Exploring strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best international food

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This former Coffee Time is now the hub for Toronto's Haitian community

***As of Dec 2012 this place is not open. See the comments at the end of this post. 

A former Coffee Time restaurant in Scarborough has recently been transformed into a defacto Haitian community centre. Not only is La Belle Jacmel, located at a 3537 St. Clair East at Kennedy, now the only Haitian restaurant in Toronto, it also doubles as a night club, grocery store, mail order service, bakery and charity depot for Toronto's 30,000 Haitians.

I visited La Belle Jacmel last year, when it went by the name St. Clair Bakery. The friendly Haitian trio of Lukas Cineus Jr and Sr and their friend Marie Claire had purchased a tiny Greek and Macedonian bakery in the same strip mall. They kept serving European baked goods and added Haitian take-out meals to the menu.

A few months ago they took over the much larger former Coffee Time space in the same strip mall. They added a DJ booth and dance floor to the restaurant, which is decked out with over-the-top Renaissance-style paintings and chandeliers put in by one of the previous tenants. At night, young Haitian DJs spin reggae, dancehall, souk and compa music. "We want to redecorate soon to add a more Caribbean style," says Junior (below, with Marie Claire).

You can get a hefty plate of Haitian food made up of tasty marinated beef, chicken or goat, plus green fried plantains and beet salad. If you've never tried Haitian food, come by for the Saturday afternoon buffet, where you can sample fish, goat and shellfish dishes and five kinds of rice for less than ten bucks. Be sure to try the AK-100 (pronounced "acassan"), a thick corn-based drink made with vanilla.

La Belle Jacmel still serves Greek-style baked goods, as well as flaky Haitian meat patties and sweets. Heck, chef Marie Claire will even serve you up bacon and eggs or chicken tikka masala, items listed on a giant menu board left by the previous restaurant tenant.

There used to be several other Haitian restaurants and variety stores in Scarborough, but as they are now closed, Junior decided to start selling hard-to-find grocery items at his restaurant, such as djon-djon, a type of mushroom cooked with rice that is only found in Haiti. However, he's more than happy to explain the Haitian dishes to people who have never tried them. "We want to let everyone know about Haitian food," he says proudly. 

Photos by Dana Lacey. Thanks to David McMullan for the tip.

La Belle Jacmel is at 3537 St. Clair East at Kennedy. Open 8am to 10pm every day; Fridays and Saturday closing time is 3am. Tel: 647 477 1112.

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  1. Proud of you mom :)

  2. good job done so far!

  3. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Happy to have found you guys by surprise via Google. My husband I are from Montreal and we are fairly new to Toronto and I`m missing my haitian food :)

  4. I will be visiting there soon..so happy to have found this place :)

  5. Simply deeeeeelish. Noticed few new foods that were added to the menu.

  6. Is this place still open. The number is disconnected....We want to try it

  7. I'm not sure if it's still open. Someone on Twitter told me it looks like it's for rent. Does anyone know? Please comment here or email spicecityto@gmail dot com.

  8. I use to go but 1 month ego they close

  9. Their Facebook page says they will have a new location soon. Let me know if you hear anything.