Hot spots around Yonge and Dundas

Rating: NNNNNDepartment stores want your dining dollars as much as they crave your shopping bucks. But don't feel compelled to.

Rating: NNNNN

Department stores want your dining dollars as much as they crave your shopping bucks.

But don’t feel compelled to eat there just because it’s convenient. Here are food possibilities in the Yonge-Dundas nexus that far eclipse the eatons alternative in both quality and price.

SALAD KING (335 Yonge, 971-7041) How hot is it? This cafeteria-style Thai fast-foodery offers deceptively mellow Thai fare that packs a long-lingering afterburn. What they call medium-strength will cause unsuspecting diners to break out in a sweat — for days. It’s so popular, regulars know to make reservations. Best: cashew chicken with sweet peppers and steamed rice crisply fried sweet-and-sour orange chicken Thai basil noodles with shredded egg, dried shrimp and al dente veggies such vegetarian fare as deep-fried tofu in a mild Thai spice blend, Evil Jungle Prince (Asian veg in garlic-chili sauce) and fiery mango salad with crushed peanut topping. Complete dinners for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of imported Thai beer. Open Monday to Friday 10:30 am to 9:30 pm, Saturday 11 am to 8 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Beer licence. Smoke-free daily noon to 2 pm and 5 to 7 pm. Daily 10-per-cent student discount 2 to 5 pm. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

*TERRONI (720 Queen West, 504-0320 and 106 Victoria, 955-0528) Combination Ital groceteria and upscale pizza and panini joint dishing out what’s possibly Toronto’s best pizza. Takeout or eat-in. Best: ultra-thin-crust pizzas artfully decorated with minimal yet full-strength sauce and cheese and maximum flavour from quality toppings like fresh basil, spicy Calabrese sausage, grilled peppers and arugula romaine and sun-dried summery salads Italian cold cuts with bocconcini and designer greens on focaccia. Complete dinners for $12 per person. Queen West location open daily 9 am to 11 pm, Victoria location open daily 9 am to 10 pm. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

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 combo: 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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