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Island Foods

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on May 1, 2008 / review policy

Island FoodsIsland Foods is the old stalwart of the Toronto roti scene. It's been around for almost 35 years, has maintained a booth at the CNE since 1976 and still operates two bustling downtown locations - one at the Grange foodcourt across from OCAD and the other at King and Dufferin.

With an apartment near Queen and Ossington I've been frequenting the latter location for some time now. It's one of the many roti restos within a mile of my place and competes with the likes of Gandhi and Bacchus for my occasional roti cravings.

The offerings here are decidedly different than what you'll find at the other spots. The cooking style is Trinidadian which provides a more fluid texture, gravys, sauces and milder spicing (unless you ask them for a heavy dose of hot sauce).

Almost all meals are potato based. All rotis come with potato. There's straight-up potato ($4), shrimp ($6.55), boneless chicken ($6.35), goat ($6.10), beef ($5.85), channa ($4.50), eggplant ($4.50) and spinach ($4.50). 75 cents are added for each additional ingredient.

Also on the menu are a variety of dinners, the highlights of which are oxtail stew ($7.90), shrimp ($7.65) and chicken ($6.25). Doubles ($1.30), beef patties ($1.30) and tamarind balls ($1.25) are also available. For the full menu, check out Island Foods' web site.

Island Foods

My regular order is a spinach and channa roti (pictured top). Like most of the meals, part of the order is prepared in the back kitchen while some of the ingredients are supplemented from the trays under the heat lamps next to the cash.

While the presence of heat lamps might foreshadow quality issues from a lesser place, at Island Foods it's not really a concern because the restaurant is almost always busy. Lineups are the norm during peak lunch and dinner hours and all through the day they seem to do a fairly brisk take-out business. Faded yellow tables provide the backdrop for those looking to dine-in.

So where does Island Foods fall in Toronto's roti hierarchy? Flavour-wise, for a West Indian style roti it's tough to beat. But while prices here are a bit cheaper than the competition, size-wise the rotis are about 2/3 as large. And this in my opinion is the lone drawback with Island Foods. While the kitchen (and heat lamps) consistently deliver the flavour, the rotis just aren't big enough to satisfy me like the alternatives.

Island Foods Outside



Pamela / May 1, 2008 at 10:09 am
I have such fond memories of Island Foods from when I was working in the neighbourhood. I live too far to make Islands one of my daily food haunts, but thanks for this review, it made me all nostalgiac.

And to date, I personally haven't had a tastier roti since. I know, I probably should get out more. ;)
binlazer / May 1, 2008 at 10:18 am
I prefer Baccus around the corner on Queen. The rotis are way bigger and I find it is consistently better than Island.
Raven / May 1, 2008 at 10:22 am
Island Food roti's aren't big enough? Someone has a BIG appetite! :o

Back in the day when we were young and could *EAT*, a few of us would simply supplement our roti with a beef patty -- better variety than just one big roti meal.

Island Foods is the BEST! =D
frank / May 1, 2008 at 10:34 am
I'm actually friends with the ownership @ Island Foods and they're Trinidadian which is also the style of cooking.

One of the excellent things from the menu that you can't find at most Jamaican roti shops is the excellent 'double': a heap of channa stuffed between two fluffy pancakes and smothered in hot sauce. That and a 'Ting' makes a fantastic snack.
Tyler / May 1, 2008 at 11:07 am
Given that I live at the corner of King and Dufferin (and have since I moved to Toronto two years ago) and that it's also where my office was for the first year and a half that I was here... I've eaten a lot of Island Foods... I would have to say at one point that I was eating there nearly daily. Now it's not so frequent but that's simply because I work downtown.. Anyways.

I'd been told when I moved here that Albert's had the best Roti... I tried it... it doesn't compare to Island Foods... For those that don't find them to be sufficient... add a bit more to them...

My staple is Boneless Chicken (occasionally Goat) with Extra Potatoes and Spinach. You get double potato and spinach which leads to a very large Roti... add a Double (probably the most amazing thing I've eaten) and you've got a hell of a meal.

