Vibes and Great Finds in Oshawa’s SoJo Neighbourhood

Will McGuirk

If you find yourself looking for a welcoming "yeah mon vibe," some great eats, and a little downtime, head to SoJo and chill within the coolness of it all.

Just south of the four corners in Downtown Oshawa is a funky little neighbourhood called ‘SoJo’. It features a community garden, fantastic vinyl record and book stores, vintage furniture and a wool shop. It is also becoming a gathering place for the region’s newest African and Caribbean retail and restaurants.

The SoJo neighbourhood is located on Simcoe Street in Oshawa, just south of John Street. With its mix of old and new, local and international, this urban corner of Oshawa is a great location to browse, chill and get take-out for a lunch lounge in Memorial Park.

Florence, the owner of JD Best Afro-Caribbean Variety Market and originally from Nigeria, says she would recommend their jollof rice meal combo, with an added treat of a meat pie for that five-or-make-it-ten break.

“We promise you that it is nothing like [anything] you’ve had before!,” she says.

Florence opened JD Best in June 2020, mid-pandemic, but she had a vision for her future and the region’s.

“I found myself having to journey to Toronto every weekend,” she says, “especially since I love to cook Nigerian cuisine and frequently need Nigerian groceries. This travel became a hassle as it was time-consuming and costly. I saw this as an opportunity to create Oshawa’s first African grocery store, not only for me but for the rest of my fellow Nigerians living in Durham Region.”

JD also specializes in bean cake (moin-moin), and fried tilapia drizzled with spicy stew and authentic African pop drinks.

The ‘pop’ of Oshawa is why Florence chose the city and this particular neighbourhood, too, she says.

“My favourite thing about the location is the fact that we are in the heart of Oshawa. Downtown Oshawa is the go-to site for tourists, as well as residents,” she says, “and we are proud to be in an area that is the buzzing spot.”

Yheamhi Eysmeq, the co-founder of City Patties, echoes Florence’s sentiments about the buzz of SoJo. Eight years ago, he and his wife Rochelle moved their family to Oshawa to open their business across from the park.

City Patties Co-owner, and a plate of food outside with the restaurant exterior in the background.

Source: City Patties

“My wife and I attended a reggae concert at Memorial Park a year before we moved to Oshawa, and the atmosphere really reminded us of Jamaica because everyone seemed to know each other… We always had an entrepreneurial spirit towards business, and we always had a passion for feeding people, so we decided to take a chance by creating City Patties, a cultural food shop. We wanted to introduce our authentic Jamaican patties and Caribbean treats to Oshawa. The name City Patties was created by our daughter Sky, who was about eight years old at the time. Here at City Patties, we take the hassle out of finding culturally good food.”

At City Patties, “culturally good food does, of course, mean a variety of patties such as ackee and saltfish, callaloo and saltfish, jerk chicken, curry goat and curry chicken. Every newcomer, Yheamhi says, should definitely treat themselves to their house special, the Cheesy Beef Patty.

The view of the park across the road is also special to the owners of this house; it’s their favourite thing about the location they chose.

“The park gives customers a peace of mind that creates a whole vibe of eating and chill. Over the years, we have built a strong bond in Oshawa; being conveniently located across the Memorial Park helps us to offer a Caribbean “yeah mon vibe” that our loyal customers respect. Our location is welcoming to everyone.”

If you find yourself looking for a welcoming yeah mon vibe,” some great eats, and a little downtime, head to SoJo and chill within the coolness of it all.

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region and the Province of Ontario are in Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen; the Province’s three-step plan to safely and gradually lift public health measures, based on ongoing progress of provincewide vaccination rates and improvements of key public health and health care indicators. Residents are encouraged to follow health guidance when safely exploring their local communities, wash hands frequently, wear a mask and physically distance from others.