An edible bucket list of amazing tastes for $10 or less
Toronto doesn’t get many opportunities to boast about its affordability: this is an expensive place to live, and it’s getting more expensive all the time. Which makes it so refreshing that the city’s food scene remains a source of amazing bargains. In 2017, a few bucks is still enough to eat something out of this world. (Like the pastrami on rye from Katz’s, above.) Toronto Life spent the past year scouring the GTA, from Bay Street to the burbs, to assemble this checklist of must-try dishes. Here they are, in no particular order of deliciousness.
Double D’s Deep-dish slice
1 This is no floppy, unfulfilling slice. This is Chicago-style deep-dish, a dense wodge of buttery crust, cheese, fillings such as pepperoni and Italian sausage, more cheese, and a sploosh of crushed tomato sauce, baked in a metal pan thicker than a crime novel. One parm-dusted slice is more than enough for a midday munch, and it comes with a drink. $6–$7. 1020 Gerrard St. E., 416-727-5411; 1256 Dundas St. W., 416-901-5499.
P.G Clucks’ The Spicy Classic
2 This is the year fried chicken sandwiches surpassed burgers for bun-filling brilliance on a budget. This perfectly crunchy, cayenne-infused slab of Nashville hot chicken, doused with buttermilk ranch dressing, fermented chili sauce and tangy coleslaw, is as messy as it is habit-forming. $7. 610 College St., 647-925-2226.
The Bagel House’s Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel
3 It figures that the place that makes the best Montreal-style bagel in Toronto would know how to handle a proper lox and cream cheese sandwich. The schmear is spread thick, flecked with red onions and capers, and layered with smoked salmon, and here’s the best part: it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for all your middle-of-the-night noshing needs. $6.99. 1548 Bayview Ave.; plus four other GTA locations, 416-481-8184.
Quality Bakery’s Meat roti
4 The “short eats” (that’s the Sri Lankan term for “snacks”) at this Scarborough bakery are kind of like Hot Pockets—if Hot Pockets were delicious. Spicy dried mutton is tucked into a plain roti that’s then folded up into a palm-sized treat that can’t be beat for a bit more than a toonie. $2.50. 1221 Markham Rd., 416-431-9829.
Sichuan Gardens’ Mapo tofu
5 For this classic spicy dish, the Chinatown restaurant tosses tender cubes of tofu, ground pork and bean paste in a fiery pool of chili oil dotted with crushed Sichuan peppercorns. The rice provides some respite from the numbing heat. $5.99–$9.49. 359 Spadina Ave., 416-593-6265.
Churrasco of St. Clair’s Half chicken with rice
6 In the city’s west end, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a churrasqueira—and that’s definitely not a bad thing. But this no-frills Portuguese chicken shop on St. Clair West has been turning out golden-brown, budget-friendly birds since 1986. Their combo No. 3—half of a charcoal-grilled chicken served with seasoned rice—is a no-brainer. $9.25. 679 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0652.
Wvrst’s Dirty duck fries
7 King West’s popular beer hall is a seven-day-a-week sausage party, but it makes some pretty great Belgian-style taters that are dirty in the best possible way: fried in duck fat and buried in roasted peppers, jalapeños, sautéed onions and Wvrst’s addictive special sauce. $9.25. 609 King St. W., 416-703-7775.
Forno Cultura’s Eggplant tramezzino
8 It doesn’t much matter what goes on the sandwiches at this King West bakery: the bread—oh, that bread—is the main attraction. But the toppings on this particular herbed focaccia concoction are excellent, too: delicate sheets of roasted eggplant and zucchini with fior di latte, arugula, baby kale and a creamy aïoli. $8.50. 609 King St. W., 416-603-8305.
Tacos El Asador’s Cheese pupusa
9 These corny, doughy discs at Koreatown’s long-standing Salvadorean spot are stuffed with queso, and sided with tangy pickled onions, cabbage, carrots and beets, and a teeny paper cup of kicky tomato salsa. $3.75. 689 Bloor St. W., 416-538-9747.
Shanghai Dim Sum’s Crab-and-pork soup dumplings
10 Don’t pop these perfectly pinched parcels whole: each of the Richmond Hill dim sum restaurant’s xiao long bao with tender crab and pork is filled with piping hot soup that needs to be carefully slurped. $7.99. 330 York Regional Rd. 7, Richmond Hill, 905-597-5866.
Martin’s Bakery’s Mutton kothu roti
11 Kothu roti, a Sri Lankan staple, is an ingenious (and delicious) use of day-old bread. For this particular version, crispy roti that’s 24 hours past its prime is grilled on a flat-top along with spicy mutton, chilies and onions. Then, two blunt metal blades chop it all to pieces, ensuring you get a bit of everything with each bite. $6. 2761 Markham Rd., Unit 15, 416-535-2323.
