Maybe you’re a student getting back to the grind of early-morning lectures and 78-square-foot accommodations. Maybe you’re a west-end artsy type who hasn’t quite broken through with those rotten-gourd wind-chime installations. Maybe you’re just hella cheap. Whatever your station in life, you’re still going to need certain basic provisions: food to eat, booze to chug, sweet stuff for your pad, and serious fun to distract you from that looming midterm (or from your artistic failure). In the following pages, we’ll steer you towards all those provisions—and show you how to stretch one roasted chicken over five tasty nights, where to find the best curbside scores, and how to get your ass back to York after last call in Parkdale. Also here: a selection of decent laundromats. Because broke ain’t nothing but a state of mind—unless you smell like a hobo.
Squirly’s Bar & Grill
This stalwart has no shortage of thrifty craft brews (all pints around $6), affordable mixed drinks ($4.70 for singles, add $2.50 for doubles), and daily specials. Your best bet, however, is the double Caesar ($8, $7 during weekend brunch), a terrific concoction loaded with Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and two generous shots of vodka.
807 Queen St. W., 416-703-0574.
Looking for a classy night out without breaking the bank? Head to this Queen East bistro on Sundays and Mondays: There’s free corkage, meaning you can pair your fave $8 vintage with the affordable prix fixe meal ($35 for three courses).
782 Queen St. E., 416-519-1851.
This large Queen West watering hole (with an equally impressive patio) is the ideal place to imbibe while waiting for a table at one of Parkdale’s red-hot restaurants. Killing time is made infinitely easier by the Rhino’s extensive beer list—over 20 draft options (the majority local) and hundreds of bottles (some as cheap as $3.75). Best of all, servers are good about settling up quick when your table becomes available across the street.
1249 Queen St. W., 416-535-8089.
One of the last true dives downtown, Wide Open may be lacking in ambience, friendliness, and general good vibes, but it’s famous for its daily drink specials for good reason. Throughout the week, pitchers of beer run as low as 10 bucks, bottles dip down to $3 each, and mixed drinks bottom out at $2.50.
139A Spadina Ave., 416-727-5411.
Owl of Minerva
If you’re boozing in the Annex, chances are you’ll end up here for some late-night nosh. An order of the spicy, hangover-preventing pork-bone soup and four bottles of beer will set you back about $25—and if you’re feeling really ambitious, trade those beers in for a bottle of soju, a vodka-like Korean spirit strong enough to strip paint.
700 Bloor St. W., 416-538-3030.
W Burger Bar
A College Park burger joint may not seem like a natural choice for cheap libations, but the W is near both U of T and Ryerson campuses and has fishbowls, spiked milkshakes, and pitchers of PBR for $10 (and the burgers aren’t half bad, either).
10 College St., 416-961-2227.
Pour Boy Pub
With two floors of space, a large front patio, and a colourful mural of college-crowd idols Hendrix and Dylan, this Koreatown local has long attracted student hordes, drawn in as much by the convivial atmosphere as the cheap drinks. How cheap? Pitchers of sangria cost $17, seasonal cocktails are $6.50, and pints and bar rail go for $5.
666 Manning Ave., 647-343-7969.
This Riverside gastropub is celebrated as a budget-conscious boozer’s paradise, offering not just one but two happy hours. From 4–7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight every day, all pints, premium bar rail, and glasses of house wine are just $5.75 (taxes in). Be sure to start the night off right with a few $2.75 Jäger shots.
696 Queen St. E., 416-406-2669.
Though perhaps better known for its leafy, picnic bench–packed back patio and cheap, tasty Portuguese fare, Bairrada is a great place to waste away school off-hours, thanks to $5 cocktails and domestic pints. And if all that drinking brings on an appetite, the restaurant offers a pig roast every Wednesday, giving small plates of the succulent pig away to patio patrons for free.
1000 College St., 416-539-8239.
The Red Light
No matter how cool and ironic you are—and nearly everyone at The Red Light is plenty cool and ironic—you still appreciate a decent tallboy deal, like big cans of PBR for $5. Want to start drinking like an adult? The bar also has a great bourbon selection, with on-the-rocks offerings priced under $10.