Definitely the best roti in town.
vanessa / May 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm
actually, most roti shops do have doubles' (and it's always "doubles" because it's two pieces of barra - chewy and fluffy fried dough) but most patty shops will not have doubles'.

i've never actually liked islands roti and double style and much prefer the roti at places like roti lady just south of queen west and west of dufferin. overall the fave goes to drupati's in the west end though.
TIto Toronto / May 1, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Unfortunately, I'm not around Parkdale right now, so now you guys are making me crave for it. I may have to settle for second-tier roti somewhere in the suburbs.
Andrew / May 1, 2008 at 02:26 pm
I don't understand why people laud Bacchus for it's curry & roti. Quite frankly I find it bland and overpriced.
You folks need to head out to Nicey's or Friendship Restaurant (both in Scarborough, but it has been awhile since I've been to either) or go to a place along Eglinton East near Oriole. Take a chance and go into one of those small little places there with the Soca blaring and, for most, unintelligible stream of Patois coming from inside.
Get roti made by real Trinis or Guyanese. For those who don't know, roti isn't Jamaican and they don't eat ti at many places there.
simone / May 2, 2008 at 02:26 pm
When I was at OCAD, Island Foods was my kitchen (when I had money left over from art supplies!). The best ever - food wise, friendly people behind the counter and always fresh.

Size wise - I honestly can't compare it to any other place, but the Roti's were big enough to fill me all day - and give me a carb-induced need for sleep for the afternoon!
Amber / May 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm
FYI - Island Foods has THREE locations, and has had them for at least 3 years. Their third is on Don Mills just North of Lawrence. It's my preferred location to visit (used to be at Mt Pleasant and Eglinton) and I love it there. I journey for the roti.

As for size? I wouldn't want it any bigger or it becomes two meals... And I want to leave room for the doubles. ;)
Janet / May 27, 2008 at 12:20 am
I started off eating at Island Foods on King and Dufferin in 1999 and now frequent the newest addition on Don Mills Road.
For a West Indian Restaurant-they are by far the most professional looking and acting restaurant (and owners), they are very, very clean-and I am in the food service business. Now for the food-I have had most of the menu items and all of them are delicious! The curry (which they told me is specially blended for their family business) is amazing-I find it is a main comfort food for me-I crave the taste of their curry in my mouth. The Roti shells are so soft and chewy and just about as flavourful as a roti can get!
My dirty little secret (since I am a chef) I buy an extra dish of curry sauce to go and then the next day I will saute some shrimps and then pour the curry over it -my friends think I make the best curry!
Keep up the great great cooking and amazing work ethic!
Teena / June 19, 2008 at 10:41 pm
I love their rotis! They are the best in Toronto!
JC / July 25, 2008 at 04:13 pm
THE BEST ROTI I'VE EVER TASTED!!! Time your visit during off-peak hours though as the line-up goes out the door!
Karen Milnes / November 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm
This is UNDOUBTEDLY THE BEST FOOD, LET ALONE ROTI, EVER. I crave Island Foods roti every day and go out of my way to get it from all 3 locations. I've been gravely disappointed by Gandhi and Bacchus... I find it pretty bland and not as fresh. I hope more Island foods open up all over the city.
Fred / December 3, 2008 at 07:35 pm
Oh man, when I worked at Don Mills and Eglinton, I'd have a roti every week from Island Foods. SO GOOD, the flavour can't be beat. My fave is goat with eggplant and extra hot.