Sultan of Samosas’ Curried vegetable samosa
12 The samosas at this North York takeout shop come in almost a dozen different flavours, but we like the curried vegetable one. Each teeny triangle is packed with potato, carrots, green beans and corn, all tossed in a secret blend of north Indian spices. $1.10. 1677 O’Connor Dr., 416-285-6565.
Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu’s Tofu stew
13 No matter the season, the windows at this Koreatown favourite are always steamed up. The reason: mini-cauldrons of soon tofu, a spicy Korean stew of kimchee, tofu, pork and a freshly cracked egg that cooks in the boiling, roiling mess. On the side: a stone bowl of sticky purple rice. $8.85. 691 Bloor St. W., 416-537-0972.
Lasa’s Barbecue pork skewers
14 The grilled pork skewers at Lamesa’s midtown sister spot are marinated—in true Filipino style—with soy and 7-Up, but they’re a more subtle, less saccharine rendition of the traditional dish. Each one makes for a perfect three bites. $2.50. 634 St. Clair W., 647-343-1110.
Flock’s Rotisserie chicken sandwich
15 Cory Vitiello’s signature rotisserie chicken is pulled, then heaped on a soft milk bun and decked out with crunchy apple, beet and horseradish slaw; creamy avocado; crisp onions; and romaine lettuce. $9. 330 Adelaide St. W., 647-483-5625; plus three other GTA locations.
Drupatis Roti and Doubles’ Doubles with curried chickpeas
16 These piping hot pillows of dough stuffed with spiced chana are ubiquitous in Toronto’s Caribbean and West Indian enclaves, and while everyone swears by their doubles joint, Drupatis is one of the standard-bearers. Order them with slight pepper and some tamarind chutney to really savour the spicy sweetness. $1.99. 1085 Bellamy Rd. N., 416- 289-9988; plus three other GTA locations.
Uno Mustachio’s Godfather’s veal eggplant parmigiana
17 There’s something almost parental about cradling a hefty sandwich from this St. Lawrence stalwart. Each one is a couple of pounds of saucy veal, eggplant and parmesan. Topping it with roasted peppers and jalapeños, plus sautéed onions and mushrooms, is an offer you can’t refuse. $9.75. 95 Front St. E., 416-367-8325.
Ding Tai Fung Dim Sum’s Shanghai won tons
18 Tossed in a mixture of chili oil and soy sauce, these pork-packed dumplings are equally sweet, spicy and tangy, and they deserve some of the attention usually received by the restaurant’s ever-popular soup dumplings. $7.99. 3235 Hwy. 7 E., Markham, 905-943-9880.
Malay Thai Famous Cuisine Ltd.’s Hainanese chicken rice
19 The food court in First Markham Place is full of gems, including this hearty serving of tender, boneless Hainanese chicken and rice cooked in broth, with even more belly-warming broth on the side. Winter and summer colds, you’ve been warned. $6.99. 3255 Hwy. 7 E., Markham, 905-948-1628.
Chick-N-Joy’s Three-piece chicken dinner
20 Not to be confused with the even-more-east-end chain of the same name, this family-run Leslieville chicken shop has been frying up fowl since 1977. A three-piece dinner here includes a trio of fresh-never-frozen country-fried thighs, legs or breasts, a choice of sides, and a roll. Don’t forget to order the famous yellow gravy for $1 more. $8.05. 1483 Queen St. E., 416-461-5848.
Yan Can Cook’s Whitefish dumplings
21 This long-time vendor in the food court of First Markham Place has a borderline-overwhelming menu of Chinese dishes. A sure bet is the fish siu mai: five massive dumplings loaded with whitefish and drenched in a homemade chili-garlic soy sauce. $3. First Markham Place, 3255 Hwy. 7 E., Markham, 905-943-9864.
Lamb Kebab’s Savoury Chinese crêpe
22 Look for the routine lineup at Dundas and Spadina to find the street vendor selling lamb kebabs, stinky tofu and jianbing, delicious savoury Chinese pancakes. Made to order on a flat-top grill, the paper-thin crêpes are covered with egg, painted with two sauces (sweet and heat), sprinkled with cilantro, green onions and lettuce, and topped with a couple of crispy crackers before being folded up into a tasty multi-layered mess. $5. 492 Dundas St. W., 647-308-8568.
Carnicero’s Mole chicken burrito
23 The people who hand out those free samples of pork belly right inside the main entrance of St. Lawrence Market have a hidden talent: they make a damn fine burrito. The rich, smoky chicken mole has a distinct dark-chocolate note, and a few pickled jalapeños offer an extra stab of heat to the bundle, which is stuffed with cheese, salsa, lettuce and sour cream. It’s lightly crisped on the grill before serving. $7.69 for a regular, $9.99 for a large. 93 Front St. E., 647-478-9609.
Seven Lives’ The Gobernador Taco
24 If you have time for only one taco in Kensington (and there are many), make it this one. Double-shelled to hold the heft of its contents, the Gobernador is a delicious mess of shrimp and smoked marlin, all glued together with gooey mozzarella cheese. $6. 69 Kensington Ave., no phone.
