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Spice up your Caribana weekend at these hot restos


Caribbean

Mr. Jerk

209 Wellesley E, at Bleecker, 416-961-8913. This bare-bones St. James Town takeaway is a regular mob scene, especially at lunch and after school. Best: industrial-strength jerked chicken and pork coupled with rice ‘n’ beans ladled with sauce and sided with slaw or wrapped in rotis curried potato, carrot and chickpea dinners over rice Chinese-style sweet and sour pork over soy-sauced chow mein and stir-fried veggies on the side, codfish fritters, sweet caramelized plantain, callaloo or meat loaf to finish, dark rum cake or sweet potato pudding to drink, soursop juice. Average main $7. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 10 pm, Sunday 1 to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNN

Guyanese

Bacchus Roti

1376 Queen W, at Brock, 416-532-8191. This busy Parkdale take-away may do things a little differently than its competitors (cheese on a roti?), but it also has the most extensive lineup of Caribbean wraps in town. Best: to start, doubles made of turmeric-tinted pastry stuffed with curried chickpeas the legendary house roti stuffed with shrimp, spinach, squash and – if you insist – cheddar others of curried chicken, beef or boneless goat topped with lettuce, onion, tomato and an X-rated hot sauce that’s sold by the bottle strictly vegan takes stuffed with sweet summer squash, green beans, cabbage, okra, chana, potato, eggplant or meat-loaf-like tofu on the side, crisp deep-fried plantain, creamy cole slaw and sweet potato fries to finish, coconut cream pie, apple crumble. Average main $9. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

Vena’s

1263 Bloor W, at Lansdowne, 416-532-3665. What owner/chefs Mashud and Homewaty Siddique’s no-frills snack shack lacks in ambience – there is none – is more than rectified by fillings that are some of the most unusual around. Because everything’s made to order, call ahead or count on a 20-minute wait. Best roti in town? Best: hefty house-made rotis overloaded with toothsome butterflied shrimp and sliced asparagus slow-cooked stewing beef with button mushrooms in assertively curried gravy bountiful veggie combos like sweet squash, firm eggplant and spinach leaf a deceptively watery hot sauce that boosts things into orbit. Average main $9. Open daily 10 am to 8:30 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: one step at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN

Jamaican

Ackee Tree

170 Spadina, at Queen, 416-866-8730. Modern, health-conscious spins on island cooking in a hipper than usual downtown setting. Best: assertively spiced and remarkably juicy grilled-then-roasted-then-shredded chicken with tomato and baked sweet potato on coco buns spread with jerked mayo, sided with creamy – and cooling! – cabbage slaw boneless chicken or mixed veggie rotis, both packing more of the promised main than of filler daily specials like salt fish and ackee sandwiches layered with caramelized red onion and avocado. Average main $8. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 4 am (Caribana weekend only), Sunday noon to 8 pm. Licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods

542 St. Clair W, at Vaughan, 416-658-9445. Launched back in 76, Albert Wiggan’s modest uptown hole-in-the-wall has been a late-night feeding spot popular with cabbies and night-owls ever since. Best: slowly stewed bone-in island-style jerk chicken with allspiced rice ‘n’ peas and JA slaw or wrapped in a house-made roti melt-in-your-mouth oxtail dinners with caramelized plantain sides of salt cod fritters, gongo pea soup or dumplings with four types of gravy (“juice”) to drink, Albert’s carrot or sugar cane juice. Average main $9. Open Sunday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 1 am, Thursday 11:30 am to 2:30 am, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 4 am. Unlicensed. Cash only. Delivery. Access: one step at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNN

Irie I

2593 Eglinton W, at Keele, 416-653-4825. Now in digs a block west of its original location, this low-key café decked out in posters of the Rastafari Holy Trinity – Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley – offers a limited lineup of seafood and fresh veggie dishes. Best: massive styrofoam containers of rice and pigeon peas layered with an Ital-style stew of spuds, onion and carrot, TVP, squash, buttery cabbage, tomato, al dente steamed okra, cauliflower and green beans vegan macaroni pie lentil, red bean and gongo pea soup red snapper stew in brown gravy. Average main $10. Open Monday to Saturday 10:30 am to 8 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: short step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Real Jerk

709 Queen E, at Broadview, 416-463-6055. Instant vacation! A former bank, Ed and Lily Pottinger’s two-level party palace comes decked out in corrugated tin, palm fronds and Christmas lights year round. Best: moist, partially deboned fiery jerk chicken with nutty red beans ‘n’ rice and cooling coleslaw smashed banana fritters jerk shrimp over greens in tamarind vinaigrette Mannish Water goat soup vegetarian Rasta Pasta linguini with tropical veggies in coconut sauce. Average main $15. Open Thursday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Friday 11:30 am to 1 am, Saturday noon to 1 am, Sunday noon to 11 pm, Monday 1 to 10 pm, Tuesday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Wednesday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Jamaican Vegetarian

Strictly Ital

1720 Eglinton W, at Glenholme, 416-784-1466. Named for the Rastafarian term used to describe their largely vegetarian diet, Richard Everton’s austere, ceramic-tiled room goes the extra mile by making his entire Caribbean menu vegan. Best: animal-product-free Caribbean comfort food like the daily combo of savoury meat-like TVP “chunks,” mellow slow-cooked greens, wholesome rice and peas and Rasta Pasta daily specials like jerked tofu (Thursday) or soy fish (Friday) house-made fruit juices assertively laced with ginger. Average main $7. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm, Saturday 11 am to 8 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Trinidadian

Caribbean Roti Palace

744 Bathurst, at Bloor, 416-533-7466. This long, narrow fast food joint in the shadow of Honest Ed’s has been serving up Trini-style rotis – and rotis alone – since 1988. Owners Yaseen and Iqbal Hosein keep the open kitchen working at speed, particularly around dinner hour, when hungry queues are common. Best: substantial dhalpoori wraps stuffed with shrimp, boneless chicken, beef or goat first-rate veggie combos of squash, eggplant and spinach basic potato or chickpea channa in curried gravy hellishly hot and salty Chinese-style hot sauce. Average main $6. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

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