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Ben & Izzy's

  • r

Anybody been since it finally opened..very curious to see some reviews.

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  1. I'm actually surprised with all the enthusiasm on here that more people haven't gone and posted about it.

    8 Replies
    1. re: radiopolitic

      Probably because it's way up in god's country. Half kidding.

        1. re: millygirl

          You're right but it's fun doing my bi-weekly Jewish food runs up Bathurst.

          However, I hope that Ben and Izzy's decides one day to relocate next to Harbord Bakery, along with Daiter's, Gryfe's, Toronto Kosher, Hartman's etc.

          If that happens, I'll be able to swing by Sanagan's after that to pick up some pork chops.

          1. re: acd123

            I wouldn't count on it. They're in the perfect location for their demographic.

            1. re: kwass

              I agree 100%. I was daydreaming.

            2. re: acd123

              True enough.

              Add bonus...it makes my trek to Baycrest all the more inviting. My aunt may even see me more often.

              It's all good and I can't wait to visit.

        2. I actually checked it out on Sunday but was too lazy to come back here and post something about it. I had the smoked meat sandwich. The meat was perfectly fatty and unctuously tender. The spicing was a bit odd -- a bit less aggresively spiced than you might expect, and way more garlicky than normal. I thought it was quite tasty but it's definitely not traditional. I brought some take-out home which was much more lean than the meat I got in my sandwich, and which was a bit tough and not a huge hit with those who tried it. I still liked it but it definitely wasn't as good as the sandwich I had in the store.

          All in all it was quite tasty, and I think in the same ballpark as the best smoked meat in the GTA. Hopefully it will only get better as it was literally their first day open, and it always takes a bit of time to work out all the kinks.

          I took a picture of the sandwich which I can post when I get home tonight.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Michael N

            We got pastrami and smoked meat sandwiches yesterday, and found the smoked meat quite good but a bit different as you mentioned. We had slightly worse luck with the pastrami, which seemed more gristly than it ought to be.

            For the quantity of meat provided at this price point (about $10/sandwich), it's not exactly Schwartz's-level of value. I guess the Kosher tax/premium takes its toll. On the other hand, it's a short walk away instead of a train ride; I'm certain we'll be back frequently as the place matures. The space is certainly a lot more inviting than Pancer's!

            1. re: gimel

              Unfortunately anything Kosher is always going to be more expensive.

              1. re: kwass

                I got some corned beef and pastrami sandwiches from "Big Al's Delish" (Bathurst/Fairlawn) the other day. About twice the meat for about half the price of B&I's - not Kosher. $5.95 with a pickle. Al said he's been preparing his own meat for years in the catering business, and the storefront sandwich operation is more of a fun sideline to the main catering action. Little room to sit down (two chairs I think), so it's not really a restaurant in direct competition with B&I/Pancers etc. Flavours were not so pronounced as the B&I product, but I'm not complaining. Everything was tender.

            2. re: Michael N

              Here's the picture of my sandwich.

              1. re: Michael N

                That looks yummy! But I see what gimel meant when he said it it seemed kind of small for the price.

                1. re: kwass

                  no comment on the meat (which I have yet to try) but that is the smallest sandwich I have ever seen in a Jewish deli!

                    1. re: kwass

                      Thirded. That my friends, looks quite small.

                    2. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                      I have had smaller at Caplansky's, but is C a Jewish deli?

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        It is a Jewish Deli, although not a Kosher Deli.

              2. Went today for lunch for their supposed "Grand Opening". I say supposed because there was no indication of this being any sort of event or special occasion, which is totally fine.

                My friend arrived at 11:40 am to an empty restaurant and was asked to take a counter seat, even though he said there would be two of us. He had to ask for a table by the window, which they gave him.

                Not sure why they were pushing the counter, though they said that they were expecting a party of 15 people, which never materialized. They had the tables set for a large group, but they quickly moved the tables back as the place got busy.

                We ordered a smoked meat combo with matzo ball soup, and a corned beef combo with fries.

                The waiter returned shortly and said that "there was a malfunction with the matzoh balls, so there are none available". The only other option was chicken/vegetable soup which was good but a bit salty.

                The sandwiches and fries came out just as the soup was being finished. The corned beef sandwich was a mess, with lots of small bits of meat falling off the bread, though it tasted good. It was also about 2/3 the size of the smoked meat sandwich.