Kaboom Chicken’s Korean fried chicken
25 Legit Korean fried chicken, or KFC, is fried twice and should almost shatter on first bite. This Riverside chicken joint passes the crunch test and then some: the two-piece thigh and drumstick combo—shellacked with a gochujang chili sauce and sprinkled with green onions on a heap of crispy fries—offers more satisfying bites than an entire bucket of that other KFC. $10. 722 Queen St. E., 416-546-9899.
Sanagan’s Meat Locker’s Roast beef and brie sandwich
26 The Kensington butcher’s grab-and-go case is stocked for the lunch rush with carvery sandwiches piled on crusty artisan breads from neighbouring Blackbird Baking Co. (Talk about a power couple.) The collaborations include a classic roast beef and brie sandwich on sourdough, with horseradish aïoli and a layer of rich, nutty whey butter. With a side of fries ($4), it makes for a hearty meal. $6. 176 Baldwin St., 416-593-9747.
Florida Greek Restaurant’s Pork souvlaki
27 We expect the humble pork souvlaki to be cheap, but we don’t expect it to be this perfectly assembled. From the grill marks on the pillowy pita to the smoky char on the cubes of flame-grilled pork, balanced with a thwap of creamy house-made tzatziki, this is as good as the Greek staple gets. A fistful of spice-dusted french fries inside the tightly wrapped pita sends it over the top. $4.50. 940 Pape Ave., 416-422-2567.
One 2 Snacks’ Malaysian street noodles
28 This teeny family-run kitchen in a Scarborough strip mall is possibly the closest thing to a Kuala Lumpur hawker stall this side of Malaysia. An order of their char kway teow brings a Styrofoam takeout container spilling over with fat and saucy rice noodles, plump shrimp, bean sprouts, and egg. Be prepared to line up, but it’s worth the wait. $7. 8 Glen Watford Dr., Unit 26, 647-340-7099.
Hot Star Large Fried Chicken’s Original fried chicken
29 The name of this Taiwanese chain says it all: the brand’s bone-in cutlets—flattened, seasoned and dunked in the deep-fryer—are essentially fried-chicken Frisbees. Choose from spicy, salt-and-pepper or seaweed flavours. $9.99. 374A Yonge St., 647-748-6660.
Mr. Pide’s Sausage and cheese pide
30 Pide looks like a maritime vessel transporting delicious cargo. This one’s chock full of mozzarella and Turkish sausage, but pide can also be stuffed with pepperoni, roast lamb, chicken, ground beef and egg. From $7.99. 800 Danforth Ave., 647-351-7433.
Mrakovic Meat and Deli’s Stuffed phyllo rolls
31 At the back of this family-run Etobicoke deli is a hot counter serving up tasty Bosnian specialities. The burek—phyllo pastry stuffed with various combinations of potatoes, cheese, meat and spinach—is good all on its own or with kaymak, the Balkan version of clotted cream. $7. 44 Wellesworth Dr., 416-695-7396.
Moti Mahal’s Paneer kathi kebab
32 A favourite fast food spot in Little India for more than 40 years, MotiMahal’s kathi kebabs—a Kolkata street food specialty— bundle cubes of tomato curry–drenched paneer in super-soft paratha. Two accompanying dipping sauces alternately spice things up (tamarind-mango, the red one) and then cool them down (coriander-onion-mint, the green one). $7. 1422 Gerrard St. E., 416-461-3111.
King Slice’s Arrabiata slice
33 It’s not called King Slice for nothing: just two to-go slices can fill up an entire pizza box—at a fraction of the cost of an actual large pie. Crispy, sturdy crust (this is no droopy Neapolitan) is covered in tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, jalapeños, garlic and parsley. Long live the king. $4.65 each. 1598 Bloor St. W.; 1130 Queen St. W., 416-536-3738.
Touhenboku Ramen’s Karaage donburi
34 We’re used to boxes and buckets of fried chicken, but a bowl of Japanese fried chicken is something to behold. Donburi (or rice bowls) don’t grab as many headlines as ramen, but the karaage version is a keeper, with hunks of chicken marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and sake, battered and delicately fried, and drizzled with mayo and green onion. $6. 261 Queen St. W.; plus two other GTA locations, 416-596-8080.
Gale’s Snack Bar’s Clubhouse sandwich
35 The tiny Eastern Avenue lunch counter has been a family operation since 1965, and the menu prices don’t seem to have changed very much in those 52 years. The clubhouse sandwich is the crowd favourite: a classic triple-decker of chicken breast, crispy bacon, tomato and lettuce on good ole white bread spread with mayo. (Throw in an order of fries and a chocolate shake and it rings in, unbelievably, at just over $5.) Be sure to put aside at least an hour, but it’s near impossible to find a cheaper meal with friendlier service anywhere in the city. $2.50. 539 Eastern Ave., no phone or website.
