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Inexpensive, yet impressive eating spot at Spadina & Bloor

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OLD GOAT MEETS YOUNG LAMB
Met a Chinese nationalist, U of T exchange student here for 3 months enrolled in a law program. She was filming the anti war march for peace rally on Bloor St.E and was enthralled by the whole process of dissent. She took my flyer. We spent the afternoon at the Future's Bakery over drinks discussing politics etc. We have a dinner date next week and I want to take her somewhere unusual in the annex (she is renting a flat there) I don't want to spend a lot. She is smart, full of questions but not a really big eater. Somewhere unusual, "inexpensive" and quiet enough for conversation.
What can you recommend?
Thanks

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  1. You're right near Korea Town so there are a ton of inexpensive Korean options that are authentic and cheap. Korean cooking tables are always fun.

    1. What about Mount Everest on Bloor just west of Spadina? You can get some very good Nepalese food there and even some Tibetan if I'm not mistaken... given what's going on right now in that region, the food would definitely be fodder for conversation...?

      There's also Thai Basil, which is a dimly lit and nicely decorated restaurant, but has surprisingly low prices and fresh, delicious food.

      There are a number of cheap sushi places on the block as well (my favourite is Sushi on Bloor) - not too sure how quiet they are but they're definitely inexpensive.

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      Sushi On Bloor
      515 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y4, CA

      Thai Basil
      467 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1X9, CA

      Mt Everest Restaurant
      469 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1X9, CA

      1 Reply
      1. re: Yum2MyTum

        Mount Everest might just work for both of you- inexpensive, all you can/can't eat, great service, wonderful, wonderful food( as yum2 says it's more on the Nepalese/tibetan side rather than Indian).

        What about by the way cafe, too?

      2. Mr Rabbit here. If the girl is as charming as you describe, I wouldn't make inexpensive my primary goal. Women have a way of sniffing that out.

        Don't go to an Asian resto. Imagine if you went to China and someone took you to Denny's. Not good.

        If you want to impress, go south to Harbord. Tati (despite service issues reported here) or Boulevard Cafe or 93 Harbord would be nice places with interesting food for her.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit

          Dessert Trends on Harbord has a bistro as well as some of the loveliest desserts (their specialty). I had heard they had stopped serving dinner last year, so you may want to check with them directly.

          1. re: Rabbit

            You seem to know a lot about the female mind, Mr Rabbit!

            1. re: fruglescot

              I would query the lady as to how she feels about such places. Being, as you describe, a young bohemian peace activist from China she may find expensive restos occupied by the privileged a turn-off. Then again, maybe not. With that in mind, I'm diggin' the Torito suggestion from dragonflygirl. Kensington Market may be just the ticket.

              1. re: Googs

                I'm afraid you've got the wrong picture, Googs. She is certainly not Bohemian nor necessarily a peace activist. Coming from Nationalist China where demonstrations are forbidden she was just overwhelmed with the idea that people in such numbers would be allowed to march in the street without being arrested.

          2. Cluck, Grunt & Low
            http://www.cluck.ca/

            1. What day next week is your date? I'd say since she isn't that big of an eater, you could take her to Torito on Augusta. She could order a few tapas, and save you the price of a large meal she might not be able to finish. Unfortunately, Torito can get extremely loud, and the tables are very close together. If your date is early in the week, you might be able to have a semi quiet meal there.

              4 Replies
              1. re: dragonflygrl

                Augusta is a 20 min walk from Spadina & Bloor.

                1. re: dragonflygrl

                  Perhaps WEDNESDAY my night off, or this week I have an unusual Thursday night off as well.

                  1. re: dragonflygrl

                    Torito is nowhere near "inexpensive". $8 for 2 loonie sized crab cakes is not cheap, albeit delicious.

                    1. re: Teep

                      Funny you mention the crab cakes. They were the only dish I didn't enjoy on my last visit. The cakes were soggy, and tasted like they came straight out of a can.

                  2. I'll suggest Trattoria Fieramosca, by the fireplace, on the main floor, with a glass of wine.
                    http://www.fieramoscatoronto.com/

                    1. How about Insomnia? It's at Bloor & Bathurst. Upscale-ish feel, with dim intimate lighting, and comfortable loungey chairs at the back. Food is not incredible or anything, but it's been reliably good. Everything from small plates to pastas/mains to desserts. Also, the menu is not likely something she gets much of in China.

                      It can get kind of crowded/trendy there on weekends, but mid-week it should be quiet enough to talk. DJ plays at 10pm nightly, but there's no dancing or anything. http://insomniacafe.com/ [please ignore the annoying music on the website... :)

                      ]

                      -----
                      Insomnia
                      563 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y6, CA

                      1. Bistro Tournesol @ Dupont subway has a $27 prix fixe menu. It might fit your specs.
                        www.bistrotournesol.com

                        There's also the Universal Grill.
                        www.universalgrill.ca

                        What is your price range?

                        -----
                        Universal Grill
                        1071 Shaw St, Toronto, ON M6G3N4, CA

                        Bistro Tournesol
                        406 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V9, CA

                        1. By the Way Café is quite charming and cozy. Not too expensive, though that shouldn't be an issue if you want to impress this woman.
                          If you want different, try Addis Ababa near the Gladstone Hotel. It's not in the Annex, but it's got a funky vibe, and you get to eat with your fingers. It'll be a cultural experience, and if she's a groovy as she sounds, she'd be game.

                          1. -

                            -----
                            Universal Grill
                            1071 Shaw St, Toronto, ON M6G3N4, CA

                            1. - -

                              -----
                              Bistro Tournesol
                              406 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V9, CA

                              1. What about Bar Mercurio? I've only ever been for lunch, but I quite like the pizzas there, and it has pleasant atmpsphere. I'm not certain what your budget is, but I think that one can have a good time there without mortgaging the farm.

                                1. Noticed that you like jambalaya... Southern Accent is probably zag for a Chinese student. And it's dark and cozy with good drinks.

                                  www.southernaccent.com

                                  1. Dooney's is near there. It is in my hall of fame as one of the worst dining experiences in the last five years. Be warned.

                                    1. http://dine.to/gallerygrill

                                      great room and good food, not sure about their hours

                                      1. Take her to Gazale's for some middle Eastern when your'e an item and you want a quick grab and go.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: food face

                                          Actually, don't. Ghazale is a ghost of its former self. It's nothing like it used to be. The shawarma sits pre-cut, awaiting the microwave. The last pita I had was the chicken liver, and there was very little veg and sauce, resulting in a very dry sandwich. Sara's is much better.

                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                            Gazale's is still great for Veg options. I also hate microwaved food. I just get it to go. They have always been a big fan of the microwave and the shawarma has always been pre cooked. Sarah's salads are not as good, it's more expensive and the service is slow and unorganized. But their falafels and shawarmas' are better for sure.

                                        2. So where did you end up Fruglescot?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: dragonflygrl

                                            Yeah, c'mon! This is like a soap opera now. Must know what happened next.

                                            1. re: Googs

                                              Two weeks later and we haven't heard from him! (or them!)

                                          2. Bump to the top, just to assure Fruglescot that many of us are interested in "the rest of the story." (and we hope dinner was nice)