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Help! Coming to Toronto, liberty village, for 4 days on a student budget but CHOW tastes

Hi everyone!

My boyfriend and I are driving up to Toronto from Pittsburgh for a mini vacation June 1-5th, but I'm a med student, and he's a community organizer, but we both loveeee good food and drinks (especially beer)!

Any recommendations for a "student" budget? We both like all types of food, the only caveat being that I am vegetarian; eggs and dairy are fine, but fish is not.

We'll be staying in an apartment that we rented off airbnb in liberty village, on western battery road. We have a kitchen so any recs on great markets where we can pick up some good food to make a few lunches or dinners would be great as well.

Sorry for the post but as this is both our first times, I got pretty lost reading previous posts. Any help you guys can give will be much appreciated!


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  1. Dufferin Grove market is on Thursday, falls into your stay. Wychwood is on Saturday, but I suggest you only go to one of the two as there's overlap in vendors. Liberty Village also has one on Sunday, but you're leaving that day.

    There isn't anything terribly of interest around Liberty Village since it's a new community. It's built like a suburban complex, and targeted at first time downtown buyers that used to live in the burbs. There are a few restaurants and chain stores, but nothing that is "destination" worthy for a tourist. A ttc day pass is $10, but on Saturday and Sunday, one pass works for 2 adults. I suggest you take advantage of that.

    For a student budget, your best bet is to stick with "ethnic" food. Since you're a vegetarian, I would recommend vegetarian dim sum at Graceful Vegetarian. Combine that with a trip to Pacific Mall to see an interesting slice of Cantonese culture, something you def don't have in Pittsburgh. This requires roughly 1 hr commute from downtown via transit, but it's worth the time imo.

    Toronto is a very meat centric restaurant town, especially with white restaurants. Perhaps Italian would be easiest to skim past meat with pasta/pizza and such. This all depends on your budget, what's cheap to me might not be cheap to you. What would you like to spend per person? $20 & under?

    The trend in Toronto is with mid-tier pricing restaurants, with small plates. The prices are attractive, often under $20 a plate. It's deceiving as portions tend to be small, so things add up quickly.

    The places with buzz in Toronto are Black Hoof, Guu, Enoteca Sociale, Campagnolo, Stockyards, Sukhothai/Khao San Rd etc....but again very meat centric. Check their websites to see if you can manage to cull together a meal w/o meat.

    The best bars for craft beer are Bar Volo, Beer Bistro, Victory Cafe, Smokeless Joe's, Burger Bar, The Rhino.

    Beer Bistro
    18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

    Smokeless Joe
    Toronto, ON, Toronto, ON , CA

    398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA

    The Black Hoof
    928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    Enoteca Sociale
    1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    832 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON , CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: aser

      20 and under would be around what we would be looking for as we will be making a few lunches at home I think. May splurge a little here or there but that will probably be a gametime decision depending on how much damage we've already done.

      The ttc pass sounds perfect! I will definitely make sure to get the day passes.
      We picked the liberty village one because it had free parking and a full kitchen that fit very nicely into our small budget, but good to know not to stick around there!

      1. re: rbg219

        Just to clarify, I find that many "meaty" restaurants have had one or two good veggie options in Pittsburgh, so am still open to hearing other restaurants for Toronto and then checking out the menus myself to see if its doable or not!

        1. re: rbg219

          The bixi bike share program recently launched too, could be a good way to navigate around the core. Unfortunately the coverage area is quite small to begin with, so it doesn't reach as far west as Liberty Village.


          Kensington is another area you should check out, lots of little ethnic eateries. Perola's taco stand, aguave y aquacate, urban hebivore (veg). Craft pints can be had in that area at Cloak & Dagger, Ronnie's, Burger Bar and Embassy.

          247 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          1. re: aser

            The bixi stations don't extend past Spadina so still far from Liberty Village. For inexpensive, ethnic eats, I'd explore King and Queen Sts. west from Liberty Village. It's a neighborhood in transition w/ some interesting restos, galleries, bars, etc.

        2. re: aser

          "There isn't anything terribly of interest around Liberty Village since it's a new community."

          I have worked in Liberty Village for the past 4 years and I can tell you there are some really good lunch places in the area that are worth going to for brunch most are fairly affordable.

          School - East Liberty and Fraser Avenue. Very good Cafeteria style food. Their "Detention" Friday night is a good place for after work drinks.

          Merci Mon Ami - Makes really good sandwiches and brunch but doesn't appear to be open on weekends.

