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Cheap Toronto eats?

Forgive me if this topic has been done to death, but I'm looking for cheap bites to grab downtown. I like to go places that have very inexpensive meals (<$8) or, when I'm super broke, I'll just get a "snack" somewhere (<$5). Bonus points if the place is west-ish on Bloor (the Annex west to say, Dufferin).

Examples -
Cheap meals: Mothers Dumplings (do they sell anything that's even over 10 bucks?), Sushi on Bloor (bento deals or otherwise just an appetizer alongside the huge $3 tofu salad), Nova Era ($4 deli sandwiches on fresh bread).

Snacks: Small order of chips from Chippys, one of a few cheap places for samosas near Landsdowne (I'm drawing a blank on the name but one place has samosas 3/$1 and little rotis for $1), Chicken baguette from Ginger ($3).

What are your favorite cheap eats in the city?

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  1. Tofu soup w/ rice (can't remember the Korean name) @ Bloor & Clinton for $7.
    House salad at 'East meets West' @700 University for $3.75. So many to choose from: pasta, fresh cut fruit, Korean noodle, veg, seaweed, etc. It's a light meal.

    1. Snack/cheap meal: Beef empanada from Jumbo Empanadas on Augusta Street in Kensington Market. Haven't been in a while. Last time I was there it was about $3 to $4 bucks.

      1. I haven't been in several years, but Mi Linda Managua (north side of Bloor around Bathurst I think) offered three dishes: Meat. Chicken. Fish.
        These come with heaping piles of rice and fried plantains (maybe a salad?) for 8 bucks (back in the day). I've been meaning to go back, and will not fail to report.

        1. Pupusas ($2.25) at Emporium Latino in Kensington Market. Yummy!

          1. Bánh mì has got to be the ultimate cheap snack food. $1.50, how can you go wrong. Just don't look too closely at those cold cuts.

            1. I'm going to keep posting about this restaurant until everyone knows about it!

              Xinmiao dumpling restaurant, it's two stores next to Mother's Dumpling. It's cheaper ($6.99 for 25, includes tax) and taste WAY better than mother's. It's got homemade chili paste as well!

              6 Replies
              1. re: oohlala

                I need to try this place.

                Do they have a website??


                1. re: Davwud

                  no, i can't find ANYTHING about this restaurant online. But it's very easy to find. Next time if you feel like dumplings, just swing by mother's and head two stores down~

                  1. re: oohlala

                    2 stores down, as in north of mother's?

                    1. re: jennjen18

                      Down as a direction on any north/south street in Toronto should always mean south and this case is no different.

                      1. re: Ender

                        Sorry, should've cleared that up. 2 stores SOUTH (closer to dundas) of mother's

                2. re: oohlala

                  Based on this and other posts, Mrs Scary and I went to Xinmiao just before 2pm Saturday. We had heard it was slow, but as there were only two other diners seated at the same table, and already eating, we decided to give it a try.
                  Within about 5 minutes we had ordered 3 small dumpling plates and a pancake.
                  The only person working there seemed very polite.
                  Over the next hour, 5 more patrons came in and ordered, two groups of two and a single.
                  Roughly an hour after we arrived, one small plate of dumplings arrived at our table. About 15 minutes later, a second plate arrived, but it was not one we had ordered, but hey, we had waited over an hour for our second plate so the one we received was going to have to do.

                  In the interim, the single table had received his full order, a large plate of dumplings, as had one of the two person tables, spring rolls and soup. (It's easy to determine what the others are eating and the status of their order as it is a small place)

                  Fifteen minutes later, or roughly one and a half hours after ordering, we were told that he had run out of the ingredients to make our third plate of dumplings. We asked about the pancake, and by the surprised expression on his face, it was evident that he had forgotten about it.

                  Not wanting to risk another hour and a half for two more dishes, and because the food we had eaten was average at best, we paid our bill.

                  We won't be returning.

                3. I'd suggest a Chinese bakery.

                  Specifically, Kim Moon has great inexpensive bakery items (meat-filled buns, almond cookies, etc.) and also some of the cheapest dim sum in the 'hood. They have an upstairs seating area that is usually empty on weekdays and not too crowded on weekends too. If you spend $10 there you probably will need to be carted out.

                  Kim Moon Bakery
                  438 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: xtal

                    Had Kim Moon dim sum for lunch today and it was f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s. Everything was served super hot and it was taaaaaasty. Amazing har gow, shrimp rice rolls, sticky rice, fried shrimp & pork dumplings and bbq pork buns. At one point, during a fairly heavy conversation, I had to stop and declare, "This food is delicious!"

                    I liked the stuffed eggplant and the pan fried bean curd roll a little less - they seemed a little lacking in flavour - but good quality nevertheless.

                    Most things are $1.50-2.00, and some things, like crab claws, are $4.00. Two of us spent around $15.00 after tip and were plenty stuffed.

                    Service is somewhat unattentive. We had to flag them down to both take our order card (which was waiting for them at the edge of the table for quite a while) and get our bill long after we were done our food. This was likely beacuse we sat near the back.

                    Also - it's kind of a sterile room, but not horrible to the point that the atmosphere is a turn off.

                    Can't wait to go back and try more tasty morsels.

                    1. re: Delish

                      Their upstairs space is open on the weekends, and the atmosphere is much better. I think the prices are the same on weekends as well, which is quite reasonable considering the quality.

