Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Nov 17, 2003 04:19 PM

Best Deli

  • g

Looking for good corn beef, reuben....and even Montreal Smoked Meat.

Tried the Smoked Meat at Centre Street Deli. Heard Katz's is good too. What else?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pickle Barrel
    There is also a deli on Bathurst south of Sheppard.
    It is not bad.
    Perhaps someone will know the name.

    7 Replies
    1. re: erley

      Never mind the Pickle Barrel. That place serves absolutely disgusting food. It's great for noisy families with young kids who don't care at all what they eat. It's total garbage.

      Pancer's is the place for deli. Better yet, drive to Montreal for Schwartz's. Nothing in TO compares, sadly.

      1. re: Fwagra

        Question: Have you ever been sick from what you had at the Pickle Barrel? What does "disgusting" mean to you? Did you throw up? Did you have high fever an dconsequently did you call in sick at work? If you answer negatively to these questions, then you should not use such strong terms to describe a chain of restaurant that serves, fresh, reliable and more than decent casual and deli fare.



        1. re: Fredster

          I have never been actually ill because of food at Pickle Barrel.

          But, I disagree very strongly with your statement that they serve "fresh and reliable decent fare". Very little, if anything, is fresh there. Nor is it reliable. A huge proportion of the dishes get sent back. No one who works there, however, cares about the product they put out. The service is abominable.

          1. re: Fwagra

            I agree - I've only been there once (yesterday) and despite an appealing menu, the food was borderline disgusting. The salad and fruit was old, wilted and brown, even slimy. My tuna wrap, which was supposed to be albacore tuna and labeled as 'healthy', was really just some kind of tasteless mayo pate. Despite being across the street from my work for many years, I've only been the one time and don't plan on returning.

            1. re: Fwagra

              I agree 100% - They will never see me again after I waited for 20 minutes for something no one in his own mind would dare call it a decent plate of smoked meat with fries. The smoked meat was lukewarm, the slices were very thick though I had been asking for thin slices, it was neither cold nor warm, certainly not hot. The fries were so salty that they were not edible. I left most of my meal but I did not blame the waitress. She offered to return my meal and order another one but - by that time - I had lost my appetite and I did not feel like waiting another 20 minutes.

          2. re: Fwagra

            Agreed, 100% -- I recently posted something about Pickle Barrel. Very bad experience : cold food, over-salted fries. Never again. I still have to try Pancer's but when I called, they did not sound very friendly. I'll drop by to see by myself and let you know.

          3. re: erley

            Pickle Barrel is on my black list, would it be the one at Yonge & Eg or the one in Yorkdale. Long, very long wait (any time, and I tried several times). When the corned beef plate arrives, it is lukewarm and you would think that the cook dropped the salt shaker (uncapped) on the fries. The portion is quite generous but far from good. The very best is to drive up Allen Rd. to Centre St. and go to Centre Deli. You have a choice of lean or regular meat. It is chopped by hand and you can have it sliced thin (that's the way I like mine). The fries are good or so-so, depending on the day. Fast service, lots of salads, etc. Very reasonable prices, considering the portions are large - meant for a solid appetite. The owner is always there, which might explain why everything is A1.

          4. Katz on Dufferin is probably the best in a city that doesn't know from smoked meat! Mel's Montreal Deli on Bloor West is a tie but somewhat grungy. The Corned Beef House on Adelaide West is in third place. Dunn's in North York is OK. Otherwise the city is a wasteland-nothing approaches Ruben's in Montreal

            19 Replies
            1. re: Cliff Hatch

              Downtown, both Mel's and the Corned Beef House get their MSM from Lesters. There's also a Dunn's downstairs on King near Duncan. It replaced the Shopsy's.

              1. re: mikeb

                No one has mentioned Pancer's! (On Bathurst, north of Wilson). It's good, and pretty old school.

                1. re: Fwagra

                  OK, guys.....

