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Food & Drink

What’s on the menu at AF1 Caribbean Canteen, a Jamaican restaurant from the chef of Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles

By Caroline Aksich| Photography by Caroline Aksich
What's on the menu at AF1 Caribbean Canteen, a Jamaican restaurant from the chef of Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles

Name: AF1 Caribbean Canteen Contact: 596 College St., 647-340-3924, caribbeancanteen.ca, @af1caribcanteen
Neighbourhood: Little Italy Chef and owner: Adrian Forte (Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles)

The food

Jamaica’s greatest hits like jerk chicken, oxtail stew and beef patties, as well as less ubiquitous specialties like curry duck and peppered shrimp. Before opening AF1, Forte went on a food pilgrimage through his birth country. Not only did he stop to snack at almost every road-side shack he came across, but he had his extended family teach him how to make their own specialities. “My grandma was a chef in Jamaica for 42 years,” says Forte, and many of his dishes at AF1 are based on her recipes.

Codfish fritters come with a seriously tongue-singeing hot sauce. $5. (Pictured with a glass of rum punch. $8.)
Codfish fritters come with a seriously tongue-singeing hot sauce. $5. (Pictured with a glass of rum punch. $8.)

 

Peppered shrimp are seared in coconut oil before being tossed in ketchup and habanero hot sauce. They they're deglazed with cane vinegar. $13.
Peppered shrimp are seared in coconut oil before being tossed in ketchup and habanero hot sauce. They they’re deglazed with cane vinegar. $13.

 

The jerk chicken is smoked for three hours before it’s finished in the pan and drizzled with molasses jerk sauce. $8 for a half pound, $15 for a whole pound.
The jerk chicken is smoked for three hours before it’s finished in the pan and drizzled with molasses jerk sauce. $8 for a half pound, $15 for a whole pound.

 

Braised oxtail with lima beans is the current best-seller. It's cooked for about three hours. $15 for a half pound, $18 for a whole pound. All proteins come with a side of white bread and slaw.
Braised oxtail with lima beans is the current best-seller. It’s cooked for about three hours. $15 for a half pound, $18 for a whole pound. All proteins come with a side of white bread and slaw.

 

Forte (pictured here) imports pimento wood from Jamaica for smoking. "It’s more valuable than gold," he says.
Forte (pictured here) imports pimento wood from Jamaica for smoking. “It’s more valuable than gold,” he says.

 

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Forte can smoke up to 300 pounds of meat at a time on this barrel smoker.
Forte can smoke up to 300 pounds of meat at a time on this barrel smoker.
The drinks

Island favourites like Ting, sorrel drink, Dragon Stout and Red Stripe. The most potent potable available is the rum punch, which comes in two flavours: red and yellow. Red is a fruity melange, while yellow is a blend of pineapple, mango and banana. Forte says that a lot of customers choose to mix the two.

The space

Using barn board and corrugated steel salvaged from junkyards, Toronto-based Rich and Poor Home gave the 40-seat room a Hellshire Beach–shack vibe. The street-side patio—where the barrel smoker lives—can seat another dozen people when weather permits.

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Here's Forte again. One of the walls is panelled with faux speakers, a shout out to Jamaica’s dancehall scene.
Here’s Forte again. One of the walls is panelled with faux speakers, a shout out to Jamaica’s dancehall scene.

 

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