Dinner for $15 or under

Looking for meal deals? Here are some tasty eating spots that are also easy on the wallet.

Rating: NNNNN

BIRYANI HOUSE (6 Roy’s Square, 927-9340) Located in a laneway just south of Yonge and Bloor, this tiny Indian take-away offers bargain lunch deals with an emphasis on vegetarian curries. Best: biryanis — meal-in-one basmati rice dishes flavoured with aromatic spices, coconut and coriander, topped with quartered hard-boiled eggs, blanched peanuts and raisins all-vegetarian thaalis with okra and tomato puree, or baby corn with fresh carrot, green pepper, onion and celery (all dinners include grilled caraway pappadam, thickened yogurt raita, iceberg lettuce salad, steamed rice and a thimble-sized dessert of condensed milk threaded with rice vermicelli) grilled paratha roti to sop stuff up rum-infused mango chutney. Complete dinners for $8 per person ($6 at lunch), including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 9:30 pm. Closed Sunday. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: three steps at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNN

JULES (147 Spadina, 348-8886) For some hipsters, Queen and Spadina is the centre of the universe. But there hasn’t been anywhere to eat that’s cheap, chic and unique. With classic, casual French fare as streamlined as its cool decor, this family-affair 30-seat cafe is a neighbourhood hit. Best: fabulous thin-crust quiche — yes, quiche — thick with either Swiss cheese, bacon and broccoli or feta with eggplant ratatouille La Bavette — herb-dusted flank steak with mesclun, veggies and first-rate fries foot-long baguette sandwiches like Le Parisien (Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese and tart cornichons) or creamy Brie with tomato and greens, all with pureed soup, mesclun or fries oven-roasted quarter-chicken with the same sides. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Beer and wine only. Access: short step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
SAVING GRACE (907 Dundas West, 899-9186) This deceptively anonymous space — white-on-white walls, minimalist decor, 20 seats tops — offers stylish salads and sandwiches at wallet-friendly prices. Once word gets out about their no-reservations weekend brunches, west-siders will line up overnight. Best: super brunch menu of corn cakes with fiery mango chutney grilled croissant with melting Brie, pear and walnut with honey-basil-dressed greens weekday soups like coconut-chicken or Cuban bean, both kicked with Thai peppers sandwiches en baguette of peameal, avocado and tomato or roasted eggplant, tomato and mozzarella drizzled with homemade pesto. Complete meals for $10 per person, including taxes and tip. Open Tuesday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday and holidays. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: 2-inch step at door, five steps to washroom. Rating: NNN

ZENA CAFE (250 Church, 366-9362) For the area, this almost classy cafe serves up quick take-away breakfasts and wallet-friendly home cookin’ at lunch. Best: under-five-buck three-salad combos: roasted veggie mix, two-tone tortellini, tabouleh, Greek, green or fruit homemade soups and customized mega-sandwiches retro macaroni ‘n’ cheese. Complete meals for $8 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 7 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

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