Toronto Cheap Eats

by Mr. Cheap

I (obviously) like to save money, but I also like to eat (which is how I “fought” my way up to 214 lbs at my heaviest). Toronto, like all cities, has the full range of eateries from bad to expensive to “cheap and tasty” (what I like and will detail here). All of these restaurants are good, cheap, and accessible by subway.

I’ll forewarn that I like ethnic foods, so if you’re a meat and potatoes eater, you probably won’t get much out of this post. If you don’t live in Toronto, please feel free to bookmark this post for your next visit to our (not-so) fair city.

Sushi:

New Generation Sushi on Bloor and Sushi on Bloor (also on Bloor ;-) ) both do a great lunch combo (and a reasonable dinner). If you talk to a Toronto based sushi eater, they’ll probably say one of these two places is their favourite (and hence they’re always fairly busy – be prepared to wait a while on the weekend at meal time). You’re looking at spending around $7 / person if you’ll drink the included green tea and not order anything extra. Katsu Sushi (572 Danforth Ave. E.) is great for when you’ve got a massive hunger and aren’t offended by the concept of all-you-can-eat sushi. Avoid Mariko for all-you-can eat (or generally). I managed to fish [pardon the pun] a piece of metal out of my sushi (which I delightfully found mid-bite), and after I pointed it out to the waiter and the chef, all they did was deny it (yeah, right, I’m trying to scam a free dinner) and gave us some free freezer-burnt green tea ice-cream. I haven’t been back.

East Indian:

Buffet is totally the way to go for Indian food (you get WAY more food and variety for your buck). My ex-girlfriend always insisted that ordering dishes individually was higher quality food, but I think this was just in her head. There are a ton of buffet restaurants, all competing with each other along Queen W. Get out from the subway on a Sunday around noon and just head west until you find one you like the looks of (competition is a beautiful thing). For some strange reason the buffets are just for lunch (at most places). In Little India (on Gerrard) you can get dinner buffets, but they’re more expensive. If you’re afraid of trying a restaurant without getting a recommendation first, go to Kama. They’re also great for their take-out lunches (they give you a container and you try to stuff as much food from the buffet into it as you can), which is super if you work in the area.

West Indian (Caribbean):

Not the cheapest in Toronto, but the curried goat for $11 from Albert’s is Mr. Cheap’s favourite food (for a while I was eating this almost daily!). The large serving is enough food for any except the most massive appetites. Everyone else seems to love the ox tail (which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as the goat).

Vegetarian:

Good, cheap vegetarian restaurants are tough to find, and about the best in the city is Jean’s Vegetarian Kitchen (1262 Danforth Avenue). Its Asian-style vegetarian food, and a great meal even for a near-carnivore like Mr. Cheap (the “fake duck” is disappointing but everything else is great). Avoid Fresh and Le Commensal, not because they’re bad, but just because there’s better food for the price.

Vietnamese:

Ginger (at 695 Yonge St. next to “The Brass Rail” [not work safe] where I’d recommend going for dessert ;-) or down the road a ways at 399 Younge) is a dirt cheap, cafeteria style Pho joint. I like the rare meat with beef balls Pho, a large bowl of it can be had for $5!

Cheap Date Restaurants:

These are a little pricier, but work better for a date (not so obviously cheap places). For Thai try Springroll’s (the seafood pad thai, satay chicken mango salad and sexy summer rolls are a feast for two when split). Ethiopian is a great choice to make you seem worldly (although you can spoil it by making the joke “I thought they didn’t have food in Ethiopia”, which I can’t ever refrain from doing) which is yummy at Ethiopian House. Be warned, you’ll be eating with your hands.  Their coffee ceremony is pricey, but fun to do once (tell your date that coffee originate in Ethiopia and they might be impressed).

So that should hopefully provide some new eateries to try on the cheap. Anyone have any suggestions for places I’ve overlooked or have had a bad experience at any of these?

After writing this I could really go for a curried goat…

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Four Pillars

A mouth-watering post after my own heart!

I used to eat at New Generation and Sushi on Bloor all the time when I lived in the Annex – excellent!

East Indian – I go to the BBQ Hut which is on Gerrard just west of Coxwell. It’s so good I’ve never tried any of the other Indian restaurants in that area. The butter chicken is my fave. It’s not all that cheap though.

West Indian – the Real Jerk at Broadview & Queen – opposite corner from Jillie’s (since we’re using THOSE types of landmarks). Phenomenal chicken roti – get the very tasty hot sauce but apply sparingly.

