I think it was destiny when I stepped into Black Camel on July 28 2009, their 5th anniversary. I had been entertaining the thought of visiting this cozy sandwich shop for a while, especially after a recent visit to Lou Dawg’s which had got my mind and my palate hooked on pulled pork sandwiches. This was the beginning of my conquest to find the best pulled pork in the city.
I had come across Black Camel, one day walking back from the Masonic temple (headquarters of MTV, where I occasionally make guest appearances on their programming) along Yonge Street when I noticed a quaint little shop, with only a picture of a black camel and a simple sign “Cafe Sandwiches” to point out it’s existence. I made a mental note, and carried on with my walk.
A little bit of research led me to the discovery of their website which was concise and to the point. The simplicity of their menu was bold: only 5 sandwiches. That of slow roasted beef brisket, pulled pork shoulder, seared steak, roasted pulled chicken, and a grilled vegetable number. This inevitably could mean only one thing. Whatever they were doing, they were doing it well enough to be successful over 5 whole years by selling only sandwiches.
The shop was quaint, had limited seating including a bar like counter with stools, and one table outside. Black camels in the forms of statues, aprons, and pictures were visible and were a neat reminder of the store’s namesake. I was greeted by the most charming Eli who was effervescent, lively and at his young age somehow mastered the art of customer service. He graciously stepped out from behind the counter to meet our group, bowing his head, and welcomed us to his family run store. He was the perfect guide when it came to making our sandwich selections, and answering any and all the questions I had about the store. He definitely deserves a raise!
Being a pulled pork fanatic, I made my decision and was encouraged by Eli to try it with their house barbeque sauce and caramelized onions. How could I resist that combination? Other condiments and toppings included charmoula mayo, a moroccan inspired spread, hummus, fontina cheese, and roasted red sweet peppers amongst others. I rounded out my meal with a side order of their coleslaw.
It took about 2 minutes flat from the point that I placed my order to the point that I received it in my hand. Talk about efficiency! Opening the silver wrapper, I was amazed by the soft Portugese bun that sat before me, and it’s lovely interior stuffed with mahogany shreds of pork that were almost indistinguishable from it’s caramelized onion topping. One taste confirmed that this was the best pulled porked I had EVER tasted. It was juicy, tender, and just melted in your mouth. Unlike Lou Dawg’s pulled pork which was on the stringier side, in one word this stuff was absolutely succulent. The coleslaw made a good side accompaniment, and was light, crispy, and refreshing. It however missed that slight sweet and sour tang that I always look forward to in any kind of slaw.
It was easy for Eli to read the excitement on my face as I was finishing up my sandwich. I’m sure he wasn’t surprised though. Especially since they’ve had many celebrities, including the likes of Richard Gere eating at the cafe over the years.
The family’s initial business plan was to provide a heart warming Brisket dinner, typical of Sunday lunches in a Jewish family. With the space restrictions at their location, they opted for a sandwich operation that relied more on take out, and took their decision to the bank. With quality service and food, I can’t wait to be present at Black Camel’s 10th anniversary celebrations. Here, here!
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