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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: http://www.goldins.ca/
                                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.

                                    1. There have been enough comments on the quality of the food, so I will comment on the place itself. The last time I went was over a year ago but I felt that it was coming really run down. Like, it didn't seem like they cared to keep the place looking new/fresh. It felt like the place had been there for 20 years already and not in a good way.

                                      Personally, I will wait for MSM when I go to Montreal. With so many great food options in Toronto I don't feel a need to ever go back to Caplanksy's.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: ylsf

                                        Where do you like to go for deli ylsf?

                                        1. re: ylsf

                                          They renovated last year, maybe you went just before?

                                          1. re: LexiFirefly

                                            it's ugly inside

                                            and there's something unsettling about dudes with waxed moustaches slicing meat.

                                          2. re: ylsf

                                            considering how disgusting, old and dirty Shwartz's is in Mtl, my blood pressure's shot up with all the grains of salt that have come with your post.

                                              1. re: frogsteak

                                                i do, especially when you're complaining on it's ugliness while lauding the seedier Mtl joints.

                                                other than the steam heating, which fogs up the space in the winter, i have no clue how one can say it is ugly inside. it looks like a modern take on a classic deli, minus the shmutz.

                                                1. re: atomeyes

                                                  To clarify my comment,I was just saying I don't crave MSM enough that I feel a need to search it out in Toronto and that decor/upkeep of the place doesn't help the situation. For a place that opened only a few years ago it felt "rundown" to me, something I would expect for a place that had been around for 20 years. If they did a reno after the last time I was there, then that may have improved the situation. Just an observation and my personal opinion.

                                              2. re: atomeyes

                                                I think the issue is that if a place serves amazing food, it's easy to ignore how run-down it is. If it serves mediocre food, on the other hand, you'll start to look around...

                                              3. re: ylsf

                                                I'm going for dinner tonight. Will report back. I stopped going a couple of years ago due to the uncleanliness and run-down sensation. What would be the 3 top menu items these days?

                                              4. I had breakfast there not too long ago and I quite enjoyed it. Had the smoked meat hash with eggs. Granted it's not too complicated a thing, but the coffee was hot and fresh and tasted great with some toasted Silverstein's rye.

                                                I admit I have never had anything other than breakfast there, and I don't live in the area so it's not a go-to dinner option. Its a shame that people don't find it satisfactory. If I do get the chance to eat dinner there I'd be interested to see how it is.

                                                1. I was at Caplansky's recently, had not been in almost a year. The food was much better then my last visit. I am usually a lean SM and fries person...after being very disappointed the last time I went... I changed it up and had the smoked turkey sandwich and a cup of borscht. I really enjoyed the turkey sandwich..honestly. Was not dry at all and very well spiced. The borscht was a miss...much too salty for my liking. Service was on the slower side but friendly. Highlight included getting carded by Caplansky himself (I am in my mid thirties). I will go back to give the SM a second chance..but think I'll wait until patio season arrives.

                                                  1. I had a sandwich at Caplansky's a couple of weeks ago and it was really good. Fatty (as ordered), so it almost melted in my mouth, and really tasty. Could it use more smoke flavour? Yeah probably. I still really liked it, though.

                                                    That being said, I've had sandwiches from there probably five or six times before and at least one or two of those times they weren't that great, so if that was my comparator I likely wouldn't be impressed. If they can keep giving me sandwiches like the one I had a couple of weeks ago, though, I'll be a happy man.

                                                    Now if only 420 Smokehouse would actually open, I might have something even closer to home to compare Caplansky's to...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Strongbad789

                                                      I had a great lunch at Caplansky's today. I ordered the smoked meat Sandwich Combo for $13 plus $1 for a small cole slaw. The meat was delicious, moist and smokey. I don't go there a lot, but it was consistent with Zane's days at the Monarch Tavern. The included poutine side was really good and generous, as were the 5 good-sized latkes ordered by my dining companion with his Sandwich Combo.

                                                    2. I went with my family for brunch on Sunday and it was AMAZING. The sandwich, which I ordered fatty of course, was perfect, best I'd had since the Monarch days and frankly up there with the last sandwich I had at Schwartz's, which admittedly isn't as good as it was years ago IMO. Everything we ordered was delicious, and my kids (aged 5 and 3) loved the experience. Going to make it a regular stop for sure.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: childofthestorm

                                                        Wouldn't have occurred to me to do brunch with kids here, thanks. How old are they / what did they like about it?
                                                        Ok, edit, you posted their ages, and I just checked out the menu. I don't think my kids will complain about chocolate babka french toast, blintzes, or the leaning tower of Caplansky being served all day either. But if you care to add any comments :0 )

                                                        1. re: julesrules

                                                          My kids split the Leaning Tower, but given my son doesn't like blueberries might try another tactic next time, he ate the top layer but when it got into the blueberries he picked around it.

