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.
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.
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).
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.
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…