DINER'S CORNER (3 Gloucester, at Yonge, 416-929-7031) Complete dinners for $20 per person (lunches $15), including all taxes, tip and a Red Stripe. Average main $10/$7. Open Monday to Wednesday 11 am to 10 pm, Thursday 11 am to 10:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to midnight, Sunday and holidays noon to 9 pm. Licensed. Access: bump at door, very small washrooms. Rating: NNN
Following the unfortunate demise of Island Thyme on Bathurst, the title of best Jamaican restaurant in the GTA is up for grabs. Sure, there are a number of reliable rough 'n' tumble roti and jerk pretenders to the throne but laid-back Diner's Corner could be a contender for the crown.
Compared to other Caribbean cantinas, DC is downright snazzy, with a dozen or so tables covered in linen and decked out with festive flowers fashioned from tissue paper and a relaxed curbside patio.
Co-owner Naomi Green Auntie to her regulars isn't your typical island chef either. Her jerk chicken, topped with wilted Spanish onion and served with a tangy dipping sauce, is remarkably moist, meaty and assertively spiced. Her curried goat (both $7 small/$9.25 large), slow-cooked and falling from the bone, packs an additional sucker punch of butter. Like most mains, it's sided with regulation nutty rice 'n' peas, a very good house salad loaded with ripe tomato, raw carrot and a Rasta flag of sweet bell peppers, and a mini doughnut called a festival. And don't miss Green's superb caramelized plantain ($2).
Most rotis are 50 per cent potato, but DC's vegetarian version ($7) is completely spud-free, stuffed with made-to-order al dente carrot, cabbage, peppers, onion, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower in a gently curried gravy. Those same veggies minus the curry but with additional boneless breast show up in chicken with mixed vegetables ($9), a puzzlingly ginger-free Jamaican take on Cantonese chow mein served on soggy boiled noodles.
Wedges of rum cake ($4) slathered in hard vanilla icing recall boozy Christmas cake, while the hot sauce labelled Suicidal that accompanies the deep-fried chicken wings ($8.25 for 10, sided with four festival breads) might be better described as a desperate cry for help. If it's heat you want, douse them in Green's terrific vinegar-based Scotch bonnet sauce.