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Roywoods chef left burbs to bring Jamaica to CityPlace

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The story that inspired one of CityPlace’s newest eateries is one of community and familiarity, one that this downtown neighbourhood is trying to cultivate itself.

It started with Regis Jay when he was six years old.

Regis ate at a Caribbean Eatery across from his barber in his childhood neighbourhood of York Mills and DVP every day.

Regis explains that he ate there every day since he was six and even when he moved to CityPlace, he would drive all the way there just to get his hands on the chef’s jerk chicken sandwich, Regis’ personal favourite.

“I ate three a day my whole life.”

Regis, a CityPlace resident for the last six years, opened up Roywoods with his friend David Isaias, a CityPlace resident for the last nine years.

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Roywoods, named after the street Regis used to live on, is a Caribbean Eatery at Fort York Boulevard and Dan Leckie Way, serving up heaping piles of dishes such as jerk chicken with coleslaw and rice and beans. The eatery specializes in take-out but does have a small, charming front patio.

The same chef that fed Regis in his early years is in the Roywoods kitchen.

“It took six months of convincing,” Regis explains.

“When I was younger the chef said it would do great downtown. When I signed the lease, he said “ok, ok, I’m coming.

When I went back to him six months later, he got a little nervous and almost didn’t want to leave. He had been there 20 years. I showed him the spot in CityPlace. Now he may move to the neighbourhood.”

“Wait, what’s his name?,” 416 Mag asks. “The chef.”

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Picture of Chef Donald, courtesy Diana Pereira

“It’s Chef Donald,” Regis says, “But I thought his name was “Chef” for the longest time.”

Regis explains that the chef, who is a Jamaican man in his 50s doesn’t give away his recipes and doesn’t speak too much.

“He works and sleeps,” Regis says.

Good thing, because Roywoods is open 11 a.m.-midnight during the week and until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with the doors usually closing on the weekend at 5 a.m.

The number one seller is the jerk chicken plate.

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Jerk Chicken Plate

“The challenge is not running out of food! ” Regis says.

During our interview, one could see why. It was only 5 p.m. on a Thursday and among the customers, there were three regulars who walked in within the timespan of 20 minutes.

Regis is on the patio during our interview, eating his new go-to dish, which he always says changes. This time, it’s the Cajun catfish.

A regular walks in.

“You have that money-making smile, man,” the regular says, giving him a fist-pump.

The regular patron is right. The money has been coming in since day one, so much that the restaurant opened a week early because the soft opening went so well.

Co-owner David joins us on the patio.

“There was a necessity of having something quick in and out in this neighbourhood,” he explains. “People here might want to go out, go to the gym, and see friends … there’s no time in the kitchen.

That’s okay. Meals at Roywoods taste home-cooked and local because they are.

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Fried Chicken Plate

The coco bread and patties are baked fresh every day in-house, and the scotch bonnet peppers come from a “tiny little Jamaican place in Kensington Market.”

As for the food, it’s authentic, flavourful, the coleslaw crunchy and the jerk chicken not too spicy — the portions are huge! You can definitely count on leftovers. And you’ll have cravings. Good thing, because Chef is likely in the Roywoods kitchen right now, cooking for you, knowing you’ll be back.

 

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Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is the Digital News Editor for 680NEWS.com and CityNews.ca. When she's not in the newsroom, she's teaching journalism at Ryerson University or photographing Toronto sculptures for her weekly series on CityNews.ca. In her spare time, she writes for 416 Mag and J-Source. She's currently working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.

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