Toronto’s best new cheap eats

Whether you're hungry for breakfasts, tacos, pasta, spicy noodles, shawarma or a classic burger, these spots will have you covered for under $10


Cinderella Restaurant

The name – a slightly romantic nod to the owners’ arrival in Canada as refugees from Syria – hints at the magic happening within this tiny shawarma counter set into the facade of Dufferin TTC station. The menu sticks to Middle Eastern takeout staples done with care: falafel are crisp, hearty and just $4.99 in a pita with veggies and housemade pickles, or $8.49 for a half dozen on a bed of garlic rice with hummus and toum. Piping-hot and beautifully crisped shawarma is an equally worthy option, even if it bumps the price up a couple bucks.

1015 Dufferin, at Bloor, 416-538-4444, cinderellarestaurant.com

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Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta To Go

This Venetian chain may be cheap, but there are certain corners Italians won’t dare cut. Dal Moro’s pasta is made daily in-house, as are 10 or so different sauces, from humble aglio e olio to intriguingly complex squid ink, and you can even get your noodles al dente or well done. All that quality and service rings in at between $10 and $12 per serving (toppings like mixed seafood, bacon and mozzarella are a buck or two extra). Plus, there’s a $5 tiramisu for dessert that is approximately two-thirds mascarpone, as the good lord (or maybe Padre Pio, in this case?) intended.

605 Yonge, at Gloucester, 647-675-6799, dalmorosfreshpastatogo.com

Extra Burger

This might actually be the least extra restaurant on the whole Dundas strip: A fluorescent-lit, ceiling-tiled burger shack dedicated to crushing your post-Get Well drunchies. The menu is a whopping five items strong: a bare-bones smash burger with classic veggie toppings ($6), a double version that packs two of those flat-top patties ($8), a “grilled cheese” ($4) that’s just a potato roll and an American single, paprika-kissed crinkle fries ($3), and a side of kosher dill pickle spears ($2). 

1357A Dundas West, at Beaconsfield, extraburger.ca

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Famiglia Baldassarre

For those living under a barrel, Baldassarre’s Geary factory supplies pasta to some of the best Italian joints in town, but at lunch, they cook up whatever ravioli, cavatelli or tagliatelle they’re working on with butter and Parm or a nice sugo and sell it for an eminently reasonable  – considering the quality – $12 per plate. Sure, the wait outside is murder, but that’s all part of the experience. At least the new friends you meet in line are guaranteed to also love pasta. 

122 Geary, at Westmoreland, 647-293-5395, famigliabaldassarre.com

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Gold Standard

This takeout window behind the Reunion Island cafe on Roncy does two things, and it does ’em brilliantly. The breakfast sandwich (bacon or kale), with its sharp pickles and smothering of aioli, gives serious sloppy Big-Mac-for-breakfast vibes – but there’s also an actual burger, a mustard-grilled, salt-crusted smashed patty on a potato bun. At $6 each, you might even be able to splash out on both.

385 Roncesvalles, at Neepawa, thefed.ca/goldstandard

Greedy Duck

You can’t swing an armload of udon without hitting a new noodle joint in Toronto these days, but this family-run place on College sets itself apart by focusing on the regional cuisine of the Chinese province of Wuhan (where the family behind the spot served duck for decades) – and by serving all parts of the titular waterfowl, from wings to hearts to tongue, in an intensely savoury spice mix shot through with mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper for under $8 a portion. If that doesn’t float your, uh, duck, their other house specialty is hearty bowls of hot dry noodle, as well as soups ($8-$10).

316 College, at Major, 647-748-0168

Ko’ox Hana

The cafeteria at 214 Augusta has been home to a number of nascent food businesses over the years, many of them focusing on Latin cuisine. The latest arrival is Ko’ox Hana, a takeout and catering operation by chef Lucy Novelo, which focuses on traditional Mayan dishes like poc chuc (sour-orange-marinated pork, available as a plate for $12 or a sandwich for $8) or tamales stuffed with achiote pork ($3.25 or three for $9.99).

214 Augusta, at Nassau, 647-402-9970 

Tacos Baos

Can’t fault this Mexican-Asian spot for truth in advertising. The formula at this spot, co-run by two brothers, is starchy disks plus tasty fillings – traditional al pastor, steak asada and Filipino sisig for the tacos ($2.75-$4.50), soy-ginger fried chicken and crispy ginger beef for the bao ($4.50). For a less circular experience, you can get your toppings “bedded” on basmati rice or as “stacks” on chunky fries. One thing’s for sure: they’re giving Bloorcourt something to taco bao-t.

914 Bloor West, at Ossington, 416-874-0590, tacosbaos.com

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Tractor

The lunch bowls at this Vancouver transplant skew a bit pricier, but the breakfast options price-match nearby fast-food options while putting them all to shame. For $5, you can cop a gorgeous breakfast sammy featuring a Healthy Butcher turkey sausage patty, a salsa verde and goat cheese version, or a Tex Mex-inspired breakfast wrap with roasted squash. 

151 Yonge, at Richmond, tractorfoods.com

Yak Cafe

Parkdale has its share of excellent Tibetan spots, many wallet-friendly, but this new addition to the neighbourhood adds a zippy fast-casual spin, as well as a handful of classic Indian dishes. Meals here will set you back between $6.99 and $10.99, including hearty lunch combos that would even sate a large, shaggy bovid – like a bento box with chow mein, chili chicken and turmeric-laced buns, or a Great Indian Thali with four different dishes, plus rice and puri.

1504 Queen West, at Jameson, 416-533-9778, yak-cafe.business.site

food@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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