Gospel House (1024 St. Clair West, at Appleton, 416-652-8484) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a juice. Average main $7. Open Monday to Thursday noon to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 8 am to midnight, Sunday 8 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door with a short ramp, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Tucked away behind an anony mous storefront, Gospel House, a self-baptised "spiritual café," might just be one of T.O.'s most offbeat eateries. A former hardware store, it's now a modest Caribbean café that features both Jesus and jerk chicken on the menu.
The long, narrow room certainly won't win any design awards: faux flowers climb cheerful yellow walls, and a pair of living-room loveseats face a raised platform where a gospel jazz trio gigs Saturday nights. There's Christian karaoke, too, if you want to get in on the act. Yet while there are Bibles all over the place, no one appears to be thumping them too vehemently.
From the lengthy lineup, we thumbs-up Gospel's righteous shrimp roti ($7.99), a substantial 26-ounce crumbly dahlpuri wrap stuffed with at least a dozen or so good-sized crustaceans that are surprisingly al dente even though they've likely been frozen. The spicing may be as polite as a church lady, but big cubes of waxy potato, curried carrot, sweet pepper and onion have us singing hosannas.
Pass on the church-basement vegetarian lasagna ($7.99) and its over-dressed greens that would more accurately be dubbed Cream of Caesar Salad, and head straight for owner/chef Jean Graham's generously portioned - 2 pounds! - jerk chicken dinner ($7.99 large/$3.99 small). The slow-cooked bird might lack the industrial-strength firepower of other chicken shacks' but its appeal lies in its subtle sweetness and juicy mahogany skin. Standard JA-style beans 'n' rice come fleshed out with fabulously meaty fava beans.
To finish, there's sugary house-baked pecan pie and pineapple upside down cake (both $3.50) sploshed with retro Redi-Whip and a maraschino cherry.