Soccer's taking over. So chow down on food from countries with high World Cup hopes.
UK CHANG DONG SOON TO FU (691 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-537-0972) One of many informal fast-food eateries along the Koreatown strip, this casual spot specializes in “soon” — fiery soup thick with tofu, seafood and beef — served with kimchee and other incendiary condiments. Best: the extremely short lineup offers five varieties of soon — kimchee, New Zealand mussels, sliced pork or beef, and unshelled shrimp — all mixed with miso broth, red chili pepper, raw egg and scallions over oven-baked sticky rice Bi Bim Bap, a meal-in-one crunchy rice casserole stirred with raw egg and layered with ground beef, slivered zucchini, carrot, marinated mushrooms and sprouts. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of hot water. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 10:30 pm, Sunday noon to 9:30 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
EL SOL (1448 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-405-8074) Decked out in folk art, this family-run cantina is easily the best in town, serving way-south-of-the-border fare. Warm service, casual digs and made-to-order, authentic northern Mexican grub push El Sol several notches above its competitors. Best: 65-spice Pollo En Mole, chicken breast in an ethereal hot-chili-and-dark-chocolate sauce, sided with roasted tomato rice and flavour-intense, slow-cooked refried beans egg-battered Chile Relleno, a huge sweet red pepper stuffed with ground beef, green olives, cubed potato and raisins in pulpy tomato sauce. Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of beer. Open Tuesday to Sunday 3 to 11 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
JULES (147 Spadina, at Queen, 416-348-8886) For some hipsters, Queen and Spadina is the centre of the universe, but till recently 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 foot-long baguette sandwiches like Le Parisien (Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese and tart cornichons) or creamy Brie with tomato and greens, all with puréed soup, mesclun or fries. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Licensed. Access: short step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
O FAROL CHURRASQUEIRA (1474 St. Clair West, at McRobert, 416-654-7474) Family-style Portuguese joint has a deft hand with grilled fish if a heavy one on the salt shaker. The simpler the better. Best: buttery grilled salt cod layered with garlic and whole roasted Vidalia onion sided with oven-baked red-jacketed potatoes moist slabs of crisp-skinned suckling pig daily evolving puréed veggie soup sparked by smoky chorizo. Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of vinho verde. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11 am to midnight. Licensed. Separate smoking area. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
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