Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Caplansky's, an overnight institution

A visit to Caplansky's Delicatessen is like stepping back into time, the time of the Jews in Kensington Market. A friend visiting from out of town recently remarked to me, "Jews still live downtown, I thought everyone lived in Thornhill Woods?". This made me throw up in my mouth a little. Ok, a lot. After assuring her that Jews did indeed live downtown, and were actually reclaiming areas like the Annex and Kensington, we took a trip to the new downtown mecca of deli.

I will start off by getting the dirty business out of the way, and comment on the issues I have encountered with the service on multiple visits. Visit 1 they were slammed as it was the fourth official day they had been open, for this they get a pass. On the other two visits service did improve but was not stellar by any stretch. However, I don't mind terribly as this is the deli of my childhood replacing the old curmudgeons with young inexperienced servers. Thankfully, Zane Caplansky is hands on and always a few steps away to correct any issues that may befall you. Thats enough about that, they will get better.

The menu reads like a classic deli menu, with some favourites that I have been eating since I was a little pisher. Smoked meat, smoked turkey, kishke, knish, chopped liver, matzoh ball soup, versht (salami), and much more.
On the first visit there was a hand carved smoked meat sandwich.
(is there any other way?)

Hand-cut fries

A burger, containing 20% smoked meat.

I must mention that I had visited Caplansky's at their "test kitchen" at the Monarch Tavern last winter, and was not super impressed but did enjoy. I was told by an insider that there were problems with the smoker, etc. and to give him another chance. This visit was far more impressive. The smoked meat was salty and smokey and wonderful, paired with the house made grainy mustard. Fries were crispy and delicious, and the burger was just ok. I could barely taste the smoked meat, and would almost like to have the option to add "smoked meat bacon" to the burger to enhance the smokey goodness.
On to visit number two, breakfast for lunch. Smoked meat hash and eggs.

This has got to be one of my favourite things to have for breakfast, and guaranteed if it is on the menu I will gladly order and indulge. Even better than its cousin, the corned beef variety, this was tantalizing in its smokey goodness (how many times can you use smokey in one review?). A bit overcooked for my taste but on a subsequent visit was perfect. Challah toast, always a favourite, second to only rye which they do have, and two perfectly fried eggs. Classic! The latkes you see on the plate with homemade applesauce are an add on. They were lovely, not greasy, and the applesauce was nice with a hint of fall spice.
Finally, how could I forget the knish, certainly I could not.

Yes, that is gravy on my knish, but not only is it gravy it is smokey wonderful smoked meat gravy! Mm mm mm! Marvellous! The options are potato, potato and smoked meat, and liver. Liver is a hard to find knish, but I had to opt for the potato and smoked meat, next time for sure the liver.

STOP. Fastforward.

Went this past weekend again, an no, I didn't have a knish but I went to meet a few friends for breakfast and once again indulge in the lovely smoked meat hash. My poor circulatory system, this is becoming an obsession. Good thing I at least walked down, a nice 30 minute stroll.

I don't want to ramble on and over do it, but I could. Having been at Caplansky's about a half dozen times I can say that it feels like I have been eating here for years and it is a very welcome addition to the Toronto food map. Classic deli in a classic setting, makes Joel a happy boy.

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream.


  1. The first paragraph made me laugh at out. Seemed somewhat appropriate that I'm reading it at aroma.

    Let me know when you're going again, I keep meaning to check out their new home.

  2. Wow, the smoked hash and eggs look amazing! I will definitely try that the next time I'm there.