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Carl's Tavern had an unforgettable steak sandwich

The Olesons gained quite a loyal following over the decades Carl's Tavern was a fixture at Hespeler Road and Eagle Street North, writes Wayne Conrad Serbu

Many longtime Cambridge residents remember the good food and entertainment at Carl's Tavern, once located on Hespeler Road and Eagle Street next to Gamble's Esso.

The Olesons, Carl, Anne and family, gained quite a loyal following over the decades, serving up many tasty home comfort meals and providing much appreciated local entertainment venues.

Some of us also remember enjoying Little Carl's Diner on Ainslie Street. Daughter Nancy and her brother David managed this downtown bistro adventure that offered family dining.

The Olesons also reopened the Breslau Hotel Lounge, reviving the early smorgasbord buffet and banquet hall called the Challenger and the Meteor Lounge.

I was the working chef then, using some of my original Breslau recipes plus adding the family's favorites.

But it was Carl's Tavern where it all began and the family's personal hospitality style of food service and presentation kept us all coming back regularly.

Perfectly grilled steaks and chops, schnitzels, and roast beef dinners with all the trimmings, were the main draws.

Carl's famous steak on a crusty bun with fried onions and hand cut french fries with the coleslaw had to be everyone's favourite. It definitely was mine.

Lots of sports group parties celebrated their wins alongside family reunions, birthdays and special occasions. This was the place that one could never turn down an invitation to.

The  father, mother, daughter and sons made sure everyone was well looked after without being over served. 

Today an eatery like Carl's would be nice to find, serving top quality comfort cuisine consistently like the Olesons did.

Chances are, if you dined at Carl's on Fridays, you'd find each table filled with good friends and acquaintances.

I recall being part of the many stag and doe parties held in the banquet room. Full service dinner buffets, ribs, schnitzel on a bun, burgers, fried chicken, mouthwatering sandwiches, soups and salads were all lunch time favorites with thirst-quenching libations.

The one menu item that kept a lot of us coming back was the toasted deluxe steak plate sandwich with fried onions, peppers, mushrooms, hand cut fries and coleslaw. Here is the recipe for a great steak sandwich.

steak sandwich

Carl's Steak Sandwich

Start by sauteing in olive oil one large sliced onion, a sliced green pepper, cup of sliced mushrooms with a dusting of salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté until tender and then set aside.

Now on a high heat, grill, broiler or saute fry-pan sear a six ounce tenderized sirloin steak by seasoning it with steak spice or by pounding with a meat hammer.

Four minutes on each side should do perfectly.

Now place sliced mozzarella cheese on a freshly toasted crusty sub bun top.

Place the steak on the bottom of the toasted sub bun and add the fried onions, mushrooms and peppers.

It goes great with some hand cut fries and a simple coleslaw.

Here is a quick recipe for coleslaw.

Whisk some heavy cream, mayo, cider vinegar, sugar and celery salt and pour over two cups coarsely-grated cabbage and carrot. Mix well and enjoy.

Chef Wayne Conrad Serbu writes monthly for CambridgeToday. The former executive chef also shares recipes and memories from his more than five decades in the hospitality industry on his blog, the kitchenman.

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Wayne Conrad Serbu

About the Author: Wayne Conrad Serbu

Former executive chef Wayne Conrad Serbu shares some of his favourite recipes and memories from local restaurants in a monthly column
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