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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 caf├ęs or restaurants that offer flavours that are a little special? I guess for mains, I'm thinking under $30.
Thanks.

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  1. Hi:

    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

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    Tutti Matti
    364 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V1R7, CA

    Banjara
    796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA

    Sukhothai
    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

    5 Replies
    1. re: bogie

      Thanks for the list. Interesting recommendations. I didn't know about China Island. There are times I hanker for some old-fashioned take-out but don't know where is a good spot.

      1. re: merlot143

        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.

        1. re: bogie

          Anybody know if there's a menu for China Island online somewhere?

          Thanks.

          1. re: detritus

            I have not found one, but they have most of your favourite and typical Cantonese and Szechuan dishes.

      2. re: bogie

        Hey bogie, I went to Sukhothai today! It's fairly close to me. What a great little place. I had the pad thai and the hot/sour soup. So tasty! My favorite was the soup - one sip and I was already happy.

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        Sukhothai
        274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

      3. 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

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        King's Noodle House
        296 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

        Pho Hung
        350 Spadina, Toronto, ON M5T2G4, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: jnine

          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

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          Bitondo
          11 Clinton St, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

          Falafel World
          2396 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S1P5, CA

        2. Thanks for this post. I'm in a similar situation.

          South Indian Dosa Mahal. Eat in (extreme pink colour scheme) or just grab a bag of samosa or spinach pakora. 10 for $3!!!!

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          South Indian Dosa Mahal Restaurant
          1284 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H1N8, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: pastina

            I love it, also in my neighborhood! Their vegetarian thalis are awesome and cheap too at $6.95.

            1. re: pastina

              Love their dosas. Just like to ones I relished in South India. Cheap samosas are fresh and delish too.

            2. 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.

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              Live Organic Food Bar
              264 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V7, CA

              1. 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.