                  Take it from an ex-Montrealer. If I would have moved here 10 years ago(like many Montrealers) to complain about the lack of Montreal smoked meat and "good bagels"( and frankly I'm tired of hearing the same old whiny remarks) I would have been better off not moving. This being said, I eat Montreal smoked meat only in Montreal (and pastrami at the carnegie deli in New York, ok, Ive been only once but it was so good I vowed it was the only pastrami id ever eat, lol). And here in Toronto, to me, the real deal is corned beef.... AAAAAhhhhhh... corned beef.... My favourites? Coleman's and Moe Pancer's, both on Bathurst. As for Mel's, it is good..... at4 am after a night of dancing in clubs!

                  So, people, let's quit the deli snobbery and let's appreciate our great delis: Moe Pancer's, Coleman's, Yitz, and even, yes, even The Pickle barrel, whose overall menu is pretty reliable.

                  1. re: Fredster

                    Yes Pancer's on Bathurst is the deli I couldn't remember the name of on Bathurst St.
                    As for the negative comments on the Pickle Barrel, I picked up some corned beef at the Leslie location this past weekend, and asked for it to be warm, and slightly fatty, as good corned beef should be, and it was perfect.
                    As far as I am concerned, the corned beef in Toronto is as good as anywhere.
                    I haven't been to the Centre Street deli in many years, as the first time I went there I realized that they were using hip meat instead of brisket.
                    Perhaps they now serve proper brisket.
                    I would be interested to know if this is the case.
                    I would happily try it again.
                    Good corned beef comes from good double brisket!

                    1. re: erley

                      Went to Centre St. a couple days ago. How can I tell if it's hip meat vs. brisket???

                      1. re: Goober

                        Hip meat is large, usually a rounded top, and one lump.
                        Brisket is slightly flatter with two layers.
                        The Top layer is fatter, and the top of the brisket is coated with fat.
                        This is the only true cut for a "real" corned beef Jewish style.
                        At supermarkets you can usually buy the narrower part of the brisket, but never what is called the "double brisket", as this is usually shipped to the smoked meat companies.
                        Occasionally I can find a good one at St. Lawrence Market.
                        Hip meat is for the experts, who don't really know anything about corned beef.

                        1. re: erley

                          Based on your descriptions, I believe they are using brisket. You may want to try Centre St again to find out for sure.

                          1. re: Goober

                            I will try it again

                          2. re: erley

                            Centre Deli ( is Jewish owned. Their menu, under deli sandwiches, mentions Mild Smoked Meat, Old Fashioned, Corned Beef (house made, unspiced.) They are avr. $7 -- You can call (905-731-8037) or, if you drop in, ask the owner. She is always around. Seems she lives there, 24/24, 7/7 !

                            1. re: lamaranthe

                              I've been to Centre Street Deli twice, and I've never been impressed. Pancer's and Kiva's are much better places.

                              1. re: gps_shag


                                They don't serve meat there!

                                1. re: Fwagra

                                  You're right - I just think of anyplace that serves latkes or lox/cream cheese on a twister as "deli" food. Even though it isn't.

                      2. re: Fredster

                        Since Coleman's changed management, the fries taste funny. I was told they are now using 'friendly' cooking oil. Whatever that is, I did not like it. Yitz changed hands quite a while ago and it is not the same, except for the old worn plastic benches. The staff at the counter is far from friendly. Pickle Barrel is on my black list too. There are better places, such as Pancer's and Centre Deli.

                        1. re: chouchou

                          Probably Canola oil. It may be "heart friendly", but it doesn't make fried foods that taste good. There are many other "friendly" oils, but Canola (likely GMO, since natural rapeseed oil is toxic) seems to have a stranglehold on much of the market.

                          When did Coleman's change hands? I know the owner died last year, but I thought his wife was running the place. The only thing I've ever liked there is the corned beef hash. Any idea if they've changed it?

                  2. re: Cliff Hatch

                    I like the Centre Street Deli. Not up to my ideal (which is Katz's on Houston St. in NY), but still more than good enough.

                    A bit of a schlep to get there, but....worth it.


                    1. re: Richard

                      I gauge all good deli to my benchmark - Katz's in NYC.


