Special but Cheap

Rating: NNNNNDon't assume low-budget means low-quality. Check these out.AUNTIES AND UNCLES (200 Bathurst, at Queen West, 416-703-9378) The folks from.


Rating: NNNNN

Don’t assume low-budget means low-quality. Check these out.

AUNTIES AND UNCLES (200 Bathurst, at Queen West, 416-703-9378) The folks from the identically named College lunch and brunch spot with the proto-mod decor opened a second diner-style eatery serving retro comfort food closer to Queen West. Unpretentious atmosphere, cool classic tunes. Best: thick, pink-centred pork chop sided with lumpy spuds, vibrant-green sauteed spinach and sugary caramelized apple and pear compote dense Mom-style meatloaf with tomato gravy over buttery lumpy mash baked macaroni with pancetta and four cheeses perfectly tender chicken breast with leg confit with fries mucho mussels steamed with bacon, tomato, celery and white wine cookbook-correct rice pudding. Complete dinners for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or pint of beer. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5 pm. Closed Monday, holidays and long weekends. Licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

ELIXIR (522 Bloor West, at Bathurst, 416-597-2915) This unique spot takes traditional Persian recipes, cuts the cholesterol and cooks them using classic French techniques. Smooth service and a former Centro cook guarantee a sophisticated night out at more than reasonable prices. Best: Elixir chicken smothered in a sensational crushed-walnut and pomegranate sauce Indo-inspired Balty chicken with mushrooms, cashews, raisins, yogurt and aromatic spices Elixir eggplant in a sun-dried goat cheese sauce topped with mint slow-cooked lamb shank with apricots in saffron cream spinach and walnut salad focaccia-like Persian naan. Complete dinners for $30, including all taxes, tip and an imported beer. Open for dinner nightly till 11 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

JULIE’S (202 Dovercourt, at Argyle, 416-532-7397) Casually cool Cuban cantina on downtown’s west side. Best: grilled and then pressed marinated pork, ham and Swiss Cubano sandwiches snacking tapas like the fried mashed-potato ball stuffed with lean ground beef, onion, tomato and green olives called Papa Rellena purposefully bland yucca con mojo laced with lime and garlic piquant tomato-sauced pork-sausage chorizos tostones — and subtly complex pork and beef hash (picadillo de mamita) with jalapenos, raisins, currants and almonds. Complete dinners for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 pm to midnight. Bar open to 2 am. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

MUSA (847 Dundas West, at Euclid, 416-368-8484) Low-key neighbourhood noshery offering contemporary takes on casual Greek and Turkish dishes in a funky-fresh al fresco setting. Best: Keftades — ground beef falafel patties zapped with cumin and onion, stuffed into a spectacular spelt pita piled with cucumber, tomato and romaine, sauced with creamy Dijon and sided with first-rate hand-cut fries seared and sliced free-range chicken in the same pita with red chilies, jalapeno, piquant kefalotiri cheese, sauteed onions and arugula Cajun calamari with tomato-chipotle sauce dandelion greens and rapini sauteed in olive oil and garlic and mixed with navy beans in a lemony vinaigrette brunch-only bacon-spinach-potato frittata with designer greens. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or a pint. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11 am to 2 am. Closed Monday and holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNSD

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