Perhaps this meal was doomed from the start. My companion and I set off one cold morning in search of a simple but hearty and warming breakfast. Our intended destination was highly touted, (though some say horribly overrated,) Aunties and Uncles (read the review here.) However, we spun around on our heels upon seeing the line-up of shivering patrons standing outside of its entrance. Aunties and Uncles is delicious, but notorious for long and ruthless line-ups. So that is how we ended up at Caplansky’s. Cold, hungry and willing to settle for anywhere offering us coffee, eggs and toast, we jumped at the opportunity to eat when we passed by the bright blue deli.
Caplansky’s is known for two things: its smoked meat, (don’t you dare compare it to Schwartz’s,) and a menu full of Eastern European and Jewish classics. The menu is made up of all-day breakfast, sandwiches, and traditional dishes, like kishke, borscht and cheese blintzes. Also available are a few less kosher offerings, such as smoked meat poutine, mac and cheese, and southern fried chicken. Virtually everything is meat-heavy. The restaurant also has a mobile version, called Thunderin’ Thelma, a bright blue food truck that moves around the city offering select items from the mother ship’s menu, as well as a catering business. Another signature of the deli is their selection of mustards, both available when dining in, and for sale by the jar.
Yes, we should have looked at the menu before sitting down. No, we did not, because a girl and a guy have got to eat. (And it was February in Canada.) Craving a good old, classic breakfast, I went with the ‘Special’ for $11, the least meaty, but still savoury, breakfast item. It included three eggs, (poached for me—Hi, dad,) house cured and smoked beef bacon, rye toast, potato latkes and applesauce. (For those of you who don’t have the privilege of having a Jewish bubbi—the shame—latkes are potato ‘pancakes,’ and applesauce is the traditional condiment for them.) I guess my confidence in ordering the ‘Special’ swayed my tablemate because he changed his mind and ordered the same thing.
The ‘Special’ has another surprise up its sleeve—free bottomless coffee. However, I don’t consider this ‘special.’ In fact, any breakfast-offering joint that doesn’t do unlimited coffee is rather un-special in my books. The coffee was a cause of even further distress; our server turned away to leave our table before she finished filling my mug, and spilled coffee all over our table without noticing. Although we silently forgave her and wiped her slate clean, she proceeded to be rather distracted for our entire visit. As for the coffee itself, it was quite poor—very weak and metallic tasting, although the aesthetic charm of the white cups and saucers redeemed this somewhat.
Our breakfasts arrived looking underwhelmed, and first impressions were not great, but I was slowly won over by this Jew called Caplansky (in terms of food at least.) The two slices of rye toast were tiny! I was seriously upset over this, until I actually ate my breakfast and realized that regular-sized toast would have been too much. However, someone with a bigger appetite might not agree. My three poached eggs were perfectly done—yolks still runny but not undercooked. The beef bacon was surprisingly good. Although I love bacon, I am not a purist (to those who are: warning, there is bacon desecration ahead.) I may actually prefer the ersatz version because it was thicker, less stringy and greasy, but just as smoky and salty as the piggy kind. Finally, and what I believe to be the star of the show: the latkes, of which there were two sizeable ones, completely making up for the teeny toast. If it weren’t blasphemy, I would say that these latkes were better than my bubbi’s. The flavour profile was right on par with Hanukkah memories, but the potato was shredded more coarsely, resulting in more texture and chew. The applesauce, too, was absolutely perfect.
Our breakfasts were satisfying, but Caplansky’s was not the place for us. I was seeking a simple breakfast, which was really only available in the form of the ‘Special.’ Most of the menu items were either loaded with meat, or if not, were very sweet and decadent sounding, and all pricier than what seems reasonable. Then again, we didn’t get to see how generous the meatier options were.
Go to Caplansky’s if you want a belly full of meat. That is their specialty; salami, smoked meat, corned beef, brisket, turkey, smoked salmon, the list goes on, (of course no pork—this is a somewhat kosher joint, after all.) If you’re not into excessive animal protein early in the morning, you will be very limited in choice.
Details: Caplansky’s Delicatessen on College and Brunswick
Expect to pay $15-$20 for all-day breakfast, unless, like us, you opt for the cheapest option ($11.)
- Service was careless; we seemed like an afterthought
- Good food but limited menu unless you want MEAT
- Expensive for breakfast, but that’s what you get for the brand