                      Hand carving is a must, otherwise it might as well be packaged from the grocery.

                      1. re: Richard

                        Sorry, but this is Toronto, Ontario !

                      2. re: Cliff Hatch

                        I tried Katz: it's a factory. No smile, nothing really good. I am still looking for a good (very good) ruben. Can anyone tell me where to go (North of Yonge & Eg, preferably). Thanks!

                        1. re: cocolou

                          Nothing has changed! The pastrami with pan scrapings (they call it sauce) was good in the old venue and may still be, but I gave up on Katz when I saw how badly they treated the counter staff, in front of customers. No wonder there are no smiles.

                      3. m
                        Mississauga Matt

                        I have been on a bit of a Montreal smoked meat odyssey for the past year or so, and here’s my ranking of the best Montreal smoked meat, in descending order of excellence:

                        1. Rueben’s, King Street
                        2. Schwartz’s
                        3. The Main
                        4. The Centre Street Deli
                        5. The Corned Beef House
                        6. The Montreal Deli, Mississauga
                        7. Mel’s Montreal Deli

                        I expect my number one pick is controversial, given previous comments on this board made about the place, but all the same I stand by the fact that it’s Rueben’s. Their Montreal smoked meat is, IMHO, superior to that of Schwartz’s and The Main.

                        According to the owner, he uses the same recipe used at Schwartz’s. You may choose to not believe that, but he was kind enough to give me quick tour of their operations, and they follow the dry brine method described in the fascinating link below. The meat looks exactly like the photo on page 5 of the attached forum link.

                        The meat is hand cut, and the sandwiches are bigger than those of Schwartz’s and The Main. The spicing is exemplary. The grease even slides down your fingers, as it should.

                        If I have any quibbles, they are that a) they still use store bought bread (Silverstein’s, I think); and b) the meat sometimes is not quite as tender as it could be, although I think that may be due to the fact that I’m usually in there just before noon and the meat hasn’t had enough time to steam. At least they no longer follow that peculiar practice of placing the bread slices perpendicular to each other as they initially did when the place first opened.

                        My comments on the others are these:

                        2. Schwartz’s – very good, better spicing than The Main.
                        3. The Main – juicier, more tender than Schwartz’s
                        4. The Centre Street Deli – the jury’s still out; more investigation is required. Had a good sandwich one time, so so the next.
                        5. The Corned Beef House – good sandwich using Lester’s MSM.
                        6. The Montreal Deli – on par with The Corned Beef house. Also uses Lester’s MSM.
                        7. Mel’s Montreal Deli – also uses Lester’s, but seems to slice it thicker.

                        Just as a note, the Lester’s meat is made for them by another company using an industrial process whereby the brine is injected into the meat. I find the Lester’s sandwiches to be good when done well, but they are a different animal than those in which the MSM has been made following the traditional methods.

                        See the Great Pastrami/Smoked Meat Experiment thread in the Adventures In Eating thread at


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Mississauga Matt

                          I am a New Yorker who had my first smoked meat this week at Ruebens....I was underwhelmed. It was very salty, not very spicy and had an almost gelatenous texture. The rye bread was nothing to write home about either. The potato Latkes I ordered on the side were machine made, thick and not browned. Sorry Montreal, but Ruebens is not in the same league as the Second Ave Deli in NY or the Carnegie

                        2. I can't believe that in all the responses here, no one has mentioned the New Yorker Deli just south of Bloor on Bay (directly across the street from BayBloor Radio). Those guys claim to have the best corned beef in town, and I'd say it's pretty damned close to being true. And their latkes are the best I've ever had (they were rated 'the best' in TO by the Star). And the cabbage borscht is bloody brilliant.

                          1. If you are willing to make the trek to Thornhill Centre Street Deli is the best deli bar none this side of the Quebec border (at least for Montreal Smoked Meat). The owners are carrying the tradition of their parents who own the Snowden Deli in Montreal. They even get all their meat brought in from there. Some would call me a heretic, but I would even place their smoked meat sandwich above that at Shwartz's

                            1 Reply