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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.

                  1. I was pleasantly surprised at the bill this week when I went to Dumpling House on Gerrard. $ 5.50 before tax/tip.

                    1. I think that $5 is a figure that is figurative.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        there are still great $5 lunch deals in the city. but you have to go to rob ford-land (scarborough and etobicoke) to get them. usually takeout from places in strip malls/plazas.

                      2. A couple freshly made banh mi's on Spadina shouldn't cost more than $5. Smiles aren't always included.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: GoodGravy

                          I think you can get 2 banh mi's for $5 at Nguyen Hoang.

                        2. Akrams Shoppe on Baldwin in Kensington Market has a fantastic Middle East $4.99 special plate every day, consisting of salad with rice and chicken or lamb.

                          Their $1.99 falafel also hits the spot, healthy and freshly made for well under $5.

                          1. Not necessarily. There are some cheap eats to be had in the Chinatown/Kensington Market area.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ottawaoperadiva

                              I just glad a couple of pupusas from that Latino grocers with the kitchen in the back for $6 tax in. Made to order, with coleslaw and fresh salsa. Yummy!

                            2. Fish Street at Yonge and Eglinton has a $5.50 fish taco. Their food is excellent, although I've never had this particular item.

                              1. I really like the lunch jerk chicken special from rasta pasta, a couple doors down from seven lives. If recall correctly, it's around $5

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: tweenietoes

                                  Yep this is the answer to the question.

                                  1. re: tweenietoes

                                    Also agree, with a $5 filling taco two doors down. Staying with the Kensington theme, Patty King's two beef patties in coco bread fall just under $5, as well as doubles. Some small pho are still $5 downtown, too. Let's no forget The Atlantic's $3 curry, and PWYC at The Depanneur after 7:30 most weeknights.

                                  2. Joe's Burgers and Wings on Danforth East has a $5 burger and fries combo on Tuesdays

                                    1. Rents and labour cost comparisons aside, it is tough to compare fresh seasonal food availability in the tropics to the food available Ontario which has (hopefully) a four month growing season. You weren't here for the Winter of the Century...

                                      That said, Bahn Mi Que Huong on 2437 Finch W, North York. FOUR awesome sandwiches, two drinks, pleasant quick service, friendly smile, $12.

                                      Many other BM joints out there with similar value.

                                      Another suggestion is the Plaza Latina Food Court at 9 Milvan drive just around the corner from QH.

                                      1. Won-Ton Hut's new ' Shui Gau shrimp dumpling Noodles ' - exactly $5! Great broth, al dente noodles, crunchy sweet prawn dumpling. One fine bowl of homy comfort food!

                                          1. First thing that comes to mind is a steamed bao from Bahn Mi Boys (I love the tofu one and hate tofu)
                                            and a shrimp burger from The Fish Store on College..both good!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: burlgurl

                                              On the topic of Banh Mi Boys and tofu, I thought the tofu banh mi was gross. I haven't tried the tofu bao. Banh Mi Boys' fried chicken bao is the best tasting downtown snack I've found for less than $5.

                                              I Went to Philly's cheesesteak ($7.90 before tax) is another good deal downtown. I think I've seen cheaper daily specials at lunch time on at least one visit. http://www.iwenttophilly.com/data/upl...

                                              Dosa at Udupi Palace or Moti Mahal is another cheap treat for TO. http://www.udupipalace.ca/menu.html

                                              1. re: prima

                                                I thought I Went to Philly was pretty bad, and not even like a good cheesesteak in Philly. Maybe a bad one?

                                                Agreed on Banh Mi Boys' tofu though; it's not great. The club bao is awesome, and better than Momofuku's bao. North of BMB, there's tons of good $5-or-less eats in Kensington and Chinatown (Rasta Pasta, Seven Lives, etc.)

                                                1. re: yakionigiri

                                                  I don't know. I've been happy with I Went to Philly, and it was as close to I've found to a Philly cheesesteak outside the States, but maybe they've slipped.

                                                2. re: prima

                                                  When did I went to Philly open?
                                                  How's business?

                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                    It's been a couple of years, and they opened a second location recently, so I'm assuming they're doing alright.

                                              2. Falafel wraps are 2 for $4.49 at Ali Baba's on Tuesdays! Depending on which one you go to, I have had freshly fried falafels with lots of veggies and friendly and fast service during dinner hours with a bit of a line-up.

                                                1. At Doce Minho. A quart of milk, a big bun, a pastry. Everything is good.

                                                  1. 2x Bahn Mi from Rose Cafe on Gerrard E. That will fill you up good..... $2.50 each, tax in.

                                                    1. There is always the option of visiting the local Farmers Market for seasonal ingredients, turning on the stove, and smiling into a mirror.

                                                      Only half kidding.

                                                      1. I don't think this is such a ludicrous question. How about a couple patties and coco bread from Randy's? or the jerk chicken lunch special from Ritz? or some of those pupusas in kensington?


                                                        1. FYI on this topic. I posted my review of the Phnom Penh Dosa Corner at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/974001
                                                          Where is the Toronto equivalent?

