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Best Lunch under $20 in Downtown?

What is the best lunch in Toronto you cn have for under $20? I'm trying to look for new places to try, as I'm getting bored of the same places over and over again. I'm at the University of Toronto St. George campus, but I can walk/jog really fast, so distance is not really a problem, as long as it's not past Davenport, Church or Front. St.

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  1. Much less than your budget, but a couple places to try are:

    1/ Sweetpepper: Good veal sandwiches with grilled veggies
    Bay, just south of Breadalbane (which is one block south of Wellesley)

    2/ Sinai Sushi: chunky big rolls,
    just west of Yonge on Grosvener

    3/ Dinah's Cupboard: good cold salads, esp like the okra,
    on Cumberland, just east of Bay

    1. Thai Paradise on Baldwin: you can have a generous, tasty lunch for around $15. The wait staff is great and really friendly, too. Their chicken fresh rolls are the best I've had, easily.

      Simon Sushi on the east side of Spadina south of College: not your best Japanese food, but good, hearty portions at excellent prices.

      Real Thai at Spadina and Bloor also has good lunch combos that are very reasonably priced. You can get a meal for $10 or so.

      Flip Toss and Thai on Harbord a couple blocks west of Spadina has some very good dishes, although it's definitely hit-or-miss and the bad dishes are awful. I've found their veggie spring rolls, panang curry, and basil fried rice to all be consistently excellent. Everything there is cheap as dirt.

      Tokyo Grill at Yonge just north of Wellesley on the west side: very cheap home style Japanese food (think: not sushi). Never had anything there I at least didn't like a whole lot. Always full of Japanese people, too, which must say something. It sounds disgusting, but if you go you must try the wasabi ice cream. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

      1. Just a word of caution about Flip Toss and Thai... don't order the pad thai.

        There's a little restaurant/take out place on Spadina (east side), one blk south of Bloor. I think it's called Cafe Elise. Doesn't look like much but I recall that they have good (and cheap) middle eastern / north african fare. I haven't been there for a couple years, but it's worth checking out (hope it's still there).

        Fresh - Juice for Life is just up on Bloor W.

        I second the suggestion for Real Thailand.

        If you're up for the walk, head west on College to Utopia (just check their hours behorehand).

        1 Reply
        1. re: littlegreenpea

          Alas, Chez Elise is no more. Daddy-O's, what seems to be a burger 'n beer joint, has taken its place.

        2. If you are looking for takeaway, try The Sandwich Box. It is in the food market across from CityTV--just follow the line. Great fresh custom sandwiches (choice of ACE breads, many wonderful fillings and then grilled) - total cost with side salad - $6.99.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dinin and dishin

            And in the same building as The Sandwich Box is Ghali for their chicken burroti (curry chicken with sweet potato, peppers, spinach, chickpeas wrapped in a tortilla and grilled). Very filling (portion big enough for both lunch and dinner for me!) and very tasty, all for $8.

          2. If you like salad with lots of fixings, go to Fast Fresh Food at Commerce Court West concourse. You get a very large bowl of salad with 8 selections plus choice of lettuce (I mix mine - spinach/iceberg) for just under $8. You can add additional items for about $0.75-$1.25, depending on the item. I try to go early, right before noon, otherwise the place is swamped until 2 pm.

            1. Yummy BBQ on Yonge south of Wellesley. Way less than $10 for excellent fresh food (Korean).

              Also the Bowl right next door is good, but gets very busy.

              1. I will second both Yummy BBQ and the Bowl for excellent food. You can actually get the lunch special at Yummy for $4.

                I will also add that Fire on the East Side is excellent place to eat. On Glouchester, two blocks north of Wellesley just east of Yonge.
                I also enjoy Pi-Toms & koyoto sushi, both on Alexander just south of Wellesley east side of Yonge.

                1. Ka-Chi, for Korean. 612 Bloor Street. Sooooooooo amazing. Sooooooo cheap.

                  Also love Ginger. The Gerrard/Yonge location. Bloor/Yonge location very busy but good. Haven't tried Church village or other locations yet.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: magic

                    We went into Ginger Friday night. Definitely cheap. But the food was just so-so and I had to avoid looking to closely at my surroundings so as not to lose my appetite. Especially when I went to the Washroom where you walk by the kitchen and the back door is open. It was gross back there.

                  2. New member, longtime lurker - don't think this place as been mentioned yet but I highly recommend the Balkan Bistro on McCaul Street between Dundas and Baldwin Streets - delicious Turkish food with generous portions and the most expensive thing on the menus is around $12. I usually have either shrimp guvec or kofta meatballs with two sides and a very nice bean salad - with a soft drink or coffee it comes to around $10.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Welshgirl

                      I've always wondered about this spot as I have often walked by and have never seen it full. I love Turkish food and will try this out.

                      1. re: Welshgirl

                        Went to check out the Balkan Bistro, only to find newspaper covered windows and a dingy awning. Fortunately, I only went since I was in the neighbourhood anyway.