Vietnamese – there’s a great place south side of Gerrard just east of Broadview that has great beef soups. Can’t remember the name tho…

Mike

2 Mr. Cheap

I ate at the Real Jerk once, and I told them that I loved Albert’s curried goat and the pressure was on them. After I’d eaten it, the waitress asked how it compared, and I apologetically told her it was good, but Albert’s was a bit better. She actually looked sad, and I felt like a real jerk.

I want to try Dangerous Dans on other corner (apparently they have what they call the “coronary burger”)

There was a public service advertisement that was something about treating women with dignity on the bus shelter outside jilly’s. I wanted to get a picture of it with the “girls, girls, girls” in the background, but I didn’t have a camera…

3 MillionDollarJourney

FP, I love posts like this where I really enjoy eating also. :) It’ll be a great guide for the next time I head to Toronto (usually once a year).

4 MillionDollarJourney

Oh, another thing, if you’re in North Toronto (Richmond Hill/Markham area), 1st Markham Place (the plaza) has a great food court with cheap, but good, Chinese food. 4 of us ate there for around $25 total!

5 FourPillars

Mr. C – that would have been a great photo. And yes, that might have been a situation where a white lie would have been appropriate :)

FT – if you want to get together when you are in TO then let us know.

Mike

6 guinness416

I think you’re thinking of Pho 95 Mike. It’s pretty good, although bizarrely the best Vietnamese food I ever ate was in Kansas City. I’m lucky to have a better half who cooks fantastic Indian food (and loves to cook) so we mostly avoid the buffets … much healthier that way too.

7 Elaine

For vegetarian, I really have to recommend Fressen near Queen & Bloor, though it’s been a while since I visited last and I haven’t *lived* in Toronto for years. So it may be different now from my experience then.

ANYWAY. One of the best restaurants I have ever been to, either as a vegetarian or in my previous life. My non-veg friends said the same thing. In fact I would go so far to say it was the second best… the first was Millennium in SF. But the two of us dropped $100 there, and only $30 at Fressen. GO TO FRESSEN

8 Elaine

err. By “Bloor” I obviously meant “Bathurst”

9 MillionDollarJourney

Yes, the next time i’m in the Toronto area, i’ll definitely give you a shout.

10 telly

But how would you maintain your anonymity FT? ;)

11 MillionDollarJourney

Telly, i’ll wear a mask. So warning Mike, when we meet, don’t mistake me for a mugger. :)

12 Fecundity

Ah, excellent. Love posts like this on the best cheap restaurants in cities I could conceivably find myself in. Thanks, Mr. Cheap.

13 FourPillars

MDJ – maybe you can get one of those electronic voice disguisers as well? :)

Mike

14 Mr. Cheap

A “Toronto Blogger Brunch Meetup” would be fun, definitely let us know when/if you’ll be in TO FT.

Elaine: High praise, I’ll definitely try FRESSEN

guinness: So… when can we come over to sample this fantastic Indian food? ;-) Please don’t read the last line of this comment.

Mike: I *may* have an opportunity to drink all of someone else’s beer for a change…

15 FourPillars

Haha, hopefully it’s KingFisher…

16 guinness416

Our next-door neighbour usually drinks all of our beer, so it would make a change.

Actually if you’ll peel the potatoes and complain about too many bay leaves, he won’t need me any more – so you can have my beers!

17 mariam

I need to print this the next time I’m in Toronto! I love sushi and pho.

18 thebaglady

hmm…I’ve never been to Toronto but some of my mom’s cousins live there. Since I’m a poor American I may need to share meals with ya. The Canadian dollar is too rich for my blood!

19 Christine

I agree with you about Albert’s — the food is fabulous. Love the oxtail stew.

Tempus (Yonge/College) has excellent middle eastern food — flavourful koobideh (kabaobs), soups and fessenjoon (chicken in pomegranate sauce).

For vegetarian stuff, highly recommend 668 and Budha’s on Dundas just east of Bathurst. The fake meat, and rice with ginger and pine nuts (sounds odd but very delicately flavoured) is really good at Graceful in Markham – it is quite a hike to the ‘burbs but the food is as cheap as downtown Chinatown and the surroundings way lovelier. Falafel is another great veggie option, although the best place is Sababa at Bathurst and Steeles.

20 Mr. Cheap

Christine: Great suggestions! I do get up to Markham sometimes, so I’ll try your recommendations!

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