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Best of Toronto

The Best Jerk Chicken in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 28, 2009

Jerk Chicken TorontoIn Toronto, there are many places that claim to have the best jerk chicken in town. They don't seem to have necessarily been anointed by anyone (except maybe their chef or owner) so further investigation was needed to figure out where we really should be going to getting our jerk on.

Traditionally, jerk is served with rice n' peas and coleslaw. It's made by marinating chicken with a dry 'jerk' rub that varies from chef to chef but has at least two essential ingredients:

1. Allspice (pimento)
2. Scotch bonnet peppers (often mistaken for their relative the habanero pepper); then cooked over an open fire.

Additional ingredients used in 'jerk' rubs include cinnamon, nutmeg and thyme and often secret ingredients such as orange juice, lime juice and pineapple.

The origins of jerk chicken lead back to Jamaican native Indians. The history of their methods is varied but the principle is that it was cooked in an outdoor pit, over green wood, or pimento wood which comes from the allspice tree. Today most jerk is baked in a gas oven which helps drain oils and fat from the meat and many chefs argue that the strong flavours come from the amount of time the meat marinates which can range from 6 to 18 hours.

But don't be fooled by uninspired imitations. Here's a closer look at 11 of Toronto's best.

Writing and photos by Melissa Bessey

Mr. Jerk

Mr. Jerk

If you know where to find good Jerk chicken in downtown Toronto, you pick up lunch at Mr. Jerk. Nondescript looking though it may be, this little Caribbean food haven is jumping and jam packed for the midday crowd, daily. Mr. Jerk’s jerk chicken is prepared using the authentic ‘Jamaican smoking BBQ’ technique which means it's slowly smoked to tenderize the meat. Marinated for 24-48 hours, the price depends on the time of day; a half chicken lunch is $7.50. Dinner is $8.95 and a quarter chicken is $3.95 for lunch and $5.75 for dinner. The jerk chicken here is made not too spicy (for a palette like mine accustomed to spicy foods) but it's still at least 6.5 out of 10 on the spicy scale. Worth mentioning - they are also thought to have the best jerk pork in town and I’ve also heard good things about Mr. Jerk’s roti and ox tail. More »

Rap's

Rap's

If Toronto has a little Jamaica, the sun shines a little more irie along Eglinton Avenue West. Central to this area is Rap’s Caribbean Restaurant. The recipe for their Jerk chicken is so coveted, the chef wouldn't allow me to photograph it! Rap’s is Jamaican cooking at its finest and if you want chicken less spicy than the jerk, try their wings. More »

Albert's Jamaican

Albert's Jamaican

Revered as the ultimate late night destination for Jamaican food in Toronto, Albert’s is located in midtown, on St. Clair at Vaughn Rd., where they’ve been serving high quality, low priced cuisine for 24 years. Jerk is served in two portions. Small for $7.75 and large for $10. Both come with rice n’ peas and coleslaw. I'd also recommend their oxtail. Open until 3am week nights and until 5am on weekends. For many Jamaican’s, Albert’s jerk tastes like back home, meaning you can taste a healthy dose of spice without burning your mouth off! More »

Mainsha Restaurant

Mainsha Restaurant

Though plain looking from the outside, Mainsha Restaurant serves up a homemade recipe of Jerk chicken daily in three sizes - small for $5,medium $7 or $9 for a large serving of jerk with rice n’ peas and coleslaw. Mainsha has several locations throughout the city but this is the original location on Eglinton Ave. W., near Oakwood. And their jerk chicken is consistently well seasoned, with a flavour that’s not too spicy for the average person, perhaps even safe for kids. More »

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings

In Toronto’s east end near Main and Danforth, Cool Runnings is a very cool eatery with great Jamaican food and hands down the proudest Caribbean chef in town! Like the other restaurants on this list, the prices are very affordable and the atmosphere is casual. But unlike the others, Cool Runnings puts a lot into the presentation of their food. The jerk is spicy and oh so good and comes in either a medium or large portion for $8 or $9.50 with rice n’ peas and coleslaw. A side order can be had for $6. More »