                      2. I'd have to say Salad King - good Thai food at reasonable prices off Yonge St and Dundas very near Ryerson. I recommend the Basil Noodles to anyone who will listen. They have a chilli numbering system that goes up to 10 - a word to the wise, unless you're suicidal or member of Chilli of the Month club, don't stray above the 3 chilli mark.

                        1. The Salad Place in Roy's square serves very fresh food and generous portions.

                          1. Lettuce Eatery has 3 locations that I know of
                            One at Bloor and Yonge
                            One in the TD Center food court
                            One at Spadina and Richmond

                            You can even call ahead so you don't have to wait in line for your customized salad or one of their selections!

                            1. In Kensington Market, I'm addicted to Freshwood Grill...amazing burger and the pulled pork sandy is good too, try the poutine (best I know of, outside of JK's) and huge fat home made onion rings with a variety of house mayo's to try....OK I'm going there now....

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Recyclor

                                i tried that pulled pork sandwich.. and between the miniscule amount of meat, coleslaw on the INSIDE of the sandwich making it ridiculously vinegary that i was puckering a half hour later, and the misleading smell of smoke in the resto with none transfering to the meat... BLEH!

                                the only redeeming thing about it was the looooovely bread they put it in. oh and service? what service? i ended up ordering and practically serving myself when they kept ignoring me.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                  Actually, it is very traditional to have your coleslaw in the sandwich. That being said it better be good coleslaw and good pulled pork.

                                  Downtown Lunch:
                                  Ninki Sushi
                                  Flip Toss and Thai
                                  Yueh Tung

                                  1. re: Mila

                                    It might also be considered traditional to be smoky and tasty. Apparently they only follow a few traditions.


                                    1. re: Mila

                                      Chili Chicken at Yueh Tung - that is one of my favourites!

                                    2. re: pinstripeprincess

                                      i should also add something productive.

                                      in short, chinatown. you're very close so i'm not sure what you've ventured to have here. da lu noodles from mother's dumplings $7, vietnamese sandwich from nguyen huong $1.50, any of those meals packaged to go at nguyen huong (i particularly love the rice cake fried in scrambled egg that's kind of like chinese turnip cake) $4, beef brisket with rice noodles in soup from king's noodles.

                                      and, while past your boundaries, pay for the street car to make the trek and go to the siegfried's dining room at george brown college. not officially opened daily until sept 10 (currently on some thursday/friday rotating schedule) you can get items like 3 fat juicy sausages with some cabbage stew for $2 from their cafeteria type place where they serve student made food. sometimes it's oversalted, but for the most part it's pretty darn good! grab a couple and keep them in the work fridge, definitely worth the extra cost of transit.

                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                        I had a very different sandwich when I ordered it, I thought it was great...although, as I sat there yesterday and the service was horrible: no cutlery & napkins after food was delivered, no check back to see if all was OK, we had to get up and go to the cash to pay, and the onion ring order was noticably smaller than before...I was thinking "didn't I just praise this place on CH"...but, the burger was awesome as always...sorry to hear you had a bad experience...

                                    3. There's a sandwich/salad counter in the food court of the Hudson's Bay Centre that's fantastic. For less than $10, you get a large slice of quiche and a side salad. Their quiche is lovely - creamy eggy filling and a filo base rather than the traditional pie crust, and the salads range from simple greens to more interesting like chicken waldorf.

                                      They also do grilled paninis with a variety of interesting filling combos (though I find that they could be a bit more generous on the fillings), and have a handful of hot specials are quite tasty and change daily.

                                      My only complaint is that they usually run out of quiche by 12:30! :(

                                      1. Okonomi House- Japanese style okonomi pancakes for $7-9 makes for a great light lunch. It's right behind Vic College on Bay & Charles. (23 Charles Street West)

                                        Ka Chi has a new location in Kensington on St. Andrew Street i think.

                                        I'm not really too big of a fan of Salad King. The food is filling and cheap but mediocre for Thai food.

                                        Black Camel is a little further away but it's right outside of Rosedale Station. Their pulled pork sandwiches (and other ones) are great for $10.

                                        I heard Anoush on College right across the engineering buildings is great as well. Then again, if you are a U of T student you've probably already been there.

                                        1. BIg Fat Burrito in Kensington market. My recommendation is the sweet potato burrito.

                                          1. Never been, not sure if it is close, but will go based on my post..Burrito Boyz (2 locations).http://www.burritoboyz.ca/main.html

                                            1. Yu Shan, on Dundas at Markham - a cut above Mother's Dumplings for dumplings, but I'm not sure about the other items at Mother's. The onion pancake is also better at Yu Shan.

                                              1. I'm pretty sure you can get out of The Coffee Mill for less than $20, especially for lunch. IMHO, as someone who has been to Hungary but otherwise has little chance to eat Hungarian food, this place is excellent, especially Saturday afternoons in the winter.

                                                Ritz on Yonge just south of St. Joseph (north of Wellesley) has an exceedingly cheap luch special - $3.99 jerk chicken or some such.

