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Lunching My Way Around College & University

Hello, I've moved offices to College and University; my new building has some abysmal food court selections. I'm wondering if anyone can recommend decent (inexpensive) lunches in the vicinity? I'm somewhat familiar with the options on Baldwin and McCaul, but don't really know the rest of the area.

Thanks muchly.

- Lea

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  1. Whats your limits? boundaries? how far will you walk? whats your price limit?


    1 Reply
    1. re: HarryLloyd

      Price-wise, about $10. The less, the better, but I like having a range of options.

      As for walking, about 10-15 minutes is my max most days, weather/time permitting.

      - Lea

    2. Avenue Cafe and Bistro is close, 480 University and has pretty good food. Sandwiches, with yummy combinations and which can be grilled, are served on Ace Bakery bread and croissants. They come with a small side salad for about $7 or $8. They also serve pizzas, quesadillas and salads. Good selection of drinks, and some desserts. Cafeteria style, but they deliver your order to your table when it is ready. It gets very busy right at noon, but if you can go a bit earlier or later, it is usually ok.
      Also, may sound crazy, but there are some decent sandwiches at some of the hospital cafeterias (Sick Kids, Mount Sinai come to mind). Good option for take out in the summer

      1. Hi,

        I used to work right there as well. In the summers Saigon Palace was my fave place to go. Any of the Pho dishes are good, excellent springrolls and the egg custard served with the rice dishes is tasty.

        Also, again better in the summer as it is definitely a 15 min walk at a quick pace, Jumbo Empanada in Kensington Market.

        As for something closer try Saffron Tree at Elizabeth and Gerrard. I believe they have a lunch buffet, I've only tried their dinner menu which was decent.


        1. There's a much better food court, if that's your thing, in the MaRS building (south side of College, east of University). A bunch of different cuisines (none of it stellar, but some passable) plus a couple of chains - Tim Horton's and Subway.

          I recommend the Italian place, which always seems to have a crowd, or the bagel/deli joint. I've also tried the falafel place, and found it not too bad at all.

          1. I haven't been there in awhile, but I've had some great sandwiches (they have a really wonderful variety of sandwich fillings), soups, and salads at Sage Cafe, on McCaul just south of Baldwin.

            They also have daily hot specials. It's a small place, not much seating, and the food is fresh and homemade.

            1. I second the suggestion of Sage above, and will add a few of my own.

              I actually work in the aforementioned MaRS building, and have come to despise the food court. There are several options within walking distance for a cheap, tasty lunch, and I'll highlight my four favourites (in no particular order):

              Onorio's Italian Deli
              A fantastic family-run deli that serves sandwiches, salads, pasta and pizza. The prices are very reasonable ($4-8 for lunch), and all the items are made on-site every day.
              It's located in the second basement of the Hydro building, which is on the SW corner of College & University.

              Sandwich Delight
              A great sandwich/salad shop that is absolutely tiny (read: takeout only) and serves great breakfast sandwiches and lunch specials. They have a very affordable salad bar, as well as great sandwiches.
              It's located on Elizabeth Street (which is one street east of University), just north of College. It's a favourite with the Women's College Hospital staff.

              Phil's Café
              Despite its name, Phil's serves up some tasty Chinese food. Don't get me wrong, you can find better Chinese in the city, but this place just seems to hit the spot many days. They have a small 'hot-table' with several items that change daily, and they have a great selection of buns, reminiscent of Yung Sing on Baldwin. The food here is ridiculously inexpensive.
              It's located on Elizabeth, just south of Gerrard.

              Yueh Tung
              This place specializes in the "[insert dish here] on rice" lunch special. Great Chinese food though, and even a couple of Hakka items. Very reasonable, but VERY busy at lunch. Go early/late to grab a seat, or grab takeout. I've had some fun experiences going there with one other person, and we sat at some large 'common' tables. Definitely a favourite of the City Hall / Courtroom set.
              It's located on Elizabeth, just south of Dundas. Look for a stairway heading up.