1185 Dundas St. W., 416-533-6667.
Streeters: Where does your money go?
Ryerson students reveal how they spend their cash.
St. Lawrence Market
If you can roll out of bed for class at 9 a.m., why not suffer through one more early morning in the name of home-outfitting? Scrounge through racks of old-timey photography, folk art, linens, and antique toys, most at Depression-era prices, at the weekly Sunday Antique Market.
92–95 Front St. E., 416-392-7120, stlawrencemarket.com.
You can’t get much for a dollar these days, but at this popular chain, you can decently spruce up a room with the contents of a change purse. We recommend the super clean and spacious Annex location at 512 Bloor St. W.: It’s stuffed with accessories like minimalistic clocks ($2.50), summery cocktail glasses ($1.25), and wonderfully gaudy wolf dreamcatchers ($3), if that’s what you’re in to.
Various locations, dollarama.com.
Ransack the Universe
Owned by self-described “pack rat” Jessi Paehlke, RTU recently underwent a much-needed expansion from its humble basement digs, taking over the former ground-level home of 69 Vintage. There’s a teeming collection of antique prints, light-up globes, cookie jars, and other assorted oddities, most priced between $10–$30, and music buffs would do well to snap up original vinyl by Édith Piaf, Queen, and other greats ($2–$30).
1207 Bloor St. W., 647-703-6675, ransacktheuniverse.com.
You may have been dragged here by mom once or twice, but guys, this is “where décor dreams come true,” or at least that’s what the store’s tagline says. Look for Riedel wine-glass sets ($20–$40), vintage jewel-toned milk bottles ($3.99), and cheapie cloth hampers and storage boxes, which are prettier than the cardboard U-Haul models currently housing your knickknacks.
Various locations, homesense.ca.
Tap Phong Trading Co. Inc.
You name it, they’ve got it. You could easily stock 10 kitchens with just a cursory shop through Spadina’s venerable discount hub, but check out quirky finds like Chinese lanterns ($0.79–$30), woven floor mats ($30), mock fruit ($1.29), and stoner film–style door-frame beads ($22), in addition to a whackload of culinary utensils.
360 Spadina Ave., 416-977-6364, tapphong.com.
Aside from selling the Penguin Classics that prop up your lopsided kitchen table, the Canadian literary behemoth offers an impressive collection of housewares. Snazzier buys include practical peel-and-stick chalkboards ($20), whimsical wall decals by Wall Pops ($15–$30), embossed glass candleholders ($4.50), and a painfully Canadian inflatable moose head ($32) that’ll save you a trip to the taxidermist.
Various locations, chapters.indigo.ca.
Affordable Textiles Inc.
Laid out like a seamstress’s closet (if that seamstress happened to be a hoarder), this Fashion District staple takes up two full storefronts. Here, the Pinterest-obsessed can find colourful fabrics in tulle, satin, and canvas stacked to the ceiling and priced from $2.99 to $40 a yard. Whether you make
a chic wall-hanging or re-cover a gnarly old ottoman is up to you, oh crafty one.
531 Queen St. W., 416-504-4117.
World of Posters
Ideally, one’s choice of wall art should reflect the atmosphere of one’s dorm room, whether that dorm room is a hotbed for wine-and-cheese parties among intellectual undergraduates (Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss) or just a crash pad for pre-class naps and marathon YouTube twerk searches (a close-up of Lil Wayne’s grill, perhaps). Clearance posters start at $4.95 and run up to $20 for wall-sized spreads.
664 Queen St. W., 416-979-7281.
A former storefront on the Junction’s main drag—not to mention a boon for deal-diggers looking for inexpensive industrial light fixtures, reclaimed tables, and extremely popular used signage—World Headquarters will re-open as a depot behind 500 Keele St. in early September. And you better believe owner Mark Taaffe knows his stuff: He’s a part-time auction caller at Roncesvalles’ vintage mecca, Mrs. Huizenga’s.
2885 Dundas St. W., 416-333-8078.
One bird, five totally baller dinners
Dundas Park Kitchen’s chef (and resident roaster), Alex Tso, shows us how to get five meals out of a single rotisserie chicken.
