Just minutes away from Square One in Mississauga, Leela’s Roti and Doubles is a hot spot for Trinidadian food. Located on Rathburn Road West in Mississauga, the Trinidadian restaurant sits on the corner of a little plaza called Rathburn Square. Their logo, “Always Served Fresh and Spicy,” does not mislead.
Upon entrance, the scent of curry fills the restaurant. Looking at the menu, it is no wonder! The main dishes include curry chicken, curry goat, curry duck, curry shrimp, curry channa (chickpeas), and curry fish. They are all served with the choice of rice or roti. Other menu items include stew chicken, a veggie platter, aloo (potato) pie, and doubles. Doubles is their most popular menu item and is a dish invented in Trinidad and Tobago: curry channa (chickpeas) being sandwiched between two baras (fried dough).
Leela’s Roti and Doubles is a family-run restaurant, owned by an immigrant family from Trinidad and Tobago. Leela is a wife, mother, employee, and part-owner of the restaurant. Her husband, who is also the owner of the restaurant, works alongside her within the restaurant. Their daughter is also an employee at the restaurant. They all take turns being the order-taker as there is only one register, but it tends to be their daughter who engages in this duty most of the time. They all tend to be in the restaurant working the same hours, helping out where they can such as in the kitchen.
The décor of Leela’s Roti and Doubles screams Caribbean culture. The walls are painted a soft yellow and there are multiple leafy plants. Upon entrance, one can either go straight to wooden doors with restrooms behind them, or turn right to follow a narrow path which leads to the counter where food can be ordered. A large window occupies an entire wall of the restaurant, making the space full of sunlight. Beside the window are a series of of four-seat wooden tables. On the wall behind the counter are menu boards, and to the right of the counter are snacks and CD’s on display that can be purchased. The snacks include ones that could be found in Trinidad, such as sugar cake, fried plantain chips, fried channa (chickpeas), and fried peanuts. The CDs being sold are that of genres attractive to Trinidadians or those from the Caribbean, including remixed Soca, Reggae and Bollywood CDs. Loud Soca music is also played to add to the Caribbean vibe.
The décor also includes hints of history and religion. Located at the entrance of the restaurant is a large statue of the Hindu God named Ganesh, who is the remover of obstacles. Located on the marble front counter is a medium statue of Buddha. The yellow walls contain historic paintings of African and Indian slaves and indentured servants. This reflects the history of Trinidad and Tobago where Africans and Indians were brought by the British to the island of Trinidad and Tobago.
There is rarely a time when there are no customers at Leela’s Roti and Doubles. The line and tables are always full with mainly Trinidadian or Guyanese customers. However, white, Asian, and Black customers can always be spotted within the restaurant, reflecting Mississauga’s diversity. There is no dish over ten dollars, a feature of the restaurant which likely influences its largely working-class customer base. Also, customers of all ages flow in and out the restaurant. Some bring their entire family, while others choose to come alone.
Now finally, you may be wondering what the food tastes like! I ordered the stew chicken dish, which comes with rice, a side of salad, and a small container of pepper sauce (or hot sauce). I also ordered one doubles with a medium pepper level. The stew chicken was juicy and flavourful, both sweet and spicy. The gravy from the chicken covered the entire plate of rice, turning every rice grain a rich brown/red colour. On the side was shredded lettuce topped with cucumbers and tomatoes to help calm down the spice. The doubles, although very messy to eat, contained a rich curry taste with a hint of a pepper flavour. It left my hands greasy, but it was well worth it! Fresh and spicy is definitely the way to describe this Trinidadian venue.
Nerissa Harrypersad is currently a senior student at the University of Toronto- Mississauga, completing a Specialist in Sociology and a Major in Criminology. Raised by Trinidadian parents and coming from a rich Trinidadian culture, she is particularly intrigued by other cultures, while consistently learning something new about her own culture every day. She loves the study of culture and what it means to come from a particular ethnic background.
Please check out her Diaspora Food Memorie Blog: Doubles: The First Taste of Trinidad.
Check out this short film on doubles, Doubles With Slight Pepper, by Ian Harnarine. (Harnarine, Ian. 2011. Doubles With Slight Pepper. Couberg, ON: Canada).