Save the Deli

Caplansky’s opening lunch

The sky was grey outside, but inside the dank confines of Toronto’s legendary Monarch Tavern, a new day dawned on Jewish deli in this native city of mine. As I’ve mentioned before, today was the day when Zane Caplansky’s long awaited delicatessen…the eponymous Caplansky’s…would open.

The promises were very high: smoked meat that was made from local, naturally raised beef, dry cured in barrels, and smoked over hardwood. Hand cut fries, Silverstein’s rye, real coleslaw, Strubbs pickles, and Cott’s black cherry. In terms of deli in Canada, this is about as good as it gets…

So how good did it get?

Let’s let my dad tell you:

Now for my humble opinion (as I am my father’s son, and this was basically his birthday lunch). Zane Caplansky has done nothing short of resurrect the traditional taste of Jewish delicatessen in a city where it is too often forgotten. His tender smoked meat, hand sliced to the perfect length, is nothing short of sublime. It does not taste like the famed Montreal smoked meat, or the New York pastrami, or even the Toronto equivalent.

It is a completely different and delicious product, due to the fact that it is the only smoked meat I have ever had that was actually smoked over wood. I’d describe the taste as somewhere between a milder Schwartz’s sandwich and a texas style hickory smoked BBQ. It’s less salty and peppery than other smoked meats (though a little more spice would make things interesting), but that first bite is like jumping into a campfire, as the charcoal tinged aroma of the meat’s carbon footprint comes alive in the mouth. It’s tender, it’s juicy, and there’s the perfect ribbon of fat lining each bite. Dad and my cousin Eric (no small authority himself) all agreed.

Simplicity is the key to this place. I see many eager young deli owners (or old), open up places with dozens or hundreds of items on their menu, only to get overwhelmed and let one half of their menus slide their asses onto the street. What Caplansky has done is start from scratch, putting all his effort into one product, with the idea of building it out from there. There’s a lesson for us all in this. The fries are indeed crisp, the coleslaw is slightly sweet and mild, and the black cherry is indeed fizzing away. I went for a beer, because today was a day for every deli fan in Toronto to celebrate.

At the Monarch Tavern
Sandwiches, soup, and soon blintzes served Tues-Sat (12-9 pm)
14 Clinton St.
Toronto, ON

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10 Responses to “Caplansky’s opening lunch”

  1. Lauren Says:

    can we pick up sandwiches for our flight to paris? omg the meat looks delicious.

  2. Howard (Silverstein) Binstock Says:

    When I was in high school a group of friends and I found San Francesco’s which, I think, is right next door to where Caplansky’s is now located. I only wish I were back in high school and living much closer to Toronto (I’m in California) so I could alternate days going one day for Italian and the next for Jewish. By the way, the picture is so good I can almost taste the meat and almost, as you know, only counts in horseshoes.
    Finally, I went to school with Susan Caplansky whose family owns (owned) Health Bread – is there any relationship between these two families?

  3. julia s Says:

    Sounds so good! Can a girl go there on her own? Can’t wait to taste everything, as the reports are that the fries, slaw, and potatoes, and of course the meat, are fabulous! Congratulations, Caplansky’s!

  4. blair Says:

    Sure, Julia. No problem for a single girl. Very nice people. You can eat in or take out, but you have to walk upstairs to the Monarch Tavern, pass the bar–pretty empty midday, unless a Euro Cup Soccer game is on, and order from Zane at the kitchen counter. It’s worth it, too!! Very yummy sandwich.

  5. Save The Deli » Blog Archive » Caplansky’s so popular, it runs out of meat! Says:

    [...] here in Toronto last Tuesday. I wrote about it in the Globe and Mail last Sunday, and posted on it Tuesday afternoon. That posting was my largest ever, bringing over 1000 visitors to this site in the past three [...]

  6. J.M Says:

    Your site is amazing! I am psyched to try out Caplansky’s. Grew up on corned beef in Toronto and loved it, but when I first hit Shwartz’s for 2 medium smoked meats with a black cherry, it was like I had never had a sandwich before……loved it so much that once back in the 416, I had to make my own smoked meat – best stuff I’ve ever had, but an unbelievable amount of work – think in terms of weeks and even when you finish the cherry wood smoking, you need to put the brisket in the fridge for 24 hours, then steam it for 3 hours, then back in the fridge, then re-steam for 30 mins every time you want to serve. I also suggest steaming the bread slices for 30 seconds or so. btw, you mention “New York Pastrami” in your preamble. Isn’t MTL smoked meat just romanian pastrami?

  7. Teena in Toronto Says:

    We checked it out yesterday … yummy sandwich!

  8. eris Says:

    Just an F.Y.I.: Texas-style barbecue is beef brisket smoked over mesquite, NOT hickory. Huge difference. Hickory is used for Carolina-style barbecue (which is almost always pork).


  9. Save The Deli » Blog Archive » Happy Birthday Caplansky’s Says:

    [...] kitchen at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto, and started slicing his dry aged, hand cut smoked meat. There was a good crowd that day. So good, in fact, that he sold out of meat and had to close for two weeks. It’s been a hell [...]

  10. Tom Says:

    Had Lunch for the first time, the service was great
    but the food was poor. During my meal the owner
    was yelling at his employees. Why did I chose this place. I plan on warning everyone at school about this place.

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