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Toronto Ethnic, on a student budget

Hey folks,

I'm coming in for four days from Saturday-Tuesday on a last minute road trip to visit Toronto, and would love advice on what to eat! I hear there is really terrific food there...

A little background: I currently go to grad school in Baltimore, where ethnic food choices (besides Mexican) are particularly lacking. I've lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, and am a big fan of ethnic foods, particularly Eastern Asian (Japanese, Chinese (all the different regions!), Vietnamese, Korean). Some of my favorite dishes are pho, soondobu (Korean tofu stew), ramen, dumplings, dimsum, sushi and sashimi, all of which are difficult to find in Bal'more!

Besides east asian cuisine, I also really like exploring other ethnic cuisines. For example, Afghani, Greek, Ethiopian, which Baltimore does have some good examples of.

I also love fresh seafood, oysters, fish, shellfish, etc.

I'm on a student budget, so I put some emphasis on value. For me, that means most meals of great ethnic food from small hole-in-the-walls for <$15, but I'm also willing to spend say, $50 one-time on a really terrific meal.

I will be primarily in the downtown area, but will have a car and am willing to do a little driving for terrific food. I'll also be alone, though I find that when I travel, I tend to meet and eat with fellow travellers.

Bottom line? I'm looking for great food of all types, focusing on ethnic and value.

Some suggestions I've already garnered from the board:
Tokyo Kitchen (ramen)
By The Way Cafe
Ka Chi (pork bone soup, or kimchi chiggae)
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (chicken liver pate)
Asian Legend (soup dumplings)
Sushi on Bloor
^- last two recommendations from a classmate who lived in Toronto.

Thanks in advance!

Dave

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  1. Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar is lovely but not within a student's budget; but perhaps worthy of the one splurge meal that you need on a trip away from your home town. To cut down on travel expenses, check out the YHA/Hostelling International hostel which is within walking distance of St. Lawrence Market. Save our money for the items that you can eat.

    If you're looking for ethnic and interesting, perhaps Indian or Turkish. Little India is great for all you can eat buffet meals. Or for vegetarian go to Udupi Palace. Lovely food.

    My favourite spots would include Chinese Traditional Buns or Mother's Dumplings. If you really want to scale back finances on one meal of the day, go and get a Vietnamese sub (banh mi) at any of the shops on Spadina, north of Dundas.

    Enjoy the city.

    1. There are tons of cheap ethnic eats to be found in Chinatown between College St and Queen St.

      A few of my faves for cheap eats in this area:
      dim sum at Rol San
      pho at Xe Lua or Pho Hung
      dumplings at Chinese Traditional Bun (on Dundas, W of Spadina)
      vietnamese subs (take your pick, there are a few stores side by side offering these)
      soup at King's Noodle

      Around the corner is Kensington Market, which centers around Augusta Ave between College and Dundas. Good stuff here:
      empanadas from Jumbo Empanada
      bistro food at La Palette (not cheap, but still affordable.. and they have horse if you want something you won't get back home)
      chinese vegetarian food at Buddha's (on Dundas near Bathurst.. get the hot & sour soup and the singapore noodles)

      For Ethiopian, there's a great place on Bloor near Ossington called Lalibela. It's not high-class, but it's delicious and cheap cheap cheap! The vegetarian platter is a favourite.

      1. I would have to recommend Lahore Tikka in Little India. It doesn't look like much (kind of like a construction zone) but the food is amazing.

        If you stay by the St. Lawrence go on Saturday (they are closed on Sunday and Monday) and either go to Mustachios for a veal &Eggplant (or heck just eggplant) sandwiches. Either that or go upstairs to Carosel. Many will suggest just the straight back bacon on a bun. My suggestion (if you are hungry) get a "Whole Hog". Egg, (processed) cheese and back bacon on a bun. It is not advertised unless you ask for it by name. Not everyone there knows about it but trust me, it exists.

        The suggestion for the vietnamese buns is a good one. My fav is Rose's the the Chinatown on Broadview just east of the core. Its only, I think, $2 for a really excellent sandwich.

        Enjoy the city!

        1. don't bother eating Mexican here, you will have way better at home.

          However, eating for under $10 is no problem in many places.
          - The Dumpling House on west side of Spadina, 1 block north of Dundas (my fav is the pork and chive boiled dumplings)
          - Yummy BBQ (korean) on w side of yonge, between College and Wellsley.
          - bun at Ginger II on Church & Wellsley, or the hot&sour tofu soup at Ginger on east side of Yonge between Charles & Bloor
          - cheap and cheerful chinese at NotJustNoodles at Yonge & Wellsley (I like the mapotofu, the shanghai noodles, the shrimp dumpling noodle soup)

          my fav place for Ethiopian is Ethiopian House on Irwin, just west of Yonge between Wells & Bloor. If you go for a weekday lunch, you can tried mixed platters for 1 (3 different meats, for example) for under $15.

          2 Replies
          1. re: orangewasabi

            Second Ethiopian House. I tried very hard but never found an appreciation for Ethiopian food before discovering this gem! Really a lovely place to grab a cheap bite.

            I'd also recommend Tokyo Grill on Yonge just north of Wellesley for some homestyle Japanese food. It's also incredibly cheap and I haven't tried anything there I didn't like. Virtually no sushi, but their curries and ramen are delicious.

            1. re: vorpal

              I had ramen at Tokyo Grill tonight, and it was quite tasty. Then I walked by Ethiopian House -- mmm, what wonderful smells! I would love to eat here, but I might skip this time, especially since we have a terrific Ethiopian restaurant back in Baltimore.

          2. from your list, i'd forego by the way, jk wine bar as well as asian legend for reasons of cost as well as general quality-of-food-to-cost ratio

            for korean, i recommend Buk Chang To Fu (orange bldge, green sign, on bloor east of christie) for tofu stew - they sometimes also have bulgogi/kalbi

            toronto has very good ethiopian, check out this previous thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/393693

            i'd also recommend trying a somali place, such as New Bilan or Liban

            for tunisian, try Djerba La Douce (they have a website, djerbaladouce.com), very inexpensive and good

            tokyo kitchen (the one on yonge, north of wellesley) has good food but no sushi really, they occasionally have a dessert that can't be found anywhere else - dont konw name but it's a bound of sweet rice topped with mochi filling (red bean paste) -- very good

            that's all for now -- happy eating through t.o.!

            oh ps. this week's star.com had a section on lebanese places in toronto with good eats