It was exactly a year ago tomorrow that I first met Zane Caplansky. He’d recently changed his name from Zane Caplan, and was sitting at the bar in Toronto’s Monarch Tavern, eating a slice of pizza. He told me he’d been curing his own briskets and smoking them for the previous months, making a sort of hybrid smoked meat that was all his own. The bar had given him their small kitchen, and he planned to open a small deli in the Monarch, selling smoked meat sandwiches that he would cure, smoke, and slice himself. It was small scale deli, but it sure showed promise.
What a difference a year makes.
Caplansky’s Deli is now a bona fide Toronto culinary institution. It offers a unique, homemade product, that has drawn crowds, critics, and accolades from foodies and other deli lovers. It has won over the fickle Montreal Jews, and my father, which is a feat in itself. Zane is now a figure in the city he loves, and he’s brought Jewish food back to its downtown roots.
The Monarch was an interesting spot for a deli. It is dark, and dank, and resolutely divey. There’s often competing music playing in different corners, and shitloads of UFC fighting and hockey on TV. But it has built in atmosphere and a certain grubby appeal that no other deli has. Still, the kitchen is tiny, and for a whole year Zane has struggled to keep up with demand, let alone grow.
Now comes the next chapter. As he has mentioned on his blog, Caplansky’s will be reopening nearby, in a big, bright, brand new deli at the corner of College and Brunswick. August is the opening target, and just this past Monday I met Zane there for a preview of the new digs.
Here are the highlights:
- a big patio, with space for 50
- a slicing station in full view of the diners
- a full service bar and counter for lunches
- two massive walk-in refridgerators for in-store pickling of meat
- expanded catering kitchen
It’s going to allow Zane to really grow. He’s promised me that he’ll be making corned beef, roast beef, smoked turkey, and maybe even tongue (I pray). There will be breakfasts, and dinners, and bagels and lox and creamed cheese. He’s also talking about concerts, comedy, events, and yes folks, the Canadian launch party for Save the Deli, the book!
The photos here are all pre-renovation. Next week the sledgehammers fly. Tiles are out, and oak floor is in. Tacky paint is gone, and in come subway tiles. Goodbye Portuguese cafe, hello deli. It won’t be modeled after New York delis or Montreal delis…it’ll be Toronto pure and simple. Zane even told me that he researched the building and it once housed a Jewish deli in the 1950′s. So here we are folks…full circle.
This is going to be awesome. A deli right at the door to Kensington Market. Welcome home deli.