Little Jamaica, a strip of bustling Black commerce along Eglinton Avenue West has been under threat of disappearing for years now. Whether it's from the damning effects of endless LRT construction or from the pandemic, or from gentrification, this Black neighbourhood is in need of some major support.
Little Jamaica is home to the highest concentration of Toronto’s Black and Caribbean-owned businesses, but many of these long-standing local businesses have closed their doors, resulting in over 48 vacant storefronts.
The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) has stepped up in a huge way with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and a special Little Jamaica Initiative. All the businesses of Little Jamaica are now BBPA members and will be part of programs that will include: Development Training, Entrepreneurship Development, Business Marketing, Financial Literacy, Leadership Training, and much more.
Via the BBPA, four of the area’s top restaurants are participating in the ByBlacks Restaurant Week from November 15 - 21. Make sure to check them out!
It’s cheap and cheerful at Carib21 with cross-cultural combos like oxtail poutine and jerk chicken quesadilla on the simple seven-item menu. This spot is run by Jamaican couple James Gregg and his wife Matthesa. James had a hard time finding working in Canada even though he came here with 18 years of experience in the culinary industry. He ended up working in the kitchen of a retirement home but left that job to open up Carib 21.
Jacko's is one of the few spots in the city where you can find authentic St.Lucian food like bake and saltfish with cocoa tea. According to the reviews, this place smells amazing and the food tastes even better. To top it off, you're always greeted by a bubbly and welcoming owner.
Originally from Clarendon, Jamaica, Judy's Island Grill is a family-owned restaurant chain. The Eglinton West location is the fourth in the food chain that's been operating since 2007. Three others are in the US in Baltimore and Georgia. Sheryl Bryan heads up the Toronto location while her sister Judy keeps the other three afloat.
Now under new ownership, this place is known not just for its tasty eats but also for the sweet reggae vibes and chill "living room" atmosphere. The organic fresh juice bar is a nice touch. Beware, the We Be Jamming Wings and Shrimp sliders are addictive!
Serving delicious Jamaican vegan food since 2018, like BBQ seitan on a bed of chow mein with veg on the side. The food here is good AND good for you! You also can't go wrong with one of their homemade drinks. If you're new to vegan good, the staff here is happy to let you sample a few dishes before you make a choice.