A restaurant so humble, it doesn't have a phone (or even a conspicuous sign) lures customers with cheap, tasty Jamaican eats.
Many of Toronto’s Jamaican restaurants are in sorry states. All too often you get a bland mountain of rice obscuring some fossilized bits of jerk chicken. But North York locals know that for the juiciest, freshest jerk chicken, you need to head over to Allwyn’s.
This is one of the more obscure locations I’ve come across in my Toronto food travels. Allwyn’s is behind Parkwoods Village Centre, an aging strip mall located at 1277 York Mills Road, between the Don Valley Parkway and Victoria Park Avenue. Go behind the strip mall and walk through a dark, covered alley and you’ll find the place.
A tiny room really, this bare-bones restaurant has been serving take-out food from this location for 19 years. Allwyn’s is not listed on the mall’s sign, and don’t bother phoning ahead either—the owner hasn’t kept up with the phone bills, so the number is out of service. There used to be a website, but it doesn’t seem to be up any more.
Staffer Donald Simpson, a native of Jamaica, has worked here off and on since the beginning. He also works at the legendary Fahmee bakery, which supplies Allwyn’s baked goods. “A lot of people come here through word of mouth and say it’s one of the best places,” explains Donald. “It’s the way we season the chicken.”
Customers of all ages and backgrounds stand in line, waiting for their favourites. Some have been coming for years, after being lured in during their grade school days by the super cheap prices: a jerk chicken sandwich served on a cocobun topped with crisp coleslaw is just $3.70. If you’re not going to eat the sandwich right away, Donald carefully packs the components separately so the coleslaw doesn’t make the sandwich soggy.
Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world.
The image at the top of this post was originally credited to the wrong photographer. The right photographer’s name has been substituted. Also, the restaurant is technically in North York, not West Scarborough, as originally stated here.