          Shawarma's King - If you want a quick shawarma or falaffel on your way out it is one of the few good ones in Toronto. Atlantic Avenue South of King

          Liberty Belle - I haven't been yet but my co-workers have raved about their lunches. They are open for brunch on the weekend. - Jefferson Avenue South of King.

          Shawarma's King
          220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON , CA

        3. There are a few west indian restaurants just west of where you're staying. I find that west indian spots are good for both vegetarians and meat eaters (although sometimes vegetarians should confirm that they don't sneak any animal bits into otherwise veg dishes for "flavour"). I'm partial to Island Foods on King for my roti fix but others enjoy Ali's on Queen. Neither are outright destinations but if you're at your apartment and want a cheap bite without going too far they are pretty good options.


          1. Island Foods at Dufferin and King is close by to where you're staying. It's a family run roti shop. I'm sure they have vegetarian options.
            Tasty rotis and pepper sauce. I think it's about $7 for a roti.
            The bone-in chicken roti is fantastic, just in case your bf is a non-veg.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hondapendragon

              I forgot about that one. Island Foods is amazing! I am a fan of the goat Roti, they have chicken, veggie, beef as well as really good jerk chicken.

              1. re: Kooper

                Love Island Foods goat roti as well. One of my favorite things, except that it's so friggn' far from where I live. Doubles are also good. Get it mild unless you are well accustomed to very spicy food.

            2. I agree with another posters recommendations about Kensington Market. You can search for threads on here about Kensington for some specific recommendations but many great options there on a student budget. As for other city markets, I recommend Don Valley Brickworks market on Saturday morning as you can also do a hike around that area and learn about some of the history of that area too. Check out the Evergreen/Brickworks website to see if there are any special events that day.

              1. For a casual, tasty, unique experience that you might not be able to get back home, definitely give an Ethiopian restaurant a shot -- typically many delicious vegetarian options, very affordable, and generally a good time. There are several places not that far from LV -- I haven't been to any of them, but maybe someone who has can provide some more insight on which is the best option. :) Have a great time!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                  M&B Yummy Ethiopian on Queen West at Brock = vegan! Dead cheap and licensed, too. The Rhino is a non-trendy bar with a big selection of beer a few doors away— over 300 bottles and cask ale, too.


                  M & B Yummy Cakes & Desserts Cafe
                  1263 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6K1L5, CA

                2. Since you're just south of King jump on the King street car and head east to Jarvis and the St Lawrence market on Saturday. There are 2 buildings: the North market is Saturdays only and mostly farmers and small cheese makers/butchers/bakers; the South market is open 6 days a week with established butchers, cheese mongers and produce stores. In the basement of the South market there are take out food places with some interesting stuff including veggie options.

                  Near Liberty Village, there is good pho soup on Ossington, and as mentioned good roti at Island Foods, Ali's or Bacchus on Queen Street. There's a big supermarket and liquor store just west of you for basics (including beer!). Liberty Village was originally warehouses and factories that were then converted to commercial spaces and filled with film, TV, creative type businesses. So it's really pretty good for lunches, i think. More recently, too many condos and townhouses have been built and filled with young suburbanites. And sub-let to young hip people like yourselves! :)

                  Take a walk on Queen Street in either direction and you will come across interesting shops, food, galleries, etc.

                  A walk through Kensington market is also a must. It's not a traditional market like St. Lawrence, more of a jumble of streets and shops with an eccentric mix of vintage clothing, produce and interesting take out food shops.

                  I wouldn't do a ton of traveling just to get to The Best version of something. You'd be driving all over the suburbs. To me it's more fun walking around and soaking up the neighborhoods and trying some new foods along the way. It's all good. But then maybe I'm not as hard core as some around here :)

                  Oh, and good beer bars near you:

                  C'est What - near St. Lawrence Market
                  The Rhino - Queen just west fo Dufferin
                  The Burger Bar - Kensington market

                  St. Lawrence Market
                  92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                  C'est What
                  67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA

                  1. Some quick suggestions that come to mind:

                    Pizzeria Libretto - Lunch special is $15 and includes appetizer, pizza and salad. A BARGAIN.
                    Numerous threads on CH about this place.

                    The 5th Element - It's an indian-fusion restaurant that's very good and the 3 course lunch is a steal at $12/person. Appetizer, main and dessert will leave you stuffed.

