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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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.

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.