Inflation is out of control.
On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported that Canada’s annual inflation rate jumped to 7.7 per cent in May, the fastest pace of rising consumer prices in nearly four decades.
Food costs at restaurants grew 6.8 per cent in May, while grocery prices also increased to 9.7 per cent.
It’s hard to think of any restaurants or take-out spots — big or small — that haven’t upped their prices in recent months. Even massive chains like Dominos and Starbucks have gotten more expensive.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of local gems in downtown Toronto where you can get a delicious meal without breaking the bank.
We asked Star readers to share their favourites.
Location: 322 Spadina Avenue (Chinatown)
A Chinatown institution, Banh Mi Nguyen Huong sells delicious and fresh Vietnamese sandwiches for a ridiculously low price.
A small cold cuts sandwich on a crispy, airy baguette, topped with pickled vegetables and creamy pâté, costs just $4, tax included, or $5 for a large. The barbecue pork and barbecue chicken come in one size, and costs $6.
Bonus points: The sandwiches are pre-made, so you don’t have to wait.
Other affordable spots to grab a banh mi: Le’s Sandwich (1119 College Street), Lamhan Banh Mi (733 Bloor Street West).
Location: 216 Close Avenue, Toronto (Parkdale)
This no-frills Tibetan spot, located in the heart of Parkdale, slings some of the best momos in town. For just $7, you get a healthy portion of flavourful beef, chicken or vegetable momos — but in reality, the dumplings are just a vehicle for Loga’s famous hot sauce.
If your spice tolerance is low, you can grab a mango lassi ($3) or a butter tea ($1.50) to accompany your meal and still stay under ten bucks.
Location: 2461 St Clair Avenue West (Stockyards)
The delicious pupusas at this homestyle Salvadorian restaurant are just $3, but the real steal is the restaurant’s breakfast, which includes eggs, plantain, beans, cheese, tortillas and a coffee for $10 flat.
Location: 402 Bloor St W (Annex)
This relatively new spot in near the University of Toronto serves up traditional Caribbean cuisine “with a Western infusion.” I am a big fan of their bowls and their rotis, which can easily feed two people.
But if you want supreme value, take advantage of their jerk chicken sandwich special — the sandwich alone costs just under $6, while the lunchtime special, which comes with a drink and jerk-spiced fries, is just under $10.
Served on grilled coco-bread, Scotty Bons allows you to customize your toppings. I highly recommend the pineapple corn and the Scotty cream lime sauce. Be careful with their scotch bonnet hot sauce. Consider yourself warned.
Other great places to grab a jerk chicken sandwich: Fahmee Bakery (222 Lansdowne Avenue Unit B), Allwyn’s (404 Queen Street West)
Location: All over the city
Dependable and filling, Kibo has a daily cash-and-carry deal that gets you a sushi roll of your choice for $5 even. Personally, I need two servings to fill up — I typically grab a spicy tuna roll and a dynamite roll and I’m completely satisfied.
Location: 280 Spadina Ave (Chinatown)
Don’t be fooled by the ostentatious branding — Juicy Dumpling, located on the ground floor of Dragon City Mall — serves incredibly tasty Chinese dumplings at an absurdly low price. Half a dozen mouth-watering soup dumpling cost just $2.99, but there are plenty of other options available for under $10. I’d recommend the “Pan Fried Juicy Buns” (pork), which run you just $3.99.
Location: Various locations across Toronto
The falafel wrap is a criminally underrated lunch item. Healthy, tasty, colourful, spicy. You got some fried crunch in there. Satisfying, affordable, and guilt-free. My favourite spot under $10 is Ghazele, a Lebanese place that serves fresh and tasty meals for about $8.
If you want to spend more than $10, grab their “slim plate,” which lets you choose from among four of their freshly made salads and vegetable sides.
Location: 61 Kensington Avenue (Kensington Market)
Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite lunch spot in all of Toronto is Rasta Pasta in Kensington Market. Known for blasting loud dancehall and reggae music while smoking chicken out front, the spot has the best jerk gravy and the best coleslaw in town. The jerk chicken or jerk pork special these days is $10 even — that’s quite a bit more expensive than it used to be, but it is worth every single cent.
Also recommend: Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods (542 St Clair Avenue West).
Location: 181 Dovercourt Road (Queen West)
This New York style neighbourhood slice shop has recently entered the conversation around “the best pizza in town.” Grab a slice of pepperoni for $6 — sure, that’s more expensive than most pizza chains, but you can’t top quality.
If you want pizza and you’re really on a budget: Chito’s Pizza And Foods (1308 Bloor Street West), where you can get a heaping scoop of chicken shawarma heaped onto your slice for under $4.
Location: 875 Danforth Avenue (Greektown)
I’m including the greasy spoon known as Square Boy because a) I don’t want to be accused of east side erasure; b) they serve a very solid, old school hamburger that will fill any belly. The “Banquet Burger,” which is massive, and smothered in pickles, runs just $5.75 plus tax.
My favourite part of the Square Boy experience, though, is dining in — you’ll feel just like you’ve entered into the 1980s.
Another solid burger option for cheap: Gold Standard (385 Roncesvalles Avenue).
We’d love to hear from you. Send us your favourite GTA meals under ten bucks.
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