Pat's Homestyle

Pat's Homestyle

Formerly the Albert's Jamaican location near Queen and Bathurst, Pat’s Homestyle might be a new name but the food hasn't really changed. Two sizes of Jerk chicken are on offer here - a small for $8 or large for $10 and both are served with rice n’ peas and, guess what, coleslaw. Pat’s jerk chicken is baked with traditional seasonings and is comparable to home cooked quality. More »

Caribbean Palms

Caribbean Palms

In Jamaica there are little strip malls everywhere, each full of independent merchants. So, you have to know exactly where each shop or restaurant is to find it, and this holds true for Toronto’s Caribbean Palms. Located in a strip mall across from the Science Centre, there is no indication of a Caribbean restaurant on the main sign and the Palms is tucked behind the front row of shops. BUT, for those who find it, they won't be disappointed. Jerk chicken is either served with rice n’ peas for $6.75 or with steamed rice for $7. During the week there are also less expensive student deals for under $5 but student or not, I highly recommend this spot. The Palm’s chef believes that consistency is the key and assures that whether you try their jerk chicken tomorrow or next month, it will always taste the same. The major hint of herb in their recipe is thyme, as they use both big and small leaf thyme. Spice factor = medium. Their secret ingredient? Freshly minced shadow benny which is used as part of their roster of fresh green herbs. More »

Discussion

61 Comments

nadine / May 28, 2009 at 09:34 am
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um, I've been living in the st. clair ave west neighbourhood and ALBERT'S SUX!!!! the people who work there are rude, the food is ridiculously expensive, and most times out of naught their food will mess up your stomach something fierce!

they may have been decent about 20 years ago...but they're definitely not one of the best any more...and why isn't Crystal's Seafood (vaughn and oakwood, or church and dundas) on your list???

and "decent" jerk does not a good Caribbean restaurant make...can you do a top 10 on top Caribbean restaurants in toronto?

I usually love your top 10's but you totally missed the mark by putting Albert's up there.
Wooden_Tofu / May 28, 2009 at 10:06 am
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I don't get the thing with people and Ackee Tree. We ordered it once at the office (so perhaps the excuse was that it was just a big order), but as we ripped into our respective meals, by the end of the ordeal we'd discovered 2 flies and a whole lot of chunks of tendon and fat. Perhaps to enhance the allspice.
Ivor / May 28, 2009 at 10:34 am
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im a big fan of the coleslaw that they serve with jerk chicken, anyone know the recipe for the slaw??
apetimberlake replying to a comment from nadine / May 28, 2009 at 10:40 am
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One bad experience can't taint 25 years of service.
'Shaky J' replying to a comment from apetimberlake / May 28, 2009 at 10:48 am
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Agreed, Jamaican chefs are notoriously rude so going to Alberts feels like back home and their prices are very reasonable for the quality Jamaican cooking they offer.

Alberts is the best for Jamaican food in the city and including it in this story is spot on!

Good list Blogto.
April replying to a comment from Wooden_Tofu / May 28, 2009 at 11:01 am
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I can't believe your experience at Ackee Tree, that's terrible but they do usually make good food. I've tried their jerk chicken and found it was indeed moister than at other spots.

Also, I think Ackee Tree makes good food for people who aren't too famailiar with Caribbean cuisine as it's authentic but not too flavourful!
apetimberlake replying to a comment from Ivor / May 28, 2009 at 11:09 am
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I love the slaw too.
However all i do is i get the Dole "bag o slaw" and mix it with a little jar coleslaw dressing, a little vinigar added. i just mix that bad boy with any curry (indian or west indian) dish.

EAT IT


HARDDDDD
chenyip / May 28, 2009 at 01:05 pm
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Raps is by far my favorite. The chicken/pork is always juicy and tender with loads of smokey pimento flavor. And the sauce is killer.

