The Best Delis in Toronto
I had concluded some time ago that the best delis in Toronto were sadly not worth my love. On every train ride home from New York, I'd spend 14 hours lamenting the illegality of getting pastrami over the border. A loved one would occasionally bring me a pound of Schwartz's from Montreal, but the long waits in between these gifts was starting to get me down. Admittedly hasty, it took only the buzz of a good sandwich to challenge this stubborn assumption that my hometown is inherently meat deficient.
By the time the new Caplansky's had been pre-emptively hailed as deli saviour, I was ready to revisit that conviction that I was deprived by birth. Their fine smoked meat in my own downtown backyard made hopeful a subsequent journey, spanning north and south of the city. And in truth, Toronto loves deli. Quiet and elusive but sure of their history and art, these spots will serve you a sandwich well worth our love.
Words by guest contributor Emily Thomas. Photos by Alyssa Bistonath.
Smoked meat at Caplansky's rivals my most religious deli experiences in New York and Montreal. It is different from anything else you can find in Toronto, sliced thick and perfect with delicate fatty edges that melt in your mouth. A couple months ago I had one excellent sandwich there, but it has even improved since. My knees are weak. It has evolved into something quite glorious. More »
The location (It's in Thornhill) and entirely nondescript exterior renders the chaos inside sudden and miraculous. Centre Street is huge and colourful with a busy and diverse crowd of regulars, loyal and at ease. The meat is hand cut by default and even the menu urges you to go for the fatty variant of their popular old-fashioned pastrami and corned beef. More »
The owner is incredible, talking electronics and cracking open tiny glass bottles of coke from his 1954 pop dispenser. He is ecstatic to serve up massive sandwiches of fatty, melty smoked meat on Styrofoam plates. Past locals return to order double portions with reverence, putting it all away like serious business and quietly noting the unchanged deliciousness. This place makes me feel lucky to live in Toronto. More »
The place swells with the pride of three generations of meat love. Fierce waves of locals pour in and out with pounds of meat like second nature. Pancer's moved down the street a few years ago and is currently undergoing a change in ownership, but their passion for the art of deli appears unyielding. I've never had pastrami placed before me with such conviction. More »
The sights, sounds and smells of the place are indulgent, full to the brim. You will question your cravings ten times before ordering, distracted by the trays of freshly baked breads, bagels and cookies. Simply, the place is complete. They do everything well and with confidence. You will be like a kid in a candy store of meat. More »
Steeles feels like a diner my mum or dad would have taken me in the eighties when we were in need of some comfort food. It is full of elderly patrons that show up twice a day ordering home made soup, chopped sirloin, and liver and onions. The regulars recommend the kishka and are obsessed with particular gravy that it will (and must) come smothered in. More »
Getting to Switzer's on public transit will leave a cold and empty space in your soul the exact size and shape of a Switzer's sandwich. So you break even upon arrival, but decide for yourself if their legendary Reuben is worth the wild ride into industrial Malton. In any case, rest assured the industry folk of the GTA have some fine deli at their disposal. More »
The brightness and warmth will put you in a good mood even before the spicy apple pie or homemade cheesecake. The meat is hand-cut by request and entirely satisfying. The coffee is free and the service is pleasant to the bone. Sparse but steady regulars drop in and out. You will leave with a peaceful soul and stomach. More »
The lunch rush at Katz's is hysterical. They're no relation to the New York version, but share the same loud and cafeteria-like atmosphere. The portions are huge, the corned beef is juicy and delicate, and I have never felt compelled to mention the bread before, but theirs was warmed to such crispy perfection that it's almost confusing. More »