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The $20 challenge (Toronto)

Where can you eat an amazing Chow-ish lunch or dinner within a 5 minute walk of a subway station or streetcar stop (not bus) and leave only a $20 bill on the table? (Must include tax and tip and meal for one person so likely the total menu price wouldn't exceed $15.) Some restaurants only have a few Chow-ish menu items - if so, specify what to order. Must have eat-in table service, not a strictly take-out joint. Quality of service and atmosphere don't matter. Food must be memorable, not mediocre.

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  1. Since you mention only quality and not quantity, I'll go with Relish Bar & Grill. But that's probably cheating...

    2152 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1K3, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: Googs

      Thanks Googs! Never heard of it! What dishes adding up to $15-$16 would you say are most filling and tastiest?

      1. re: Food Tourist

        The only dish I've had there that disappointed was the blue corn tortilla with chicken. You may mix and match for your pleasure at your leisure.

        1. re: Googs

          How many dishes does it take to fill up two people?

          1. re: sugarcube

            Relish is pedestrian and bland. way too much stuff on their menu, most of it not the freshest.

            1. re: nyctransplant

              You say pedestrian. I say comfort food.

    2. If you walk fast and the traffic lights are working in your favour, you could get to Caribbean Bistro (2439 Yonge south of Erskine) from Eglinton Station in 5 minutes. I love their pholourie, chicken roti, doubles and plantain. Could easily order 1 app, 1 roti and a drink for less than $20.

      1. easy.
        broadview and gerrard.

        we had pho tonight plus veggie spring rolls. bill came to $15.

        for under $10: go to Rose's. get 2 meatball subs ($4), a spring roll ($2) and rice with black eyed peas for dessert ($2). you can finish it with a vietnamese hot coffee, full of yummy condensed milk ($2) or you can walk to Phoenix and get four pineapple buns (2 for $1)

        1. Island Foods at Dufferin and King: a roti and a ginger beer with tamarind balls for dessert would cost well under $20.

          Ethiopian House on Yonge a bit south of Bloor: lunch is cheaper than dinner, but even dinner should be within your range.

          1. Lalibela - Bloor just east of Ossington station.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Cat123

              Second Lalibela - You can probably feed 2 for about $20.

              Second Island Food too. It has tables for dining in, but it's self serve style.

              You can also get off either Bathurst or Christie subway stop & get some Korean food. Thumbs Up or Seoul (on south side of Bloor west of Palmerston) has a variety of home style meals; restaurant across the street (next to Kaji) offers good tofu hotpot as well as buy-2-get-1-free sushi rolls; Joon's has table top cooked chicken (min 2 portions). (Joon's has another location on Yonge north of the Sheppard subway station too.) iNoodles in that area is another option if you are in the mood for noodles.

              Real Korean BBQ in Koreantown is probably out of your budget, but the HK style Korean Grill House (Queen west of University) is a good option if you are in the mood for lots of meat.

              Close to St Andrew subway on north side of King west of Simcoe, you can get a lunch buffet at Kama Indian restaurant. Of course Lahore on Gerrard in Little India (along the Carlton street car) and Ghandi Roti on Queen West at Bathurst are good choices too for Indian food.

              How about the various options in Chinatown & Kensington Market (along the Spadina street car). Pho at Pho Hung, various Chinese rice & noodle dishes at King's (esp roast pork with crispy skin & pork liver congee) & Goldstone, Jumbo Empanadas, Mother's Dumplings, etc.

              Another interesting ethnic food choice is New Bilan on Dundas East (east of Jarvis). They serve a basic solid Somalian meal for about $8 per person.

              For more sit down restaurant experience, Terroni's (Queen subway, Queen West street car & St Clair subway) can be an option.

              I think $20 is pretty generous for a good 1-person meal, esp. if you are open to ethnic options.

              1. re: Orange


                I've enjoyed sit-down meals at New Bilan, King's Noodle, Mother's Dumplings, Joons, etc. in the past and most are consistently good.

                For the purpose of this thread, I wouldn't include Gandhi, Jumbo Empanadas, or any other self-serve or take-out place.