I can see how the restaurant and neighborhood might be a little off-putting to some. it's kind of a hole and venturing up to Eglington and Oakwood at midnight (the best time IMO for the jerk) can be a little intimidating.
Misstdot / May 28, 2009 at 04:00 pm
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Thanks for the list. I never know where to go after an expensive,unfriendly no big deal experience at Fat Albert's.
I agree its hey day has long gone.
Jerk / May 28, 2009 at 07:54 pm
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I've been disappointed by EVERYTHING I've tried at Irie. I found their jerk almost flavorless. That place is the epitome of style over substance.
ddt replying to a comment from Jerk / May 28, 2009 at 08:11 pm
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true.....But at least Irie is the cleanest and best presented in it's genre...and if you get there before 6 sometimes, the guys are smoking weed on the back patio and share some, that'll improve the taste i'll bet...
nadine replying to a comment from apetimberlake / May 28, 2009 at 09:14 pm
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who's talking about ONE??? I'm talking about MULTIPLE bad experiences...DURING their 25 years...to each their own, but inmho they're far from one of the best....and I've visited plenty of Jamaican restaraunts where the chefs are not rude. The chefs at Royal Caribbean on St. Clair West are friendly, and the chefs at Gerry's on St.Clair have been around just as long as Alberts (maybe longer) and they're very very nice...like I said to each their own...
Andy / May 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm
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I don't know how you can include Irie and not Ritz (Yonge and College, formerly at Yonge and Bloor). That's a real shame.
Tim / May 29, 2009 at 12:37 am
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I'd have to day the Ritz at College kinda blows. The one at Wellesley is better.
Ed replying to a comment from Tim / May 29, 2009 at 10:45 am
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I've had the opposite experience the Ritz at College is always good while the one at Wellesley blows!
For a cheap and good lunch the Ritz is great!
Tyler / May 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm
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This is a complete bullshit list the best jerk chicken (and Jamaican food in General) is Caribean Queen at the south east corner of Bloor and landsdowne. Having tried most of the places on this list i can tell you the are not even in the same league.

Anyone who considers themselves a lover of Jamaican food owes it to themselves to try Caribean Queen.
chenyip replying to a comment from Tyler / May 29, 2009 at 01:05 pm
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I've heard this place rules from many friends. I'm gonna have to try it out some day.
Andy / May 30, 2009 at 12:00 am
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I didn't realize there was one at Wellesley--honestly I was just happy that they'd moved somewhere since Roy Square was torn down. Solid lunch for less than $5? Killer. (and still way better than Irie.)
dennis / May 31, 2009 at 02:54 pm
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The jerk chicken at Mona's Roti is one of the best. Meat quality was moist and juicy, full of flavour, and the spice is just right with a nice little kick.

But it's the service that's really awesome.. they are genuinely nice people.
Sharon / June 1, 2009 at 07:02 pm
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people lets all remember that these types of open forums are breeding grounds for other issues unrelated to the subject (ie hidden agendas)


it would probably be best to make your own decisions
Colin / June 18, 2009 at 06:22 pm
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Ok, I have one which is a little out of the way, but AMAZING!

It's called Fahmees. It's in Scarborough, a little north of Brimley and Finch in a strip plaza on Alexmuir Blvd. The eats there are cheap, and the jerk is amazing!

The have the chicken cooked to perfection. The tenderness, spice, and flavour make one helluva great place to get jerk.
It's almost like they have the chicken sitting in a crockpot full of sauce all day, and the thought of it makes me want to get some!

Best part of all, it's cheap. For about 10 - 15 bucks you can get enough to feed about three people. That includes the best damn coco bread you'll taste.

And their patties are pretty good too.
james / June 22, 2009 at 06:27 pm
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Over the span of a few years I've tried almost all the places listed here. I find for my personal taste MR. Jerk for their jerk chicken and pork is by far the best.

They have several locations around town and the one I find the BEST is at Don Mills and Finch in Peanut Plaza.
The place is really small there but I can say they have amazing food. I believe they have been around for around 20 years or more.

I usually go there for their lunch special which is a good deal. $5.75 which includes a pop.
Their service is great and very friendly. But if you go at lunch time make sure you head there earlier because there is usually a big lineup.

