September 16, 2022

Black Food Features! Spotlight on: One Love Vegetarian

The end of an era for this beloved Blackhurst mainstay

One Love Vegetarian, a fan-favourite spot near Bathurst Station, closed its doors in June of 2022, but we didn’t want to miss the chance to celebrate the restaurant and the history of the building for its role in the community. 

Ikeila Wright (photographed for FoodShare by Brianna Roye), the self-described Chief Executive Officer in charge of “potwashing, floor mopping, potato peeling, chopping, cooking, etc. etc. etc.” ran the restaurant from 2009 to 2022 offering a range of traditional fare with a plant-based twist. People were sometimes surprised to not find items like patties but would fall in love with dishes like the BBQ tofu stir fry soon enough. It’s definitely a favourite of Kaylah Shoucair’s, the building’s owner and the former restaurant’s landlord (pictured below).

When we visited her at One Love earlier this summer, Ikeila told us that her favourite dish was the callaloo meal, made with fresh greens, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and herbs from Jamaica. She said she loved how it looked, tasted and felt, and “if I had to pair it with a song,” she said, “it would be be Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up.’”

Before One Love, the building was home to Joyce’s West Indies Food. Kaylah’s parents Carmel and Joyce were the owners and, when it opened in the late 70s, it was one of the few places in the city where people could shop for culturally-specific Carribean food. Ikeila explains that long before there was an “ethnic aisle” at the supermarket (before supermarkets even appreciated the value in stocking so-called ethnic food), Joyce’s was a thriving grocerette providing West Indian foodstuffs and provisions to folks from near and far. To Ikeila, what made the business so important was that it focused on selling “what we desire, not what we were told to buy.” 

At that time, the area was a hub for Black folks in the city, so much so that it was lovingly nicknamed “Blackhurst”. Blackhurst, Ikeila explains, was a place where any day of the week you could see Dennis Brown popping in for a patty while he was in town or a Blue Jay player grabbing a haircut at one of the local Black barbers. 

It was a neighborhood, she says, that could “meet our cultural needs, you know. We have to honour that, and honour ourselves, in what we eat, how we live, in how we do our hair, in our skin, everything.”

Want to hear more from Ikeila? Wondering about future plans and what might come next? Check out her interview with Karon Liu in the Toronto Star.

Read More about Joyce’s, One Love and Blackhurst:

READ: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2022/06/13/torontos-popular-one-love-vegetarian-restaurant-to-close-after-13-years.html

READ: https://www.thestar.com/life/together/places/2021/01/24/a-jamaican-grocery-store-became-a-vibrant-community-hub-how-a-proud-daughter-kept-her-parents-legacy-alive.html

WATCH: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=888720554632885

CHECK OUT: https://digitalarchive.tpl.ca/objects/373930/joyces-west-indies-food

WATCH: https://www.tvo.org/article/when-bathurst-was-blackhurst-the-black-history-of-mirvish-village

VISIT: https://blackhurstcc.org/

This series was cooked up to highlight some of our team’s favourite Black-owned restaurants here in Toronto. Photographed for FoodShare by the talented Brianna Roye, we wanted to bring you some of the Black folks in our city who are building community through food. We were tired of seeing features like these show up on our feeds in February and disappear for the rest of the year; folks are Black after February, too! Stay tuned for more to come… 

And tell us your favourite Black-owned restaurants and food shops. Visit us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn to share your recommendations!