                Unfortunately, the smoked meat was dry and tough, and cut very unevenly, which made it hard to eat without big pieces of meat coming out of the sandwich.

                The fries (McDonalds style), pickles and bottled mustards were fine.

                In addition, the service was to put it mildly, very amateurish. Our waiter was friendly but didn't seem very confident. I also had a view of the servery/kitchen and it was quite amusing watching the goings on. I'm sure this will improve with time.

                Needless to say, the place was packed (though there didn't seem to be a line up at any time). There was also a constant stream of people coming in for take-out.

                I'm sure that they will do very well, but since I don't keep kosher, I don't plan on returning. For $10, I'd much rather have a laffa (let the flaming begin!)

                1. Dropped by around 6:30 for a smoked meat sandwich. Wish I could write a review of it, but they were sold out. No sign indicating that they were sold out when I walked in and walked out, sandwich-less and greatly disappointed.

                  However, the 20 minutes or so I wasted while standing in line and ravenously hungry gave me the opportunity to observe just how the unprepared and poorly trained the staff is. The cashier did not know what the "B" in BLT on their own menu stood for. I also observed quite a few inefficiencies -- empty, uncleared tables, but people still waiting in line for a table; one person doing two jobs with 50% attention where they really should be only doing one job with 100% attention; people waiting 20 minutes for water and for their orders to be taken; etc. Unless you are willing to be patient and understanding, it mayn't be a good idea to go until the many kinks are worked out.

                  I might not be back, considering the location (not very convenient personally) and the expectations they built up with their many months of tweets. Their ambition and passion are admirable, but without execution, they've disappointed.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lsk

                    I had almost exactly the same experience as lsk yesteryday evening around 7 pm, my first visit. Was not told when I sat down that they were sold out of sandwiches, I was ignored after sitting down even though the place was not full, the staff seemed clueless. I don't expect to return for some time.

                  2. Looks like they need to work out the bugs. I don't believe these guys have ever worked in a restaurant, much less owned one. So that'll take some time to figure out. Which, hopefully, will fix most of the problems noted above.

                    I do know they were looking to hire an experienced meat carver so it sounds like either they're still looking or should be.


                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Davwud

                      Perhaps they should have had their act together in terms of service (and found someone who knows how to slice meat properly) before they started taking people's money?

                      1. re: Davwud

                        Since they're new, they're probably trying to hire a meat carver on a budget. That should be cheap, right? If you speak with them, let 'em know that position's worth a good portion of their reputation. Pay!

                        I, in the meantime, wait in the wings for them to say when they're really ready to perform. I have faith.

                        1. re: Googs

                          I really think what we're seeing here is two guys who thought, "Let's open a restaurant" kinda thinking, "how hard could it be??"


                        2. re: Davwud

                          4 months after they starting posting on Twitter, 8 days after they've opened, and on the day of their "Grand Opening", they haven't hired a meat carver????????

                          Makes me wonder what else they aren't doing.....

                          Yesterday at lunch, they had someone carving the meat near the take-out counter in full view, until just before noon. Then as they got busy, the meat disappeared, and the board and knives were wiped clean. Not sure where it was coming from afterwards.

                          1. re: CarNut

                            Who said they didn't hire one?? I said maybe they didn't or, if they did, they didn't do a good job of hiring one and need to keep looking.

                            Either way, it seems that's an issue.

                            Like I said, this smells of 2 guys in over their heads at this point. I'm sure things will get better as they get their feet wet.
                            It's unfortunate but what I've sampled from there was top notch.


                            1. re: Davwud

                              "what I've sampled from there was top notch"???

                              Wasn't this from before they opened, when they were probably trying to impress you?? How many times have you been since they starting charging for their food?

                              I also looked at the pictures of the samples from your review, and they bear nothing to what is actually being served (for $10!!) except for it being meat on bread with mustard.

                              1. re: CarNut

                                Not just me, anyone in the area who would poke their head in the door, got samples.

                                I have not been since they opened, in fact, I haven't been in town much. I will get there soon though.

                                The pictures I've seen match what I got and someone I know and respect went and said the meat was "excellent."