                1. re: Orange

                  "I think $20 is pretty generous for a good 1-person meal, esp. if you are open to ethnic options."

                  Make it $10 and it starts to get interesting. $5 and now you got a challenge!

                  1. re: szw

                    Start naming names! Where should I go with my $10 or $20 bill for a really tasty meal near TTC?

                  2. re: Orange

                    I seem to have the worst luck at Terroni Queen West. Today's specials were ridiculously bad. Peach arugula salad had way too much vinegar, and so-called truffled duck tortelloni seemed to lack both truffle and duck flavour.

                  3. re: Cat123

                    There's TONS of places by Ossington station. La Bella Managua is there, so's Mexitaco, and of course all the Ethiopean places.

                    Oh, and I recently went to Saving Gigi, that new(ish) coffee place on Bloor and Roxton. Great coffee, lovely ambiance, and the food menu sounds lovely - goat cheese tartine with cherry preserves?? YUM.

                    1. re: piccola

                      I have been to Mexitaco (once), Banjara (pretty good), Rikishi (pretty bad)...but never La Bella Managua. What should I order there?

                      Which station is Roxton near? Please report back once you try the food. Is Saving Gigi a full service restaurant or self-serve?

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Roxton is close to Ossington station.

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          I'm vegetarian, so there are only a couple options I can try at Managua, and I usually stick to the beans and rice combo. But my omnivore friends rave about the tamales and the yucca with crispy pork.

                          Gigi is a coffee shop, but they serve sandwiches and soups and various baked goods. I'll head over for food soon and report back.

                    2. Caplansky's in the Monarch should qualify: Smoked meat special with soup is $11, and a side of fries, slaw or knish, plus soda, well under $20. Close to the College car.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jayt90

                        Green Mango, right outside royal york for their lunch specials (thai).

                      2. Wish I could contribute but I'm in Brampton/Mississauga and not sure what locations you're talking about

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: duckdown

                          Everything from near the Kipling and Islington stations to downtown to the Beach to off the beaten track (but near a streetcar track!)

                          1. re: Food Tourist

                            Grab an amazing pulled pork sandwich with chips and a drink right outside Rosedale station at Black Camel. There are tables and chairs, but not sure how busy it gets on lunch. They also make a mean cafe latte.

                        2. Hands down the best deal for dinner with great food an service is Little India on Queen St. west. Under 40.00 for two people.

                          1. Maroli is less than a 5 minute walk from Christie Station.

                            I really liked their Shrimp Malabari and Butter Chicken. Their vegetable biryani and Malabar Chicken were ok, but I wouldn't choose to order them again.


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: phoenikia

                              Close to College on Augusta is El Trompo. A plate of tacos, a Mexican pop and guac for under 20. Though a truly enlightened eater would break the budget for one of the best margaritas in the city (or skip the guac).

                              1. re: Snarf

                                I second El Trompo.

                                Down the street at the corner of Augusta and College, Oishi Kada has good sushi for under $20. They have a few creative 'special rolls' on their menu.

                            2. for the $20 challenge:
                              INDIAN - kathmandu on yonge st south of wellesley, indian garden across from eglinton station
                              THAI - sorn thai or mai thai, north of eglinton on yonge
                              SUSHI - everywhere, particularly sushi island on college at clinton
                              MIDDLE EASTERN - Tabule on Yonge north of Davisville, Mezzetta at St.Clair/Christe
                              the best of the best - UTOPIA - college/clinton

                              am i the only one who thinks this is easy?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: LemonLauren

                                I haven't yet found good sushi for under $20 all in. Is Sushi Island really that good?

                                What should I order at Utopia? What is it like?

                                1. re: Food Tourist

                                  Sushi Island is not good enough to warrant a special trip imho. If I had to eat sushi in Little Italy, I'd go to Haru instead, where the service was better, it wasn't an all-you-can-eat-free-for-all- for $20(so the nigiri wasn't rice heavy), and the fish tasted fresh. I'm pretty sure Haru is Korean-owned (just mentioning it for those Chowhounds who like knowing about such things), since we received some banchan. But I also wouldn't go out of my way on the TTC for Haru...

