Finding a decent place to eat without breaking the bank is no easy task, especially in a new city. Thankfully in Toronto you don’t have to choose between quality and price. Delicious budget-friendly restaurants and eateries can be found all over the city – if you know where to look.
Cheap Eats Downtown
Salad King (340 Yonge Street) in Downtown Yonge has been serving mouthwatering and affordable Thai food for the past 20 years. Located across the street from Ryerson University, the restaurant is a hot spot for students on a budget. It’s one of the best places downtown to get quality Thai food for under $10. Best value: Thai Noodle Soup for $6.75.
A local Toronto institution, Burrito Boyz (218 Adelaide Street West) is always lined up during lunchtime – and with eight burrito options ranging from about $5-10 (including all the fixings), it’s easy to understand why. You’d be hard pressed to find a better burrito anywhere. Best value: Small Bean & Cheese Burrito for $4.87.
In terms of price, quality, and diversity, Ritz Caribbean (211 Yonge Street and 450 Yonge Street) has arguably the best Jamaican food around. With a large selection of Caribbean-style meat and veggie dishes for under $10, you can’t go wrong. The daily lunch special typically comes with a meat dish and two sides. Best value: Lunch Special for $4.99.
Cheap Eats in Queen West
New York Subs & Burritos (520 Queen Street West) specializes in home-made, fresh cuisine with influences from both American and Indian cuisine. Its menu includes a variety of subs, quesadillas, and kabobs for extremely reasonable prices. If you find yourself wandering along Queen West during lunchtime, it’s definitely worth a drop in. Best value: Grilled Cheese Burrito for $3.49.
416 Snack Bar (181 Bathurst Street) at the intersection of Queen and Bathurst is a cozy tapas-style restaurant and bar with some seriously amazing food. With an ever-changing menu of bite-sized morsels like sliders, empanadas, and sushi pizza, this is a place that brings “snacks” to a whole other level. Best value: Eggplant Double Down for $4.00.
If you’ve never had Vietnamese banh mi, you’re missing out. Banh Mi Boys (392 Queen Street West) serves up some of the best banh mi in the city. A meat-filled baguette served with cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon – this is so much more than the average sandwich. Best value: Grilled Pork Banh Mi for $4.99.
Cheap Eats in King West
For delicious, fast, and affordable Chinese food in King West, Bamboo Buddha is a sure bet. Its full menu includes everything you would expect from a Western-style Chinese restaurant, including Chop Suey, Egg Foo Young, Lo Mein, and Fried Rice Dishes, with an average price of around $7-8. Best Value: Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls (6 Pieces) for $4.50.
Sadie’s Diner (504 Adelaide Street West) is a cozy hole-in-the whole known for its delicious (and affordable) vegetarian/vegan menu. With several meat-free breakfast, lunch and dinner options – including classics like grilled cheese and a Veggie BLT – Sadie’s is sure to appeal to herbivores on a tight budget. Best Value: Veggie BLT for $8.00.
For a place named after the Japanese word for “selfish,” Wagamama Pastries & Café (766 King Street West) has extremely unselfish prices. For around $5 you can get a latté and a muffin, or a sandwich on fresh baked bread. Everything at Wagamama is made in-house with the freshest ingredients. Best Value: Half Sandwich with Small Soup for $5.20.
Cheap Eats in Kensington Market
Craving fresh Caribbean food in Kensington Market? Head to Rasta Pasta (61 Kensington Avenue). Known mainly for their jerk chicken, this Jamaican joint is almost always lined up at lunchtime. The smell of meat on the grill will have your mouth watering before you even place your order. Best Value: Jerk Chicken Special with Rice and Veggies for $4.99.
Jumbo Empanadas (245 Augusta Avenue) is renowned for its tasty and cheap Latin American fare. This tiny, unassuming Chilean restaurant features several varieties of empanada for less than $5, served with homemade salsa so good it will make you never want to eat the store-bought variety again. Best Value: Beef Empanadas for $3.99.
Any restaurant that specializes in something as “simple” as grilled cheese sandwiches better be good – and The Grilled Cheese (66 Nassau Street) most certainly is. As featured on You Gotta Eat Here, The Grilled Cheese turns a classic into a masterpiece, with thick-sliced bread, warm gooey cheese, and a variety of flavours to choose from. Best Value: Classic Grilled Cheese with Chips for $6.00.
Cheap Eats in the Annex
The Annex is one of Toronto’s funkiest neighbourhoods – and The Annex Hodgepodge (258 Dupont Street) is one of its most beloved hidden gems. Tucked away at Dupont and Spadina, this trendy mom and pop style bistro provides fresh soup, salad, and sandwiches with vegetarian and vegan options to boot. Best Value: Tuna Salad Sandwich for $4.99.
If you’re in the mood for sushi and don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it, you can’t do much better than Sushi on Bloor (515 Bloor Street West). While it may not be the best sushi in the city, it’s hard to beat their quality-to-price ratio. The daily Lunch Special (two rolls for $6.99) is a steal. Best Value: Vegetable California Roll for $4.75.
Roti Cuisine of India (308 Dupont Street) dishes out authentic Indian cuisine. While the restaurant specializes in roti, it also serves Indian favourites like Butter Chicken and Lamb Biryani. Its reasonable prices mean you’ll leave with a full stomach and a (mostly) full wallet. Best value: Dal Pakora Roti for $7.99.
Cheap Eats in Greektown
Danforth Avenue in Greektown has no shortage of restaurants. For a budget-friendly option, try Messini Authentic Gyros (445 Danforth Avenue), purveyor of Toronto’s most famed gyro sandwich. Savoury meat wrapped in a pita and topped with tzatziki and freshly cut French fries – it’s quite possibly the best $5 you’ll spend. Best value: Pork Gyros Pita for $4.43.
Don’t be put off by the somewhat confusing name. Square Boy Drive-In (875 Danforth Avenue) is a great spot for cheap eats. In addition to serving typical diner fare like a burger and fries (only $5.00), Square Boy is renowned for its souvlaki. You’ll find better burgers in the city, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better souvlaki. Best value: Chicken Souvlaki on a Pita for $4.50.
There’s more than just Greek food in Greektown. Len Duckworth’s Fish & Chips (2638 Danforth Avenue) has been satisfying East Yorkers with its title dish since 1930. Eighty-plus years is a long time to perfect your recipe, and unsurprisingly Len Duckworth’s has gained a reputation among some as the best fish & chips in the city. Best value: Haddock & Chips for $7.75.
Satisfying Food for Satisfying Prices
Don’t settle for fast food or splurge on an expensive dinner when you can get a satisfying meal for a price you can feel good about. It doesn’t have to be cheap OR delicious – sometimes it can be both!