Mother’s Dumplings’ Pan-fried pork dumplings
36 One of Spadina’s perennial Chinese comfort-food favourites serves up some of the city’s best dumplings. Perfectly pan-fried golden pockets arrive at the table, 10 to a serving, stuffed with pork and bok choy, and crispy in all the right places. $9.90. 421 Spadina Ave., 416-217-2008.
Randy’s Take Out’s Beef patty
37 These crimped pockets of beef, seasoned with pepper and green onion, have been sold at this Little Jamaica institution since 1979. Break the bank for a dozen (a whopping $14.95) to get one of the red takeout boxes, decked out in cartoonish, iconic Randy’s Patties script. $1.62. 1569 Eglinton Ave. W., 416-781-5313.
Shawarma Empire’s Falafel sandwich
38 Every single delicious deep-fried falafel ball is made to order at this Scarborough quick-service spot, using a chickpea mixture that’s made in-house. They’re loaded into a soft pita and topped with tangy pickled veggies and tahini. The house-made hot sauce is stupendous, too. $3.99, or two for $6.99. 1823 Lawrence Ave. E., 416-285-1337.
Salad King’s Chicken khao soi
39 A long-time favourite of Ryerson alumni in the know, this fast-casual spot in the core has been serving students for almost 26 years. And on a cold-weather day, it’s Salad King’s khao soi for the win. Chewy egg noodles and tender chicken breast swim in a bowlful of spicy and creamy coconut curry soup, joined by crunchy bean sprouts, shallots, dried shrimp and pickled mustard greens. $9.75. 340 Yonge St., 2nd flr., 416-593-0333.
Peoples Eatery’s Fried tongue sandwich
40 This big slider packs a punch. A tasty slab of fried beef tongue is topped simply with French’s mustard and sliced pickle on a petite salt-crowned pretzel bun. $7. 307 Spadina Ave., 416-792-1784.
Completo’s Completo hot dog
41 The namesake dish at Leslieville’s Latin American lunch counter is a griddled Rowe Farms wiener served in a toasted bun and loaded with a tomato-cilantro salsa, mashed avocado, mayo, hot sauce, ketchup and mustard. $7. 5 Coady Ave., 416-901-9233.
Loga’s Corner’s Steamed beef momos
42 A Tibetan family turns out tons of momos—beef-filled, made-from-scratch Tibetan dumplings—every day at this Parkdale gem, and every order of the plump pouches are served with spicy pickled radish and house-made (seriously) hot sauce. Pro tip: to avoid first-degree dumpling burns, bite off a corner to release steam before cramming the whole deal in your mouth. $6 for 10. 216C Close Ave., 647-761-0965.
Federick Restaurant’s Chili chicken
43 This classic Hakka dish, one of Federick’s bestsellers, comes two ways: wet and dry. We’re a fan of the latter, which is battered, fried and tossed with green chilies. The crunchy outer layer of each nugget belies its juicy middle. $8.99. 160 New Delhi Dr., Markham, 905-472-1682; 1920 Ellesmere Rd., 416-439-9234.
Hidden Burger’s Cheeseburger combo
44 At this not-so-secret, Archie-themed burger counter tucked at the back of the Bottom Line sports bar, a tenner buys a juicy four-ounce, flat top–grilled patty topped with a slice of American cheese, pickles, tomato, onion and shredded lettuce (substitutions are frowned upon, folks), served with crispy salt-and-pepper fries and a soft drink. Pop Tate would be proud. $10. 22 Front St. W., 416-362-7585.
Nam Sandwich Shop’s Beef banh mi
45 This Trinity Bellwoods sandwich shop makes a mean banh mi, particularly the pear-infused grilled beef version. The juicy meat is layered in a squishy white baguette with sweet pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. $6.25. 874 Queen St. W. 416-551-0625.
Souk Tabüle’s Phoenician fries
46 They’re listed under “sides” at this sleek, casual Canary District restaurant, but eating fries as a main course is, of course, a Canadian national pastime. Consider this a Middle Eastern riff on poutine: a deep bowl of golden, freshly fried spuds dusted with a generous layer of za’atar, and artfully drizzled with tangy tahini and fresh herbs. $5.50. 494 Front St. E. 416-583-5914.
Ali’s Roti Shop’s Roti with curried chickpeas
47 Yes, a rational diner would see the chana dhal puri roti at this Parkdale institution as plenty for two meals. But a funny thing happens once this bundle of split peas, curried chickpeas and potatoes is torn open: the eager mouthfuls just keep coming, especially once the subtle tug-of-war between Ali’s sinus-clearing scotch bonnet sauce and equally soothing tamarind chutney has started. It’s best to just keep going. $6.95. 1446 Queen St. W., 416-532-7701.