I think their jerk taste is not as spicy as some other places, but they are the only few that cook with charcoal. This gives the jerk the true flavor! unlike other places that are just charcoal broiled.
They also have a homemade scotch bonnet hot sauce. BE sure to try that! It is by far the best tasting hot sauce for this type of food.
Just my 2 cents.
Meowmix / June 29, 2009 at 01:52 pm
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You may be surprised to learn that the jerk chicken and other Caribbean food at The Bay on Queen St. is quite good. Try to catch your jaw after it drops at the prices though, I think rotis and oxtail are $12.95 and jerk legs/breasts are $8.95/$9.95
Lassmay / July 1, 2009 at 12:43 am
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Eating out is great if you got the cash... when I can I'm at Caribbean Queen and mid month I keeping up my spirits with the frozen version... haha thanks GRACE.. got me jerk chicken in the microwave now (yeaah...its been a rough month)
Mary / July 1, 2009 at 11:03 am
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There's a new little place in Scarborough I tried. Da Jerk Grill (Kingston and Midland) that I think tops them all and now it's my new spot. Apparently no oil used, Authetic, flavourful food and well priced. Owner knows his stuff and lets you sample before you buy!
Graham / July 1, 2009 at 07:51 pm
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How can you leave Sunrise out of this list. Their Jerk is my fave in the city!
maryam replying to a comment from Lassmay / July 3, 2009 at 08:24 pm
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Lassmay you're on to something there. Eating out, is once a month now so clue me in on where I can get my jerk fix! what and where do I get more info a the frozen dinner version??? name and place to buy...thank you.
amanda / July 4, 2009 at 03:48 pm
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um, you clearly haven't tried the jerk chicken at The Nutmeg Pantry. [ www.thenutmegpantry.com ] it's cheap and amazing.
Lassmay / July 4, 2009 at 05:22 pm
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-maryam- here's the web site: www.gracefoods.com/frozen-meals/ or just google it...

Not sure where you're living but the site has a great google map locator on the site so you can find which shop closest to you got the stash! ;)