              I hope this helps, writing it has definitely starting my thoughts towards today's lunch... :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: xtal

                Just curious, xtal. What is it you despise about the place?

                I've found it crowded and noisy on occasion, but never had any major problems with the food. As I said, it's a fallback, but I'd be interested to hear your views.

                1. re: Webdude

                  I'd prefer if all food courts in the city were more like the one in Village by the Grange. Great quality food at good prices and family-run establishments. The problem with the MaRS food court is that the rent that they must charge is likely exorbinant, and very few small food retailers can even fathom having a spot there. So it falls to larger retailers and chain establishments, which rarely do as good a job as the smaller operations.

                  Just my two cents.

              2. virtually the city is all yours. within 15min walk is Queen to the south, jarvis to the east, bloor to the north and almost bathurst to the west. kensington, chinatown, harbord, baldwin, queen west are all in your range.

                either way here is a short list:
                japango (not in your budget)
                second yueh tung (door is beside japango)
                forestview (others on the board like it)
                sinai sushi
                Harbord F&C


                1 Reply
                1. re: HarryLloyd

                  alos add:

                  island foods is pretty good (although not the best)
                  burrito boyz (but you'll have to walk an extra minute further, based on averages of course)


                2. Boy! You guys walk faster than me. Hardbord F&C would be 20-25 minutes for me from University and College. I'd also find Kensignton a little bit on the far side for a lunch time walk.

                  My suggestions:

                  Check out Baldwin St. There are lots of nice options.

                  Konnichwa has excellent Japanese food (better by far than any of the other Japanese places on the street). Udon and soba soups are quickly prepared, filling and under $10.

                  Yung Sign is greasy and their food can be cold depending how long its been out. But, it is really, really cheap and some of it is tasty. I like the Curried Beef Buns and the shrimp rolls.

                  The Indian places aren't great, but can be alright if you're in the mood. Café la gaffe is breaking th $10 mark but has nice omellettes and bistro sandwiches (inconsistent on occasion and sometime slow though).

                  Sage Café on McCaul is good but a little pricey for what you get and the staff tends to be a little holier than thou (if you ask how much something costs and then decide against it they'll give you a look that screams "you bleeping cheapsake").

                  The other place to go is a the food building at McCaul and Queen. It is a nice walk in summer (or spring/fall).

                  The Chinese place is actually great. Their noodles, lemon-grass chicken, black bean chicken, and BBQ Pork are all up to scratch with most of chinatown. Also, they don't overcook their veggies. Avoid the orange chicken, pepper beef, or soup, though.

                  There are other good options there too. For example, The Sandwich Box makes excellent sandwiches. I've heard good things about the Ghali kitchen too. Stan's Burger is a nice burger if that's you're thing. I admit if I'm in the building, I'm have the chinese though. Oh, and there is a Ben and Jerry's for a summertime treat.

                  If you really are willing to walk as far as Spadina, Kensignton and Chinatown, then a whole new range of options opens up. Hong Fatt, Mother's, Pho Hung, Trad. Buns, Nguyen Huong . . .

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Atahualpa

                    college & university to HF&C - cutting through campus the distance is about 1.4km (as clocked on my bicyle). at a walking pace of 6km/hr (average walking pace, not brisk) you'll be there in under 15mins.

                    Give it a try!


                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        in food court across from City Tv (on Queen)

                    1. The first Chinese food truck just north of College on St.George in U of T. Greasy good Cantonese fried noodles for $4 including tax.

                      1. if you can make it all the way down to dundas or over to kensington market, then i'd say the world is your oyster for great choices.

                        however, i hate winter and i like to hole up as much as i can in warm buildings. so... as you're pretty much on the corner of the university campus, you may want to consider checking out options in/near there. ie. hart house for their cafe or the international student centre for their vegan co-op lunch (just north of college on st. george).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Didn't that U of T vegan spot close for good last summer?

