Okay, confession time: I never visited the old Caplansky’s Delicatessen above the Monarch Tavern even though I heard it had delicious smoked meat sandwiches. I just wasn’t ready to have it re-surp my lingering tastebud memory of Schwartz’s in Montreal. But when Caplansky’s relocated to College Street, I couldn’t fight it any longer and headed in for what turned into an absolutely excellent experience.
Admittedly, it didn’t start off so great, ’cause my party of six had to wait about 45 minutes for a table. In Caplansky’s defense, it was prime lunchtime and really, this only speaks to the popularity of their place. Rather than following our grumbling stomachs to another nearby College Street eatery, the cozy, old-school deli space and happy chatter convinced us it would be worth the wait.
As soon as we got to our table, things got off to a great start. Our waiter was friendly and funny, plus there were five different types of mustard to choose from. I planned to start things off traditionally with regular mustard in the generic yellow squeeze bottle but switched mid-meal to Anton Kozlik’s Horseradish Mustard — definitely the right choice. It had a serious kick that was totally addictive and perfect for my Smoked Meat Sandwich ($8), which contained 7 oz. of hot, hand-sliced smoked meat between rye (shown at top). This did taste different than my Schwartz’s memory, but was still absolutely delectable. I gobbled down the tender, slightly fatty meat in about six minutes flat and was sad when it was gone.
Most people in my party opted to enjoy their sandwich as part of a combo ($11) which paired it with salad, soup or fries. I was more concerned with the single slice-of-pickle garnish (I need much more), so I ordered up the Picked Plate ($4) which was a mouth-puckering platter of dill pickles, pickled tomatoes and peppers. And these aren’t any old pickled veggies, most came from jars with my favourite label on the side, Putter’s.
One big surprise was the delicious Smoked Meat Burger ($9), which we agreed is in contention for one of the city’s best. The mixture of 20% smoked meat and 80% fresh ground chuck meant it was rich with flavour, the meaty juice dribbled down my chin and the soft challah bun cradled the patty and toppings ever so perfectly. Pair it with a tall cool beer and you have a terrific meal.
Don’t let the long wait scare you away from a delicious meal. Just bring a book and join the line. Caplansky’s is one of Toronto’s gems.
Caplansky’s Delicatessen / 356 College Street, Toronto
416 500 3852 / Hours: Sun-Tues 10am-10pm, Wed-Sat 10am-11pm