College Falafel’s East Coast donair
48 It’s a well-known fact that this Ossington falafel spot also makes a killer donair. The late-night Nova Scotian staple stuffs a fresh pita with shaved beef, tomatoes and onions, but it’s the signature garlicky-sweet sauce that makes it so uniquely delicious—especially after a few beers at one of the many bars nearby. $9. 450 Ossington Ave., 416-532-8698.
Hanmoto’s Pork belly katsu bun
49It’s hard to find a more tender piece of pork belly than this hunk, which is slow-cooked for a full 24 hours, dredged in panko, fried, and served on a coco bun topped with iceberg lettuce and soy remoulade. $8. 2 Lakeview Ave., no phone.
Broncos’ Harlem chopped cheese
50 The story of the chopped cheese sandwich reportedly begins in Harlem, where a brilliant grill cook once threw together a steak-and-cheese spinoff that would go on to become one of New York’s signature sandwiches. Years later, of course, someone in Toronto caught on: this bun-size tribute features ground chuck brisket, cheddar and provolone cheeses, peppers, onions, lettuce, and relish mayo all on a soft bun. $5. 127 Strachan Ave., 647-748-4800.
Noodle Delight’s Singapore noodles
51 There’s something about a Styrofoam container spilling out noodles that’s hard to resist. These not-so-saucy rice noodles are tossed with shrimp, barbecue pork, green peppers, bean sprouts, carrots and egg, then dry stir-fried in spicy curry powder. $8.35. 2555 Victoria Park Ave., 416-492-9734.
Arzon Super Market’s Heart and liver kebabs
52 The 24-hour one-stop shop in a Little Persia strip mall has a killer hot counter that doles out Iranian dishes. The thing to get is the sheep’s heart and liver kebabs, cooked over an open fire and swaddled in freshly baked pita bread. $2.99 each. 6103–6107 Yonge St., 416-222-4726.
King Place’s Palak paneer
53 A chicken tikka masala habit is tough to break, but overlooking the veggie options at this Pakistani restaurant would mean missing this standout spinach stew made with onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, green chilies and blobs of soft fresh cheese. It comes with a salad, a drink and two naan—just enough for the huge sauce-sopping job that lies ahead. $9.49. 231 Sherbourne St., 647-352-0786.
Brick Street Bakery’s Sausage roll
54 This little piggy was seasoned and stuffed into buttery and flaky house-made pastry, bless his porky soul. Just one is more than a snack. $3. 27 Trinity St., 416-690-9100; plus three other GTA locations.
Bonjour Brioche’s Jambon beurre
55 This is so much more than just a ham sandwich. We’re talking a house-baked French baguette slathered with sweet, creamy butter, layered with razor-thin slices of salty, fatty prosciutto. It’s perfect for sharing but even better for hogging. $8.25. 812 Queen St. E., 416-406-1250.
Schnitzel Queen’s King schnitzel sandwich
56 Don’t even think about ordering a full-size sandwich here without a nice two-hour nap pencilled in afterward. The Moss Park mainstay’s “junior” sandwiches are punishing enough, especially when the breaded, fried pork cutlet is buried by a decadent avalanche of roasted bacon, onions, sauerkraut and cheese in a hearty rustic roll. $8.41. 211 Queen St. E., 416-504-1311.
Crown Pastries’ Cheese knafeh in a bun
57 Cheese sandwiches aren’t usually so sweet, but this heavenly scented Syrian bakery’s knafeh is a worthy exception. A block of nabil cheese is coated in delicate dough, fried, dusted with crushed pistachios and warmed to the edge of gooey. It’s served in a soft, sesame-flecked bun and drizzled with a sugary rosewater syrup. $5. 2086 Lawrence Ave., 647-351-2015.
Paramount Fine Food’s Hummus with beef shawarma
58 What’s better than a bowl of creamy hummus streaked with olive oil, and dotted with chickpeas and a sprinkling of paprika? All of the above, plus a pile of juicy beef shawarma. It’s best scooped up by a succession of Paramount’s signature balloon-like, fresh-from-the-oven pitas. $9.59. Multiple GTA locations.
Lola’s Kusina’s Crispy pork belly
59 This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip mall kitchen serves supremely satisfying Filipino classics like lechon kawali, these fatty hunks of crispy fried pork belly. They’re basically piggy McNuggets made for dipping, and the magnificently rich house-made lechon sauce is up to the task, thickened with pork liver and bread crumbs, and seasoned with vinegar and pepper. $7.99. 96 Rexdale Blvd., 416-792-4742.
Hung Food Cooking Ltd.’s Fried rice with crispy fried chicken
60 This massive helping of fried rice and crispy strips of fried chicken, served from an extensive menu at this counter in the belly of Dragon Centre, is enough to feed two people, if not three. $5.50. 23 Glen Watford Dr., 416-297-6023.
