Newmarket eatery highlights GTA's spicy love affair with Jamaican beef patties
Tweedy’s, located at 16945 Leslie St., has been serving up this meat-stuffed pastry since 1988
For Torontonians, the Jamaican beef patty is a deeply personal food.
And while it's nearly impossible to pick a single one to call "the best," one of my favourites can be found at Tweedy's — a family-run patty shop in Newmarket.
"It is pretty incredible how the patty is such a widely appreciated food," Kirk Chong said to me during a recent visit to the shop. "We haven't changed anything since my dad opened the business. We may have tweaked a few recipes here and there but everything is still the same."
Kirk's father, Winston, opened Tweedy's in 1988. Back then, there were no patty shops in Newmarket. Winston used family recipes for the dough and filling to start a wholesale business making vegetable and beef patties. Kirk soon joined the business, and today he preps the dough and helps with every stage in the process. Kirk's son, Andrew, also helps out when he's not in school.
I first discovered Tweedy's a number of years ago during a brief crawl through Newmarket. What stood out for me was the whole composition of the patty, from a beautiful flaky but composed outer shell, to plump chunks of meat and sauce that were stuffed in between the pastry. The pepper had a nice kick too.
The Chong family moved their operation to an industrial strip eight years ago to account for better seating. There, every morning, Kirk preps a block of dough made of butter, salt, flour and beef suet for the menu of patties.
"The beef suet gives the flake we're looking for. The dough is made daily. Nothing comes from outside," Kirk said as he continued to work the dough.
The dough is rolled through a sheeter, folded and repeated "maybe 50 times" until Kirk ends up with a pliable dough that is nearly paper thin.
Winston then jumps on the line, scooping fillings of meat or vegetable into the centre of the dough before a second sheet is added and the patty is pressed.
"We use a special hot sauce here, it's a mix of habanero and scotch bonnet. So, it has a beautiful layer of spicing," he said.
By the time the patties go into the oven, a small line has started to form in the restaurant, a mosaic of cultures and backgrounds.
Since the move, Kirk and Winston started to offer lunch dishes, like jerk pork with rice (my favourite), classic jerk chicken, and there's even oxtail on the menu.
Everything is cooked in small batches, and when things run out, that's it.
If you're visiting Tweedy's, pick up a patty or two but I suggest you don't skip on the lunch specials.
"I think that's why people still come to visit us daily. We are no longer just a patty shop, we now also include lunch options, but we take the slow approach," Winston added.
Once the patties are out of the oven, the smell of spice and butter spreads quickly to the front.
"Are my patties ready?" a local police officer asked. Kirk averages between 30 and 40 dozen patties a day, and they sell out quickly.
The Jamaican beef patty was there when we needed a quick snack and only had some change in our pockets. The beef patty shop was there when we took long walks home after school with friends. The beef patty was there, waiting in a food warmer at the subway station, when we were stuck in the worst possible commute.
As we continue to dissect the modern identity of Canadian cuisine — what it was; what is has become in the last few decades; what it is becoming, the patty has been one of the few universal food items to glide over cultural boundaries, religions and generations.
From Vancouver to Halifax, patty shops have a long history of feeding people from all walks of life. Most of us have seen the red coloured dots on the patty crust. We know the lingo, "one spicy beef please."
"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it — even after all these years — why the patty is so universal, just like the samosa," Winston said.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the owner of Tweedy's restaurant as Vincent Chong. In fact, the owner's name is Winston Chong.Sep 12, 2019 10:24 AM ET