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Jan 17, 2014 10:54 AM

Caplansky's Deli

I haven't read any recent reviews of Calpansky's Deli lately.
It used to be all the rage. How do you rate it in 2014?

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  1. I think it's really bad. Some think it's really great. We'll never be friends.

    7 Replies
      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

        FS has already stated he detests your choice in "French Bistros", VVM - so it may be a very short "Friendship".

      2. re: frogsteak

        If they do think its great, they're not posting on Chowhound.

        Most on Chowhound have not had kind words for it.

        1. re: magic

          Or maybe they don't say so on here because they know they will be bombarded with negativism...

          Someone posted the other day that they are researching for a book or article on Delis and they liked it and compared it with the best in New York they were pounced upon by the detractors...

          BTW I have no opinion as I have never eaten there....

          1. re: magic

            Some people like it, but they're definitely in the minority. I'm firmly in the "doesn't like it" camp. I go back once every few months, hoping that they've somehow gone back to the quality of their early days, but it never happens. The most recent trip, I decided to try the meatloaf instead, thinking that maybe their non smoked meat dishes were better than the smoked meat (I mean, there must be *some* reason they can stay in business, other than residual goodwill from when they were really outstanding). It was the worst meatloaf I've ever had, outside of the frozen stuff you get at the supermarket.

            1. re: Michael N

              Apart from an hour or two over lunch, it's rarely busy in there. In Montreal, Lesters' deli is in a similar situation. It has name recognition and longevity but high prices, poor quality and its perpetually empty. It's anyone's guess how they stay open and like Caplansky's, they've opened an airport location. I feel bad for anyone whose first experience with smoked meat is either or.

        2. I went last year and was seriously disappointed. I was dining with friends from 30 years ago when we would frequent Switzers and the Bagel together. Caplansky's was salty flavorless and not particularly Jewish.

          32 Replies
          1. re: gourmaniac

            As a young student, the heady days of going to Switzers or the original Shopsys for some real corn beef and then, heading to the nearby Victory Burlesque where we could smoke cheap cigars and hoot at the girls, brings back great memories. Ate at Cap's twice...but that's the end of that. Those old Spadina delis of yore had it all over this bland, overpriced pretender.

            1. re: TorontoTuna

              You have to go up north for good deli. Steeles Deli or Center Street Deli.

              1. re: kwass

                ...or do what I did last summer. Hop on a Porter for a long weekend of deli hopping in Montreal. After a nosh at Deli Lesters or Smoked Meat Pete's, well...nothing else comes close.

                1. re: TorontoTuna

                  Smoked Meat Pete's, now THAT'S a fantastic product!!

                  1. re: duckdown

                    Next time you're in the 'hood, maybe give Delibees a try.
                    Its run by Philip, brother of Smoke Meat Pete, and IMO, closer to a true artisanal Montreal Smoked Meat.

                    Their father Peter Varvaro started The Main Deli and Steakhouse on St. Laurent. Its right up there in the Montreal Smoked Meat world with Schwartz (also across the street).
                    Sadly Mr. Varvaro passed on this last summer.

                    Delibees isn't far from Smoke Meat Petes, but its a bit tricky to find.

                    1. re: porker

                      I stopped by Delibees on the way in last time thanks for rec's in the Montreal forum and I enjoyed my sandwich there. I did make a wrong turn even with GPS though! Really hit the spot. Never been to Smoke Meat Petes but I will probably try it next time.

                      1. re: porker

                        Wow, this sounds amazing, we go to MTL several times a year so am absolutely going to try this, thanks for the tip!

                        We are very familiar with both Smoke Meat Pete's and the Main! looking forward to comparing. A buddy of mine also swears I have to try the "smoked meat spaghetti" at Smoke Meat Pete's sometime but I can't bring myself to not order the sandwich

                        On a side note, watch out for the damn automated speedtrap cameras near the exit to smoke meat pete's - i got a photographic speeding ticket in the mail 2 weeks after we got home to Ontario! Bastards.. was still worth it!

                        1. re: duckdown

                          Beware, Delibees is closed Sundays.

                  2. re: kwass

                    My parents live not very far from CSD and I've had take out, eaten in, had it at someone else's house etc probably 10 times in my life, twice in the past year (one eat in one take out), and it has never been anything more than fantastically mediocre

                    1. re: disgusti

                      I actually prefer Steeles Deli to CSD. That said, I've enjoyed my experiences @ CSD. But my mom agrees with you. She finds it to be nothing more than mediocre.

                      1. re: disgusti

                        Hmm, different strokes I guess. I've had CSD many times over the years and I definitely agree with kwass -- it's not the best smoked meat ever, but it is consistently tasty.

                      2. re: kwass

                        Neither of them seemed like anything out of the ordinary on my visits; aren't they just serving the generic Lester's products? They always have that processed look to the meat, the sort of flabby rubbery appearance that doesn't look like it came off a real piece of brisket

                        1. re: duckdown

                          That's a good question. I'm not sure if they smoke their meat in-house or not.