Izakaya Ju’s Grilled chicken meatballs
61 It’s easy to get all up in the grill of this J-Town izakaya, where everything is cooked over charcoal so there’s a little bit of smokiness to every bite. The super-juicy tsukune, or minced chicken balls, are served three to a skewer. $3. 3160 Steeles Ave. E., Unit 3, Markham, 905-474-1058.
Katz’s Deli and Corned Beef Emporium’s Pastrami on rye
If a bustling New York deli merged with a cafeteria-style grab-a-tray operation, this North York meat market would be the result. Grab pickles and coleslaw, then park in front of the sandwich station, where a rumbling meat slicer peels off the layers of smoky goodness. Just add mustard. $9.95. 3300 Dufferin St., 416-782-1111.
Segovia Meat Market’s Chorizo bun
63 Kensington Market’s Latino butcher shop has been making sausages in-house since 1978. For their choripan—literally “sausage bread”—a kicky chorizo link is paired with a soft and squishy bun, then topped with mozzarella and pico de gallo. $5. 218 Augusta Ave., 416-593-9904.
The Nilgiris’ Mixed veg pancake
64 Uthapam is a savoury rice flour pancake, and this one’s chock full of veggies (this is a vegetarian restaurant, after all), served with sambar, coconut chutney, and green or red chili sauce. The idea is to rip a piece of the pancake and get dipping. $7.60. 3021 Markham Rd., Unit 50, 416-412-0024.
Torteria San Cosme’s Chicken flautas
65 Tortas are the main attraction at this Kensington Market restaurant, but the flautas are no second fiddle. Two crispy corn tortillas are filled with chicken, then slathered with green or red salsa, dusted with cotija cheese, and given a thick squiggle of crema. $6.95. 181 Baldwin St., 416-599-2855.
Pho Metro’s Pho tai
66 Like any outstanding bowl of pho, the magic is in the broth. Pho Metro’s is perfectly murky after a long simmer of bones, onions and dried anise, with sweet, floral and earthy notes and a lightness that makes it hard to stop slurping. Of the menu’s dozen-plus varieties, the bowl of rice noodles topped with generous slices of rare beef is the most essential. $7.45–$9.45. 2057 Lawrence Ave. E., 416-750-8898.
Cho Dang Soon Tofu’s Tofu
67 The tofu, made fresh in-house every day and served cold under a sweet soy sauce sprinkled with garlic, sesame seeds and green onions, is a revelation. And once it hits your mouth, each perfectly deep-fried cube goes from crispy to custardy in a matter of seconds. $7.99. 5130 Dundas St. W., 416-234-1161.
The Pie Commission’s Butter chicken pie
68 This flaky little made-from-scratch butter bomb is crammed full of oven-roasted tandoori chicken breast and confit leg, along with chickpeas and cauliflower in a rich coconut-tomato curry. $8.45. 887 Dundas St. W., 647-351-7437; 935 The Queensway, 416-848-7424.
Ciao Roma Pizza’s Pizza al taglio
69 There’s no standard slice at this pizzeria. “Al taglio,” Italian for “by the cut,” means customers can match the size of their slice to their level of hunger. The crispy-crusted Roman rectangles are then priced by weight. The Patata—with potatoes, rosemary and mozzarella—is a decadent alternative to red sauce. $6–$7. 28 Roytec Rd. Unit 12A, Woodbridge., 905-264-2121.
Sun’s Kitchen’s Dan dan noodle soup
70 Experience noodle nirvana at this Pacific Mall food court kitchen, where sublimely chewy house-made dan dan noodles swimming in spicy broth beg to be slurped. A side of sweet soy milk is a nice touch. Pacific Mall, 4300 Steeles Ave. E., Markham, 905-947-8463.
Hastings Snack Bar’s Traditional pierogies
71 When this vintage Leslieville diner finally closed in 2015, it was given a new lease on life as a Polish café—but the original sign remains. The hand-pinched pierogies are perfect little pockets packed with potato and cottage cheese, and served with fried onions and the obligatory sour cream for dunking. $10 for eight. 5 Hastings Ave., 416-896-1466.
Pizza Pide’s Lahmajoun
72 While it appears cracker-light, the oblong flatbread packs a deceptive heft thanks to a thin layer of sauce made craggy with ground lamb. Popular throughout the Middle East, it’s served with pickled peppers, slices of raw onion and tomato, and fresh parsley. $8.99. 949 Gerrard St. E., 416-462-9666.
Schmaltz Appetizing’s Schmaltzy bagel
73 It’s hard to look past lox and cream cheese when it comes to nostalgic bagel toppings. But if the idea of a bagel (poppy seed, of course) topped with schmaltzy chopped liver, onions, sour pickles and gribenes from this Annex shop doesn’t stir the soul—or at least raise a serious hunger—consider making an appointment with the nearest rabbi. $8. 414 Dupont St., 647-350-4261.