You’re a grown-up, so graduate from street meat and stop dressing your own dog like a chump. Let the peeps at this College Street spot pimp out your wiener with gourmet toppings like smoked gruyere, prosciutto, panko-fried shrimp, or Korean beef ribs ($4.25–$9). Now you’re fancy, huh?
326 College St., 416-920-3647.
The sammies at this new Bloordale hole-in-the-wall aren’t your typical brown-baggers: They’re made by a group of former Susur Lee chefs. Try the buttermilk-fried chicken with spicy piri-piri sauce on a rosemary-flecked bun ($9). Depending on your appetite (and will power), it’s big enough to serve as lunch and dinner. The veggie option, made with breaded and fried artichokes, is no lightweight, either ($10).
1260 Bloor St. W., 647-748-1260.
Live seriously large on something called a lettuce meal—simply fill giant leafy greens with braised beef or slow-smoked pork shoulder, rice, tangy pickled veggies, and house-made sauces ($21). It’s more than enough to feed two people, and sharing is actually encouraged, so nobody ends up looking like a cheapskate.
1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586.
Monday nights here are pay-what-you-want. Sidle up to the bar, tell chef Nathan Isberg what’s in your wallet, and he’ll make you something special, like a delicious $3 chickpea curry. If your budget is a bit more generous (and your palate more adventurous), there are also the battered cod tongues with house-made kimchi for $9. This is pretty much the most affordable chef’s table in the city.
1597 Dundas St. W., 416-219-3819.
Spend an evening (or at least two hours of an evening) at an Anthony Bourdain–approved restaurant. For 120 glorious minutes every Wednesday to Friday (5–7 p.m.), Beast pours a selection of $5 drinks and serves up an array of snacks for the same price. Edibles change weekly but can include fried pickles, marinated anchovies, and arancini.
96 Tecumseth St., 647-352-6000.
Supermarket sushi is usually a last resort, but at T&T, the fish is crazy fresh and individually wrapped nigiri go for $0.88 each. It’s also a great place to find deals on Asian products absent from the shelves of your local grocer’s “international” section. And though it’s a bit of a trek to get there, a trip to T&T is a great way to check out the city and break in that student Metropass.
222 Cherry St., 416-463-8113.
Don’t settle for tube steak when you can have the real thing. At this iconic Dundas West diner, the Nighthawk special includes a six-ounce triple-A sirloin, mashed potatoes (skins on, because vitamins), and a skewer of grilled veggies ($12). Use the swirl of coriander pesto for dipping, or go old school with HP. Want a side of steak with your steak? Beef up any other dish with a six-ounce sirloin for only six bucks. Also: daily $4 pint specials.
1132 Dundas St. W., 416-850-8886.
Think dinner in Yorkville is out of the question? Then you haven’t heard about Utsav, one of the tony ’hood’s cheaper restaurants. Get dressed in your finest threads and try not to spill your saag paneer ($10) or chicken tikka masala ($14). Wash it all down with a $5.50 bottle of Kingfisher. Sure, it’s in the basement of a building, but the basement of a building in Yorkville.
69 Yorkville Ave., 416-961-8349.
Dim Sum King
If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for you. Cart-pushing servers wielding pork buns, dumplings, and sticky ribs are never far away, and while the décor is a bit lacklustre, use your imagination and those lobster tanks are suddenly an ocean view. But here’s what really matters: Lunch for two (including tax and tip) will only set you back about $20.
421 Dundas St. W., 416-551-3366.
Impress a date or your visiting parents with a night of oysters and bubbly. Make your reservation for a Sunday after 5 p.m., when bivalves are a buck apiece, and you can also BYOW for free. When your server unscrews that $8 bottle of sparkling wine you brought, hold your head up high, friend.
4 Front St., 416-860-0086.
Skin + Bones
Get classy at this east-end wine bar every weeknight and Saturdays between 5–7 p.m., when all booze is half price (that means sparkling wine, beer, and cocktails), and snacks (like radishes with anchovy butter and house-made crisps with dill yogurt) are free.
980 Queen St. E., 416-524-5209.
The Rosedale Diner
Earned $127 in returned empties? You could do a lot with that money, but why not spend it on this Rosedale institution’s “Gourmet Package,” which constitutes some duck poutine and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot? YOLO.
