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California Sandwiches (The Queensway)

Posted by Libby Roach / Reviewed on September 19, 2012 / review policy

california sandwiches torontoCalifornia Sandwiches is arguably the most famous veal sandwich hot spot in Toronto, but we put another of their sandwiches to the test, and it more than held its own. Now with eleven GTA locations serving up their unbelievably massive sammies, little has changed since their first restaurant opened in 1967 on Claremont in Little Italy. With a cult-like following, simple ingredients and straightforward service California Sandwiches aims to do one thing right; make the best damn veal sandwich in Toronto.

california sandwiches torontoWhile some of their locations could use an extreme makeover, the Queensway location restaurant is bright, clean and offers plenty of seating. Surrounded by auto repair shops and adjacent to an off-track betting club, it shares a common theme with their sister restaurants--to say they're off the beaten path is an understatement.

california sandwiches torontoArriving at a chance downtime with no line-up and empty tables scattered throughout the unassuming restaurant, I had to do a double take--this is not the usual California experience I have come to know. Line-ups for twenty minutes or more are to be expected at all of their locations, but our sammies were ordered and delivered in a gobsmacking five minutes. Counter service was swift and friendly, and our server graciously explained all the popular menu items, with veal, steak, and chicken being the top three favourites.

While their sandwiches aren't on the cheap side, the portions are almost big enough to split, and the quality is top-notch. An in-house butcher carves all the meat, and only Italian tomatoes are used for the sauce which is made in-house daily. Crusty Kaiser rolls are delivered fresh to each location every morning.

california sandwiches torontoWe settled on the veal sandwich ($8.25), and chose to have it straight up, with sauce only. I think you can expect to be properly shamed coming in and not ordering the veal, but I was game to share, and also ordered the steak ($8.25) with onions. Both came wrapped up in the ubiquitous paper foil packets, ensuring safe travel for those ordering take out.

We dined in and unwrapped these beauties pronto; sauce came sliding off the veal making it a 'ten napkin minimum' sandwich. The veal is glorious--pounded flat, breaded and then shallow pan deep fried. It comes smothered in your choice of tomato sauce (sweet, medium or hot), and we opt for sweet, and brace ourselves for some serious meat sweats. The bun holds everything together, but becomes dwarfed under the sheer magnitude of the veal cutlet. The powdery Kaiser starts to crumble under the weight, so it's best to eat in one sitting.

california sandwiches torontoThe steak sandwich comes brimming with greasy jus and translucent onions. Peppery and sliced perfectly thin, the sandwich is generous without being gluttonous, likely due to the non-deep-fry cooking method. The beef toes that fine line between delicate and substantial. You heard it here: the steak sandwich is a contender to the tried and true veal sandwich that's the mainstay of this chain of restaurants.

While they do offer a vegetarian option, you're better off going for broke; these insanely popular veal sandwiches are the standard for a reason. Sides on offer include a container of green olives or small salads, while toppings ring in between fifty cents and a dollar each--cheese, onions, mushrooms, hot or sweet peppers, eggplant and zucchini are all stellar options.

california sandwiches torontoCalifornia Sandwiches has no beer or wine options, and sticks strictly to pop, water and Italian sodas. They accept cash only, although there is an ATM on site.



Pat / September 19, 2012 at 09:11 am
Tony & Nicks (dufferin & dundas w.) is the best in town, hands down.
PMK / September 19, 2012 at 09:37 am
My favorite is the sausage with onions, topped with hot peppers of course!
Andrea / September 19, 2012 at 09:59 am
Buon Giorno Cafe at Queensway and Islington is much better! The best hot table and the best veal parm...try a Joey D if you're into italian cold cuts, ask Joey D to make it for you!!
Kevin / September 19, 2012 at 10:02 am
My favourite veal sandwich has to be from Agincourt Bakery in Scarborough. They fill it to the top with amazing fresh ingredients. At California Sandwiches they watch everything they put into your sandwich making sure they don't give you too much. At Agincourt they fill it to the top you need two hands to eat one half of the sandwich.
416 / September 19, 2012 at 11:23 am
Buon Giorno Cafe is the real deal
Dov Eles / September 19, 2012 at 07:45 pm
My obsession with Italian sandwiches started with the former San Francesco's at Queen and Bathurst, so good, obviously the corner never been the same since. I have been eating California for the last 15 years and the Claremont location is consistent with excellence - the franchises not so much - but the Queensway location is probably the best of the bunch. I have tried many other restaurants versions and very few compare to the San Fran's and original Cali. There are a couple of places in Woodbridge, the names escape me, that make tasty giant sandwiches. I live a block from Tony and Nick's and always wondered about it...going to try it soon!
Keith / September 19, 2012 at 09:55 pm
Love California Sandwiches! I've been eating at the original location for about 10 years. The veal is great, as are the other sandwiches, I've had most of them... but great veal!
The King / September 27, 2013 at 04:52 pm
Once apon a time you got a delicious good bang for your buck!

NOW...the veal sanwich is mainly all bread and breaded over a very thin slice of beef choped in 2.

The steak sandwich is no longer filling, cold cuts are thicker slices, you get a counted 3 thin slices of beef? in the old days the sliced buns didn't make contact with ine another, use to weigh almost a pound? you know what i mean...

The Mississauga locations are horrible!! should be 2 sanwiches for $8.25. I don't go their anymore, was a customer since 1978.

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