Iconic Caribbean Restaurant Continues to Impress Diners in Mississauga
While no business is easy, there are few business more challenging—and rewarding—to run than restaurants.
As tastes change and trends come and go, restaurateurs often struggle to keep up—but some do more than just succeed, they flourish and spend years (sometimes decades) attracting loyal diners to their front doors.
Charlie's Caribbean Cuisine, located in Mississauga's bustling and diverse Cooksville neighbourhood, is one of those restaurants.
The Charlie's restaurant that diners know and love actually opened in its current spot on 3055 Hurontario St. (just half a block north of Dundas) in 2007—but its roots run much deeper. In fact, Charlie's began as a grocery store in the early 80s.
"The [Cooksville] grocery store was opened in November 1991," says Charlie and family, who run Charlie's Caribbean Cuisine and Charlie's West Indian Food Mart (the original grocery store) with his family.
"The restaurant is next door. We also have a butcher shop in the middle of the plaza."
From left to right: Derek Budhoo, Sue Budhoo, Charlie Budhoo, Anita Budhoo Rogers and Sharda Budhoo Ayers
Believe it or not, the grocery store—and the family business—first came to be in 1982. The family wouldn't move to their current location until almost 10 years later.
"We first opened a grocery store in 1982 in Scarborough and Toronto and then eventually moved to Mississauga," the family says.
As for why Charlie and the family chose Mississauga, they said there was simply a need for authentic Caribbean food in the growing city.
"There was nowhere to get authentic Caribbean groceries. We opened the restaurant because the two went hand in hand and we became a staple in the Caribbean community. We ended up moving here and once again, realized that there was a need for Caribbean groceries."
They also said the family realized that Mississauga—which was much different in 1991—was quickly becoming a multicultural city.
The family was only too happy to help make the growing food and grocery scene even more diverse and inclusive.
"It was our pleasure to serve such a great upcoming city and it still is! We've been here for 28 years and Mississauga has become an amazing city," says Charlie and family.
While the restaurant certainly filled a niche at a time when Caribbean cuisine was more scarce, the resto hasn't stood the test of time because of convenience alone. Known for being reliably delicious, customers have flocked to Charlie's for close to three decades to indulge in some of its most popular dishes.
According to the family, diners tend to love the jerk chicken and roti dishes. The restaurant's Caribbean Chinese food is also a favorite, especially the chicken fried rice.
Chicken fried rice
Even more fortunate for Charlie's fans? The restaurant also offers catering and its beloved dishes are available for delivery through Skip The Dishes.
The restaurant is also known for offering great deals.
"We are always running some great specials, from catering trays to family specials and our popular daily lunch specials during the week," the family says, adding that Charlie's lunch special runs from Monday to Friday from 10:30 to 3:00 p.m. for only $6.49.
The lunch special has 5 options: jerk chicken, fried chicken, curried goat, stew chicken, and special chicken fried rice
Asides from great food, Charlie and the family say the grocery store and its high-quality products have allowed the family business to flourish.
"We have a large customer base due to our grocery store. We thrive on quality and we have some great loyal customers and staff with us. Being a family run business it really allows us to focus on quality and great customer service," they say.
The family says that, over the years, customers have complimented them on the restaurant's quality and hominess. In fact, he says that many customers feel like family.
"We have the best customers," they say.
The accolades from the media and public figures also go to show how well the restaurant serves the community. Charlie's Caribbean has been featured in local media outlets (in fact, it's appeared on a few Top 5 lists on insauga.com) and was even the subject of a TV special called "Tale of a Town."
The restaurant has also been recognized by former mayor Hazel McCallion and former prime minister Stephen Harper.
As for what Charlie and the family love most about running a restaurant, they say it's all about the customers.
"Definitely, our favourite thing is being able to associate with such a diverse clientele."
In terms of the future, Charlie's isn't ruling out expanding—but it's happy to stay right where it is.
"We've thought about opening new locations and that's never not an option, but we are happy to be in the heart of Mississauga."
Those who love Charlie's chicken fried rice might be happy to hear that the popular dish has been nominated for an award by Skip the Dishes. People who vote are eligible to win a grand prize of $1,000 in Skip credits, as well as 10 giveaways for $100 Skip credits.
Voting ends April 21.
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