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Apr 24, 2014 10:30 PM

Where is Toronto's $5 plate of good food?

Just about to return from a 4 month trip through SE Asia where we never (and I mean never, not even in Bangkok, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Vientianne) paid more the $5 for a plate of freshly prepared, simple and delicious food served with a smile. Suggestions?

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    1. I'll put it differently... Find me a restaurant in Toronto that doesn't have to pay for first world salaries, rent, overhead, taxes, and food supplies, and then we could start building a list for you... Oh wait... Soup kitchens might be your answer...

      3 Replies
      1. re: afong56

        Hot Dog Carts... but no plate or smiles...

        1. re: pourboi

          . . .not always 'freshly prepared' or 'delicious' either, lol. . .

          street meat can be 'good' for $5, but i've never seen it 'great' for that price. . .it's kinda like utility pizza slices from cora's or papa ceo's. . .

          i've had amazing meals for under $5 in developing countries, but then again, $5 is a week's wages in some places i've been. . .

        2. If a weekday lunch is an option I could recommend Trinity Square Café. It may come in a tad over the $5 mark but the food is good and definitely served with a smile.

          1. Well yes, that's because they operate without North American rents and labour costs and GDP per capita is between $1K (Myanmar) and $8K (Thailand), not $52K like in Canada. So they serve delicious and simple and complex food for "cheap" there. It's wonderful. I can't wait to go back.

            And yet, if you push it up by $5:

            At Dumpling House you can get pretty great fried dumplings for under $10 and spicey Dan Dan Noodles at Chinese Traditional Bun are pretty good. Banh Mi Boys has some less traditional and inexpensive items. I love the hamachi collar at Wow Sushi for $8. Even 7 Lives is serving pretty good San Diego style tacos for under $10. Not to mention the West Indian and Indian food out there. I think Thai's a soft spot here, and the pho may not be quite as good as Hanoi, but you can still get a decent bowl on Ossington to satisfy your craving.

            11 Replies
            1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

              To be honest, I think the pho here is much better than what you get in Vietnam.

                1. re: EverymanJack

                  Why? Because of the herbs and other flavourings?
                  I once had pho in Minneapolis and it was head ad shoulders above anything that I in Toronto.

                  1. re: EverymanJack

                    Yeah. I thought the good Toronto stuff would have been average in Vietnam.

                  2. re: szw

                    I equate the pho here with MSG and reconstituted rice stick...and I guess some people like that.

                    The pho I had in VN was fresh noodle, barely seasoned soup stock and distinct flavouring from herbals depending on the establishment. I remember a lot of gingery broth. This as opposed to some kind of faux (pun intended!) 'beef' flavouring from a bullion cube/powder.

                    1. re: neighborguy

                      Where are you getting your pho? I can't say for sure whether my faves are in fact msg-laden, but really I don't think Pho Dau Bo or Thien Thanh are making faux pho from bouillon cubes. I've been seated at a table at Hanoi 3 Seasons on Gerrard when an owner walked past me carrying a large box full of raw beef bones.

                      I actually live in Windsor and my local faves use only fresh rice noodles. There's some minor taste variation from bowl to bowl, which I've come to expect. I imagine that uniform consistency, but a weaker overall broth quality, might be more easily achieved with msg and bouillon cubes.

                      For those that prefer the very delicate flavouring of Northern Vietnamese broths, I can see why some of the GTA offerings might disappoint. I've sampled pho throughout Vietnam. Some were wonderful and others kind of plain. I wasn't wowed by what I tasted in Hanoi, but I respected the cleanness of its beefy broth. As far as I'm concerned, the type of pho you love really just depends on where you "cut your teeth".

                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                        As with any food. But the best Vietnamese offerings in either the north or south dust (okay, beat) the best Toronto offerings. Toronto's got some decent pho, but it's not as good as the best in Vietnam. That's not a surprise - I hazard to try the peameal bacon sandwiches over there!

                        1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                          Maybe I went to the wrong places in Hanoi, but I stopped in many pho places on the street, always busy, but I was just unimpressed. Fresh herbs are great there, but the quality of meat is very low. Small pieces of sinewy meat. Broth was overly fatty many times. After I came back, I talked to my vietnamese friends and they all told me yeah, don't eat Pho there. Its better here...they go back home to vietnam and eat other things.

                          Still the best is homemade at my friends houses when their grandmothers and mothers are cooking. Grew up on that stuff.

                          1. re: szw

                            I thought Pho 49 in Hanoi was just great - clean complex broth, great herbs and seasoning. Beef is ultra lean gamey, no sinew, but the beef at the pho joints her isn't good either.

                            I'm surprised to hear that they don't think that the best stuff there is better than the best here.

                            1. re: szw

                              Like you, I've had plenty of homemade pho here and like it above any restaurant offering. Also, when I went to Vietnam, there were soooo many different types of soups that I didn't eat pho all that much, but I did enjoy what I had. I agree that there is definitely less meat compared to bowls of pho that you get here in Toronto, but can you really compare it? The cost of meat there is a lot higher than here. If they added the same amount, the majority of people wouldn't be able to afford it. Reasons why it would have more fat are because it's cheaper and the people there like it that way. Like 1sweetpea said, preference definitely depends on where you cut your teeth.

                              Btw, my favourite foods to get while I was in Vietnam were banh xeo and banh mi. I crave a good authentic banh mi.

                              1. re: sumashi

                                Yes, I'm not saying "look at those cheap people, putting in such low quality ingredients". I just really felt it wasn't that good. Trust me, I really wanted to like the food! I travelled there JUST to eat. But after travelling around Asia..vietnam was the last stop on our tour and my travelling partner and I were fairly disappointed with the food. Maybe our expectations were just too high or our palettes were washed out after lots of travel!

                  3. Just like Toronto's best butter tarts aren't in Toronto (according to a thread on CH) I'll have to tell you that Toronto's $5 plate of good food is in Bangkok, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Vientianne.