Creole and Caribbean flavours and culture add a kick to this long-standing Scarborough bakery.
Every now and then I stumble across a place in my quest for unusual restaurants that is so removed from my day-to-day realities in downtown Toronto that I feel like I’ve travelled to some far-flung country. If you want a wonderful cultural experience, save yourself a plane ticket and head up to the St. Clair Bakery & La Belle Jacmelienne in Scarborough.
It turns out there’s another bakery in Toronto called St. Clair Bakery near Old Weston Road. I haven’t been there but I can guarantee you that it’s nothing like this place. Founded in 1957, the bakery specializes in Greek and Macedonian breads and pastries.
In 2009, Lukas Cineus Jr and Marie Claire, a native of Jacmel, Haiti, took over the shop. “We still make the same desserts and bread as before, but we’ve added a Creole and Caribbean flavour,” says Lukas.
On his business cards it says “Sakpasé, nou palé Kréol tou wi!” which is Creole for “What’s happening, we speak Creole here also, yes!” (En français, “Qu’est-ce qui se passe, nous parlons créole aussi, oui.”)
Some Greeks and Bulgarians come in looking for European coffee and pastries, but the main clientele are Haitians who come for take-out food. One Haitian customer picks up some baklava to go with his Haitian food. Compa, a sweet, mid-tempo Haitian musical style, plays through the speakers.
There are no tables, but people sit by the windowsill chatting and eating bouillon kabrit—goat soup. This tasty soup is an unusual mix of flavours—goat broth, large chunks of yellow yam, dumplings, carrots, watercress, parsley, and shallots. It’s a nice comfort food with a spicy kick.
The menu varies depending on when you come in, but if you’re lucky, you might get to try a Haitian patty, which is made of flaky pastry and filled with chicken, beef, or salt fish. Other specialties include rice made with djon djon, a type of mushroom native to Haiti.
I got a order of grio (fried pork) and tassot (fried beef) to go. The pork was pure fat but the beef was nicely marinated. The plantain tasted quite different from plantain I’ve had before, as the Haitians cook it when it is still green, so it isn’t sweet at all. It’s a huge amount of food and it sells for around $8.
The bakery is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., except for Sundays, when it closes around 6 p.m. But if you want Haitian food, don’t come too early—2 p.m. or later is your best bet. Don’t come by if you’re in a rush: It’s more the kind of place where you hang out for a while, chatting with staff and customers while you wait.
St. Clair Bakery & La Belle Jacmelienne (3537 St. Clair Ave. East, Scarborough), 647-477-1112.
Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world. Find more photos and details about St. Clair Bakery & La Belle Jacmelienne here.