Caribbean beaneries make great party food. No wonder so many of them do catering on the side. And what better time to get stuffed in an island stylee than in the middle of a long, hot summer's night?
Come 3 am, there's no other resto north of clubland busier than Rap's Express (1541A Eglinton West, at Oakwood, 416-256-4426). A bare-bones fast food joint decked out with a Wall Of Pride made up of 8-by-10 glossies of inspirational heroes like talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnny Cochrane and Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson (autographed!), the newly painted storefront claims to be open 24/7. It is when it's open, we suppose.
From mid-afternoon to the wee hours of the morning, this friendly crew barbecue succulent jerk chicken sided with rice 'n' peas or spicy mashed callaloo and boiled doughy plantain for a clientele made up of club kids, cabbies and factory workers. Peppery saltfish salads with al dente okra ladyfingers, soft zucchini-like chayote or English cuke (all $3.99) are about as vaguely vegetarian as it gets. Pair them with deep-fried cruller-style dumplings ($1) or sensational fruity ackee fritters ($2.50).
Following in the wake of Burrito Boyz and Black Camel, Ackee Tree (170 Spadina, at Queen, 416-866-8730; 1 Dundas West, at Yonge, 416-597-9364) is the latest luncheonette to hear the siren call of the late-night cash register. The Spadina location is open Fridays and Saturdays till 4 in the morning, giving the burgeoning chain an automatic clientele of midnight munchers.
A big, modern if slightly anonymous space (think Spring Rolls), it's home to some surprisingly tasty grub, particularly the house jerk chicken sandwich ($8.95). Shame someone hasn't mastered the art of deep-frying the sweet potato frites ($2.95 la carte) it comes sided with; ours arrive burnt. A daily vegetarian special of Country Rice (rice 'n' kidney beans topped with grilled bok choy and canned Chinese corn in tomato sauce) makes a better side than main ($6.50). But the boneless chicken roti ($8.49) packs more tender bird than filler and makes a considerable hangover cure, even if its side of advertised cole slaw has gone AWOL.