                                The thing was, they were doing one piece of meat at a time and and nothing else going on. Very easy to get that right. Now try doing it with several pieces and a three ring circus going on around them. Like I've said, what I'm reading into this is they're overwhelmed and need to get their feet under them.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  I don't know the first thing about opening a restaurant but do agree that after a good 6 months of Twitter posting that they "will be opening soon" and reading these reviews it does sound like two guys who said "how hard can it be"?

                                  I will still give them a chance, but it will be 3 months from now, minimum.

                        3. Not sure what the hype is all about!
                          Overpriced,lousy service and will not return

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: welshrarebit

                            i can't take any more of this ridiculous hype talk. i'm sorry, the hype was not generated by anyone other than you people. this place announced they were opening and making sandwiches, and posted a picture of the sandwich, and then all of a sudden everyone expected them to be the saviour of the sandwich, crafting a divine product that could in no way fall victim to the many pitfalls of the restaurant world. then when one or two guys go within a week of opening and say "eh, you know, it was good, but it wasn't great, and the service could be better", everyone jumps out saying "oh don't believe the hype oh i can't believe that they built us up like this for months" NO. you built it up.

                            sorry, had to get that off my chest, very aggravating thread

                            1. re: disgusti

                              I haven't been yet. I'm waiting for them to iron things out. But you're probably right disguti, we have no one to blame for our disappointment but ourselves.

                              1. re: disgusti

                                You're definitely right, to a certain extent. On the other hand, they could have just opened quietly and allowed the hype to build naturally like so many restaurants do (or at the very least, begin the online hype machine maybe a few weeks before the place opened). But they didn't. They started a twitter account months before they were ready to open, posted pictures and constant updates of "we're opening soon!" They invited chowhounders to come and try the sandwich weeks before the place opened. Yes, the place got overhyped to a ridiculous degree, but are you seriously saying they had nothing to do with that?

                                1. re: Michael N

                                  I actually agree with both of you!!

                                  1. re: Michael N

                                    i just don't think that opening a twitter account and posting a picture of your product, even before it's ready, constitutes 'hype', in any way. the hype was generated entirely by the audience here.

                                    although if i can use a videogame analogy here - when preparing a preview, developers often do something called a vertical slice, where they finish and polish a small section of the game to show the public that can potentially be entirely unindicative of the finished product. i haven't been to this place yet, and can't judge the quality of their sandwiches, but perhaps they have a similar problem

                                    1. re: disgusti

                                      If they hadn't started the twitter account, posted the pictures (not picture, pictures -- several), invited bloggers, and promised that'd they'd be opening "soon" for weeks on end, none of the hype would have existed. I'm not going to say that we didn't get overly excited here, but to say that this was generated entirely by the audience is crazy.

                                  2. re: disgusti

                                    <crafting a divine product that could in no way fall victim to the many pitfalls of the restaurant world.>

                                    One of the biggest pitfalls/mistakes of the restaurant world is opening before you're ready and expecting the general public to be sympathetic.If you're ready to take my money you better be ready to give me the goods..
                                    Social media(twitter,facebook etc) Is all about "hyping" your new whatever...

                                    1. re: disgusti

                                      Thank you for writing this disgusti. Someone needed to. I thought it was going to be me again standing up and waiting to be pelted.

                                      They're real people on the financial line for opening a real business. They have a good concept and, judging by the pictures, have been kind enough to provide a nice atmosphere. You wanna help them? Tell them what you would change. They need to make back their investment. They'll listen. It's the only road to success. I'm hoping the day comes when we look back and say, "remember when we used to have to go to Montreal for this?"

