Go to The Real Jerk during Caribana or any time year-round and you’ll find some of the realest Jamaican vibes Toronto has to offer. The atmosphere here is as lively as the food. Every Thursday, they host a karaoke session aptly titled “Irie-Okie” and, though their old outdoor BBQs from their previous location are a thing of the past, the new location boasts a lounge area offering one of the widest selections of rums in the city, and they still host and cater an annual boat cruise event during Caribana. Prices are fair and the jerk chicken wings are the bomb. The roti comes in a generous serving, too.
Originally located at Queen & Broadview in Riverdale, owners Lily and Ed Pottinger were recently forced to relocate due to construction of new condos on their old site. They’ve now found themselves in a bigger space at Gerrard and Carlaw.
For the Pottingers, 29 years in business and a consistent place in NOW Magazine’s annual Best of Toronto list doesn’t mean resting on one’s laurels. Ed can be seen greeting every table and clearing the dishes, and staff are helpful and knowledgeable, recommending the perfect cocktails to pair with your dish. Beautiful murals depicting scenes of Jamaica painted on sheets of zinc meanwhile have survived through three different moves (there was also a brief stint operating a smaller take out joint in suburban Woodbridge).
The Real Jerk remains a landmark for the local Caribbean community and visitors to Toronto alike, attracting a culturally diverse clientele. It is a meeting place for food, culture, music and people, and truly is a piece of Jamaica in ‘the Six.’ Check out their sister location in Toronto’s Beaches neighborhood, at the fitting address of 1004 Kingston Road.