                                                          They also have a kids menu, basically grilled cheese, or mac and cheese, or a hot dog, or a kids' breakfast which is 1 egg, beef bacon, 1 latka with apple sauce. Each option is around 5 bucks, will probably steer my kids towards it next time since I like to get there after 11 so I can have a sandwich. They love hot dogs more than anything so easy sell.

                                                          But yeah, loads of young families in there, and a lineup out the door when we left at 12:15. All this would mean nothing to me if the sandwich hadn't been as good as it was. Their game has been stepped up, I think.

                                                      2. Is the poutine any good? I remember it looking like Alpo the last time someone I know ordered it a few years back. (Sorry, can't figure out how to make that not sound awful, but it really did look terrible.) I remember disliking the brisket (it's not smoked but a hot dish).

                                                        11 Replies
                                                        1. re: Food Tourist

                                                          I don't know about the poutine specifically, but the smoked meat gravy they have is absolutely disgusting looking. And it tastes about the same. Not appealing to me at all.

                                                          1. re: cubmike74

                                                            I disagree that it's disgusting. It's gravy with bits of smoked meat in it. What do you expect it to look like? I had a smoked meat combo sandwich a couple of weeks ago, including the sandwich, poutine and cole slaw. I really enjoyed everything.

                                                              1. re: Yongeman

                                                                Yeah.... Gravy is not a real pretty food. Ordinary poutine rarely looks great either.

                                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                                  Sorry, my comment was deleted by mods, jr. It was a pretty mild comment, actually, but I agree about poutine's appearance. I also don't care how it looks--it's yummy.

                                                                  1. re: Yongeman

                                                                    It was a very mild, benign comment. No need for removing it.

                                                                    1. re: magic

                                                                      Thanks magic. Can't say that I disagree with you.

                                                            1. re: Food Tourist

                                                              Dinner last night was quite good. Medium smoked meat sandwiches looked and smelled and tasted terrific. Fries and poutine (small side) and latkes were all decent. Slow horrible service. Desserts (once we got them!) were good, too (blintzes with sour cream; sour cherry pie, and apple crumble).

                                                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                                                The densely-packed non-gooey cherry pie was actually a revelation and relief from normal cloying pie filling.

                                                                1. re: Food Tourist

                                                                  Nice. Sour cherry pie when done right is amazing and should be a standby in Ontario since we grow them locally and they do freeze well for baking purposes.

                                                            2. Finally got around to trying this place. Had the smoked meat sandwich which I really enjoyed. The meat had good fat on it even though I forgot to request fatty. I found the meat seasoned to my liking and the rye bread was oh soooo soft. Loved the sandwich.

                                                              We also ordered extra pickles, beef bacon and Mac n' cheese to share between three of us. The stand out after the sandwich was the beef bacon. Soooo tasty that I'd switch to beef over pork if this was sold in the stores.

                                                              All our food was very enjoyable and the service was extra friendly. Caplansky was there and was also very friendly. The great service is also a standout. I'll return next time I'm in the area.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: fryerlover

                                                                Hmm, that's like five or six people praising the sandwich in a row -- all from this year. Sounds like maybe Caplansky's have finally worked out all their issues and are serving a consistently good sandwich. I guess it's about time for me to give the place another shot.

                                                                1. re: fryerlover

                                                                  Just so you know fryerlover, you can buy beef bacon at any grocery store that caters to a Jewish clientele.

                                                                  1. re: kwass

                                                                    OMG! Thanks for the heads up Kwass. I wasn't aware and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out.

                                                                    1. re: fryerlover

                                                                      You can find it in the Bathurst/Lawrence area for sure. And I know that they sell it at Sobey's in Thornhill. Good Luck :)

                                                                      1. re: fryerlover

                                                                        Sanagan's carries a good beef bacon as well.

                                                                    2. re: fryerlover

                                                                      A while back, someone posted that the tongue sandwich is the one to get. I tried it a month or so ago. It was very good, I liked it more than my memories of the smoked meat. I prefer the texture of the tongue sandwich at Bar Isabel but the flavour was definitely spot on. Also had the smoked meat poutine. Others have commented on the appearance, it looks like dog food is a fair description, but the flavour was great.