The Dock Ellis’ Won ton nachos
74 This Dundas West sports bar ups the crunch factor by swapping out regular nacho chips for deep-fried won tons. They’re covered in sausage, black beans, smoked mornay, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, scallions, cilantro and sour cream. $6 for a small. 1280 Dundas St. W., 416-792-8472.
The Empanada Company’s Empanadas
75 The half-moons at this hidden gem in Long Branch come with the traditional Chilean stuffing (chicken or beef with onions, olives, and raisins) but the more avant-garde empanadas are worth trying, too, like the one stuffed with a deboned chicken wing glazed in cayenne butter, or the sweetly spicy coconut curry in turmeric pastry. $3.75–$4.75. 122 Fortieth St., 647-435-5003.
Otto’s Berlin Döner’s Currywurst
76 This brat-based favourite of late-night Berlin revellers spends most of its life obscured by a döner-shaped shadow at Kensington’s German joint. The bunless wonder comes slathered in Otto’s signature curry ketchup on a bed of crispy shoestring fries, house salad or couscous. $8.95 for a small. 256 Augusta Ave., 647-347-7713.
Gushi’s Nanban chicken box
77 A box half-full of purple rice is filled the rest of the way with karaage chicken that’s been battered in potato starch and marinated overnight in sake, soy and sesame oil. The crispy-crunchy nuggets are topped with house-made garlic aïoli, citrus vinaigrette, pickled and green onions, and Japanese pepper. $10. 707 Dundas St. W., 647-569-7070.
Carver’s Porchetta sandwich
78 This heap of slow-roasted pork is a real taste-bud teaser. The star ingredient is laced with savoury rosemary, slathered with spicy horseradish mustard, and balanced with fresh basil and a few sprigs of parsley. It’s got some crunchy cracklings thrown in there, too, as any good porchetta sandwich must. $8.95. 101 Peter St., 647-748-1924.
Pho Mi Viet Thai’s Curried chicken noodles
79 Pho is this Maple restaurant’s eponymous dish, but the thing to order here is the bun ga xao ca ri. Chicken (or beef, if red meat’s your thing) is tossed with a sweet peanutty curry sauce and served over a heap of delicate vermicelli noodles and chopped veggies. $7.50. 2354 Major MacKenzie Dr., Maple, 905-417-5284.
Joe’s Pastizzi Plus’ Cheese pastizzi
80 These not-so-petite pastries are snack-size versions of the Maltese speciality. Each flaky, shell-shaped phyllo pocket at this Etobicoke bakery is filled with creamy ricotta and feta, and costs less than a toonie. Tuck this info away for your next office potluck. $1.50. 5070 Dundas St. W., 416-233-9063.
Lahore Tikka House’s Lamb kebab
81 Known for both its carnival ambiance and Pakistani fare, this Gerrard East favourite cooks a mean lamb kebab in the tandoor, served on a sizzling cast iron platter with a smattering of onions. Throw in a naan ($1.99) to hug two of those suckers. $3.69 each. 1365 Gerrard St. E., 416-406-1668.
Jatujak’s Green curry with tofu
82 Tofu is the ideal add-in to soak up the creamy coconut milk in this bowl of traditional Thai gaeng kiew wan. Served with bamboo shoots, lime leaves, peppers, basil and a side of jasmine rice, this bowl packs a spicy punch. $9.95. 1466 Kingston Rd., 416-698-1466; 1744 Victoria Park Ave., 647-352-1744.
Jallssa Pure Veg’s Potato fritters
83 A staple street food in Mumbai, vada pav—potato fritters shoved in a sweet roll with hot spices and sweet chutney—is like the Indian cousin to Jamaica’s coco-bread-and-patty combo, sans meat. It’s a carb-lover’s dream. $2.50. 4 McLaughlin Rd. S., Unit 11, Brampton, 905-455-3474.
Coffee In’s Batchoy
84 Pho and ramen might get all the noodle-soup love, but Filipino batchoy needs a shout-out. A bowl filled to the brim with an intense stock is loaded with sliced pork shoulder and chewy egg noodles called miki. $7.99. 2181A Lawrence Ave. E., 647-348-7282.
Shawarma Frenzy’s Shawarma dinner
85 You might have to wait a few minutes for this plate, but that’s because a whole lot of love goes into the tender chicken shawarma, seasoned rice, salad, tangy pickles and house-made shawarma sauce. It’s well worth any delay. $6.25. 1011 Pape Ave., 416-696-5565.
Rashers’ The Full Monty sandwich
86 The belly-busting breakfast on a bun comes loaded with bacon, egg, tomato and mushrooms, all fried and slathered with house-made brown sauce. $9. 948 Queen St. E., 416-710-8220; 182 Ossington Ave., 647-346-8230.
When the Pig Came Home’s Peameal on a bun
87 This rendition of Toronto’s unofficial sandwich mascot is a thick slice of house-made peameal bacon on ciabatta. You can (and should) add a runny egg, melty cheddar and double-smoked bacon for only a buck extra each. $8. 3035 Dundas St. W., 647-345-9001.
