ByBlacks Restaurant Week shines the spotlight on many of Toronto’s top Black-owned restaurants
KARON LIU FOOD REPORTER
Unless you live or work in the neighbourhood, odds are you don’t know about Stacy’s Island Flavor, a Jamaican takeout spot inside a small plaza at Sheppard Avenue East and Pharmacy that opened in 2022. It’s a true Scarborough hidden gem.
Owner Stacy Porter has been cooking professionally for most of her life, and it shows when you order the ultra-juicy jerk pork smothered in gravy on a bed of rice and peas and housemade slaw. It’s succulent with just a hint of melt-inyour-mouth fat.
Porter’s restaurant is one of almost 30 culinary highlights for ByBlacks Restaurant Week. From Monday to next Sunday, many Black-owned restaurants are offering three-course prix fixe at a 10-to 20-per-cent discount, as part of a semi-annual event organized by the online publication.
Participating restaurants are offering meals from $20 to $60 per person, and the places run from casual spots like Little Jamaica’s Rap’s, easy-to-miss plaza gems like Nigerian restaurant Blessinglicious on the edge of Scarborough, Parkdale’s Afrobeat Kitchen, and buzzing downtown spots such as Sugar Kane on the Danforth and Miss Likklemore’s on King Street West.
For example, for $45, Parkdale’s West African restaurant Afrobeat Kitchen is serving two shrimp surfers, peppered shrimp with avocado on double-cooked plantain; beef or chicken jollof as the main; and a piece of chocolate stout cake for dessert.
For $35, North York Caribbean takeout spot GC Jerk Xpress, which has two locations, is serving a mini jerk chicken poutine; a jerk or barbecue chicken meal; and festivals (sweet fried dumplings) with mango sauce, coconut sprinkles and bits of mango.
“The aim is to get people to try Black-owned restaurants,” said ByBlacks publisher Roger Dundas. “We’re careful not to compete with Winter- and Summerlicious. The third week of November and May (when ByBlacks Restaurant Weeks take place) are still slow times for restaurants.”
Most of the participating restaurants are in the GTA, plus a few in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver.
Unlike Winterlicious and Summerlicious, which deal with dine-in restaurants, ByBlacks Restaurant Week also includes takeout spots, food trucks, ghost kitchens, popups and caterers. Dundas also says the restaurants pay nothing to take part in the promotion.
“ByBlacks has a Black-owned business directory of 4,000, and I’d say one in five are food businesses, the highest out of any category. Food creates a safe space, a community space, so it’s about getting people to try new places and go somewhere different.”
As for Porter, she’ll be serving an off-menu specialty of saltfish fritters, chicken fricassee with rice and slaw, and a slice of cheesecake, for $20.
“I wanted exposure. When you’re in this area, there’s not a lot of people who know about you,” says Porter, about why she chose to participate.
“I don’t think Black businesses get enough exposure, and I like that this helps people know more about us.”
The event extends beyond the GTA borders. In Windsor, Zule Ankamah’s Ghanaian takeout restaurant Zuleeats, which opened last year, is offering a goat pepper or okra soup, jollof with plantain and chicken or vegetables, and poloo, a coconut-nutmeg biscuit, for $40.
Ankamah started her food business after she got laid off from her longtime casino job at the start of the pandemic, and soon found success.
“I have to put Ghanaian food on the map,” she said. “We have so many dishes that people don’t know about, and this is the time to let our cuisines shine.”
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited