I spent one year in French Immersion. Just one. I was in grade 5, and even back then I was smooth with the romantic languages. I was looked at as a French prodigy, so my parents thought it would be a good idea. The school was in a neighborhood by Eglinton and Dufferin, so I could’ve walked there. Not bad right? My parents thought that was a good enough reason, and they promised me I would make new friends! Learn a new language, wow! Naw, fuck that school, I spent one year there. Only good thing there was the chocolate milk.
BUT, and there’s a big but, the one thing that made going to that dreadful school a lot better was Randy’s. In my exploration of the different food cultures early in my life this was my entrance into Little Jamaica. If you know anything then you know how delicious these patties are, and you’ve learned that they are pockets of lava straight from the box so for the love of god wait 10 minutes dude. My grade 5 self would scoop a patty after school and bus home, like the good little Toronto boy that I was.
Now, this post is not about the patties. That’s for another time. Right now it’s all praise to the oxtail baby.
There is no place to sit inside. It's literally called Randy's Take-Out. There is no place to sit outside because there’s always a man selling every CD and DVD. You can only pay with cash. Randy’s is completely no nonsense, and how fucking baller is that. Everyone there already knows what they’re getting, and these people be moving. Even during shit covid there’s lines outside, and you better take that time to think about what you’re getting. On a quick day I fuck with a patty, but when I need sustenance I go for that oxtail, because there is something magical about rice and peas with that oxtail gravy and meat that falls off the bone, even with a dumbass plastic fork.
There truly is a struggle when I write these things because I spend so much damn time looking at these pictures that I need to reign in the horses and not get it again, even though I just had it. I most certainly am not Jamaican (audible gasp), but Jamaican oxtail always felt like a dish I would have at my house. The meat is different and the spices are a different world, but the idea of stewing meat in a concoction for hours and then serving it over rice is definitely something I lived on growing up. There’s a sense of comfort that comes from the rich gravy, with the garlic, onion, thyme, broth, whatever turning the literal tail of an ox into meat I want all day at all times, please and thank you.
I can’t really tell you what makes the oxtail on rice and peas with coleslaw at Randy’s as amazing as it is. Maybe it's because the oxtail is forever spoon-tender, and it resides in this glorious, rich gravy with that golden marrow in it. It’s that gravy that when you drag your finger on the back of the spoon it leaves a trail. None of that watery sad shit on this plate. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s spiced just right enough that it doesn’t blow your head off but it reminds you who’s in the back making it. The rice and peas are fragrant and consistent, and the peppery cabbage slaw acts as the cooling agent that refreshes the palate and makes it easier to dive back in. This is an OG plate man. It’s a filling, warm plate of food that has every element going as hard as it can. Fuck. Yes.
I absolutely did not regret going to D'Arcy McGee. It was the first time I had actually been somewhere brand new, and I didn't know anyone. I learned things, and I began to understand that I actually like meeting other people, even if those same people had me riding in the back of a cop car at the age of 10. Happy I left. BUT, remember what I said at the beginning. Going to that school made me go to that part of the city, and I walked into the land of oxtail gravy and molten lava beef patties that people come from all over to get. This spot is ingrained in my history, and I can't see my Toronto without it. Go, and try the beef and chicken patties, all the plates, and pick up a box of 12 for the freezer. And, for the love of god, wait to eat the damn patties.