                                                DON'T EAT AT FUTURES BAKERY! Trust me.

                                                Mel's Diner is a good place for late breakfast - to have long conversations instead of studying, or to fight off a rough morning.

                                                Nataraj and Mt. Everest on Bloor are also good options below your price point.

                                                Finally, ETHIOPIA HOUSE. On Irwin Street (north of St. Joseph/South of Charles, between Yonge and Bay). Awesome lunch specials.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: markdsgraham

                                                  You can definitely get out of the Coffee Mill for under $20. I find their goulash soup (served with bread) more than filling enough for lunch and it's well under $10. At that price, a hungrier person could augment with a sandwich or salad and still be under $20.

                                                  1. re: markdsgraham

                                                    futures bakery is the worst

                                                    ordered blueberry pancakes from the bloor location once and it was raw in the center

                                                    got little cakes from the st lawrence location and they were bland and stale

                                                    1. re: chocabot

                                                      I bought a small white chocolate cake at the St. Lawrence Market once and it was great. I went and got a second one two or so weeks later and it tasted funny. Like a really chemically fake banana extract. We thought we had the wrong flavour for a few bites, then realized that one side was entirely moldy under the icing. Sadly, everyone at the table got ill. That was a Saturday night. I called and left a message...and again on Tuesday (the Market isn't open on Sunday or Monday), to no effect. They told me that they outsource their cakes. A) This is not auspicious for a "bakery"; and B) I and my guests were made ill by your product...take some responsibility. They said they would get back to me, I followed up with them and the Bloor location (with the same story about outsourcing) to no avail. There are only so many calls you can make for a $20-something cake, but I was really angry. I will never shop or eat there again. Which is too bad - their carrot cake is great.

                                                      1. re: morrigan

                                                        The first (and last) time I bought a cake from the Future Bakery at the market, the box still had the shipping label from Dufflet. I asked the girl working the counter and she confirmed that none of their cakes are baked on-site - looks like everything is outsourced from either Dufflet or La Rocca (as is the case for most of the "bakeries" in the market, for that matter).

                                                        Since I can just as easily get those cakes from the local supermarket, I don't bother with the SLM for much besides meat, cheese and veggies these days.

                                                        1. re: morrigan

                                                          that has got to be the WORST cake story i've heard. very frightening.. they're lucky you didn't sue or prompt an investigation.

                                                          i always boo them when we drive by the bloor location.

                                                    2. You must visit the Butler's Pantry on Markham, one street west of bathurst, south of bloor. Lovely patio, and a plentiful international menu - literally, like "eating at a UN cafeteria". Great serving sizes, totally affordable, stomach filling eats!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: LemonLauren

                                                        Butler's Pantry portions may indeed be stomach-filling but the quality of the food left something to be desired when my SO and I dined there a couple of weeks ago.

                                                        She had the chicken pot pie. A generous portion, but over-salted and over-peppered to the point where she couldn't finish it. The accompanying green salad was standard but fresh.

                                                        I had the Moroccan vegetable tagine. Uninspired to say the least. The ring of vegetables surrounding a mound of turmeric coloured couscous was lukewarm at best and even cold in places. The vegetable selection consisted almost entirely of carrot and zucchini, with a couple of pieces of eggplant and a few chickpeas. The sauce lacked any discernible character beyond the occasional hint of cloves. The couscous in the centre of the plate, by way of contrast to the vegetables, was hot. And dry.

                                                        Based on this experience I cannot see myself returning to Butler's Pantry.

                                                        However, I can see myself frequenting Victory Café, a few doors down on Markham. I had a delicious vegetable curry there, redolent of spices and with a kick of heat one doesn't normally find even in Indian restaurants. As well a greater variety of vegetables in the dish than the BP tagine. Under $10. Unfortunately I believe they open for service at 4.

                                                      2. How about the new ROM's Food Studio - you don't need to pay admission to go to this eatery in the B1 level. They have a changing menu of grilled fish, stir frys, pizzas, and a great salad bar using many organic ingredients. This is now my favorite place for a quick healthy lunch when in that part of town.

                                                        1. California Sandwiches. Best veal sandwich in town. Not too far from the campus.

                                                          1. Best restaurant for lunch and brunch Laide art lounge at Adelaide& Jarvis. Everything, even burgers is homemade. And they have best grilled sandwiches and smoke salmon Eggs Benedict I've ever tried , YUMMI. And price is good 5-10 $.

                                                            Toronto, ON, Toronto, ON , CA

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: oxy777

                                                              fascinating suggestion. this place came up in a recent conversation, are they still showing the old porn on the tvs?

                                                            2. Greetings, I am a librarian and closeted foodie hoping to enrole at GB in the autumn if a really great job doesn't come up. I was just wondering, does GB have a cafeteria / canteen kind of place where students can eat inspiring lunches while attending classes. This, for me would be a big plus.

                                                              Must get back to my Julia Child potato gratin - ta ta and best regards,

                                                              Shawn B. Whatley