Explore Toronto’s top Black-owned restaurants

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  • Published on November 30, 2022
  • Last Updated December 22, 2022

These Black-owned restaurants take your tastebuds to Trinidad, Grenada, Ethiopia, and South Africa with the most traditional dishes around.

Visitors to Toronto are often stunned to find out it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. So, it’s no surprise that this Canadian city, right across the border from Buffalo, boasts a plethora of Black-owned restaurants that feature cuisine from the far corners of the world. Here’s a look at three top-rated spots:

Sugar Kane

Located on Danforth Avenue, this restaurant is owned by three sisters with Trinidadian/Grenadian heritage. Nicky Charles-Page, Donna Charles and Renée Charles opened their Caribbean-Cajun fusion restaurant in 2019, attracting customers who crave their saltfish cakes, jerk chicken fettuccine alfredo and braised oxtail bowl. The sisters caught the culinary bug from their parents who were born in Grenada and lived in Trinidad before emigrating to Canada. “Mom is a good cook, but Dad was the one who experimented and liked to prepare a feast,” Nicky said.

Uncle Ben’s Saltfish Cakes, a staple menu item, are a tribute to the sisters’ dad, who passed away in 2011, which he was famous for making. The curry goat and oxtail with rice and peas come from dishes that their mom made, as does Aunt Flo’s sauce, which is made with scorpion peppers grown in Renée’s very own backyard.

The sisters honed their culinary skills and learned to get creative with food through the launch of a catering business called Spiked Punch. “We made all sorts of food, from Italian to Asian to Caribbean,” Nicky said. “We always wanted to open a restaurant and the catering business was a doorway to that dream.”

Showing off some of Sugar Kane’s popular dishes. Left to right: Nicky Charles-Page, Renée Charles and Donna Charles. Courtesy of Maureen Littlejohn

Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors & Braai

On the other side of the city, on Bloor Avenue, this authentic South African restaurant is a magnet for fans of deeply flavorful traditional dishes. Owners Shamiema Kara and her husband Haroun Hassen grew up in Johannesburg, but moved to Canada as teenagers. They opened the restaurant in 2019 and came up with the name when plans to operate a franchise didn’t pan out. Flipping fate on its side, they now draw A-list patrons looking for authentic braai platters and juicy burgers, including comedian Trevor Noah.

“Cooking is my passion,” Shamiema Kara said. “I’ve always loved entertaining and we serve the food I grew up with.” Braai platters are a South African barbeque staple featuring a coil of boerewors (beef sausage), chicken breast, lamb chop, fluffy pap (white cornmeal porridge), chakalaka (tangy vegetable relish) and tomato sauce. True to South African style, the meat is deeply charred on the outside and tender inside.

There are also plenty of burgers to choose from — all named according to places in Johannesburg, including the FordsBurg’er with piri piri sauce and onion rings, and the Bree Street Burg’er with brie cheese and apricot chutney. All the meat used is Halal, sauces and marinades are made in-house and the restaurateurs’ signature burgers are all ground with a specific ratio of fat to meat.

When you take a seat in this bright little eatery, you might hear the melodic tones of a bit of spoken Afrikaans. Quite likely the word “lekker” will pop up at various points during patrons’ dining experiences, which just means that the food is pleasing, tasty and ultimately satisfying.

Shamiema Kara holds a braai platter that pleases patrons like Trevor Noah. Courtesy of Maureen Littlejohn

Nunu Ethiopian

Anotherrestaurant that pays homage to its owners’ origins is Nunu Ethiopian, which is located on Queen Street West. The menu is a fresh take on Horn-of-Africa cuisine with crisp garden vegetables coupled with beef, chicken and lamb sourced from Mennonite farms outside the city.

Nunu Rampen was born in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, but spent time with her diplomat uncle in Nairobi before coming to Toronto to work in her sister’s restaurant. When her sister returned to Ethiopia in 2008, Rampen decided to open her own place.

The restaurant showcases a fusion of epicurean styles in its broad range of cuisine offerings. “I learned about preparing and cooking food when I stayed with my uncle,” Rampen said. “He had a cordon bleu-trained chef.”

There are many traditional Ethiopian elements available on her menu, including injera, the pancake-like flatbread made with teff, and berbere, a spice mixture that includes chili peppers, coriander, garlic and ginger. Although Rampen offers meat dishes such as doro wat (spicy chicken), and tibs (seared sirloin chunks), there are vegetarian options from other parts of the world, including bulgur salad, roasted eggplant dip and couscous.

The menu at Nunu Ethiopian offers lots of vegetarian options. Courtesy of Maureen Littlejohn

Rampen’s husband Chris is the mastermind behind the cocktails, including TEJ, which is a drink made with Ethiopian honey wine, pear puree, spiced rum, lime juice and a spritz of soda water. It’s placed beside a brazier of burning frankincense and covered with a glass bell jar, infusing the drink with sweet smoke.

There’s no doubt about it: Next time you’re in Toronto, you must pay a visit to this assortment of restaurants for the ultimate culinary experience. Indulge yourself and let your taste buds take a tour of the world.

This story was originally published November 29, 2022 12:21 PM.


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