My Night at Canada Suites on Bay Street


Last Wednesday, I stayed at the Canada Suites located right in the heart of downtown Accordion City at 736 Bay Street, just south of College. They maintain a number of condos here, which they rent out as executive suites to visitors to Toronto or locals from the burbs who want to have a weekend downtown. They’ve been wanting to get the word out about their offerings, so they contacted Danielle “that PR thing” Iversen, who in turn contacted me.


I’ve been living a somewhat itinerant life ever since The Great Reset a year ago, having spent about half the year waking up and seeing strange ceilings. My longest such stay was at the Swank Tank, my nickname for the 126 Sparks executive suite in Ottawa, located on Sparks Street and right around the corner from the Parliament buildings. I lived there from May Day to Labour Day as I immersed myself in my new job at Shopify. I figured that I could offer an expert opinion on Canada Suites.


Kevin Murphy, who helps manage the suites, greeted me in the lobby of 736 Bay. It’s a condo building where Canada Suites owns about a dozen or so of the units. Kevin typically meets guests in the lobby, gets the relevant paperwork signed, takes them up to their unit, gives them the nickel tour and depending on their familiarity with the city, tells them about what’s in the area. He’s a young, friendly guy; in our conversation, I found him to be helpful and happy to answer my questions about the place.


The unit I stayed in was on the very top floor of the building – the 31st – a one-bedroom, one-bath affair with a combined living room/dining area and a kitchen that looked onto it. Tucked away near the entrance was a closet with a washer and dryer, and both the entrance hallway and bedroom had sliding-door closets.


Once Kevin left me to my own devices, I snapped photos of the unit. All the photos in this article were taken by me.


Most long-term stay places tend to be decorated in neutral colours in order to appeal (or at least not offend) the widest possible array of guests. Not this place: whoever decorated the living and dining rooms went for an Asian-ish theme in red, white and black with a bit of gold here and there. Red and gold are colours that symbolize prosperity and luck in Chinese and Japanese cultures, and they were into black lacquer before it was cool. It seems as if they were trying to attract taipans, and it’s a nice change from the typical, intentionally-bland hotel suites that I’ve been in all year.

The couches were comfortable and far less squeaky than they look, and the overall living room setup would work just fine either for meetings or social visits.


Although I didn’t try it out, Kevin told me that one of the couches folded out into a bed so that people could also sleep in the living room. He said that a number of their clients were people from the outer burbs or a few hours’ drive away who wanted to do a “boys weekend” or “girls’ nights out” and rented the unit as a group. It’s a good way for a group coming into town to stretch their dollar, especially if they take advantage of the kitchen and nearby groceries (there’s a Sobey’s in College Park across the street, and the big new Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens is just a short walk away).

The living room had a TV connected to a DVD player (the convenience store downstairs rents movies) set atop a fake fireplace (an electric heater, but it did give off a nice glow at night). Beside it was a computer desk with an iPod/iPhone dock; it’s a decent enough size for a laptop, but it might be a bit small if you’re working with paper or reference material on the side.

The suite comes with free wireless internet. It’s not all that fast (about 700 kbps both up and down according to’s speed test), but enough for you to get most kinds of work done.


Other clients who’ve stayed in the unit include the usual people travelling to Toronto on business, as well as people from out of town/province/country who are interviewing for jobs or who’ve landed a job in Toronto and need a “base of operations” while they look for a place to live. There have also been clients who’ve come into town to visit relatives on a longer-term basis.


In my opinion, the nicest feature of the place was the bedroom. It was nicely appointed, had a comfy bed (more comfortable than those in some hotels I’ve stayed in this year) with nice sheets, big closet, TV and fake fireplace (like the one in the living room) and its window was actually a glass door leading to a balcony overlooking downtown. It felt considerably more like staying in someone’s guest room than yet another cookie-cutter, could-be-near-any-airport hotel room.

If you’re sensitive to noise, you should note that there’s a constant hum that you can hear at night; it sounds like an HVAC unit on the roof (the suite’s on the top floor of the building, so the unit is just above). It didn’t bother me, but I was woken up by a helicopter ambulance coming in for a landing at one of the nearby hospitals. This is downtown in a city of three million, so you should expect that sort of thing.


Here’s a view from the balcony, which faces south towards downtown and the majority of the skyline buildings. That’s a fine mesh net you’re seeing; I have no idea of what its purpose is.


I liked the parquet flooring. It’s far less of a bedbug/dust/spill trap than carpeting is. The Swank Tank (the executive suite in Ottawa where I lived this summer) was carpeted and had a fair number of red wine stains. The wood floors at the Canada Suites suite were much nicer. They were well-swept; whoever they’ve got cleaning up after guests is doing a pretty good job.

