I’ve been following Unreal Deli (IG) online for a year or two, and have been curious about trying their products ever since. They looked really good, and I liked the variety of plant meats they had – things like corned beef, turkey, and now steak slices, but they were primarily USA only at the time, weren’t ready to ship to Canada at the time (though will do so now according to their FAQ) and it’s not like we will be crossing the border anytime soon, so I waited.
Anyway, that wait is over. Last week I tried their sandwich meats at two different Toronto restaurants – Fresh and Stephano’s Sandwiches. I didn’t even know they were there, but it all started when I saw the new sandwich when I was planning to order a Big Salad (yes that’s a real menu item) from Fresh, and then after I shared The Goldfarb (that’s what they’re calling it at Fresh) on instagram, someone told me Stephano’s had a couple of unreal deli sandwiches too!
At Fresh, the sandwich is full of great colourful ingredients like alfalfa sprouts, baby arugula, red onion, dill pickle, watermelon radish, and pepperoncini – they round out this sandwich with garlic mayo and yellow mustard, and use Mrs. Goldfarb’s UnRealDeli corned beef and FieldRoast Chao slices. I got mine with a simple side salad and that felt like a good call because the sandwich alone is massive and filling.
The vegan corned beef is phenomenal. The whole sandwich combination is excellent, the flavours all play well together, and there are lots of textures to enjoy too if you’re into that (which I am.) I loved how thinly sliced the corned beef is, just really stays true to the original – which I remember liking a fair bit before I was vegan decades ago.
Of course, once we knew there were more new sandwiches to try, I really wanted to give the pair from Stephano’s a try. Stephano’s is a related spot to Gia, the lovely fancy(ish) new Italian place we tried last month, so I was expecting something good. Stephano’s whole menu is vegan, and it looks fantastic, and inexplicably, we completely missed it until now (it’s been MONTHS since they’ve had these items on the menu.)
In addition to their Vegan Corn’d Beef Sandwich, they have several other tasty looking sandwiches like their, Meatball, All Day Breakfast, and Fried Huera Chicken Sandwich, as well as the Unreal Turk-y Sandwich.
At the moment, Stephano’s is doing a pop up style thing every Sunday between 12-5, and had been closed for a month. So when I saw they were open this weekend, we tried nearly all of the sandwiches, because I didn’t want to wait and my curiosity was insatiable. I’m just going to talk about the Vegan Corn’d Beef Sandwich for now, and hopefully will get around to talking about the rest of them soon (p.s., but in case you’re curious, they’re all very good.)
I think the thing I found so wonderful about the Corn’d Beef Sandwich from Stephano’s was that it was a very traditional simple sandwich but made with really exceptional ingredients that made extra special. I appreciate that sort of thing – the bread was a lightly toasted classic sourdough from local bakery Brodflour, the unreal deli corn’d beef slices – not as stacked up as the Fresh one, but still a good quantity, vegan smoked provolone (violife I think), as well as farmer’s market favourite, Kozlik‘s horseradish mustard, vegan mayo, and sauerkraut.
Stephano’s also has the Unreal Turk’y Sandwich on the menu, but we haven’t tried it yet.
In both cases, pictures are after either delivery or pick up, so they’re not in their perfect form – your aesthetic experience would likely be better if you planned on dining on the patio, but we were happy eating at home.
Two similar but different sandwiches, slightly different price points but both in the 15-20 price range, which in my mind puts both of them in fancypants sandwich territory. I like details – the bread on the Stephano’s sandwich made this tastier to me, as did the type of mustard – I also can’t say whether it’s because I’m partial to the slightly toasted bread or the bakery, but the bread stood out The quantity of meat was higher in the Fresh sandwich, and the watermelon radish/pickle/pepperoncini was a fun crunch to have.
I’d have either of these again. I can’t say which one will be first though!