I guess my appetite is smaller, because this is a perfectly sized lunch for me.
Nicole / July 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm
I first visited Island Foods way back when they were in the food court at Dufferin Mall. This was my first experience with West Indian food and no matter how many other places I try I have never found anyone who can compete. I used to frequent Ghandi's as well but after some bad experiences with gritty spinach I now stick with Island Foods. In more than 12 years I have never had a single disappointing experience. The food is always fantastic and fresh and is consistent no matter which of the 3 (4 if you count the CNE stand) locations you visit. My favourite rotis are the goat or the eggplant but the oxtail dinner is also very good.
rotilover / November 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm
The BEST roti I've ever had. When they were at the Grange (Dundas & University) I used to eat their channa roti at least twice a week. They're the BEST!!!!
Jo / February 5, 2011 at 08:56 pm
Islands Foods is overrated. I ordered oxtail there today and it was burnt. I was in the area and ordered takeout and when I got home (all the way at 401and Leslie) starving and exhausted looking forward to some good food, was highly disappointed and angry when I started eating and realized it didn't taste right and was almost black!
I called the Resturant spoke to the manager and told her that it tasted burnt and I can't believe they sold that to me. She told that I there was no way it was burnt and that I should just not order the oxtail. I wouldn't take the time to call if it tasted they way it should. I told her I've had oxtail many times and know what it should taste like and I've made it myself and I know it's easy to burn the sugar used to make it. She made up excuses and never once apologized for the inconvenience and
disappointment. Instead she argued with me telling me that's how they make it which I can't believe because it was clearly burnt. I will never go back there and I'd advise anyone I know to do the same. I should of turned around and gone to Bacchus instead. I would have to agree with the previous comment they have better roti. When I was waiting for my food which took over 20 minutes by the way I watched a server prepare a roti and there was bearly any meat and lots of sauce! What a shame.
I am disappointed with the experience and how the manger handled my phone call. And I'm still starved!!! They are truly overrated and have horrible customer service. I went to the King St location.
DebW replying to a comment from Jo / April 15, 2011 at 08:58 am
I have never had a bad experience with Island Foods at King and Dufferin. My husband and I used to eat there at least once a week when we lived in the area (my husband lived there for over 20 years and I lived there for over 5 years). We now journey back from the suburbs at least once a month for the best roti we have ever had not to mention the channa, the doubles, the rice, etc. Never disappointed with any food ever served to me at the restaurant.
David / April 5, 2012 at 05:24 pm
My fiance and I go down to the King Street one once a week from Brampton for a Boneless Chicken Roti with triple hot sauce!
I've been going to Island Foods for about 20 years now. There is NO OTHER place I'd rather eat Roti than here! Unless of course when they have a booth at the CNE!! Keep up the good work girls, you're making your parents very proud!
June / May 23, 2012 at 06:23 pm
I have been the Don Mills location twice and the service is atrocious!! The female server has absolutely no manners. Why work with public if you don't know how to treat them? I waited 20 minutes for my food when I got it the female server threw it on the counter with her head down and carry on what she was doing. I called to talk to the owner and "she" answered. Without fail she was rude on the phone! The owner was too busy to take my call. Unbelieveable! I spoke to 2 customers from the store and they both said the same thing about the female server - one vowed not to return. I will never return to Island Foods. I'm not wasting my money to be disrespected!
Holleden replying to a comment from June / May 24, 2012 at 08:51 am
You should have thrown it back at her to teach her a lesson. There are a lot of good people out these days who will grab her job and do much better and attached more business. Hear that, owner? Fire the fool.
samantha / November 16, 2012 at 08:24 pm
yeah you think this roti is the best..well it definitely not.
you can actually taste the saffron they boil the potatoes in and their doubles are poor and stale. i go to the don mills location and their doubles are forever stale and at times they dont have...i only go because i live in the area. the dinner is bland and ugh. so waste your money here.

what they lack in food quality it sure make up for a clean place. this place it busy because the area has mainly white people who works in offices so they dont know any better.
Sireesha / December 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm
Tried this place for the first time yesterday. It was FANTASTIC. Going back today :s
tmqrreunliyi / April 4, 2013 at 02:09 pm
SG / April 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm
I went here the other day when my streetcar short turned. I got the boneless goat roti and asked for spicy. It was good but not as spicy as I expected. The service was friendly and they were so busy!!! Lineups the whole time I ate.
At least I got my roti on a plate, when I went to island foods at the Ex in the summer they have it to me as a wrap!!! Like that wouldn't be the messiest thing to eat?!? Weird lol
mike / May 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm
food is good but they need to work on the hours of operation, and pick up the phone when customers call
Jane / June 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm
I just went for the first time and had a chana and vegetable roti. I'm still on the verge of tears from how good it was. It's not just the best roti I've ever had, it's one of the best things I've ever eaten, period.
AJ / February 7, 2015 at 01:01 pm
From a child first having one of their Roti's at Dufferin Mall then standing in the long line ups at The Ex, and finally driving to their King St location from the west end on a Saturday just for one..... I will follow them anywhere. They are the only ones I will eat.

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