Street Shak is a Caribbean eatery dishing out a taste of Barbados on Queen West. Owner Tony Bradshaw has spent over two decades as a GM in the restaurant business. He's watched as almost every other global cuisine, from Greek and Mexican to Vietnamese and Thai , has been given the fast-casual treatment, and now the ambition is to do the same for Caribbean food.
The eatery is bright and bold. Barn wood accents add warmth while a wall full of Bajan slang offers pearls of wisdom like dance a yard before you dance abroad which translates to "practice good behaviour at home."
The menu offers a selection of starters and salads, sandwiches, roti loaded with stewed meats and customizable entrees.
Fish cakes and bakes ($7.50) are battered and fried cod fritters, drizzled with lime sour cream and a tamarind glaze. They're deliciously addictive and not too fishy; the zesty quick pickles on top brighten it up and add a little crunch.
The three piece jerk chicken dinner ($13.50) is served over a choice of rice and peas, brown rice, fried rice or curried potatoes with steamed veggies, curried chickpeas or sautĂŠed spinach and kale. The blend of spices encrusting the skin packs some real heat, while the meat is moist and tender.
I sample the same jerk spices again in sandwich form. This time the boneless meat is nestled onto a bun and paired with creamy avocado mayo, crisp lettuce and tomato.
The seared fish sandwich ($12) is a standout that borrows the recipe from Cuz's Fish Stand in Bridgetown, Barbados.
It's built on fluffy Bajan salt bread buns commissioned from a bakery in Vaughan. It's a slightly sweet bun loaded with seasoned pan seared mahi (or sometimes basa) topped with red cabbage and tangy dill mayo. The fish itself is supple and melts like butter, I can totally understand why the compact stand on the beach is known to attract lineups.
My nose is running and there's a little sweat in my brow but being a glutton for punishment I can't help but experiment with the cubby full of hot sauces all laced with scotch bonnet peppers.
If my desire to go back for more is any indication, you might see more Street Shaks popping up in Toronto.
Photos by Jesse Milns