Used to be, good food was scarce around the film festival. Not any more. Check out these spots to see what we mean.
FOCACCIA TAKE-OUT (13 Hayden, at Yonge, 416-922-8171) Old-school southern Italian sandwiches, salads and pastas just like Mama used to make. This 10-year-old café has a loyal following who don't want you to know about their tucked-away Bloor-and-Yonge find. Best: omigod veal 'n' pork meatloaf thick with veggies, topped by the ultimate sweet tomato sauce and sided with super-creamy potato/avocado/hardboiled-egg salad; no-nonsense lasagna; grilled olive-oil-brushed veggies (baby eggplant, zucchini, red peppers) layered with mozzarella and grilled a second time on a sandwich press. Prices include taxes! Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open for eat-in/takeout Monday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNN
INDOCHINE (4 Collier, at Yonge, 416-922-5840) One of the first spots to bring pan-Asian eats -- Vietnamese, Thai, Szechwan, Cantonese and Malaysian -- to town, this intimate café has just had a fashionable facelift. Good news: the reasonably priced grub's as deftly executed as ever. Best: grilled Saigon-style sea bass; skewered Hanoi chicken satay over baby mesclun in citrus vinaigrette; slow-cooked beef brisket curry; purple Thai basil beef with char-broiled peppers and onions; meal-in-one pho -- beef, chicken or seafood -- in tart tamarind-scented broth garnished with Chinese garlic chives. Complete meals for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a Tsingtao beer. Open for lunch Monday to Saturday noon to 3 pm, for dinner Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
BIRYANI HOUSE (6 Roy's Square, at Yonge, 416- 927-9340) Formerly an ultra-cheap lunch spot featuring first-rate veggie grub, this hole in the wall has morphed into an almost classy boite dishing up some of the best Indian food south of the 401. While inexpensive noontime noshes prevail, after dark the menu shifts to some of the most spice-creative mains in town. And it's still dead cheap! Best: marinated in ginger and mint-lemon juice, then flambéed in rum Sultaani Chaap lamb chops; spinach, zucchini and onion free-form pakora fritters presented in a papadam basket over crunchy winter greens sauced with mango and tomato purée; hell-fire Goan Beef Vindaloo with pickling spices, waxy potato cubes and whole red chilies; paneer kebabs with pineapple chunks and salad; smoky dahl with fiery green chilies; Phaldari Kofta veggie meatballs with fruit-rich gravy. Complete dinners for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Fully licensed. Access: three steps at door, small washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
PHO HUNG (350 Spadina, at St Andrew, 416-593-4274; 200 Bloor West, at Avenue Road, 416-963-5080) Toronto's mad for pho, the brilliant meal-in-one soup that perfectly showcases the complex cuisine of Vietnam, and the Hung does it better than most. True foodies will dig the weird stuff. Best: thin strips of lean sirloin cooked two ways -- rare and well done -- in fragrant lemongrass-scented broth swimming with slippery rice noodles and garnished with crushed peanut and mint leaf; escargot-Saigon-style snail vermicelli soup in spicier-than-most broth; grilled quail "roti" on fresh greens à la Cantonese; cold spring rolls studded with pink shrimp and satay pork; beware: curried eel in coconut sauce. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and a frosty Tsingtao. Spadina open daily 10 am to 10 pm. Bloor open daily 11 am to 10 pm. Licensed. Spadina access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Bloor access: 25 steps, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN