This tiny Bloorcourt restaurant is an essential stop for delectable and ridiculously cheap Ethiopian fare. The vegetarian combo ($10, enough for two hungry people) is served on a large, oblong, multi-coloured plate and is loaded up with a variety of lentil, spinach, and carrot curries atop a thin, spongy injera bread you eat with your hands.
969 Bloor St. W., 416-535-0797.
The menu at this dive-y but welcoming Queen West haunt reads like a greatest-hits list from a dormitory cafeteria, including pad Thai, perogies, and grilled-cheese sandwiches (all under $7). Bonus: There’s a massive patio and the booze is dirt-cheap (pints start at $4). They also offer weekly specials, like a drink and a main for $8.95 on Wednesdays.
537 Queen St. W., 416-504-3025.
A Canadian take on a Bavarian beer hall, WVRST specializes in Ontario craft beer and game sausages. There are two-dozen brats (ranging from pork, beef, and lamb, to duck, bison, and even kangaroo, $6–$9), which can be enjoyed on the bun or in currywurst form. They’re best accompanied by house cut, Belgian-style fries ($3.50). During hockey season, Leafs tickets are regularly given away to in-house diners.
609 King St. W., 416-703-7775.
The Lakeview Restaurant
This iconic 24-hour Dundas West institution—and popular film backdrop for the likes of David Cronenberg and Sarah Polley—is equally suited to early mornings as it is late nights. The extensive menu focuses on diner classics, like tuna melts ($9), standard burgers ($9.50), and poutine ($7). And even if you don’t feel like eating, daily drink specials are sure to whet your appetite ($4 pints of local brew or $3 mimosas, anyone?).
1132–1134 Dundas St. W.,
An eclectic crowd of west-enders regularly congregates at the large, carved-up tables in this riotous late-night bar. The draw is cheap Tex-Mex nosh and almost-as-cheap pitchers of beer. The weekly food-and-drink specials, like $3 bottles of beer on Wednesdays, make the prospect of a visit even more enticing. The much-loved nachos ($7.95), which come as a baked mound of chips, cheese, and salsa, are the perfect pile of sustenance after a big night out.
431 College St., 416-603-3090.
Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu
When the colder months roll in, head to this nondescript, confusingly named hole in the wall for a bowl of their kimchi soon tofu soup ($7.53). Filled with silky tofu and shredded beef and pork in a bubbling orange broth, this warming concoction is preceded by a selection of fresh banchan (free Korean starters, like kimchi), which make for a filling meal—and, for some, a great introduction of Korean food.
691 Bloor St. W., 416-537-0972.
Banh Mi Boys
This unpretentious sandwich shop has quickly become the city’s favourite destination for Korean tacos and Vietnamese banh mis. The standout sammie is the five-spice pork belly, braised in house for four hours, then served on a French baguette with pickled vegetables, cilantro, spicy Sriracha (optional), and homemade mayo ($5.99). The kimchi fries ($5.99), topped with pulled pork, mayo, kimchi, and green onions, are gluttonous, trashy, and unbelievably yummy.
329 Queen St. W., 416-363-0588.
A quintessential Ryerson hang-out, this cafeteria-style eatery, with bright murals, colourful floral lamps, and communal tables is a must for Thai-food newbies. Grab a heaping plate of chicken pad thai ($9) or a warming bowl of tom yum goong soup ($4.50).
340 Yonge St., 416-593-0333.
Come and Get It
A stellar lunch option at Queen and Spadina, this temporary, ’90s-inspired eatery, decorated with an iMac G3, Nintendo 64, and old-school plastic lunch boxes, offers a small selection of sandwiches, salads, and poutines. Try the chipotle beef short-rib sandwich, with an aioli, ancho chili barbecue sauce, crispy fried onions, and a palate-cleansing side of sweet-and-sour coleslaw ($8).
170 Spadina Ave., 647-344-3416.
Hidden in the Village by the Grange’s food court, Manpuku has long been a hotspot for economically minded OCAD students. The Japanese noodle house is known for its Niku Udon ($5.99), a hot bowl of smoked bonito broth, thick noodles, and juicy, shredded beef. Best of all, a noodle refill is only $1.10.
105 McCaul St., 416-979-6763.
Ritz Caribbean Food
With three Yonge Street locations south of Bloor, this quick-service take-out joint is ideal for satisfying those jerk-chicken cravings. The succulent meat is perfectly spiced, fall-off-the-bone tender and served on a bed of brown rice, with a side of salad, all for $7 ($5 at lunch).
450 Yonge St., 416-934-1480; 211 Yonge St., 647-351-7489; 762 Yonge St., 416-964-7489.
South Indian Dosa Mahal
Don’t be scared off by the abrasive baby-pink colour scheme. This mom-and-pop operation puts out some of the city’s best South Asian food. The vegetable thali ($7.50), served on a large sectional stainless-steel plate, consists of rice, eggplant, and potato curries, a soft grilled paratha, a vegetable of the day (like cauliflower, chickpea, or beet root), as well as their famed coconut-and-tomato chutney. Looking to grab and go? There’s also a selection of fried snacks like samosas and pakoras (10 for $3).
1284 Bloor St. W., 416-516-7701.