This Whitby convenience store serves up home-style Jamaican cooking

Suresh Doss: In the Caribbean, from Barbados to Jamaica, there are these small corner stores called shops or shacks. And they have a little different flavour from what you’re used to seeing in Toronto. These are small corner shops where you can get your essentials but they are also places that double up as community hubs. And they are places for home-style food. 

(Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila Alfa: So it’s a one stop shop for everything?

Suresh Doss: You may pull over, stop by to grab canned goods or a cold drink but oftentimes they are also spots where you can get food; a snack or a hot plate. This is what Justin is trying to do with Jus Convenience, his little shop in Whitby which he opened nearly four years ago.

Ismaila Alfa: So what am I picturing when I walk into Jus Convenience? 

A jerk pork sandwich at Jus Convenience (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh Doss: The first few times I went, it was pretty bare bones. The front of the shop doesn’t really identify that it’s a Caribbean store. But over the years, Justin has done a terrific job of bringing in locally made foodstuffs. He carries Nerpy’s, a Jamaican hot sauce, an assortment of Pattie from Stush’s.

Ismaila, I know you love patties, these are probably some of the best patties — especially vegetarian — without a storefront. They’re carried by a handful of places, like Jus. So you have a peppering of these products now at the front of the shop then there’s the back area

Ismaila: Let me guess, the hot counter?  

(Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh Doss: Yes! So the story goes that about four months after opening the store Justin was approached by Patricia Whittier, a chef who had wanted to open a restaurant in the city somewhere. Justin proposed this idea of the quintessential Caribbean one stop shop and they agreed to let Patricia operate in the back. So she features a rotating menu of specials throughout the week.

Ismaila: What is she cooking? 

Justin Anderson opened Jus Convenience in Whitby 4 years ago (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh Doss: the dishes that have really struck a chord with me are the jerk dishes, they’re cooked over fire with a lot of spices in the marinade. So it’s quite loud and pronounced. I am a big fan of the pork, which can be served on a plate or in a sandwich. Its slathered in gravy, almost too saucy to be in sandwich form but it really allows the coco bread to soak in the marinade. Then there’s the Ackee and Saltfish. Ackee that has been cooked to the point where it slightly resembles the texture of scrambled eggs and it’s served with pepper, really bright and spice forward. 

So then you need to visit on either Thursday or Friday as Pat runs an oxtail special on those days. Traditionally this is a dish you would have on Sundays and Patricia uses her mom’s recipe, to make this really wonderful slow stew. You can pluck the meat off the bone and run it through the sauced rice. It’s great. 

Jus Convenience also offers essential Jamaican goods. (Suresh Doss)

Ismaila Alfa: Justin made a comment about being the quintessential community spot, how are they doing with COVID?

Suresh Doss: Now more than ever, there’s a good amount of support during dinner time, as you will see people come and get their favourites. And with Justin now carrying Jamaican foodstuffs, you see it evolving beyond just your typical corner shop. I find that with each visit for me, I notice something new that brings the shop closer to what Justin’s vision is of the places he grew up around. A place that, especially during hard times, it’s a place of respite and in this case, delicious home-style cooking.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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