                    As suggested use the TTC Day pass on the weekend for the 2 of you.
                    Take the subway to the Danforth and walk the Greektown strip and enjoy the cheap eats near the Donlands strip. Danforth Pizza House, Dukem, Makkah Restaurant are all good, cheap and plentiful.

                    For shawarma, I would suggest Shawarma Empire - 2 shawarmas for $6.

                    Also would suggest Pizza Pide on Pape/Gerrard for Turkish-style pizza.

                    Kensington Market's got a few good places. I like Akram's for their blueberry baklava and their $5 meal specials. Usually something interesting.
                    Also enjoy Caplansky's $9 breakfast called 'the special'. 3 eggs, 3 beef strips, latkes, cinnamony-apple sauce and includes unlimited coffee.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: pakmode

                      Thank you ALLL for your help!! I just showed the bf who was all proud he figured out the housing and he was amazed!

                      He eats meat so pure vegetarian restaurants are kinda out, just looking for stuff that can make us both happy which you all have given many options for.

                      Like an above poster said, we wouldnt really be willing to drive all over since we're just there for 4 days (really 3), but just wanted a sense of where good places were to go.

                      Any other thoughts on good cantonese since it seems that Toronto is known for that! . I definitely will try to check out the dim sum at Graceful Vegetarian - but have no idea what to order! Chinese food is a little foreign to me, I'm much more familiar with Thai or Japanese. I havent really had *any* good chinese in pittsburgh so that would be wonderful, especially if you guys have rec's on what to order, both meat and vegetarian.
                      Thanks so much!

                      1. re: rbg219

                        except for the mock meat/vegetarian specific restaurants available in toronto, of which there are surprisingly quite a few.... cantonese food does not lend itself at all to the vegetarian diet. if it's not a simple dish of braised or stir fried veg (and often including those as well) meat at least makes an appearance in the sauces and garnishes. trying to converse with staff about the vegetarian diet may prove to be quite difficult (though you'd think by now the spots downtown would have figured it out)... it's not even so much drawing the line at fish, often chicken can be considered fair game for vegetarians. i do not want to sound as discouraging as this likely seems, i just want to make sure you know what you may be getting yourself into. it is a food culture that highly prizes meat and especially in rare forms.

                        your best bet might be chinese bakeries. you may have to stay away from anything with a pastry shell but any bean/sesame/nut/cream filled items would likely comply with your needs. bf can get the meat filled baked or steamed buns. in downtown i tend to be partial to the older vietnamese chinese run spots typically found on dundas just east of spadina.

                        so to be more helpful... i think that west indies cuisine should definitely be tried. my go to is goat roti but i also adore doubles which have two fried dough discs (barra) sandwiching a curried chickpea mixture. there are essentially two styles, guyanese and trini, very similar just slight variances.

                        ethiopian is another great one where i tend to favour the vege preparations over the meat ones any way. nazareth is the cheapest and among the most delicious but is a bit overrun with the hipster crowd. lalibela is a great all around (the menu is quite vast) and both are in a densely african strip of bloor by ossington.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Ali's on Queen West just before Landsdown has great Trini style doubles and aloo pie. They also do a great pumpkin and various kinds of curry and roti.

                        2. re: rbg219

                          The Best Chinese is now found in the suburbs but for your purposes I think some of the restaurants on Spadina, the old Chinatown, will suffice. Spadina is one boundary of Kensington Market so you could do both in a day. I was actually perusing the Chow recs on Spadina recently and these were the names that came up often:

                          Mother's Dumplings
                          Xam Yu
                          New Sky
                          Rol San for dim sum

                          The only one I've tried is Rol San and I like it. Get there 10ish on a weekend morning, fills up by 11 but tables turn quickly. You order from a menu so it's a little less intimidating than ordering from the carts.

                          New Sky
                          353 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G3, CA

                          369 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2G3, CA

                          Mother's Dumplings
                          421 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON , CA

                          Rol San
                          323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

                          1. re: crawfish

                            Perfect list for downtown chinese!!! Must reiterate - Dim Sum? ROL SAN!

                            1. re: justsayn

                              Just to add another voice: Rol San for dim-sum. Especially because if one or more people in your party prefer "normal" Chinese food, that's pretty good at this restaurant, too! :)

                              Rol San
                              323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

                      2. There's a great little Ethiopian place about a 10-minute walk from Liberty Village – Addis Ababa, 1184 Queen Street West. They often have live music there on Friday nights, it's cheap and it's very veggie-friendly. Just ask the wait staff for a split veggie/meat platter and request some recommendations.

