All this week Moe Pancer’s celebrates its 50th anniversary as one of Toronto’s most cherished delicatessens. A portion of all proceeds throughout the week will go to Sick Kids, plus there will be specials, baloons, and lots of mazel to go around.
In my lifetime as a Toronto deli eater, I got into Moe Pancer’s relatively late. My brother Daniel brought me there for the first time a few years ago, in the original location (just two blocks north of where it is now). Plastered with yellowing articles, photos, and memorabilia, it exudes the old time deli feel more than any other Toronto deli. It also smells…well reeks…of deli. The heavenly aroma of pickled meats blasts you as you walk into the door, leaving you anticipating until the moment that spicy pastrami sandwich lands in front of you. Daniel always goes for the salami, though I think their pastrami is by far the best in the city, and the corned beef is cooked in house.
These days I hit up Pancer’s with regularity whenever I’m back home. Lorne Pancer, the grandson of late founder Moe, and son of late owner Stan, is a deli man to the core and a hell of a mensch. My first interview for the book was with Lorne, and he and counterman Wilf were also the first to take me behind the counter and let me try my hand slicing briskets on the machine and smoked meat with a knife. Lorne’s an old fashioned guy, friends with the cops, firemen, and all manner of local characters…whom he regularly shtoops some karnatzel or a few extra pickles. In his books, everyone is “Bud” or “Sweetie” or “Da Boys”, and all are greeted with warmth and a big smile.
Daniel had the tremendous honour of Lorne’s confusion for a few years, because he supposedly looks exactly like one of Pancer’s nephews. “Hey Daniel! How’s your father?” Lorne would ask, refusing to let him pay the bill. Daniel protested but then just shut up and ate himself deeper into sin. Only when he came in with my mother did Pancer realize his mistake, though Dan figures he must have had a dozen free meals there until the ruse was up.
Fifty is no small feat for a deli these days, and Pancer’s is among the longest continuosly family owned delicatessens in Canada. I’ll be stopping by on monday for congrats and a sandwich, and I suggest all Toronto Save the Deli fans do the same sometime this week. Give Lorne, Wilf, and Lori big hugs, get a spicy pastrami combo with a Vernors, and soak in one of Canada’s best delis.
“World Famous Pastrami”
3856 Bathurst St.