The Halal Guys’ Chicken and beef sandwich
88Toronto doesn’t need outside help when it comes to crafting lineup-worthy gyros, but the New York–based Halal Guys arrived earlier this year and quickly drew crowds. The secret weapon is the fiery brick-red hot sauce. $6.99. 563 Yonge St., 416-901-1011.
Adamson Barbecue’s Pulled pork sandwich
89 Top-notch barbecue is labour intensive, which makes this pulled pork sandwich a steal. After 12 hours in a custom-built smoker, the pork is shredded, portioned out on house-baked brioche buns and topped with pickles, onions and coleslaw. $9. 176 Wicksteed Ave., 647-559-2080.
Fahmee Bakery’s Jerk pork sandwich
90 The fiery jerk chicken at this no-frills Scarborough carry-out gets most of the plaudits, but the jerk pork is all that and then some: blackened chunks of chopped pork seasoned with a raft of racy, secret spices, tucked inside a billfold of pillowy, house-made coco bread. $4.10. 119 Montezuma Trail, 416-754-2126.
Mana’ish’s Butter chicken flatbread
91 These roll-ups reveal two underappreciated truths: Lebanese manakeesh are a perfect platform for just about any flavour, and Indian butter chicken deserves way more play as an all-purpose base for pizzas and other such doughy rounds. $8.50. 140 Spadina Ave., 416-901-6333.
New Toronto Fish and Chips’ Fish and chips
92 This mom-and-pop chip shop has been celebrating Fish Friday every day (except Sunday and Monday) for more than four decades. The no-nonsense diner serves up a honking slab of flaky haddock encased in crisp, golden-brown batter, alongside a mountain of fries and coleslaw. $7.95. 146 Fifth St., 416-259-2175.
Manpuku’s Curry udon with beef
93 This Japanese hole-in-the-wall is arguably one of the best vendors in what is quite possibly the downtown core’s best food court. Manpuku’s chewy imported udon noodles in a smoked bonito broth come topped with a mildly spicy Japanese curry and thinly shaved strips of beef. $5.99. Village by the Grange, 105 McCaul St., Unit 29–31, 416-979-6763.
Aragvi Authentic Georgian Cuisine’s Adjarian khachapuri
94 With its wide body and hollowed-out middle, this Georgian speciality is basically a cheese canoe. A salty-creamy blend of mozzarella and feta is topped with a schmear of butter and a runny egg. There’s no way to eat it without making a gloriously gooey mess. $10. 2006 Hwy. 7 W., Vaughan, 905-597-5197.
Oddseoul’s The Loosey burger
95 A fiver doesn’t even cover a Big Mac these days, which makes this short rib and brisket burger stuffed with roasted kimchee all the more remarkable. $5. 90 Ossington Ave., no phone.
Smoke Signals Bar-B-Q’s Hot guts sausage
96 Brisket is the holy grail of Texas barbecue, but a spicy beef sausage meatheads refer to as “hot guts” is just as essential. Pitmaster Nick Chen-Yin’s hot and heavy rendition goes the distance: it’s nearly a full foot in length. After all, everything’s supposed to be bigger in Texas, right? $8. 1242 Dundas St. W., 416-588-7408.
Tacos 101’s Tacos al pastor
97 They don’t put a foot wrong at this Dundas East cubbyhole, but the pick is the Mexican street-style al pastor taco. Smoky, marinated pork is freshly shaved from a rotating vertical spit, and topped with pineapple, onion, cilantro, avocado purée and salsa verde. $4. 101 Dundas St. E., 416-362-8226.
Hopper Hut’s Hoppers
98 Sri Lankan hoppers—fermented rice flour pancakes—are the vessel for tasty fillings, like pol sambola (coconut cooked with onion, chilies, fish and lime) or seeni sambol (onions cooked with sugar, chilies, fish, tamarind and cinnamon). Tear off a bit of the hopper, load it up and ferry it to your waiting taste buds. From $6.25. 880 Ellesmere Rd., Unit 215, 416-299-4311.
Udupi Palace’s Chili cheese dosa
99 Anyone who has a thing for both south Indian food and grilled cheese sandwiches will fall for this paper-thin, crispy rice-and-lentil crêpe filled with cheddar, Monterey Jack and spicy chutney, and folded onto itself. It might sound very wrong, but trust us—it tastes so right. $9.25. 1460 Gerrard St. E., 416-405-8189.
Frankies’ Reuben sandwich
100 Few sandwiches make more of their humble components than this Reuben: a few slices of Montreal smoked meat, a big pinch of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, a smear of Thousand Island and grilled rye. The final package is salty, melty, crunchy and hot—and great with pickles. $8.95. 994 Queen St. W., 416-588-1936.
This story originally appeared in Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe, for just $24 a year, click here.