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Caplansky's Deli

Doctormhl1 Jan 17, 2014 10:54 AM

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?

  1. Food Tourist Apr 1, 2014 08:51 AM

    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
      cubmike74 Apr 1, 2014 10:38 AM

      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
        Yongeman Apr 1, 2014 07:59 PM

        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
          frogsteak Apr 1, 2014 09:07 PM

          their smoked meat is crap

          1. re: Yongeman
            julesrules Apr 2, 2014 07:22 AM

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

            1. re: julesrules
              Yongeman Apr 2, 2014 11:02 AM

              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
                magic Apr 2, 2014 02:09 PM

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

                1. re: magic
                  Yongeman Apr 2, 2014 03:10 PM

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

                  1. re: Yongeman
                    magic Apr 2, 2014 03:32 PM


        2. re: Food Tourist
          Food Tourist Apr 2, 2014 09:21 AM

          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
            Food Tourist Apr 3, 2014 03:59 PM

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

            1. re: Food Tourist
              julesrules Apr 4, 2014 09:30 AM

              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.

        3. c
          childofthestorm Mar 17, 2014 11:10 AM

          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
            julesrules Mar 17, 2014 11:51 AM

            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
              childofthestorm Mar 17, 2014 01:08 PM

              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.

              1. re: childofthestorm
                Full tummy Mar 18, 2014 03:14 AM

                Their grilled cheese is stellar.

          2. s
            Strongbad789 Jan 20, 2014 02:05 PM

            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
              Yongeman Mar 16, 2014 08:12 PM

              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. rayrayray Jan 20, 2014 07:23 AM

              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. c
                cdollarsign1979 Jan 19, 2014 04:48 PM

                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. y
                  ylsf Jan 18, 2014 04:51 AM

                  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
                    kwass Jan 18, 2014 04:55 AM

                    Where do you like to go for deli ylsf?

                    1. re: ylsf
                      LexiFirefly Jan 18, 2014 05:31 AM

                      They renovated last year, maybe you went just before?

                      1. re: LexiFirefly
                        frogsteak Jan 18, 2014 05:45 AM

                        it's ugly inside

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

                      2. re: ylsf
                        atomeyes Jan 20, 2014 04:22 AM

                        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: atomeyes
                          frogsteak Jan 20, 2014 04:37 AM

                          enjoy being angry

                          1. re: frogsteak
                            atomeyes Jan 20, 2014 07:53 AM

                            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
                              ylsf Jan 20, 2014 02:16 PM

                              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
                            Michael N Jan 20, 2014 06:22 AM

                            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
                            Food Tourist Apr 1, 2014 07:35 AM

                            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. e
                            evansl Jan 18, 2014 04:36 AM

                            Big -1 for Centre Street St. Very poor.

                            1. l
                              lister Jan 17, 2014 04:56 PM

                              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
                                magic Jan 17, 2014 05:01 PM

                                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
                                  lister Jan 17, 2014 05:27 PM

                                  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
                                    magic Jan 17, 2014 05:35 PM

                                    The good old days.

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

                              2. l
                                LUV_TO_EAT Jan 17, 2014 01:04 PM

                                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. g
                                  gourmaniac Jan 17, 2014 12:23 PM

                                  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
                                    TorontoTuna Jan 17, 2014 02:57 PM

                                    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
                                      kwass Jan 17, 2014 02:59 PM

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

                                      1. re: kwass
                                        TorontoTuna Jan 17, 2014 03:13 PM

                                        ...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
                                          duckdown Jan 17, 2014 03:37 PM

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

                                          1. re: duckdown
                                            porker Jan 17, 2014 05:47 PM

                                            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
                                              ylsf Jan 18, 2014 04:53 AM

                                              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
                                                duckdown Jan 18, 2014 04:08 PM

                                                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
                                                  porker Jan 18, 2014 04:41 PM

                                                  Beware, Delibees is closed Sundays.

                                          2. re: kwass
                                            disgusti Jan 17, 2014 03:25 PM

                                            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
                                              kwass Jan 17, 2014 03:29 PM

                                              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
                                                Michael N Jan 17, 2014 03:30 PM

                                                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
                                                duckdown Jan 17, 2014 03:38 PM

                                                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
                                                  kwass Jan 17, 2014 03:43 PM

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

                                                  1. re: duckdown
                                                    kwfoodiewannabe Jan 20, 2014 01:58 PM


                                                    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
                                                      duckdown Jan 27, 2014 04:56 PM

                                                      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
                                                        foodyDudey Jan 27, 2014 05:08 PM

                                                        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
                                                    magic Jan 17, 2014 04:58 PM

                                                    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
                                                      kwass Jan 17, 2014 05:03 PM

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

                                                      1. re: kwass
                                                        magic Jan 17, 2014 05:06 PM

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

                                                        1. re: magic
                                                          TorontoTuna Jan 17, 2014 05:13 PM

                                                          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
                                                            magic Jan 17, 2014 05:19 PM


                                                            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
                                                              kwass Jan 17, 2014 05:24 PM

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

                                                              1. re: kwass
                                                                magic Jan 17, 2014 05:24 PM


                                                            2. re: TorontoTuna
                                                              magic Jan 17, 2014 05:22 PM

                                                              I know. Bang bang.

                                                              1. re: magic
                                                                TorontoTuna Jan 17, 2014 07:35 PM

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

                                                                1. re: TorontoTuna
                                                                  magic Jan 17, 2014 08:00 PM

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

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

                                                                  1. re: TorontoTuna
                                                                    magic Jan 18, 2014 01:07 PM

                                                                    Did you make it there? Thoughts?

                                                                    1. re: magic
                                                                      TorontoTuna Jan 18, 2014 03:06 PM

                                                                      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
                                                                        Vinnie Vidimangi Jan 18, 2014 10:28 PM

                                                                        No fries?

                                                                        1. re: TorontoTuna
                                                                          magic Jan 20, 2014 06:32 AM

                                                                          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. re: magic
                                                                      MissBingBing Jan 18, 2014 04:45 AM


                                                                      1. re: MissBingBing
                                                                        magic Jan 18, 2014 07:57 AM


                                                      2. f
                                                        frogsteak Jan 17, 2014 12:04 PM

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

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: frogsteak
                                                          Vinnie Vidimangi Jan 17, 2014 12:15 PM

                                                          But we will be, frogsteak.

                                                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                                            justxpete Jan 17, 2014 12:35 PM

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

                                                          2. re: frogsteak
                                                            magic Jan 17, 2014 02:17 PM

                                                            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
                                                              pourboi Jan 17, 2014 02:38 PM

                                                              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: pourboi
                                                                frogsteak Jan 17, 2014 02:41 PM

                                                                she wasn't pounced on...

                                                              2. re: magic
                                                                Michael N Jan 17, 2014 02:47 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  frogsteak Jan 17, 2014 02:55 PM

                                                                  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.

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