                                  At lunchtime, some of Japango's combos are less than $15, and it's about a 5 minute walk west of St. Patrick.

                                  For a Korean-owned sushi place, I like Ichiban on Spring Garden, which is a 5 minute walk north of Sheppard, and they have several combos for less than $ 15 pre tax & tip.

                                  1. re: Food Tourist

                                    utopia is, in a word, hearty goodness. it's burritos, burgers, sandwiches and quesidillas served overflowing with warm grilled veggies, cheeses, and grilled meats of any number of varieties, with heart sides of rice and beans and salad or coleslaw or fries. killer nachos and onion rings to start, and if they have it, one hot and spicy black bean soup. be prepared to wait in the evening as it tiny, but i's worth the wait.

                                    1. re: Food Tourist

                                      i'm convinced that good sushi sub $20 is unobtainable in toronto. and i'm almost thankful because it's an indication of where i should be eating sushi when just taking a glance at the menu. don't go to sushi island unless your idea of hotate is diced up pieces of small previously frozen scallops in bundle of mayo.

                                      utopia seems like the cleaner, nicer, and smaller hipster hangout version of sneaky dee's to me. they service is slow though it's usually quite friendly and the chefs often seem quite laid back... in well the back. people routinely abandon ship though when in a larger group as it can take forever to get served or food.

                                      loved the nachos, especially the utopia version, as it has nice tender chunks of lightly charred chicken and beef. the steak is a little over spiced but the good chips, nice variant with white beans and corn, plus the fact that it's MASSIVE.... make it fully worth the $13.99. completely beats the sneaky dee's king nachos by a mile and then some. poutine was a bit weak because of either a cold serving or undercooked potatoes but it does come with real cheese curds and decent veggie gravy..... decent for being veggie. wasn't too impressed by the lamb burger (goat cheese made the pungency over the top) though it was very tender and pink and the onion rings would be fantastic if the batter was thinner. also like that there are pints for $5.75.

                                  2. Just around the corner from the Coxwell Subway Station is The Bus Terminal Family Restaurant. Check out this article:


                                    1. Tokyo Grill on Yonge, west side, just north of Wellesley. Home-style Japanese food (i.e. not sushi oriented, but with fabulous ramen, teriyaki, donkatsu, etc), and you'd eat like a king for far less than $20.

                                      1. Does the Scarborough RT count as part of the subway system? If so, try Ni Ji Sushi at Midland and Ellesmere (just east of Ellesmere RT). Good sushi and bento box combos around $10-13 each, or a boat for two ($30).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: czg

                                          $20 is manageable at the rebel house provided that you're not tempted to order their delicious beer offerings

                                        2. Comfort food from Asia? Head to Dumpling King at Yonge and Finch (Finch Station) - you can stuff 2 persons for $20 on the table. Hard to beat that price. Excellent Fish dumplings and deep fried seafood dumplings. Try the tofu side dish as well. $6.99 for about 15 dumplings.

                                          Great thread idea, Food Tourist.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: BokChoi

                                            Why thank you, BokChoi. I was inspired by my starving student friends at Regis College (U of T) who frequently worry that I might choose expensive restaurants when we want to dine together.

                                          2. Nazareth at Bloor and Dovercourt for Ethiopian. It's a two min walk from Ossington St. if you get out at the western exit. $8 (including taxes) for a platter that feeds two.

                                            On the weekend, we we couldn't decide between beef or veggie so we got both. Two people overate, took home leftovers and enjoyed a beer each for $26.

                                            1. Helena's Magic Kitchen in The Grange Food Court. Just west of St Patrick station on the south side of Dundas. Unbelivably delicious, filling and relatively healthy to boot. My 'usual' of late has been the roast chicken (2 pieces) with your choice of three salads/vegetables or potato/rice. You can choose from barley, lentil and rice salads, potato latkes with sour cream, the most beautifully cooked green beans or broccoli, shredded carrot, sliced apples, tomato salad, potato salad, beets...the list goes on. There are also quiches, shepherd's pie, meatloaf, perogies all with the delicious sides. My chicken plus 3 salads and a pop is $7!