1164 Yonge St., 416-923-3122.
Where to suds your duds
Here are a few laundromats—close to downtown campuses—that offer some classy ambience along with a spin cycle.
TGIF at the ROM
Got an insatiable appetite for knowledge but a prohibitive budget? Drop by the Royal Ontario Museum between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Fridays to take advantage of discount tickets. And if $9 for students still doesn’t sound like a sweet deal, just remember how much you pay in tuition fees.
100 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8000, rom.on.ca.
Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music
Whether you’ve always wanted to play the guitar, sing in a choir, or learn music theory (okay, probably less likely), the city’s friendliest music school can help. At $15–$20 a pop, the weekly drop-in group classes are your fastest and cheapest ticket to indie-rock stardom.
821 Queen St. W., 416-504-5444, enjoymusictoronto.com.
Geocaching in High Park
A high-tech scavenger hunt, Geocaching uses GPS coordinates to lead you to secret containers left by other cachers. High Park is home to some of Toronto’s best caches, so download the free app anytime, elude muggles (non-cachers), and find some hidden treasure—or at least some old Kinder Surprise toys.
Steam Whistle Brewery tour
What’s the only thing better than beer? Free beer. Fork over $15 for a highly educational tour of the Steam Whistle brewery (worth the money on its own) and they’ll throw in a six-pack. After the tour, get daytime tipsy with friends in the lounge, where the free samples keep flowing.
255 Bremner Blvd., 416-362-2337, steamwhistle.ca.
Polson Pier drive-in
Pack a car full of friends, divide up the $25 admission, and indulge your nostalgia receptors by heading down to Toronto’s only drive-in for a Sunday flick. Sure, its selection of modern blockbusters doesn’t exactly scream retro, but the A/V quality should be up to ’70s standards and the smell of gasoline fumes is sure to bring you back to a pre–Al Gore era.
11 Polson St., 416-649-7437, polsonpier.com.
Chase food trucks around the city
Food trucks may not be cheap, but neither are gyms or restaurants. Get the most out of your lunch money by taking a stroll, jog, or bike ride to any of Toronto’s wide array of food trucks (we’re partial to Buster’s Sea Cove and Hogtown Smoke). At least you’ll feel somewhat justified eating lobster rolls and brisket po’boys after burning 250 calories and saving $3 on TTC fare.
Get lost in Rouge Park
This massive green space in the city’s east end might just be the best place to forget you’re in Canada’s most densely populated city. With over 40 square kilometres to explore, it offers a beach and lakes, hiking and biking trails, and—thanks to free admission—an excellent reason to play hooky.
50 Bloomington Rd. W., 905-713-6038, rougepark.com.
If the rates at Toronto’s table-tennis bar are too steep for you, hunt down the city’s outdoor Ping-Pong courts. With two at King and Bathurst and others in the north and west ends, you’re never too far away from the chance to humiliate your friends. Hit up the dollar store for paddles and balls—and red cups, if illicit beer pong is more your style.
76 Walnut St., 416-392-0703, toronto.ca/parks.
DIY tour guide
Forget tourist-riddled double-decker buses and irritatingly slow-moving bike tours. If you want to learn about the city, do it on your own terms. With Toronto in Time, a free iOS and Android app, you can take historical walking tours through the city—just don’t run into anybody while you’re staring at your phone.
Do we really need to justify this one? The island is one of Toronto’s most underrated and underutilized attractions, home to some of the city’s best beaches (and its only nude one), and close to downtown. Grab a Frisbee, a friend, and munchies and make the most of your $7 ferry ticket.
9 Queens Quay W., 416-397-2628, toronto.ca/parks/island.
So you go to York…
…and you just spent your Friday night getting blitzed off $3.75 bottles of beer on The Rhino’s patio. Now, yikes, it’s 2 a.m., your dorm room is all the way up at Steeles and Keele, and you are plumb out of public-transit options (unless you want to walk from Bathurst and Steeles). This flow chart will tell you how much it’ll cost you to find a place to lay your head—click here for a close-up view of it.
We asked various local experts—from chefs to furniture-makers—for their advice on how to best stretch your resources.