Reliably Great Smoked Meat at Centre Street Deli

Centre Street DeliLocation: 1136 Centre Street, Thornhill
Websitehttp://www.centrestreetdeli.com/

Ah, Centre Street Deli.  Other delis have come and gone over the years, but Centre Street has always been around, quietly and consistently pumping out some of the best smoked meat in the city.

A couple of years ago, some of the employees got together and bought the place out.  I was afraid the quality might take a hit, but nope — still delicious.

Centre Street Deli

They have a couple of types of smoked meat: mild smoked meat, and old fashioned.  One has a bit more spicing than the other, and I don’t know why but I can never remember which is which.  I have to ask every time.  I just ate this and I’ve already forgotten again.  I think the old fashioned is the more aggressively spiced one, and the most popular.

The platter is a great deal — a generous sandwich, a heaping mound of fries, coleslaw, and a pickle for $16.50.  Hard to go wrong there, especially when the food is this good.

Centre Street Deli

I got the old fashioned (I think?), and it was quite tasty, as usual.  It was, however, a bit too lean, and the meat was slightly tougher than it should have been.

I’m starting to think that I should be ordering my smoked meat sandwiches fatty instead of medium.  Ordering your sandwich fatty feels weirdly indulgent, but hey: I like what I like.  I think I need to own it.

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Sausage Perfection at Wvrst

WvrstLocation: 609 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.wvrst.com/

I tried Wvrst once, around when it first opened.  It was good, but nothing about it really jumped out at me, so I never felt particularly compelled to go back.

Well, I just found myself back there, and clearly I was wrong about the place, because the sausage I ate was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had.

Wvrst

They have an intimidatingly long list of sausages on their menu.  I got the Kaas: “pork/beef/parrano cheese/light smoke.”  You can either get it on a bun or as currywurst.  I went with a bun, and had it topped with sauteed onions and jalapenos.

Wvrst

Oh man, that sausage.  The texture was absolutely perfect.  To me, the meat in a sausage needs to retain some of its essential meatiness; it shouldn’t have been ground into oblivion.  It should still be sausagey, of course, but the texture should be more rustic than a hot dog.  Wvrst absolutely nails this.

And the flavour was great: meaty and smoky, not overly salty, and with surprisingly generous pockets of gooey, melty cheese.  I was actually pretty blown away by how good it was.

Wvrst

I got the duck fat fries on the side, and they were just as good.  You could pick from a bunch of dipping sauces; I went with the Wvrst sauce (rule of thumb: if something on the menu is named after the restaurant, you should probably be ordering that thing).  It was tangy and delicious, and complimented the fries perfectly.

Zelden’s Deli & Desserts

Zelden's
Location: 1446 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://zeldensdelianddesserts.com/

I’d have a pretty hard time narrowing down a top five list of my favourite dishes, but certainly, deli sandwiches — pastrami, smoked meat, etc. — would be on there.  There are few things in life more satisfying than a really good deli sandwich.

Zelden’s is the new kid in town in the Toronto deli scene (such as it is), so obviously I had to give them a shot.

Zelden's

Their specialty is pastrami, and the sandwich comes piled high with meat.  The mustard’s on the side, which is correct.  It’s always better when you get to apply it yourself, because a lot of places tend to slather it on in gobs, which completely overpowers the meat.

It’s a very good sandwich, but sadly, not great.  The meat has a good proportion of fat, and the spicing is perfect — it has a satisfying peppery kick that doesn’t overwhelm.  But the meat probably needed to cook for another hour or so.  Some slices were okay; others were rubbery.  You know that thing where you can’t quite bite through the meat in a sandwich, and it pulls out from the bread?  Yeah.

Zelden's

I also wish the meat were sliced by hand instead of by machine, because I find that the thicker, slightly irregular slices of hand-cut pastrami tend to be more satisfying.  But then again, in this case the meat was so tough that it really needed to be sliced as thinly as possible.  It probably should have been thinner.

It’s a shame, because it otherwise seemed like top-notch pastrami, so I’ll definitely have to give Zelden’s another shot at some point.

The fries were quite good, at least.