Cheap and cheerful definitely doesn’t have to mean low quality! For every amazing $100 meal you can get in Toronto, there’s an equal and opposite $10 meal that is just as great, in a different way. All of these restaurants feature easy, satisfying food in a laid-back setting. Average price between $8-15 a person.
Tried and True:
Sea Witch:These fish and chips are on another playing field thanks to their careful fry in rich beef tallow. It’s an experience you need to try at least once. They now have poutine! Potential drawback: They are kind of tucked away on St. Clair Ave. West.
When the Pig Came Home:A Junction deli that packs a big punch: think porchetta with rapini and hearty peameal bacon and oozy egg breakfast sandwiches (much better than the St. Lawrence Market). Potential drawback: They are working through some space ventilation issues.
Kimchi Korea House: Just a solid Korean restaurant downtown that has captured the hearts of so many during the Pandemic. Potential drawback: The lunch rush.
Jin Dal Lae: I’m putting this Korean restaurant in focus because it’s clearly the best not-secret in Koreatown right now (and sadly for Sunrise House and Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, has taken over that role). Potential drawback: The service can be awkward because they usually only one one person taking care of the entire operation at a time.
Wonton Hut: This place gives wontons the respect they deserve! Two locations, but there is an easy one to access on Queen Street West downtown Toronto. Potential drawback: Small menu.
Simit & Chai Co.:One of my favourite spots on King Street West for Turkish bagels and Turkish coffee. They now have a bougier brunch spot called Pasaj which is not bad either. Potential drawback: This is a stylish spot for Instagrammers and their friends to camp out in.
Manpuku:This is a secret gem known well to OCAD students and one of the best places to get a bowl of udon noodles in the city. Free noodle top ups if you’re feeling very hungry. Potential drawback: The location is in a tiny mall, and almost all the patrons are undergrad students
Okonomiyaki House:Literally the same description I would give for Manpuku. Potential drawback: It’s such a specific spot with such a specific offering!
Seven Lives: The authentic Mexican flavours of this taco stand have made them the most famous in Kensington Market (and there are a few!). Potential drawback: No surprise but there is basically no seating.
Souk Tabule: A sister restaurant to the wildly popular Tabülè, this casual Middle Eastern restaurant is the best thing in the Canary District right now. Potential drawback: It’s an order-at-the-counter operation, and you may have to share your table.
Black Camel: Rosedale is an extremely expensive neighbourhood, but you can get a quality sandwich here for $8.75. Think saucy beef brisket and pulled chicken served with even saucier sauces. Potential drawback: Any additions (caramelized onions, arugula etc.) are 90 cents extra.
Poke Box: There are tons of poke spots all over Toronto, but this one delivers the most consistent quality. Hard to find on Toronto Street. Only honourary because it’s not super cheap. Potential drawback: There are only two spots to sit at (90% of their patrons take their food back to the office).
WVRST: Come for the hot dogs and duck fat fries and beer, but make sure you have good conversation to go around because that’s literally all they serve. Potential drawback: It used to be cooler a few years ago.
Dumpling House: This place goes hand in hand with a stay at the Toronto Hostel International. It’s a classic for cheap and cheerful, homemade Chinese dumplings, and the fried lattice bottom is on point. Potential drawback: The tables are a bit sticky.
Juicy Dumpling: Full disclosure in that this place doesn’t really fit the bill for quality overall, but where else can you get six xiao long bao for $3.99? Potential drawback: It’s so popular that the patrons will fight for empty seating.
Banh Mi Boys: Think Vietnamese food created for the typical Toronto student. The “tacos” and “bao” are what I usually order (pork belly and fried chicken in particular). Potential drawback: It’s definitely not an authentically Vietnamese anything.
Tortería San Cosme: A fun, spacious spot to go for Mexican tortas and aguas frescas in Kensington Market.Potential drawback: most of the seating is high top.
On My Radar:
Dr. Laffa:I heard it’s the best kosher food around.
Han Ba Tang: A fun Korean-fusion restaurant up in Koreatown North.
Famiglia Baldassarre: A fresh pasta supplier to many of the restaurants downtown, I really want to come here for a quick bite one day.
Itacate: This is supposed to be an excellent taqueria inside a St. Clair West Mexican Butcher Shop. Sounds great!