The suite is a little more hotel-like in that not only do they provide towels in the bathroom, but there are also toiletries.The bathroom’s a decent size, with tub/shower, and was very clean; as with the bedroom, it felt more like the guest bathroom in a nice house than a hotel bathroom.


Being in a condo building, the kitchen doesn’t have windows facing outside, but it makes up for this by being extremely well-lit. There is a central light, a ring of fluorescents around the perimeter and even more lights for the counters. It’s a fully-functional you-could-live-here kind of kitchen with stove and oven, fridge, microwave and dishwasher.


There are enough cookware, utensils and dishes to make some decent meals, and as is typical for such places, they haven’t been used much. The pots and pans are bachelor-sized and aren’t going to be sufficient to make a Thanksgiving feast, but they will do for cooking meals for one to two people with the occasional couple coming over for dinner. Between the kitchen and the two nearby full-service groceries, you could really stretch your visiting dollar by cooking meals in the suite.


Here’s a view of the living and dining rooms from the kitchen:


All in all, I enjoyed my stay. The accommodations were far better than many of the hotels I’ve stayed at this year, and the suite is in a prime location: the middle of downtown, near transit, near shopping and a short walk away from the financial district, with Chinatown and the Entertainment District also within reasonable striking distance. The living room and work area were good, the bedroom was excellent, the bathroom was clean and Kevin, the one staffer with whom I interacted, was helpful. If you’ve got the money – the fee varies with how you make arrangements, whether directly through Canada Suites or via one of the discount hotel search engines – I’d recommend staying here.


Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me Life Play Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Birthday Accordion Jam at Caplansky’s

The Accordion Jam

Caplansky's delicatessen logo: "Caplansky's Delicatessen. House-smoked, hand-cut smoked meat" With all the travelling I’d been doing in the fall, my birthday party back on November 7th was a last-minute affair, but it was a great one. I managed to snag a spot for fifteen people at Caplansky’s Delicatessen. Caplansky’s has been open merely half a year, but in that short span of time, it’s won the loyalty of local deli fans, foodies and celebrities as well as my in-laws, who’ve forgotten more about deli than I will ever learn. The Ginger Ninja and I took them there over the holidays and not only did they enjoy their meal, they also enjoyed meeting the proprietor, Zane Caplansky.

I was enjoying a birthday beer while waiting for the appetizers to arrive when Wendy pointed out that a young guy with an accordion had entered the restaurant. Two accordionists meeting at random in a restaurant is a rare and precious phenomenon, so I introduced myself and told him that I too had an accordion – the little red number that I’d purchased on the very afternoon I signed my offer letter from Microsoft.

His name was Ronen Segall, and in addition to playing at parties and other functions, he plays at Caplansky’s. “I think I’ve read your blog before,” he said as we conversed. “Would you like to do a couple of numbers with me?”

I find invitations like that just about impossible to refuse, and the result – a performance of Que Sera, Sera, Should I Stay or Should I Go and Don’t You Want Me — is shown in the video below. My thanks to Pavel Zaitsev for doing the camerawork!


Here’s a shot of Caplansky’s taken from near the front of the restaurant on my phone back in September. Get a good look, because the place’s word-of-mouth has grown over the past few months and I doubt we’ll see it this empty for a good long time.

Caplansky's dining room, as seen front near the front

“We may be witnessing the birth of an institution,” gushes Toronto Life (the magazine for the local Lexus set) about Caplansky’s, and I concur. These days, the place is buzzing even during most other restaurant’s off-peak hours and the queue waiting for a table often goes out the door.

This is the second incarnation of the restaurant, the first one being a little shop operating symbiotically within the Monarch Tavern. With a brand new smoker and a new front-of-house and back-of-house staff, Zane’s raised the quality of his stuff from good to great, added items to the menu and taking on increasingly large crowds.

Here’s a shot of the tasty pickle plate that Wendy and I shared as an appetizer back in September. I’ve made it black and white because my mobile phone camera has a tendency to colour pictures of food in that unappetizing, 1950s drive-in movie theatre snack bar menu way:

Caplanskys pickle plate

For my main, I had the Caplansky’s Combo, a nice plate with a selection of their deli meats served along with a few slices of rye, tomato slices and onion. Back then, it comprised smoked meat, thick slices of grilled versht (beef salami), smoked turkey and chopped liver. I had to hit the gym a little harder the next day, but it was worth it.

Here’s a photo of the Combo, once again converted to black and white thanks to my mobile phone’s inability to take a decent food photo:

Caplansky's combo platter: grilled versht, smoked turkey, smoked meat, rye bread slices, chopped onion, tomato slices, a ball of chopped liver

The question always comes up when I talk about the place: “How does it compare to Schwartz’s?” For those of you not familiar with the establishment, Schwartz’s is Montreal’s legendary charcuterie hebraique, who’ve been doing smoked meat since the Great Depression and their excellent product is considered to be the gold standard. I try to get in a meal there every time I’m in Montreal, and plan to do so again when I’m there later this month for the CUSEC conference.

