Deli variety in Toronto seems like it’s at its peak, but these outposts have flourished by honouring the well-established tradition of the Jewish delicatessen. Grab a number and get in line.
Toronto has known the Pancer family since Moe Pancer and his son Stan opened Moe Pancer’s Delicatessen on Bathurst in 1957. Trading in recipes passed down for generations in Europe, the Jewish deli was a Toronto institution for over half a century before the family sold off the business in 2010, only for their name to be put to shame by sandwiches that literally fell apart. Thankfully, the new owners let the business go in 2014, and the Pancer family jumped to reopen business in the same space this past March, re-branding as Pancer’s Original Deli. They’ve restored the interior, updated the kitchen, and reinstated their original recipes, but most importantly, they say they’re back for good.
You know a deli’s doing something right when they take pride in the fact that their sandwiches are fatty. With eat-in and takeout options available, this deli’s been a major staple in Thornhill’s Jewish community since it was established in 1988, so it’s understandable that there’s been some passionate speculation surrounding the restaurant since Post City reported a rumour that it has been sold in April (owners have been keeping mum, but the popular opinion is that it’s been sold to current employees).
Catering mainly to Toronto’s Orthodox Jewish community, Ben & Izzy’s is Toronto’s only truly kosher deli. They butcher, brine, and smoke all of their meats in house, with a menu offering Kosher classics like corned beef and latkes. Just remember before heading there on a Friday: they observe the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays. That said, they also offer pressure-canned bottles of their house-made soups so you can prepare for otherwise more difficult matzoh ball cravings.
Back in 1912, Aaron and Sarah Ladovsky began offering “heimische” baked goods and comfort foods that appealed to a whole generation of new Torontonians. And for the last century, United Bakers has been serving up “thick, vegetable-based soups that evoked the aromas of home; fresh fish cooked in Old World ways; dairy dishes that brought with them the tastes and the memories of Eastern Europe.” United Bakers is an uptown staple, and they cater too!
It didn’t take Katz’s Deli and Corned Beef Emporium (not to be confused with New York’s legendary Katz’s Delicatessen) long to grow substantially huge. Opened in 1969 on Dufferin Street south of Hwy. 401, the original location was just a little more than a tenth of the size of the existing 300-seat operation that was opened across the street in 1988, and the pickle cooler alone is twice the size. Despite the shift in scale, the business has taken pride in maintaining its commitment to house-prepared food. Owner and founder Jeffrey Dorfman passed away in September last year, but the business trudges onward, honouring the old family recipes that earned its notoriety.
Zane Caplansky is a polarizing figure in the city’s deli scene, let alone the wider food world it’s a part of. Still, the optics his namesake delicatessen have afforded Jewish delis in Toronto are undeniable, as are his business sensibilities. Caplansky’s brick and mortar home base in Little Italy built the name filling slices of rye bread with seven-ounce heaps of smoked meat, and it’s improved on the traditional deli with a bar packing four craft beers on tap. Add to that a Caplansky’s line of mustards, a food truck offering a scaled down version of the menu, and a franchise location in Pearson Airport, and you’ve got one helluva ubiquitous deli.
(Photo by Alexa Clark via Flickr)
(Main Photo by Brad Greenlee via Flickr)