                                      It's an actual term! :)

                                      Yiddish roots I think....

                                      1. re: magic

                                        "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

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

                            1. re: magic

                              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

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

                                1. re: justsayn

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

                                  1. re: kwass

                                    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

                                      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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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.

                                      :)

                            2. 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.