                        If you're into hearty, delicious brunches, there are two great spots within about a 15 minute walk of Liberty Village on Queen Street west of Dufferin: Easy at 1645 Queen Street West and Mitzi's Sister,1554 Queen Street West. Neither of them are diner-cheap but you can nab a plate of pretty filling, great food in the $10 range.

                        1. There is also Cafe 668. Pure vegetarian, though.


                          "885 Dundas Street West @ the intersection of Claremont Street on the south side.

                          Coming from the east we are approximately 5 blocks WEST of Bathurst Street.

                          Coming from the west we are approximately 7 blocks EAST of Ossington Avenue."

                          Cafe 668
                          885 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J1V9, CA

                          1. Whew! Liberty Village? There are actually TONS of options. Not all good, not all awful. :) For a student budget, there are plenty of options right in LV. There's a Metro right in there (a 24 hour supermarket). A lot of sandwich places. Liberty Noodle for some eclectic Asian fusion (tasty, slightly pricey). Christine Bibb's makes some higher end take-away for not too much of a ding on your wallet. Merci Mon Ami does great sandwiches, but the best thing I've had there is the burgers (Wednesdays only). The Barista (in the market behind Liberty Noodle and Merci Mon Ami) does grilled panini sandwiches and has some yummy gelati. And if you walk a little further in the market, you'll hit Raaw - delicious sushi. I have heard good things about Liberty Belle (French), but haven't tried it myself. Caffino's is pricey but delicious, as is Mildred's. And there's the CinqueCento Trattoria for a 10-bucks-for-3-choices from their lunch spread - I've heard it's good, but haven't got to trying that one yet.

                            if you want to try "Indian-ish" food (Pakistani, actually: VERY flavourful, but fairly greasy) walk up to the corner of Queen and Dufferin to Taste of Tandooree. Queen Street West of Dufferin (the neighbourhood is called Parkdale) has a bunch of cheap restaurants, but it's hit and miss - the Ali Baba Shawarma is good, so is Bhavna's kitchen (Indian vegetarian), but Mother India a little farther west is pretty bland.

                            Since the condo is on Western Battery road, you may be willing to walk up Strachan (Liberty street Ts into Strachan on the east end) up a few blocks to Trinity Bellwoods park - the Chippy's there does a lightly battered fish fry - I mostly go there for the fries!, there's a decadent dessert place on the corner diagonally opposite from Chippy's (can't remember the name off-hand).

                            All in all, there are probably more places for fast (or slow) eats than you will have time to try. :) You may wind up eating huge salads from the prepared-salad section in the Metro, or even try their deli: some of my friends swear the edamame salad is to die for. And of course, you can get the makings if you feel like cooking: that Metro even has pre-packaged spice mixes from South Africa (I keep wanting to try the Durban chicken) - you just add meat and cook.

                            Enjoy the trip and the visit - and try to make the time to walk down to the waterfront (just a couple of blocks south of Liberty Village - it's a gorgeous waterline and you can even walk all the way to "downtown" (the financial district) or west to Mississauga and beyond if you choose ... all on a trail (i.e., no cars to dodge!).

                            Bellwood Restaurant
                            756 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1E9, CA

                            1185 King St W, Toronto, ON M6K3C5, CA

                            Mother India
                            1456 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6K1M2, CA

                            Ali Baba Shawarma
                            1960 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                            1. Thanks everyone! Our trip is halfway done and theres so much more we want to see! Went to the Indians game on Wed, we were running late though so we just ate at the game. Anyone have any idea what sauce they serve with the sweet potato fries??

                              We went to Kensington yesterday and loved it, the taco stand was closed since it was a weekend but we had an amazing meal at Gordos, got some fresh juice, bought some coffee beans, got beers at burger bar and wandered over to chinatown. Whoever said dim sum wouldnt be great for veg was right, we got the menu from Rol San, but ended up getting a bunch of chinese baked goods from the place next door for $5 --> dinner and breakfast today and tomorrow! Ended the night with a show at Second City, tickets bought from TOTix.

                              We're going to South Indian Dosa Mahal tonight as I haven't had South Indian food in more than a year (yes.. I'm brown so this is terrible for me), plus the bf has only had indian food a few times and very generic north indian at that.

                              Might still do Rol San/another chinese restaurant or West indian (or both) tomorrow depending on what we're craving! Also seriously considering coming back to the kensington market to get a quick and cheap lunch before heading home.

                              Rol San
                              323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

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