                          1. re: duckdown


                            From what I understand, CCD gets their briskets from Lester's, but with a special spice profile that was developed for Cheryl's (owner) father (Snowdon Deli) in Montreal many years ago.
                            I think you and I will agree to disagree re: deli meat. CCD is as good as it gets in T.O., IMO.
                            BTW... do I recall that you were a fan of that deli sandwich in Mississauga? (Peter's I think...) does not compare, IMO... (it's Lester's I'm pretty sure - machine sliced) just goes to show that handling and cutting the meat can make a huge difference in the final product.

                            1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                              Yeah I used to like Peter's years ago but since that time I've done a lot of sampling throughout Montreal and just in general.. They just use the factory plain Lester's meat that's right

                              My favorite in Toronto was always Goldin's, by a landslide, but supposedly it had consistency problems with other people and I have no idea if they are still around

                              By the way there is a good product available at Costco, Rachel's Brisket, good stuff that is readily available

                              1. re: duckdown

                                I also thought Goldin's was the best. I used to pick it up from his home until he said it could only be bought at Free Times Cafe, that was inconvenient for me so I've not eaten it since. Here is the website:
                                Just last week I was thinking of Goldin's smoked meat and had looked at the website, it does not specify that the meat can only be picked up at Free Times now.

                          2. re: kwass

                            Yup. For me, it's Centre Street Deli all the way. Love it. Could eat there every day.

                            Haven't yet been to Steeles Deli.

                            1. re: magic

                              You'd love it magic! It's great!

                              1. re: kwass

                                I will for sure be trying. Adding it to the list!

                                1. re: magic

                                  Whoa! Thought you were talking about the Carson Street Deli in Pittsburgh. Which is a great deli with tasty, local craft beers...but will be brunching at the Centre Street Deli this Sunday. Better be good...I'm armed!

                                  1. re: TorontoTuna


                                    1. "Old Fashioned" style smoked meat on a double rye. Medium/Fatty mix (I find pure fatty there a bit too much)
                                    2. French fries (fresh cut and awsome)
                                    3. Mohn cookies (poppy seed sugar cookies OMG so good).

                                    If you dislike crowds maybe go around 1:30.

                                    Nadine's in Pitt rules.

                                    1. re: magic

                                      +1 on the mohn cookies! They're unbelievable!

                                      1. re: magic

                                        Totally there at 1:30. The guy in the Borsalono snap-brim. Drop by my table for a cookie!

                                        1. re: TorontoTuna

                                          I would, but I won't be in the area tomorrow :(

                                          Hope you report back here though, if you make it!

                                            1. re: magic

                                              Went there at noon with the hangover cravings. Was not disappointed and I only wish this joint were downtown. Will definitely be back. Firstly their menu is extensive and the food is real deli crazy-nuts good. I ran out of belt. Started with the Deli Pooh Pooh, a sampling of chopped liver, turkey, Pastrami (old fashioned) some dills, slaw and the best Karnatzel since New York. Their own Corned Beef on a double rye. Amazing, not overly spiced or salty. Then Tongue on a roll with onion and fried egg, followed by a cheese blintze dish with Blueberry and Sour Cream. And more Karnatzel to go. I didn't get a cookie...don't want to overburden our health system.

                                                1. re: TorontoTuna

                                                  Outstanding! So glad you enjoyed. :)

                                                  Next time try fries... and kishke too. So good.

                                                  And by "Pastrami", I assume you mean the smoked meat?

                              2. I haven't eaten there and not likely to at this point. From what I read when he started up, this is a disappointment from someone who left the art for $.

                                1. I was amongst one of his early fans during the Monarch years and hoped things would carry over to the current location (I was desperately hoping for better beer, Monarch has since changed ownership and embraced craft beer and other fun libations, figures!) but while the beer got better at the new location the smoked meat got worse. Same with the poutine.

                                  I've been maybe five times at the current location over the years and at best one of the visits was okay. I've had the food truck a couple of times too. I wonder if some of the current proponents have never had the Monarch sandwich and never been to Montreal. The Monarch sandwich was a hybrid Montreal-Texas smoked meat sandwich in my opinion. I coined it Toronto smoked meat!


                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lister

                                    I was there at the first week or two of the Monarch. Beautiful summer day. Monarch was delish. In no way reminded me of Montreal, and that's fine, but it was delish nonetheless.

                                    1. re: magic

                                      We would do the 20-25 minute walk up there through the summer and into winter. It was so tasty. I just got tired of only having Steamwhistle, which I like, but I'm a good beer whore and like variety.

                                      I remember some of the arguments about the product at the time comparing it to Schwartz's and wherever else from Montreal. It was a little different and IMHO better! Big Smoke! Toronto Smoked Meat! :-D

                                      1. re: lister

                                        The good old days.

                                        At least I'm not torn between a veal sammo, pizza, and smoked meat anymore. :)

                                  2. Big -1 for Centre Street St. Very poor.