Restaurant beloved by Drake and local celebs has been a Toronto institution since the 80s
There's a certain Caribbean restaurant in Toronto that Drake and Raptors players have been known to hit up, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebs that have visited the restaurant.
They also have a smaller location in the Upper Beaches.
What hasn't changed is the family ownership of the Pottinger family, and their logo of a brightly smiling sun wearing sunglasses.
Owner Ed Pottinger is originally from Jamaica, but grew up in England and came to Toronto in high school. He's run it this whole time with his wife Lily, and now his son Cleigh is on board as operations manager.
Ed wanted to represent his Caribbean community in Toronto with the restaurant, and lots of the recipes come from Lily, inspired by the food their parents made in Jamaica.
Their most popular dishes are their jerk chicken, jerk pork and oxtail.
"Oxtail used to be a throwaway at the meat market, now it's a delicacy," Cleigh Pottinger tells blogTO.
He says eating at Real Jerk is an entire experience that intends to engage all five senses, and is about more than eating food.
Visit Real Jerk, especially this Gerrard location, and you're definitely getting more than just roti: you're stepping into a whole history of celebrity visitors and Caribbean culture.
Drake and Rihanna shot the music video for their song Work at the Leslieville restaurant, and while Cleigh wasn't there for the shoot his mother has a small cameo in the video, at a point when liquid is poured and flames flare up.
Samuel L. Jackson and Steph Curry have also visited the restaurant, and Cleigh says T.I. comes whenever he's in town.
He also says back when they had real jerk pit days, people like Bobby Brown and Wesley Snipes even stopped by.
"The best reaction is when they return," says Cleigh. "They come back for the food and for the experience."
Seeing as celebs that are global names enjoy the food and experience at Real Jerk, it should come as no surprise that world domination isn't out of the question for the restaurant: they opened a UK location around 2018.
Opening a Real Jerk in England was a dream for Ed as it was where he was raised, and the UK restaurant is run by his brother (Cleigh's uncle) Rodney.
Cleigh says though there are a lot of Caribbean restaurants in England, fewer of them are Black-owned and don't actually capture the culture of the Caribbean, generations of people living there further removed from their origins.
And you never know where you might see Real Jerk next.
"We're always looking for the next opportunity," says Cleigh. "It's time for the family to keep growing the business. Keep your eyes open for Real Jerk."
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