Pancer's Original Deli
Pancer's Original Deli is the new name for the Bathurst St. deli previously known as Moe Pancer's Deli . The iconic delicatessen has been reclaimed by the Pancer family who originally opened the business in 1957 before relocating two blocks south in 2005, and then selling the business in 2010 to focus on the deli emporium in Vaughan (from which they've since split).
Now helmed by Lorne Pancer (grandson of Moe), the deli is operated with help from the fourth generation of Pancer deli men including nephew Julian Pancer, a Red Seal chef. The family has restored the interior, updated the kitchen equipment and reinstated the original family recipes.
New features include the long upholstered banquette and chalkboard menu, but otherwise the ambition is to recreate the familiar. Vintage photos, old press clippings and a lifetime of memorabilia that once graced the walls will soon to be restored to their rightful place.
When it comes to the menu, there was no attempt to modernize, reinterpret or get creative, and for that, I'm grateful. Jewish comfort foods are its speciality and cured meats like pastrami, corned beef, tongue and beef salami are the main attraction.
This is a classic Toronto deli at its finest. Montreal-style smoked meat (while available) plays second fiddle to pastrami ($8.95). Gently spiced, slippery pink beef sliced ultra thin is then piled high between fresh rye bread or stacked onto a fluffy onion bun (+$1). For $12 you can have it with fries, tangy slaw and pickle spears.
Kishka ($8.25) for the uninitiated is made from beef intestines (like sausage casing) stuffed with matzo meal and doused in thick gravy. It might not sound especially appetizing but I can assure you, you want this. Here it can be made into a meal, served on a platter along with the house slaw, fries, and rye bread to sop up every ounce of gravy.
I also tried the cabbage rolls ($8.25) and could not be more satisfied. Ground beef flecked with rice bundled in supple cabbage leaves and smothered with sweet tomato sauce never tasted so good. I would even bring my family here without fearing they'd kvetch to the staff that they can make this dish better at home (which is exactly what happened at Caplansky's and something I'd rather not repeat).
Many of the old regulars have flocked back and a steady stream of customers pack the house from lunchtime until after dinner. Skip the lines by going for breakfast (served daily from 9am) or order meat in bulk at the counter to go.
Photos by Jesse Milns