                                    2. re: welshrarebit

                                      I think I'll steer clear of B&I's till it sorts out its teething problems - if it ever does. In the meantime, lusting for a pastrami sandwich today, I warily approached Moe Pancer's Deli, just a short drive north up Bathurst St. from B&I's. I say "warily" because, since the Pancer family sold it a year or two ago, the joint took a nosedive. But an old deli hand told me it's back to thrill us again. The plaza it which it resides is as crummy as ever. The ambiance isn't what it was when the Pancers ruled the premises: no delightful tummel. But the pastrami, which was always Pancer's strong point, turns out to be pretty damn good again. You get a quarter pound sandwich for $7.85 (compared to the reported $10 or so at B&I's). You want a half-pound sandwich, which is what I ingested? It's another (mere) 75 cents or so. At least, I THINK it's another 75 cents. Pancer's now has three (3) menus, involving many different permutations and combinations, and you need a couple of contract lawyers and a mathematician at your side to help you figure out which combo offers the best value. For those of us who like a clear, concise menu to consider, it's your standard-issue deli menu overkill. It took me 15 minutes to read through, ponder, ask questions of the server (who admitted that even she gets confused sometimes), then decide. The cabbage borscht is also a winner. Mind, I've yet to try the other meats (smoked meat, baby beef, corned beef and such). And I probably never will, because to me Pancer's stands and falls on its pastrami. And the staff seem to know what they're doing - unlike, what I've read above, that upstart B&I's down the street.

                                      P.S. They also have a one-pound version of their meat sandwiches, but anyone foolish enough to order one is looking to be felled by a stroke right then and there.

                                      1. re: juno

                                        Which do you prefer, Pancer's or Center Street Deli?

                                        1. re: kwass

                                          Centre Street Deli when I'm up that way - it's a well-run spot, with most deli items nicely done most of the time. But when I don't feel like shlepping that far north from my little hovel in York Mills, I'll settle for Pancer's. At the moment, anyway. I'll have to give the new, presumably-improved Pancer's a couple more workouts to be sure. When I'm downtown, it's Caplansky's - when it's on its game, which, for me, has been most every time. As you can see, I'm a deli whore. When I'm not near the deli I love, I love the deli I'm near.

                                          1. re: juno

                                            There's nothing wrong with being a deli whore!! Since I'm going to give Ben and Izzy's some time to get their act together, I was just trying to decide between Pancer's and Centre Street Deli for my corned beef fix.

                                            And like you, I've only had good experiences @ Caplansky's. But from what everything I've read, I think we're in the minority.

                                            1. re: kwass

                                              i had a sandwich from centre st deli a couple nights ago out of necessity. it's fine for what it is, i had an old fashioned smoked meat, but i've spent a lot of time in montreal, and a lot of time at schwartz's and the main, and it just doesn't compare. i'm really not one to ride for established places like those (or to make a point of saying 'somewhere else does it better!') super hard but man they just make a really, really good sandwich, one that nothing i've had in toronto has been able to compete with. the couple times i had caplanskys a few years back it was fine but still, missing something. sometimes it's worth holding out for the best i guess

                                              1. re: disgusti

                                                Who knows...maybe that will be Ben and Izzy's once they get their act together ;)

                                                As for Caplansky's, I think, and I could be wrong, what you order determines your experience. Caplansky's does some things really well, and others, not so well. The problem, from what I understand, is a lack of consistency. When they're on, they're really on, but unfortunately, that's not always the case.

                                        2. re: juno

                                          I was there last week and I fully agree with you regarding the convoluted menu system. There's the standard menu, which has two size sandwiches, and then there's the customer-crafted menu listing funny named sandwiches that customers created. For example, there's one called "Clear the Track", which Eddie Shack created. I don't recall its contents. These customer-created sandwiches come in half pound and one pound versions; a few of the one pound sandwiches right around $20 without fries but with a pickle. Was there a third menu on the table too? I think you're correct, but I forget what it listed. Do you remember?

                                          I had the corned beef and it was very good. I also appreciated the fact that the servers were asking each guest if they wanted their meat "lean, medium or fatty." I opted for lean and it was plenty juicy. They also also serve sweet potato fries, which I ordered, but I don't think they go so well with that kind of sandwich.

                                          I went there looking for the Fresser's Delight, something I always ordered when the old owners ran the place, but it was not on the menu and I wasn't going to shell out $20 for their 1 lb sandwich.

                                          The place was doing a pretty good take-out business but the eat-in was pretty dead.

                                          1. re: Brain of J

                                            To answer Brain of J's query: the third menu, presented on a small upright stand on the table, listed the many, many choices for the all-day breakfast. There are also a couple of daily specials scrawled on a nearby blackboard. So, lots of choice at Pancer's, if chaotically and bewilderingly presented. The menus at Pancer's could use a good editing session. But then, so could a lot of other sloppily-organized menus around town.

