Tasty Deli Sandwiches at Rose and Sons

Rose and SonsIf you were lucky enough to try Caplansky’s at its original digs in the Monarch Tavern, then you’ll know that it was truly something special.  One of the things that made their smoked meat stand out was its intensely smoky flavour.  This was greatly diminished once they moved to their permanent location and had to start making the meat in greater quantities (and of course, in a sad turn of events, Caplansky’s is now gone altogether).

Well, it looks like Torontonians craving that unique smokiness now have somewhere to go, because Rose and Sons was recently transformed into an old-school deli, and they’re serving up pastrami with a distinctively smoky flavour.

Rose and Sons

It’s actually quite good — I got the hot pastrami sandwich, and my only real complaint is that the meat should have been a bit fattier (they called it medium, but it was much closer to lean).

Rose and Sons

That’s an easy fix, though: I’ll ask for it fatty the next time I go, because there’s definitely going to be a next time.  It’s a great sandwich, with perfectly thick slices of tender, smoky, nicely spiced pastrami.

Rose and Sons

I also tried the potato and onion knish, which didn’t fare quite as well.  I think this might have been the second or third knish I’ve had in my entire life, so it’s possible that I’m just not a fan — but this was dry pastry encasing bland, crumbly potatoes with a slightly oniony flavour.  It desperately needed a gravy or some kind of sauce, or really anything to give it just a little bit of moisture (not to mention flavour).  I didn’t care for it.


Nashville Hot Chicken at Porchetta and Co.

Porchetta and Co.
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto

I love Porchetta and Co.  Their porchetta sandwich?  Classic.  Best porchetta in the city.  Their fried chicken sandwiches?  Usually delicious!  Their Nashville hot chicken sandwich?  Uh…

Hey, they can’t all be winners.  And it wasn’t all bad.  The fried chicken itself was superlative, as usual: perfectly-cooked chicken with a crispy, crunchy, tasty exterior.  It’s good stuff.

Porchetta and Co.

Nashville hot chicken is a notoriously spicy dish that involves a post-cooking dunk into spice-infused oil to give the chicken additional flavour and heat.  It’s typically sprinkled with more spices, just to kick up the heat factor.  Porchetta and Co. appear to have remembered the oil — the sandwich was absolutely dripping with it — but forgotten the spices.  The oily coating on the chicken was bland, and worse, it wasn’t spicy.  At all.  The spice level here never registered beyond a mild tingle.  WTF?

The other components of the sandwich — lettuce, mayo, pickles, plain white bread — were fine, though the sugary-sweet pickles were a bit overpowering.

The Diner House 29

The Diner House 29 in St. Catherines, OntarioI watch a ridiculous amount of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  It isn’t often that I go to a restaurant that feels like it would fit in on that show (we just don’t seem to have a lot of restaurants like that in the GTA).  But Guy would be right at home at the Diner House 29 in St. Catherines.

There were a few things on the menu that caught my eye, but I went with Porky’s Revenge: “Roasted Pork Belly on a Toasted Bagel Bun with 2 Fried Eggs, House-made Onion Chutney,  Niagara-Peach Mayo & Monterey Jack.”

The Diner House 29 in St. Catherines, Ontario

Pork belly is one of those trendy ingredients that’s popped up on pretty much every menu over the last several years.  But I still have a hard time saying no to it.

And the version here is good.  I have a friend who teases me over the use of the word “unctuous,” because it’s one of those words that really isn’t in a normal person’s vocabulary.  It’s pretty much exclusive to food nerds/writers/bloggers (see also: mouthfeel).

That being said, this sandwich was unctuous AF.  Between the rich, fatty pork belly, the runny yolk from the eggs, the mayo, and the gooey cheese, the sandwich screams unctuous.  There’s really no other word to describe it.

The Diner House 29 in St. Catherines, Ontario

And yet it wasn’t too rich.  The sweet chutney helps to balance things out, and the flavours all work so well together that it never seems one-note.

The bagel bun was quite dense, with a very crispy exterior.  It would have been too much for your average sandwich, but there was so much going on here that the hearty bun was just right.

My biggest issue is that the sandwich is so overstuffed and slippery that as soon as I picked it up, it immediately started to fall apart.  I panicked, took a quick bite, then set the sandwich down and proceeded to eat the rest with a fork and knife.

The Diner House 29 in St. Catherines, Ontario

The sandwich comes with a salad, soup, or potatoes on the side.  I got the rice, beans, and pesto soup; it was absolutely crammed with stuff and had a satisfying pesto flavour.  It was hearty and tasty.

Zelden’s Deli & Desserts

Location: 1446 Yonge Street, Toronto

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.


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.


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.

Porchetta Roll

Porchetta Roll in Mississauga, Ontario
Location: 4120 Dixie Road, Mississauga

I have a very, very hard time saying no to a porchetta sandwich.  So when I found myself at this particular plaza and saw that there was a new porchetta-based restaurant?  Well, I wasn’t planning on eating lunch, but I guess I am now.

The menu is mostly based around porchetta and rotisserie chicken.  I got the porchetta sandwich, which comes topped with arugula, caramelized onions, garlic aoili, and mustard.

Porchetta Roll in Mississauga, Ontario

The obvious comparison is Porchetta & Co., and no, it’s not as good as that.  The pork — while tender and tasty — was underseasoned, and there was zero crackling in my sandwich.

I won’t say that a porchetta sandwich is pointless without crackling, but come on.  Crackling.  I need it.

Porchetta Roll in Mississauga, Ontario

It probably doesn’t help that the last porchetta sandwich I ate was this one in Italy, and literally every other porchetta sandwich is garbage compared to that.  It’s an unfair comparison, but I couldn’t help it.

Porchetta Roll in Mississauga, Ontario

Still, it was a tasty sandwich, and a pretty decent deal at about ten bucks with tax (they absolutely cram the sandwich with porchetta — I’d say it’s double if not triple the amount they give you at Porchetta & Co.).  I’d probably ask for it without the caramelized onions next time; they were tasty and perfectly cooked, but their sweetness overwhelmed the subtly-spiced pork.