                          1. re: Herb

                            did it? darn, i haven't been in over a year... shame really.

                        2. I second sandwich box, yummy and sandwich delight.

                          1. Mangiacake Panini Shop on McCaul just south of Baldwin has excellent panini and daily soups and specials. Good coffee too -- right near Sage, but with much more room to sit down.

                            1. Sage is great but you have to smile through the staff's attitude.
                              The National Life building on the south west corner of University and Elm has a great cafeteria on the second floor - a couple of daily specials, sandwich bar, Ikea-esque eating area. Pesto's on the opposite side of University has pasta made to order. It's good but that's the best they offer.
                              There's also a good Korean restaurant in the basement of one of the buildings on the south side of Baldwin, and Cafe La Gaffe is always yummy.
                              The Sandwich Box is excellent but between travel time and standing in line time I'm not sure you'd have a lunch hour left.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hoagy294

                                The Korean place that hoagy294 mentions above is called Hana Korea. It's quite good. Look for a bright orange sign situated at roughly waist-level.

                              2. If you want cheap (I mean ultra cheap) and quite tasty, the chinese bakery/pastry shop on Baldwin near McCaul (I think it's next door to Cafe Le Gaf on the north side of Baldwin). They have beef or chicken or veg rice bun's - yummy, quick, and you can eat well for $3 or $4. Baldwin has a few more ever changing options.

                                Also for other options - there's a gov't building on the east side of university/queen's park a couple of blocks north of college that has a great caf, as well I heard the Law Society makes great lunches (but haven't been there)

                                1. Eating Garden lunch special. For $6.95 you get a spring roll, soup, rice and large entree like salmon steak in black bean sauce with vegetables. It's like having dinner for lunch. Very tasty, very popular.

                                  1. Ok, I gotta warn you - and in doing so, open myself up to well-deserved ChowAbuse.

                                    I just grabbed takeout from Bento Nouveau in the MaRs Building. Horrible. Practically inedible. The salmon teriyaki was so dry I had to keep checking to make sure it wasn't something else - like cotton.

                                    And the rice underneath? Weirdly moved around the little, black plastic box as a single piece - like a mutant puck.

                                    Worst of all, the whole thing was heated - without my consent - in the aforementioned cancer-inducing container, Saran Wrap and all.

                                    Never, ever again.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Webdude

                                      would you now consider this a major problem ;)

                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                        In a word - if I can choke down the indigestion and revulsion long enough - ayup.

                                    2. There are some decent enough places if you're willing to go to Yonge.

                                      Ritz great veggie roti
                                      Sushi sky
                                      Greek place just west of the Starbucks at College and Yonge (can't remember the name sorry)
                                      Korean grill place has a decent stone bowl

                                      1. I've eaten at Sage and it's fine. I think that the women are just overworked as the spot does brusque business at lunch time.

                                        Any comments about the 'Village Idiot Pub at Dundas and McCaul? I am looking for a new spot for lunch.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Zengarden

                                          The Village Idiot Pub (aka VIP) is decent pub grub, but nothing spectacular. If you're at Dundas and McCaul I'd walk towards Spadina and grab some Chinese food in that area.

                                          1. re: xtal

                                            I work with people who don't like Chinese food. They're the salad and sandwich type. I would much rather go to Mother's Dumplings any day.

                                            1. re: Zengarden

                                              In that case, have you tried Caffé La Gaffe on Baldwin? I remember the food being quite good.

                                        2. There is a small family-run falafel/shwarma and sandwich place on Gerrard just west of Bay. It's called Something 2 Talk About. Cheap, big sandwiches ($5) veggie or otherwise.
                                          Lot's of Sick Kids employees.
                                          I second Sage for great organic food and Avenue bistro for good bread.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: yyzsfo

                                            I definitely second the Something 2 Talk About rec. A great hidden gem with fabulous takeout food.