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.
Simit & Chai Co.:One of my favourite spots on King Street West for Turkish bagels and Turkish coffee. Potential drawback: This is a stylish spot for Instagrammers and their friends to camp out in.
Sunrise House:This is one of those Korean restaurants that is never empty. Their portions are so generous and satisfying that you’re guaranteed to leave happy. Their Kamja Tang (pork bone soup) is a mountain food for less than $10. Potential drawback: The seating is in rough shape.
Jin Dal Lae: I’m putting this Korean restaurant right behind Sunrise because it is almost as good and equally priced, but because it’s relatively new, has half the line, and much better seating. Potential drawback: The service can be awkward because they usually only one one person taking care of the entire operation at a time.
Phở Hưng: This longstanding Chinatown spot is my favourite place for Vietnamese pho and super crisp taro spring rolls. Potential drawback: Cash only.
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.
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.
Banh Mi Nguyen Huong: There’s no seating here at this Chinatown Vietnamese banh mi sandwich stand, but you can get a whole sandwich for $3-4, and tons of exciting pre-made food to assemble at home for the ultimate Vietnamese meal. Potential drawback: If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, there isn’t much explanation as to what all the food is.
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.
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).
BENE at Pusateri’s Food Hall: Pusateri’s is hella expensive for groceries, but these gorgeous Pizza al Taglio slices are so worth the $5-8 they cost. Potential drawback: Not all flavours are available at all times, depending on your luck.
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, but where else can you get 6 xiao long bao for $2.99? Potential drawback: It’s so popular that the patrons will fight for empty seating.
Souk Table: 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.
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 authentic lol.
Mi Taco Taqueria: This place really stands out because of their freshly made, super thick, bouncy tortillas. When it’s not the lunch rush, the service is even better. Potential drawback: Your hair may smell like tacos after leaving the place if you dine in.
Uno Mustachio: Their classic Italian-Amercian style veal parm sub is a cult favourite and guilty pleasure for the Financial District crowd. It is understood that the Front Street location is much better than the Atrium location. Potential drawback: They’re not known for the other non-sub items (read: don’t order salad lol).
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!