Hailing from Jamaica, at 66 years old, the owner and head chef Patrick, is retiring – making September 23 the restaurant’s last day of business.
“Since opening our doors 23 years ago, this city and our customers have supported us day in and out as a small Jamaican restaurant to what we are today. We could not be where we are today without the support and love from each and every one of you. Patrick has worked tirelessly since 2000 to make his restaurant what it is, and rightfully so, will be retiring to enjoy life and his family,” the owners wrote in an Instagram post.
It’s clear the loyalty of Pat’s customers is unmatched. In the week leading up to their closing day, people filled the shop in lines leading out the front door and wrapping down the street.
“He was a staple; every time I went out downtown, I went to Pat’s,” said Jordan
Grant, proudly leaving the shop with a jerk chicken dinner.
“It’s so tragic; it’s hard to find authentic Caribbean food in the city that isn’t overpriced and tastes good. I come here basically every week to get their stew chicken, their ackee and saltfish and sometimes their soup, so it’s going to be a hard search to find their replacement,” said Claire Perry, a Toronto resident standing in line outside the shop.
With a strong Caribbean accent, booming voice and personality, Patrick is like any Jamaican uncle you’d find grilling jerk chicken, telling the tales of his time at a family BBQ.
Chef Adrian Forte was a semi-finalist on Food Network Canada's Top Chef Canada, a judge on Chef in Your Ear, and a contestant on Chopped Canada.
In February 2023, he listed Pat’s as one of Toronto’s top six Black-owned restaurants.
“It’s very sad, because Pat’s is an institution in Toronto. I’ve spent many late nights getting oxtail, patties and chicken soup to bounce back after a long night of libations. (Yet,) I’m very happy for Pat! He’s put his time in and he deserves to kick his feet up! For the last 23 years, Pat and his family would only close the restaurant for only 10 days every year at the start of the year. So his retirement is well deserved,” said Forte.
Pat’s closing doesn’t mean you have to give up on finding your favourite curry goat in the city. There are still authentic Jamaican restaurants in Toronto’s downtown core. The Real Jerk Restaurant has recently opened another location in Little Italy, and Miss Likklemore’s opened in the King West neighbourhood last year, serving the high end of the market.
But getting your favourite jerk chicken dish might mean driving out of the core and even outside the GTA, as more Caribbean restaurants are opening and flourishing outside the city.
Wanda’s Caribbean Kitchen, a popular Caribbean restaurant in Mississauga, opened a second location in Hamilton in March. Oxford County has one of the fastest-growing Caribbean communities, hosting its first “CaribCan” festival this year. And more than 30 restaurants serve Caribbean food between London, Kitchener and Brantford.
When asked about the future of Caribbean food spots in Toronto, Forte believes Black cooks and chefs will continue to be the backbone of the best food spots in the city.
“It would be exciting to see these chefs step into the limelight, cooking and serving dishes that are near and dear to them and our community. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot more ‘traditional’ restaurants starting to add more Caribbean offerings to their menus,” he said.
As Pat wraps up his time in the shop, he leaves the baton in the hands of another Black-owned restaurant.
Sheryl's Caribbean Cuisine on Eglinton West will expand its second location and take over the shop where Pat’s once stood. Sheryl’s has also been a participant in ByBlacks Restaurant Week since 2022.
“I’ve been shadowing him (Pat) all day to see how he runs things here. It’s going to be big shoes to fill, but I know we can do it,” she said, standing outside the shop.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Sheryl promises her authentic food will remind you of food cooked back home on the islands.
“We cook with the most important ingredient – love.”