Master the art of dining on a budget in this trendy Canadian city.
Toronto offers some tasty spots to get your wallet-friendly food fix, and in recent years, the city has seen a transformation in its food scene. To make make things even more appetizing, local reastaurants will often throw a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a beer on the bill, free of charge. Here's our picks for where to go maximize flavor and minimize expense.
Middle Eastern Fare
Taboule Middle Eastern Cuisine has two locations in the city and some of the most soul-satisfying, warming fare around. Aromatic spices, citrus flavors, and fresh herbs brighten everything from the dairy-free lentil soup to the flash-fried cauliflower drizzled with tahini, to the ground mixed lamb kefta skewers. Mondays and Tuesdays are no-corkage fee nights (two bottles max per table) to boot.
In the north end of the city, Armenian Kitchen remains one of the best. The food skews Lebanese with shawarma, kebabs, and vegetarian plates including falafel on high rotation. The fried eggplant and kibbeh (cracked bulghur wheat stuffed with garlic, ground beef, and pine nuts) are two required starters.
Craving the layered, spicy flavors of Thailand? Head to SukhoThai, where the perennially popular Pad Thai is prepared to order with an umami-rich, tamarind-inflected sauce. Or order up a plate of the fan favorite, the Khao Soi: rice noodles bathed in a curry gravy with your choice of beef, chicken, or tofu. Tuesday nights, diners get half-price appetizers with the purchase of any beverage ($6 to $10) and Friday night, you can score $8 cocktails to sweeten the deal.
With two locations in the city, Bahn Mi Boys makes Vietnamese-style sandwiches, Asian-inflected tacos, and steamed bao to appreciative crowds. Don't miss the kalbi beef bahn mi or the fried chicken bao, or the kimchi fries.
If you prefer a more formal, sit-down spot, Leslieville's Hanoi 3 Seasons offers some of the freshest Cha Ca this side of the Mekong: Grouper seasoned with Hanoi-style dill and shrimp paste served over rice vermicelli noodles, with salad or soup. Of course, Pho is on the menu, as is a sweet Vietnamese coffee to conclude your meal.
If it's chilly outside and it's comfort you want, any of the five Congee Queen locations in the city with their piping hot bowls of rice congee should fill the bill. From minced beef with preserved mustard to their shredded chicken with duck egg and mushroom bowl, you've got something for most every palate. The chow mein selection is impressive, too.
Karelia Kitchen specializes in Nordic cuisine, which means you'll find delicious, open-faced sandwiches, a hot table including the house meatballs in gravy, or herring two ways, as well as a case full of hand-crafted pastries. With something like a blood orange curd tart glazed with lingonberries on the menu ($4 for a slice), you'll want to save room for dessert.
Locals love the weekday specials at Edward Levesque Kitchen in the east end. Wednesday nights you can dine on organic British Columbian salmon cakes with a side of frites, a green salad, and a Sriracha aioli for $20. On Thursday, it's their steak frites with chimichurri and a glass of wine to match for $25 that draws the crowds.
For a taste of the south, try the Junction neighborhood's Roux from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when starters become sharable plates at $5 a pop. Insiders know that the mussels and frites are the "best buy" on the menu, but it's also hard to go wrong with the yam and shrimp fritters, as well as with the goat cheese popovers.