                      1. re: Delish

                        For most dim sum places, you need to flag them down. I guess that's the style of Chinese places. A friend of mine (not Chinese) told me that she thinks its rude to flag a waiter/ress down (I guess rude to the waiter/ress). We were dining at a Chinese place at that time too. And I told her that we wouldnt get anywhere if we dont flag them down, and did so by just waving. It's no biggie at a dim sum place.

                        1. re: jennjen18

                          I appreciate your comment, and I know you are right. However, in this case because of where we were seated in relation to where the food was flagging them down was easier said than done. I suppose my "problem" (I use quotations becaue it was merely a small annoyance since there were lunch hour time constraints) was that it seemed that no one came by at all, or even looked our way, which made it difficult to flag. In other places there are often many people on the floor which makes it easy to flag someone down.

                    2. Glad to see someone mention Nova Era. Whenever we're back in Toronto, we go out of our way to make a stop at Nova Era or Courense on Bloor W. for a tosta mista, a Sumol, a Portuguese custard tart, and a coffee. Yummy and cheap. Some Portuguese bakeries also have a hot table (Courense is one).

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: foodiemommy

                        I live right by there and I've never been inside. What's on the hot table?

                        Also, I'm not familiar with Portuguese food - what desserts/baked goods would make a good starting point? (I'm not asking for full-on meals because I'm veg, and I'm pretty sure most Portuguese food isn't - but please correct me if I'm wrong.)

                        1. re: piccola

                          Custard tarts. You just can't beat 'em. They're fantastic.
                          I believe they're called "Natas" but if I'm incorrect I'm sure several people will correct me.


                          1. re: piccola

                            A big second on the custard tarts from me -- they are the way to go. Davwud is almost correct, they are called "pasteis de nata" (singular is "pastel de nata"). :o)

                            BTW, the custard tarts will look almost burned on top. That is a good thing.

                            And if you've never had Portuguese bread, ask for a loaf of corn bread, but NOT the 100% corn bread, ask for the one that is part corn/part flour. This bears no resemblance to corn bread from the Southern U.S. -- it's more of a dense, rustic/country bread. Yum. The 100% corn bread is way too dense for me.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Thanks! I had the Portuguese corn bread from Sobey's, but I'm guessing the bakery stuff is better (though Sobey's was pretty good, too). And custard tarts it is.

                            2. re: piccola

                              Yeah, I doubt you're going to find any of the hot food at a Portuguese bakery to be veg. If you were a pescatarian, you'd be okay.
                              First time I had coffee at a Portuguese bakery, I asked for low-fat milk (that's when I knew I'd been living in Toronto too long!), and the lady behind the counter asked me if I was crazy and told me to have the cream and enjoy it. I thank her for that.
                              Anyway, have the tarts for sure (with some strong coffee or an espresso), and do bring home some bread as the other poster suggests.
                              The rest of the good stuff, like those delicious fried fish cakes, wouldn't be veg-suitable.

                          2. Hello all....haven't posted in ages! But this topic is near and dear to my tum!

                            I highly highly recommend New Bilan...it is just east of younge along Dundas on the south side...sort of across from the big hotel there (I can't remember the name of it).

                            Don't let the dodgy exterior assuage you hunt for cheap eats! The chicken stew is so good. You get a huge jug of mango juice, goat soup, a massive plate of rice spotted with raisins along with whichever dish you order, and then some steamy hot sweet ginger tea at the end...all for 8 bucks!

                            1. You can't talk about cheap eats around Bloor without mentioning Butler's Pantry on Markham. It's not going to win any culinary awards, but it sure does fit the bill for a cheap and tasty full meal.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Moonsammy

                                George's chicken, right at Bathurst and Bloor.

                                Used to eat here all the time during high school. Great chicken, immense (tho not great) side dishes. Good brugers too.

                                $6.00 will get you a 1/4 chicken, and a choice of tomato-sauced rice, an immense mountain of spaghetti, or a big pile of fries (Which should be eaten w/ their excellent chicken gravy)

                              2. Try Cinnamon Girls Cafe on Queen just east of Dufferin on the north side. Cheap, amazing food - something completely different every day. I love the salads, and their soup is hearty and to die for. It's a favorite here at work.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Butterz

                                  I love the name and the website looks good. Next time I'm around there, I'll try it. Is it new?

                                2. Pho Hung for a huge $5 bowl of soup with beef.

                                  3 cold spring rolls for $2 from one of the many little lunch shops on Spadina north of Dundas.

                                  $3.75 quarter tandoori chicken with rice and salad (lettuce) at Coconut Grove on the south side of Dundas around Chestnut. Their jerk chicken is good too.

                                  Booster Juice Smoothie with a protein shot for $6.

                                  Cabbage rolls and chicked from one of the eastern european lunch places in the basement of St. Lawrence Market.

                                  Ana's Falafel on Bloor west of Brunswick use to have a 2 for $4 deal, I don't know if they still do.

                                  Bag of a dozen day-old donuts for $1 for when you're really broke and need to carbo load for the big race.

                                  1. $5.75 for a big, steaming bowl of pho at Saigon Palace on Spadina just south of College on the west side. $3.75 for a huge platter of BBQ pork fried rice at Kong Jug Yuen on Spadina at Cecil, and if you eat in you also get chicken soup and dessert/tea. And in the same neighbourhood, $3.99 for a chicken shwarma and a pop at Metro foods, a newly opened, Palestinian run place on College, south side, just east of Spadina.