                                                          1. Any type of noodles in soup comes just under $5 without tax and tip at Swatow, I believe.

                                                            1. Clearly, people have interpreted a plate of food differently than I have... I sincerely hope that the OP was getting more than a taco sized snack or a banh mi for his $5 in south east Asia... Just as a point of comparison, I just paid over six dollars for a serving of Egyptian koshari here, that I would have paid ninety cents for in Cairo...

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: afong56

                                                                Exactly. Maybe the figure in the title ought to be $10-12...I've had street food in BKK for a dollar (cooked to order!!!) and I steam table food here is now starting at $8?

                                                                1. re: neighborguy

                                                                  For 5 or 6 bucks you can feast at the First Markham Place food court.

                                                                  1. re: neighborguy

                                                                    The fact Govinda's offers a $10 plate of good food, might reflect that $10 is the going rate for a plate of good food in Toronto, as well as reflect the cost of living in Toronto. Good news is, kids can eat a "$5 plate of good food" at Govinda's, and seniors can get that plate of good food for $8. http://www.govindas.ca/

                                                                  2. re: afong56

                                                                    Since it's close to impossible to find a whole plate of good-tasting food for $5 in Toronto, some Chowhounds have continued the discussion to either provide "a whole plate of food at a reasonable price" suggestion, or a "less than 5 bucks" suggestion.

                                                                    I'm on a diet, so I don't eat more than a taco-sized snack or banh mi at any one sitting, so, a Banh Mi Boy's bao is my "whole plate of food for less than 5 bucks" right now.

                                                                    1. re: prima

                                                                      Not totally impossible! If you stretch it to "per person", you can still eat great if you are in a group! The popular "chinese take out" places such as the ones in First Markham Place (there are countless ones all over the place) will feed a group of 4+ easily for $5 per person. Rice and soup included.

                                                                  3. I get a big plate of kimchi fried rice from a place on the south side of Bloor (in the Korean strip) that may not even have a name. Ok, it does, google street view reveals it to be called Um Ji or Thumbs Up, 615 Bloor St W. Unlimited barley tea included. Can't recall the exact price but it is $5 +/-. Lunch specials of meat dishes for $6. Atmosphere is ... in line with the pricing.

                                                                    1. Ho Ho BBQ in Scarboro (Midland and Finch) has a take out plate of roast pork, rice, vegetables and a sauce in the $5 range. They also have roast chicken, cuttlefish, and roast duck for a bit extra. They were featured in Gourmet magazine: .http://www.yelp.ca/biz/ho-ho-bbq-scar...

                                                                      If you are really slumming for cheap food well cooked, try Chicken 'N Joy on Tuesday; for $3 you get two pieces of fried chicken and fries. Add gravy and fresh biscuits, and you have reached $5.

                                                                      There is one at K.R. and Morningside; also Whites Rd. and K.R.

                                                                      1. John's BBQ on Hwy 7. Free soup and a plate of bbq pork or soy sauce chicken on rice $5 cash only. order off the blue piece of paper that comes with the regular menu. All the dishes on there are $5 during the day. Admittedly it's only written in Chinese but if you point at any of the first 3 or 4 dishes you can't go far wrong. Makes for a fun lunch...

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Shumann

                                                                          Those are the times I hate now knowing how to read Chinese.
                                                                          What are the other offerings?

                                                                          1. re: neighborguy

                                                                            I share your pain. I had to take a picture of the menu with my phone and send it to my Dad to translate. I assume no liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies below. Use at your own peril. This was his translation of (a photo) of the menu as of last November.

                                                                            Left column

                                                                            Roast pork on rice
                                                                            BBQ pork on rice
                                                                            Soy sauce chicken on rice
                                                                            Pork feet on rice
                                                                            Yeung Jau fried rice Chicken strips on rice Bitter melon and pork fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Beef fried rice
                                                                            Beef and stinky shrimp fried rice
                                                                            Sweet and sour pork fried rice
                                                                            Pork steak and onion on rice
                                                                            Corn and chicken on rice
                                                                            Ma Po bean curd on rice
                                                                            Roast pork and bean curd on rice
                                                                            (He couldn't read this one)
                                                                            Pork strips on special noodles Home town fried rice noodles

                                                                            Right Column

                                                                            Pork strips fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Mushroom fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Shanghai fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Beef fillet fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Chopped beef shank fried wheat noodles
                                                                            Beef and vegetable fried rice noodles
                                                                            Beef and black beans fried rice noodles
                                                                            Beef and bitter melon fried rice noodles
                                                                            Chopped beef ribs fried rice noodles
                                                                            Shrimp fried rice noodles Satay chicken fried rice noodles Singapore fried rice noodles
                                                                            (couldn't read this one)
                                                                            Home town fried rice noodles

                                                                            1. re: Shumann

                                                                              Nice work, thank you (and dad) for the effort ! Still like the point and pick mystery lunch method though !

                                                                              Charles has been loving this place for many years.