Oakwood and Eglinton avenue west also known as Little Jamaica has developed a reputation for being somewhat of a dangerous area that is riddled with crime and violence. This is where I grew up. I decided to return to this old neighbourhood of mine to show the good that Eglinton West has to offer and some of the history behind this community driven area. From the barbershops where customers not only get a cut but also a place to discuss current events, to the restaurants that have been on Eglinton so long that – to some- they feel like a second home. This is the Eglinton that I know.
The Eglinton west bus arrives at the Oakwood stop where passengers board to get where they want to go. The streets of Eglinton and Oakwood are often busy with vehicle and public transit buses. The sidewalks are also very busy when the weather permits and it can almost feel like a street festival on some weekends.
The Barbers of Eglinton is a barbershop that has been a staple on the street for the last 40 years. On weekends the shop is packed with customers that sometimes wait almost an hour to get their hair cut.
The barber in the red shirt goes by the name of Dail(who was a little camera-shy). The owner of the shop wasn’t present but tells me that the shop is famous for being one the first Barber shops to open on Eglinton and for being the most popular. “Most of the barbershop owners out here made their starting break at Barbers of Eglinton”, says Dail.
This shop is another landmark of the Eglinton avenue area that has been spotted in music videos such as “Heaven Only Knows” by rapper K-OS and since discontinued show “Da Kink in My Hair”.
Further down Eglinton is FYI: For Youth Initiative. The center is a place for youth to go and hang out and take part in after-school activities. They also help youth find jobs and creatively explore different hobbies of their interest.
Roti King a local restaurant and bar that many community members visit to hang out or to order some delicious West Indian roti wrapped around your choice of Curried chicken, goat, shrimp or potato and Channa (chick peas).
Customers hang around the bar socializing while everyone enjoys the local beer of choice, Heineken. Many of the customers in the shop are neighbours and the atmosphere is laid back and light-hearted. Caribbean music from a variety of Islands plays in the background by an in-house DJ who is also a member of the Eglinton community.
Raps Island Cuisine, formerly known as Raps Authentic Jamaican Cuisine is yet another staple in the Eglinton & Oakwood area. The shop recently went under a makeover by reality show Restaurant Takeover that aired on the Food Network, giving the store a fresh new interior design.
Jamaican patties are always ready to serve in their special heated area. The restaurant offers good food for good prices. Rap’s was one of the first restaurants to offer Jamaican food in a fast food environment in the area.
The BBQ grill crafted out of a metal barrel is up and running for the day. This is where the extremely popular Jerk Chicken cooks. Customers in the neighbourhood often look forward to the moment when the smoke begins to rise above the streets and the aromas of the Jerk Chicken spread through the neighbourhood signifies that dinner will soon be ready.