Kat the Dating Coach replying to a comment from nadine / July 11, 2009 at 07:31 pm
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Agreed! The food was mediocre at best! Don't fear, hungry Torontonians, a new king and queen have arrived on the scene. Opening last month, the new ROOM SERVICE Jamaican restaurant at St. Clair and Appleton (as in the rum!), near Oakwood, has by far the best jerk in the city. I've eaten jerk all over, including in Trinidad and Jamaica, and it's one of the best I've ever had. Not only is the food great, but the restaurant is beautiful, CLEEEEEAN, and classy, not like a lot of the dirty little places elsewhere in the city. The owners are wonderful too - Tracey and Washington are friendly, classy, and 2 of the warmest hosts you could possibly find. It's also reasonable - $7.50 for small, and $10 for large. Do yourself a huge favour and check it out! They also serve a really inexpensive brunch.
Shane / July 21, 2009 at 03:17 pm
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You can't talk about jerk without putting DINER'S CORNER on Yonge at Gloucester at the top of the list! Excellent food and the friendliest people at a very reasonable price! Auntie and her team serve up an authentic and flavorful menu!
jay / July 22, 2009 at 02:58 pm
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ernie's at jane & shoreham!!
great food, very friendly service.
Tim Das / August 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm
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PC Memories of Montego Bay jerk marinade/sauce + chicken + my grill. It's the best jerk sauce out there - no word of a lie.
paul replying to a comment from Andy / September 14, 2009 at 08:04 am
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I've eaten jerk chicken virtually everywhere. There can not exist better jerk chicken than that at Ritz. They have 3 locations between Yonge and Bloor and College and Bloor. For jerk pork,I agree that nobody does it better than Jerk King on Wellesley St.E.-just east of Sherbourne. They are both as good as it gets on these super dishes.
paul replying to a comment from Andy / September 14, 2009 at 08:12 am
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Sorry,I meant Yonge and College.Bloor and College do not intersect.To be precise-one is at the south exit of the Bloor/Yonge subway on Roy Square,one near Yonge and Wellesley,and the other on the west side of Yonge just north of College. The latter is the one that I personally frequent most of the time-provided that the usual lunch lineup is not too long.
paul replying to a comment from Graham / September 14, 2009 at 08:24 am
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You must be kidding.They (Sunrise)have awesome soup,but their jerk chicken does not compare to Ritz AT ALL! I live near the one on Kingston Road in Scar. Goat head,chicken, and pea soup,as well as stew beef are excellent..If you like it so much- their Yonge St. location has a lunch special on their jerk chicken-$2.99. For the extra dollar I walk a couple of blocks south on Yonge and cross the street to Ritz just north of College on the wet side. Try it once,and you will know why they are the only ones downtown of the Carribean restaurants with line ups to get in.
paul replying to a comment from Graham / September 14, 2009 at 08:36 am
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I'm having a bad morning.I meant Mr. Jerk on Wellesley St. East just east of Sherbourne,and not jerk king.-for the very best jerk pork in the city.There is one other great jerk pork resto.and that is in a small plaza at Kingston Road and Lawrence in the same plaza as McDonalds in Scarborough.To assure you are in the right plaza-there is also a beer store and a no frills store in the same plaza.They are IMO the best of the bunch on jerk pork.
Philip / September 27, 2009 at 07:18 pm
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Portland Jerk in Brampton on Tobram is a great place. Juicy chicken, right kinda spice....for my personal taste Portland Jerk and Mr Jerk on Wellesley are the best in GTA.
CARASFOREVER / June 17, 2010 at 04:57 pm
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BEST JERK CHICKEN IS MITZIE`S JERK AT 3337 BLOOR STREET WEST JUST EAST OF ISLINGTON
Betsy / June 17, 2010 at 05:02 pm
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Best Jerk Chicken is Mitzie`s Jerk at 3337 Bloor Street West just east of Islington Avenue. The soup is also great!
carasforever / June 17, 2010 at 05:55 pm
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Best Jerk in Town is Mitzie`s Jerk at 3337 Bloor Street West just east of Islington Avenue.
5andman replying to a comment from Betsy / June 17, 2010 at 06:34 pm
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Re: Betsy S & carasforever post.
Uhhh ... ... Is this a shill? Comments are the same?
Alex / July 2, 2010 at 01:58 pm
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How do you guys not have The Jerk Spot on here? It's been there for many years, with at least one location now at Richmond and Peter (just above "Burrito Banditos" - ye olde "Burrito Boyz" location).

I'm sure the others you rated are excellent, so I'll need to check on those - but I'd highly recommend readers visit Jerk Spot. Not exactly enough room to dine in... seating for 5 people maximum in there.
Nancy replying to a comment from Tyler / July 12, 2010 at 06:32 pm
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I love the jerk chicken at Caribean Queen at the south east corner of Bloor and Landsdowne. The Chef makes the best jerk chicken, and beans are delicious too. It's one of the best Jerk dishes I've ever had.
Kasia replying to a comment from carasforever / August 3, 2010 at 04:12 pm
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Whats the number??
MI$HA / August 10, 2010 at 02:13 pm
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ATTENTION ALL REAL JAMAICAN PEOPLE:::::: IF YOU WANT THE BEST FOOD IN TDOT:::: (1) MAINSHA (on eglinton&oakwood location) (2) MAINSHA (jane&finch) (3) PORTLAND JERK (brampton) (4) RANDY'S PATTIES (eglington&oakwood) pretty much anywhere on eglington but not everywhere !!!! you'll thank me later PEACE
jon lofto / October 18, 2010 at 01:14 am
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The Jerk Spot is the best extra large extra spicy
jon lofto / October 18, 2010 at 01:15 am
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the Jerk spot on peter at richmond downtown is the best, extra large extra spicy
jjj / January 25, 2011 at 02:11 pm
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sombody can give me the phon from Jerk spot please. I want to try these place. Thank's
saugatransplant / July 18, 2011 at 08:41 pm
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Moved to Mississauga from a small town, any good west indian restuarants there? Moved here for my girlfriend who is jamaican/trini. I have yet to find anywhere thats decent in Brampton and Mississauga, Its all very bland compared to what her mom makes and I prefer very spicy, looking for all types of west indian food not just jerk, toronto obviously included. While her mom loves to cook for me I dont get it often enough and my gf burns water.