I like both; Caplansky’s smoked meat has a smokier flavour to it, which I think is a good thing. I’d rather see Zane put his own touch on it rather than slavishly attempt to ape Schwartz’s. It’s the sort of deviation that gets the Montreal smoked meat purists up in arms, but they’re chauvinistic food grognards (who can shove Lucien Bouchard’s missing leg up their collective arses, if you want my honest opinion).

When I took the in-laws there over the holidays, I started with the split pea soup – simple and hearty – and followed that with the salami and eggs, which turned out to be one of the best renditions of this deli classic that I’ve ever had. Wendy had one of my silver dollar pancake-sized latkes that came with the dish and swooned. They’re quite good.

A lot of delis fall down when it comes to dessert, but not Caplansky’s. I believe they get their desserts from somewhere else, but that other place is great! The chocolate cake that I got for my birthday party was so good that I got another slice, and I plan to return for another serving of their dark chocolate bread pudding, which I had during my visit last week.

To sum it up: the food’s great. You should go.

Portrait of Zane Caplansky in a chef's hat and white t-shirt, in the kitchen

Being someone who’s very passionate about his work and his field, I find it gratifying when I encounter someone who feels the same way about his. That’s what I like about Zane – he cares intensely about the food he serves and the restaurant in which he serves it. He obsesses about getting things just right – just read some entries in his blog to see just how much – and he also works the crowd at the restaurant, chatting up the tables and even doing a little order-taking and serving. This is no mere job for him – it’s a calling, and it shows.

If this article has enticed you to give Caplansky’s a try, I’d say go for it – but they’re taking this Monday through Friday off. Caplansky’s will be back open for business on Saturday, January 9th.

Caplanskys posters: "Where knish is knig", "Kickin' it old shul" and "It's firstborn-sacrificn' good!"

Caplansky’s Delicatessen is located at 356 College Street (at the corner of College and Brunswick, a few blocks west of Spadina). They’re open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. the rest of the week.

Map showing location of Caplansky's Delicatessen (356 College Street, Toronto ON)


It Happened to Me Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

A Bad Experience at Wasabi

 Wasabi Restaurant, 1730 Bloor Street West. The Verdict: Decent food, scatterbrained "service"

All I wanted was my dinner. After an early morning flight back to Accordion City from Calgary and enough work to keep me from getting a decent lunch, I was looking forward to a nice dinner with The Missus at Wasabi (1730 Bloor Street West, at Keele), the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant that had opened a few blocks away from our home.

Wasabi’s menu is not unlike those at other local all-you-can-eat sushi places like Aji Sai. It comprises a selection of sushi, sashimi, tempura, donburi and other things that can be made quickly and cheaply and can provide a lot of bang for your twenty bucks.

It’s the busiest restaurant that’s ever opened at that corner. When we walked in on Friday night, we saw a full restaurant bustling with all sorts of people: groups of young friends having dinner before a night out, many young families with strollers in tow, solo diners who brought some reading material with them, couples out for an end-of-week meal and so on. At first glance, the place appeared to be the next neighbourhood hit.

It took a little while for someone to take our order. We chalked it up to the place’s newness; it often takes a restaurant a little while to work the kinks out of its system during its “shakedown phase” and get a sense of how busy they’ll be. They appeared understaffed, and the the staff they had clearly weren’t used to working in a busy restaurant.

The orders we did manage to get were, for the most part, decent. The seafood tempura was done right, the dynamite roll was tasty and the edamame was well, edamame. After that, no food came to our table for a good while.

After asking around, we discovered that our order had been sent to the wrong table. We were still willing to forgive this mistake and place another order, and the waitress apologized and told us she’d be right back with a notepad. Hey, it’s an all-you-can-eat place, and most of the stuff was the kind that other places can make quickly.

She never came back. A good quarter-hour, complete with a lot of waves to the waitress, has passed without any service. It was clearly time for plan B.

“Enough already. Pizza slice?” I asked Wendy, gesturing to the Pizza Pizza across the street.


We walked up to the front, told the staff that our order had been served to the wrong table and no one had attempted to correct the mistake. Another customer who was standing at the counter said “Yeah, they screwed up my order, too.”

We also told them that we weren’t paying, and walked out. They gave no reply other than confused looks, tilted heads and stunned silence – not even an “I’m sorry". This sort of reaction is the hallmark of complete incompetence and the front-of-house staff treat the place as many similar people do: the restaurant’s just a place that provides a paycheque in exchange for you just showing up.

As we walked towards the pizza place, we ran into our neighbours Chris and Wanda, who were heading to Wasabi to try them out, and warned them away from the place. Consider this blog entry the same warning to the rest of the world: Wasabi is run by scatterbrains, and if you’d actually like some service, go elsewhere.