The Real Jerk, Riverside’s cult favourite Jamaican restaurant, gets an eviction notice

The Real Jerk, Riverside’s cult favourite Jamaican restaurant, gets an eviction notice

(Image: The Real Jerk)

The iconic smiling sun that’s shone down on the corner of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue for the last 22 years is about to set—and soon. Over Christmas, the building that houses The Real Jerk was sold to Bill Mandelbaum of Buckingham Properties, and rumour has it the restaurant is slated for demolition to make way for yet another condo development. Sure, it always seemed a little cheesy, and it stuck out a little in dreary grey wintertime, but the gaudy corrugated tin mural and beaming sun (the latter painted by Jamaican artist Tony Green) is a true Riverside landmark.

Owners Ed and Lily Pottinger are lying low while they consider their options, but Ed did make this statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

It is with heavy hearts that we send this message to all of you. Our building has unexpectedly been sold on Dec 30, 2011 and the new owner has issued an order to move as of Jan 31, 2012. We would have hoped to stay longer, long enough for us to secure a new location but this will not be feasible. While we fight the unfair order we sadly must prepare for the real possibility that our days are numbered at the corner of Queen & Broadview, a location we have very much loved for 22 years. On behalf of both Lilly and I, my manager Natalie and The Real Jerk staff I want to thank you for your loyalty and support. It has been our distinct pleasure to be part of the Riverside neighbourhood and business community. We are committed to building our restaurant again and hope you will visit us as soon as we open our new doors.

The Jamaican-born couple opened the first Jerk at Queen and Greenwood in 1984 but soon moved to the current location. The spot’s festive decor and authentic food and atmosphere made it beloved of locals and a destination for many, including the likes of Wesley Snipes, Jack Layton, Michael Jackson, Serena Williams and LL Cool J. Manager Natalie Williams told us she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of well wishes from Real Jerk regulars, not to mention the non-stop media interest. “Ed and Lilly are in Jamaica,” she said. “That’s where they were when the notice was delivered on New Year’s Day. Not a very nice way to start the New Year.”

Our advice to the legions of Real Jerk fans: keep your eyes peeled for that smiling sun. Williams says it’s going to be salvaged before the wrecking ball arrives. As for the food, get it while you can—who knows how long it’ll be before you can dig into a plate of that silky, fatty, finger-licking delicious oxtail again?