                                            Note: the half-pound meat sandwiches at Pancer's at under $9 seem, on the face of it, like much better value than the Ben & Izzy's sandwich, at a reported $10, which, studying the picture on this thread, seems to be somewhere between a mere three and four ounces. Which is not nearly substantial enough for a certified fresser.

                                            1. re: juno

                                              You're too funny juno!! I love that you refer to yourself as "a certified fresser". Go Juno...Go Juno!!

                                      2. They mentioned on twitter that they are replacing their smoker with a bigger one. They also said that they are going to focus on a particular meat on different days (if I recall correctly) to help with demand/supply issues.

                                        1. I had the smoked meat from B & I last night, and it was superb!! Would definitely go back. Next time I'd like to try the corned beef. We got the meat by the pound and made our own sandwiches, which is probably a good way to do it, as I think it works out cheaper that way...and you can make your sandwich as big or as small as you like.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: kwass

                                            And you can find better rye bread than what they use, which is Isaac's?
                                            This may be theoretical now that Haymishe isn't operating.
                                            What are the choices?

                                            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                              Vinnie Vidi mangi: Haymishe Bakery could not be the supplier of rye bread even if it were still open because it did not have Kosher certification by a recognized Kashruth Organization.

                                              1. re: Doctormhl1

                                                I know. I was replying to Kwass who said that she bought a pound of meat to take home.
                                                Kwass doesn't keep kosher so rigidly as to require a hechsher on bread from a place like Haymishe which did not put dairy into the bread.

                                                  1. re: kwass

                                                    Unless they changed, their bread comes from Isaac's.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Their bread does come from Isaac's.

                                          2. I went today for lunch. It was a little underwhelming. First things first: the smoked meat sandwich had a good bit of spicing and smokey flavor to it but the texture was off. Not off in the way Caplansky's is off (water logged and wet) but rubbery and a tad try. I think they sliced it too thin and they should ask if one prefers lean or fatty. Fries were really good though and my friend enjoyed her chili dog but I'm not traveling this far up again for their smoked meat although I will vouch the flavoring is better than the current state of Caplansky's.

                                            1. I went over the weekend -- I hadn't been back since the place opened. I ordered the pastrami, and while the flavour was okay, the texture of the meat was rubbery and unappealing. Has anyone been recently? Wondering if I should write the place off or if they were just having an off day. They were certainly doing well.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Michael N

                                                First and last time we tried it, back in June, we had a few bites and tossed it. Absolute crap!!

                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                    Sounds like they still haven't ironed things out. Before they opened and weren't under any pressure they produced a very good product. Since then, it's one bad review after another on these boards. Both in terms of product and service.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      They were packed when I went, so the thing that worries me is that they might have come to the realization, like Caplansky's did, that they can take shortcuts and serve an inferior product and still do very well. If you can do just as well doing things the easy way rather than the hard way, I'm sure that's a very compelling option.

                                                      I had a pretty great sandwich at Ben and Izzy's within the first few days of their opening, but from the sound of things on this board and elsewhere, they went downhill very quickly after that. At least Caplansky's had an amazing year or two before they started to really decline. Oh well.

                                                      1. re: Michael N

                                                        I guess I'm glad I never tried Caplansky's early on because I really like what I've had from them. However, if I was expecting more, I may now be disappointed.


                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          That's funny...I was just thinking the exact same thing (about Caplansky's).

                                                          For the record, I went to Ben & Izzy's once and wasn't impressed (meat was dry, too thinly sliced (didn't ask how I wanted it sliced or whether I wanted it lean, fatty, etc), spicing wasn't strong enough, and they were out of the matzoh ball soup). Service was also pretty slow, especially given that we were literally the only people in there.

                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            You would be disappointed. My GF and I were one of the early eaters and supporters of Caplansky when he was at the Monarch. Great sandwiches and poutine. IMO the sandwiches were better than Schwartz's. Boring beer though (Steamwhistle the best of the lot.) Since moving to his own location the product isn't the same though the beer improved. Of course there are now new owners of the Monarch and it's a craft beer bar now (except I don't care of the food.)

                                                            I can't win. *sigh*

                                                1. i was looking forward to this place and tried going back in June but inadvertently went on a holiday and they were closed. now reading this, don't think i'd make the trek to go. hopefully they get better reviews in the future.