the PC memories of montego bay was mentioned and agreed, its not bad at all, I also like walkerswood jerk sauce but dont know where to get it here, picked it up in jamaica when we went.

all replies and recomendations welcome, both places to eat as well as store bought seasonings, sauces etc.
Not!on / July 26, 2011 at 11:21 am
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Honestly if you want the best Jerk Chicken, just go to some old Jamaican Ladies BBQ.... With the exception of Ackee Tree and maybe mr. Jerk(Peanut Plaza) All the others are HOT GARBAGE when it comes to Jerk Chicken.

WHY IS MAINSHA ON THIS LIST!? Its soooo bad. The worst thing I have ever eaten!.... Wait I take that back, I love Roti(pickering) Jerk Chicken is the worst thing. GOD AWFUL!

In the end I advise not even to buy Jerk Chicken(I can only say this cause Im Jamaican and eat it on a reg basis)cause either way your paying so much, $8 for a small(more like tiny) and $10 for a large, just for some half assed Jerk Chicken. Just buy the seasoning and make it, lol.
Ray / March 22, 2012 at 08:45 am
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Colin is absolutely bang on with Fahmee Bakery. It's my favourite jerk place and I travel a long way for their Jerk chicken and Coco Bread. I would love to get the recipe for my relatives in Grenada to show them what real good jerk chicken is. All others are probably good if people prefer them but after Fahmee I go nowhere else.
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm
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I love the jerk chicken at Caribean Queen at the south east corner of Bloor and Landsdowne. The Chef makes the best jerk chicken, and beans are delicious too. It's one of the best Jerk dishes I've ever had.
Joe Tackspaier replying to a comment from COSPLAY / October 7, 2012 at 04:51 am
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The "queen" is one angry rude b!tch! She got offended because my sister asked for hotsauce when ordering takeout for the family. She actually snapped at my sister and started yelling "my food isn't flavourful enough for you" in front of the other customers there. She was caught off guard and almost cried when she got home after telling us her experience there.
Vel / November 21, 2012 at 02:54 pm
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Sansimian is hands down the best Jamaican/Carribean restaurant I ever been to. I always get Jerk Chicken with rice and peas, oxtail gravy on top and coleslaw. My wife gets curry goat with rice and coleslaw on the side. The kids get spicy beef patties. One thing with the patties in since we all love them, we go to Michidean Limited on Birchmount and 14th Avenue to buy a couple dozen boxes for the next couple of weeks. They sell Chicken, Beef and Veg and Cocktail patties both mild and spicy. We buy the spicy beef patties. Thank Sansimian for introducing us to Michidean.
Bob / January 4, 2013 at 10:18 pm
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Ackee Tree... I don't know about being the best in the city but the owner is a REAL "GOOF", so let me translate for all the Jamaican people out there a asshole. He's arrogant and does not people treat people with respect.
Angel / February 19, 2013 at 02:52 pm
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THE BEST CARIBBEAN FOOD IN THE CITY IS CARIBBEAN QUEEN AT WESTON RD & FINCH! NONE OF THE FOOD PLACES ABOVE COMPARE.
Anon / August 11, 2013 at 11:36 am
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There's a fairly new place on Kensington Ave called Rasta Pasta and their jerk chicken is excellent (nicely spiced and very juicy). If this list were to be updated, they could very well be on it.
Anon / September 10, 2013 at 01:44 pm
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Recently tried the jerk chicken at both Caribbean Queen of Patties and Tropical Joe's. Both were superlative.
Anon / February 25, 2014 at 11:02 am
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Allwyn's Bakery in North York has amazing jerk chicken! Just recently tried it. I heavily recommend it.
Paul / May 25, 2014 at 01:02 pm
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Went to Alberts and was sorely disappointed. Not nearly enough seasoning, incredibly oily and expensive for what it was. This list needs Rasta Pasta, I've never had better than what I got there.

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