- 669 Selkirk Avenue
- 246 Selkirk Avenue
Wawel Meat Market
- 423 Selkirk Avenue
I have an enduring fondness for the North End, and for Selkirk Avenue in particular. Granted, I wouldn't wander around there after midnight but I've never ever had any problems at noon. And true, many of the fabled names may be long-gone (the original White House of blessed memory, for one) but some of this historic street's durable and beloved institutions remain.
Eddy's seems frozen in time, and I doubt much has changed over the years — not the two huge pool tables in the rear; not the patterned carpet that covers part of the walls; and not the orange arborite tables and molded booth benches. And not, I suspect, much of the clientele either, many of whom seem to be regulars.
Eddy's corned beef sandwich has long been considered one of the city's best — sliced thin (not shaved), packed almost an inch thick and served with house-made mustard. But it isn't the only good sandwich here: the piled-high slices of fresh-cooked turkey come from grain-fed, Hutterite-raised hens; the big burger is satisfyingly beefy and the reuben on a nearby table looked spectacular ($4 to $6.75).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had come mainly for the corned beef sandwich, but in the process I learned a lot more about the place — like, for instance, the fact that in a sense it was returning to its roots. The original Eddy (Koranicki) bought an existing business in 1955 and when he died, 20 years ago, it was sold, more than once. But just over a month ago ownership returned to Eddy's kin, i.e manager Tanis Desrochers and her partner Daniel Gougeon, son of Annette Gougeon who was Eddy's sister-in-law, and the long-time and present cook. And under this new-old regime, everything I tried was fresh, tasty and generous. And not just the corned beef sandwich.
There are platters as well (all under $9.50), and of course there are plump perogies, made specially for Eddy's, served with grilled onions and good, garlicky kulbasa (their spelling). There are different specials on different week days — my moist, flavourful meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy, for instance, or, on other days, such homey comforts as roast chicken, liver with bacon and onions, meat loaf or fresh pickerel. They do right by potatoes too — a little mountain of fresh, skinny fries; genuine mashed potatoes; and, best of all, terrific potato pancakes that are crisp on the outside, and creamy soft within.
Desserts are housemade, and the two I tried were top-notch — a lemon loaf with the dense consistency of pound cake, and tiny butter tarts that are contenders for the best in town. Choices vary daily but there's always pie.
Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; closed Saturday from the May long weekend to the September long weekend. A liquor license is expected in May. Wheelchair access is at the rear, by arrangement. The friendly, attentive service is so good (your coffee cup is never empty) it puts many tonier establishments to shame. I love this place.
Everybody's Selkirk Avenue is a different country of the mind. These days it's home to some of the city's best Lao-Thai cooking (at Lao Thai Restaurant, appropriately enough), but the Selkirk of my earlier memories is East European.
Gunn's opened in 1937 and is still going strong, with a repertoire so huge I come close to melt-down when trying to make choices. There are over two dozen kinds of bread — I usually opt for the dark pumpernickel and the egg koilech (a.k.a. challah). Of course there are firm, chewy bagels, plus rolls and buns of every variety, including a sinfully delicious swirl of dough topped by cheddar, onions and a dollop of mayonnaise.
The number of sweet pastries are numbing, but if I had to confine myself to only a few they would include the rootin tootin filled with apples and raisins, the apple cranberry strudel, the poppyseed roll and the crunchy chocolate almond kommish. I also love the sour cream coffee cake and the crisp chocolate chip and date oatmeal cookies.
There are as well some non-bakery-style treats: the potato varenikes (kissin' cousins to perogies) that would pair beautifully with a roast brisket; flaky cheese, kasha or potato knishes for lunch or a nosh; and luscious blueberry blintzes for breakfast or dessert — with sour cream, of course. And everything, of course, Kosher.
Since Wawel opened in 1955, many buckwheat sausage mavens have made the pilgrimage to this Polish-style pork haven, where absolutely nothing is Kosher. There might be even more pilgrims if only the powers who arrange these things would scrap the ill-considered parking meters along this stretch of Selkirk. Why not, for heaven's sake, one hour free parking instead, as it is in the West End? I didn't have the right change and circled until, in desperation, I took a chance and parked, without feeding the meter. I was lucky, but I'd risk a ticket any time for Wawel's buckwheat sausage and cured meats.
Some are displayed in a cooler; many more hang from a rack along the wall, among them the chewy, semi-dry Village Sausage, with a hint of smoke and a bit of a bite. The coarse kielbasa (the Polish spelling) is pungent with garlic, the pork and beef salami is nicely spicy, there are two kinds of pink, firm-textured ham — smoked or cooked — and the ham sausage is downright elegant. Is it wishful thinking on my part that they all seemed less fatty than others of their kind? Possibly, but whatever the case, they're worth the calories.
Wawel Meat Market
Updated on Friday, April 20, 2012 at 2:51 PM CDT: adds photo, fact box, map
2:52 PM: corrects typos