Along with what seemed like half of the city I accomplished one of my foodie to-do’s for September by visiting the new Caplansky’s location at 356 College St. (at College and Brunswick). Note that google maps still thinks Caplansky’s is inside the Monarch Tavern several blocks further west on College. I did not note this carefully enough and much hilarity (i.e. walking) ensued.
We ended up, mainly by our own choosing sitting at the bar for dinner which was a pleasant experience and allowed me the opportunity to ask the friendly bartender tons of questions. At his suggestion, my dining companion had the 7 oz. smoked meat sandwich ($7) which she thought was alright. We were told that Caplansky’s version is Toronto-style smoked meat and is not to be compared with those two other havens of deli further to the east. Part of the reason is Ontario laws are more restrictive than those in Quebec and don’t allow for the same brew of injected chemicals. But also Caplansky’s places a stronger emphasis on smoke and the flavour imparted by barrel aging.
For my dinner I had the burger ($8) which is a combination of one part smoked brisket to four parts parts ground chuck. This is a traditional burger combination but obviously the brisket typically isn’t seasoned or smoked like it is at a deli. Purists will be offended by the assertive flavours (mainly black pepper) that the smoked meat brings to the party. Though this gives me the opportunity to admit to a guilty pleasure: When I was a kid I really liked the Memories of Kobe burgers that President’s Choice sold so I’m not really put-off by burgers with a bunch of black pepper flavour for nostalgic reasons. By the end of this burger (8 oz.) I found myself needing a sip of beer to wash down every bite because like almost every burger ever served in this city it was way over-done. Also, the meat is twice-ground (on site which is a definite plus) which for me is a negative because I want some beefy chew but this will score points with those who after a smoother, homogenous texture.
The beet-less borscht (pictured above) that I had with my burger was really good and I have to thank @TOFoodie on twitter for the tip about this one. The principal players in this soup are the shredded cabbage and chunks of flavouful (i.e. fatty and from inexpensive cuts) beef and they really shine. The only thing I could find to kvetch about here is that the tomato flavour is too strong and became cloying by the time I reached the bottom of the bowl.
Overall, we had a great time at Caplansky’s. The fact that they offer the neighbourhood’s best selection of local beer at very reasonable prices ($6 for a pint of No. 9) as well as Cott’s Cherry Cola didn’t hurt. I’ll be back at some point to give this deli-with-benefits another try. I’ll stay well away from the burger and will definitely experiment with the deli classics other than the smoked meat sandwich. From what I hear the chopped steak, poutine, and breakfast special are all winners.