Mona's Roti is a Caribbean kitchen on Sheppard that has been in business over 12 years. It's a no frills kind of place that has, in its time, amassed a loyal following and a reputation for some of the finest West Indian food in the city.
Most of the interior is dedicated to the kitchen, the hot table stocked with stewed meats, curries, and jerk chicken act as the only partition forcing a steady stream of customers to the perimeter to order from the enticing selection of ready-made foods. Turning the corner, you'll find snacks and drinks at the register.
Stepping inside, the first impression is made by smell - it's incredible; a combination of fried breads and fragrant spices. Then I notice the assembly line of women pressing sheets of dahpuri or paratha by hand before sending them over to the next in line to be baked one by one on a griddle.
In another corner, pholourie (similar to chickpea benigets) are being portioned by hand and dropped into oil. The crispy fritters are left to cool on a counter and packaged in plastic bags to order, six at a time ($1).
Goat curry is a house favourite and like everything else on display in the hot table, it's available a la carte, in meals ($8.85), with rice (plain or with peas) or in a wrap. Get the wrap ($7.30) - it starts with a house-made roti skin that's packed with a base of curried potatoes before the rich, chunky stewed goat is ladled over top and then wrapped and stuffed into a paper bag.
I'm told the doubles ($1.50), are as good as you'll find on this side of Trinidad, they're certainly among the best I've had in Toronto. Two rounds of bara (fried turmeric-scented naan) sandwich curried chickpeas with a sweet and tangy tamarind condiment.
With seating limited to just two (likely occupied) tables, Mona's biggest flaw is that there's nowhere to eat. And, while both the roti and doubles might appear to be the handheld kind of foods, both are super messy. Impatiently devouring them is rewarding, but also leaves a trail of curried juices dripping down my forearms. Get napkins.
Photos by Jesse Milns