Where to go for food I can't make at home
I cook a lot, and the mid-price restaurants I go to aren't as thrilling me anymore. The food is decent but not a lot better than what I can do. Of course, I'm paying for the convenience and atmosphere, but I'd rather not sit through a meal knowing I can do better myself.
Any recommendation for reasonably priced cafés or restaurants that offer flavours that are a little special? I guess for mains, I'm thinking under $30.
My wife and I often face the same dilemma, as I'm a chef. We rarely spend even $30 an entree when we dine out, unless it's a special occasion and we're craving a quality piece of fish or steak. We go out to eat at relatively inexpensive smaller places where they craft quality food that we enjoy when I'm took tired to cook.
For us, good choices include:
Banjara for tasty, consistent Indian food.
Black Hoof Cafe for small plates and great cocktails/well-chosen Canadian wines
China Island for fresh, low salt, non-greasy Chinese take-out or eat in.
Oympic 76 for thick, cheesy pizzas (not a pretty restaurant though)
Queen & Beaver Pub for amazing hand-chopped burger and thick fries, cask ales
Stockyards BBQ for superb smoked ribs and fried chicken
Sukhothai for inexpensive, exciting Thai food
Tutti Matti for homemade pastas
364 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V1R7, CA
796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA
274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA
Queen & Beaver
35 Elm St, Toronto, ON M5G, CA
The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA
China Island was an awesome Chowfind for us!!! It's located on Bloor, just west of Dundas West. They have an open kitchen, which is encouraging from the get go. There many little details that add up to their great overall quality: Dishes are fresh-cooked to order, a proper amount of salt is used, no MSG, battered dishes have just the right ratio of batter to meat and are not greasy, meat dishes have an abundant variety of vegetables in them, fresh not frozen vegetables appear to be used everywhere even in fried rice dishes, they even use fresh pineapple chunks in the sweet and sour chicken sauce, no food colouring is used either.
I too have this issue, which is even more compounded since I am currently an unwaged SAHM. I get pretty pissed off when I know I can and have made it better myself. These places never disappoint my palette or my wallet:
Pho Hung (Spadina Only) - rare beef pho
King's Noodle House - chinese doughnuts and veggie tofu stirfry and ginger green onion noodles
Pizzeria Libretto-simple Margherita
Stockyards- Pulled pork, burger or smoked chicken
Eastern Twist - Butter Chicken Parantha Wrap
Island Foods - Boneless chicken roti
King's Noodle House
296 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA
350 Spadina, Toronto, ON M5T2G4, CA
I just thought of some more delish dishes I can't/won't make at home:
Falafel World (Jane and Bloor) - Chicken Schwarma (ask for potatoes in it)
Bitondo's - Panzerotti with a side of olives (don't order pizza)
Korean (don't know the name) at southeast corner of Bloor and Manning - get the Bibimbap
11 Clinton St, Toronto, ON M6J, CA
2396 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S1P5, CA
I would recommend any of the "raw" foods spots to try it out. Live Organic Food Bar, Rawlicious or Crudo with my top recommendation being for Live Organic Food Bar.
Live Organic Food Bar
264 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V7, CA
Not a restaurant recommendation, but in this vein, I find you can do what you're looking for just about anywhere. I never order anything I can make at home easily. Just about any menu will have something with enough complexity about it that even if you you *could* do it at home, why not just let someone else contend with all the ingredients and prep? This doesn't work everywhere, but almost.