There’s a reason the city’s best West Indian food is in the suburbs: That’s where most of Toronto’s Caribbean families live. From Lawrence East to Rexdale, it’s time to head to the source.
1. Chicken in the Rough with Caribbean Chow Mein
Bandhania is a long, sawtoothed herb with many names, including shado beni (also Caribbean), ngo gai (Vietnam), and culantro (Latin America). Its flavour is pungent and fragrant—sort of like cilantro, but more grown up. Tossed with Cantonese noodles and hot peppers (of course), it’s the secret to revelatory Caribbean chow mein. Try the noodles topped with Guyanese Chicken in the Rough: deep-fried thighs without batter and spiced up with a hot-pepper sauce.
$8. Cho’s Wok, 2500 Eglinton Ave. E. #SCR 416-265-3088.
Dhalpuri roti is a thin, flexible wheat flatbread with crumbs of cumin-scented split peas (the dhal) spilling from its layers. Wrapping it around boneless chicken in a yellow curry is the classic choice, and at Drupati’s, it’s juicy, spicy, and as messy as it should be. The veteran shop now has Scarborough and Brampton outposts, but lineups prove the original, checker-floored Rexdale location is still the most popular.
$7. Drupati’s Doubles and Roti Shop, 975 Albion Rd. #NYK 416-745-4189.
3. Doubles and sahina
Vegetarian does not always mean healthy, as proven by these Trinidadian snacks. Sahina is spinach dipped in a ground dahl-and-saffron batter. Doubles is curried chickpeas sandwiched between two flat chickpea flour buns (called “bara”). They’re both deep-fried, of course, and supremely fresh at this mid-Scarborough spot, where food is spiked with a searing, fruity pepper sauce. Important tip: Even if you’re ordering just one, never ask for “a double.” It is always “doubles.” It just is.
$1.25 each. ACR Hot Roti and Doubles, 2680 Lawrence Ave. E. #SCR 416-755-7806.
4. Beef patties
This subway-accessible takeout joint outshines the city’s other patty makers (yes, including Randy’s on Eglinton. Oh, we said it). The crust is firm, yet flaky, made yellow by a good pinch of curry powder. It cradles real beef, not junk-food slurry, full of thyme and kissed with scotch bonnets. No surprise that the giggling, gap-toothed owner, Georgina, sells over 1,000 of them a week—her lovely habit of calling each customer “dear” also doesn’t hurt.
$2. Caribbean Queen of Patties, 1294 Bloor St. W. #JNT 416-538-1732.