I’ve lived in Toronto for the past 5 years. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favourite budget-friendly places to quell your hunger if you happen to be in the city. Click on the names to open a link to their Yelp/Tripadvisor pages.
1. Jerk Chicken from Rap’s Authentic Jamaican – Eglinton & Marlee (Midtown). As of this writing, your CDN10 will be more than enough for 2 people at this place. They grill the chicken outside. They’re not the only spot that has jerk chicken. This particular strip of Eglinton West smells like jerk chicken in the evenings. I don’t mind it because that smell is delicious. Sometimes the wait can be too long but it’s worth it. Cash only.
2. Samosas from Samosa King – Finch & Middlefield (Scarborough). There’s always a lineup at this place. Samosas, if not done well, can be very dry inside while very oily outside. NOT AT THIS PLACE. They don’t cheap out on the filling too. Sometimes, when you grab Indian food, it’s excessively spiced that the heat no longer feels like a little kick but a full-on assault on the tastebuds. NOT AT THIS PLACE. The samosas here are very well-seasoned; you can taste layers of flavours past the heat. IIRC, you can get 5 samosas per dollar. Cash and debit only.
3. Turkish Pizza from Mustafa’s – Wilson & Dufferin (Downsview Area) If you’re looking for a different kind of pizza, Turkish is the way to go. It has a thin crust and it’s shaped differently. The meat is mildly spiced. The tomato sauce-cheese combo highlighted in regular pizza is not really a big thing here. Mustafa’s is a proper sit-down restaurant. The restaurant looks like the inside of a cave though. But this was a good dining experience nonetheless. Credit cards accepted.
4. Burgers from Harry’s Drive In – Lawrence & Kennedy (Scarborough). This is burger without fuss, hipsters or heavy marketing. It’s a good burger for a good price. And, Harry’s is a family-owned business that’s been open since 1964. My mom was born that year. Talk about longevity! Cash only.
5. Fried dumplings from Dumpling House Restaurant – Spadina & Dundas (Chinatown). My bf introduced me to this place. He only has 2 favourites in a Chinese restaurant: dumplings and beef in black bean sauce. He only gets his fried dumplings at this place. We enjoy breaking the fried batter that holds the dumplings together. Because I’m Filipino, I dip my dumplings in a soy sauce-vinegar mixture. If they had calamansi, I’d use that instead of vinegar. Cash only.
6. Anything from Sunrise House – Bloor & Christie (Koreatown). The thing I like about Korean restaurants is the bottomless sides. I think my favourite side was the seaweed, followed by kimchi. My brother introduced me and our mother to this place. I paid less than CDN30 for all of us. That was our first time trying anything Korean that isn’t Korean BBQ. This place is always packed. They don’t do reservations. So, come during odd hours, I guess. Cash only.
I’ll update as soon as I remember the others. A couple of the places listed may seem like hole-in-the-wall types. But, TBH, I’m deliberately looking for these kinds of places. They seem to concern themselves more on the quality of the food over decor. As long as you pass health inspections, we’re good.
I’m getting hungry just thinking about fried dumplings.
When you do come to Toronto, feel free to ask me questions. I’m happy to help. If you want me to write about some Toronto-isms on this page, let me know in the comments below.