Bombay Chowpatty 1386 Gerrard E, at Woodfield, 416-405-8080
Our apologies to Lahore Tikka across the street: when we want an incendiary Subcontinental snack, we head to this takeaway at the back of a Bollywood DVD rental shop. Minimal food-court seating, maximum fireworks on (paper) plates. And it's vegetarian!
Order this: the Bombay Burger, a pan-fried potato patty dressed with chana masala, chopped tomato, onion and coriander chutney on a white-bread hamburger bun ($3.99), and a side of masala fries ($4.99) dressed with yogurt, tamarind chutney and that most multiculti of condiments - ketchup!
Monday to Thursday 1 to 11 pm, Friday to Sunday 1 pm to midnight. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
No longer Edward Levesque's Kitchen - isn't having a restaurant named Something Kitchen so passé these days? - this Leslieville pioneer specializes in modern takes on retro comfort food updated with seasonal and locally sourced product.
Order this: at brunch, the meat loaf sandwich on toasted challah spread with tomato jam and caramelized onion ($10 with house greens), and a side of potato pancakes with sour cream ($4); at dinner, roasted pork chops with house-smoked bacon 'n' cabbage and apple butter ($24).
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 pm. Brunch Friday noon to 3 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 3 pm and most holiday Mondays 10 am to 3 pm. Closed Mondays, some holidays. Reservations dinner only. Licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Fuzz Box 1246 Danforth, at Greenwood, 416-769-1432, thefuzzbox.ca
As poutine is to La Belle Province, donair is to Halifax - i.e., something you wouldn't normally eat unless you were three sheets to the wind. True connoisseurs know it's all about that alarmingly white gloop made with condensed milk, sugar, vinegar and garlic powder. Some gag, others go gaga.
Order this: the Super Donair, a grilled pita stuffed with ground paprika-spiked beef and dressed with ripe tomato, Spanish onion and that contentious sauce ($9.49), and a large side of Annapolis-style apple, cabbage, carrot coleslaw in a lemony vinaigrette ($3.99).
Monday to Thursday 11:30 am to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Gale's Snack Bar 539 Eastern, at Carlaw
If it's good enough for the local chapter of the Hells Angels (whose clubhouse-slash-boutique is just down the street) this holiest of hole-in-the-walls is right up our alley. Not only is Eda and David Chan's 80-year-old diner's decor original, but so are the prices.
Order this: Depression-era hot turkey sandwiches made with daily-roasted bird on Weston white slathered in house-made gravy, sided with frozen fries, frozen peas 'n' carrots and winter-pink sliced tomato ($3.75), and a slice of house-baked raisin pie à la mode ($1.25), both tax-inclusive. Tip generously, you tightwad!
Monday to Friday 10:30 am to 6 pm, Saturday noon to 5 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: five steps at door, tiny washroom on same floor. Rating: NNNN
Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant 1220 Queen E, at Leslie, 416-469-5225
With no sign other than the large papier-mâché proboscis that hangs over the front door, this long-running casual trat is not for those looking for a quiet dinner à deux. But if a loud and in-yer-face room with a lineup of old-school Italian plates served tapas-style ticks all your boxes, this be the place. Bun fight!
Order this: ravioli-like crespelle stuffed with puréed butternut squash ($7.95), followed by blistered Australian rack of lamb scottadito with mint and honey mustard ($16.95).
Dinner Monday to Thursday 6 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 pm to midnight. Bar till close. Closed Sunday, some holidays. Reservations for groups of six or more only. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
Despite the inclusion of meat on his Franco-Italian carte, Danny Pantano's tiny 17-seat Leslieville bistro has become a haven for herbivores in the mood for something more creative than designer greens.
Order this: the Tuesday-night $35 vegetarian tasting menu ($40 the rest of the week), one evening butternut squash swirled with pumpkin oil followed by a salad "variation" on local beets and black truffles, mac 'n' cheese with wilted Swiss chard as the main, and walnut coffee cake in cocoa sauce for dessert.
Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 11 pm. Weekend brunch 10:30 am to 2 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
Hanoi 3 Seasons 1135 Queen E, at Larchmount, 416-469-3010; 588 Gerrard E, at Broadview, 416-463-9940, hanoi3seasons.com
Decked out with chic Southeast Asian antiques, Hai Luke Tran's two unusually stylish North Vietnamese beaneries forgo pho for complex seafood starters and mains.
Order this: sautéed baby clams with green chilies and black-sesame rice crackers (Hen, $7) followed by grilled grouper with dill and even more chopped chilies over rice vermicelli (Cha Ca La Vong, $12).
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday noon to 3 pm, dinner 5 to 10 pm; daily 11 am to 10 pm (Gerrard). Closed Monday, holidays; holidays (Gerrard). No reservations. Licensed. Access: short bump at door, washrooms in basement; two steps at door, washrooms on same floor (Gerrard). Rating: NNNN
Leslie Jones 1182 Queen E, at Rushbrooke, 416-463-5663
Now in its ninth year, ex-Couillard sous George Wensley's low-key cantina was locavore before they had a name for it. Attitude-free service and a vintage console stereo complete with vinyl LPs make this cozy Leslieville storefront feel like home.
Order this: grilled 'n' chilled calamari with Moroccan olives and capers ($10) and thin-crusted pizzas dressed with spicy sausage, speck, grilled chicken, black-olive tapenade and hot peppers ($15).
Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, but small washrooms. Rating: NNN
804 Danforth, at Woodycrest, 647-350-8988; 421 Spadina, at College, 416-217-2008, mothersdumplings.com
A regular winner in NOW's annual Readers Poll for best Chinese restaurant, this recent addition to the nabe gets substantial props for its moderately priced all-day dim sum lineup.
Order this: gently steamed pork and pickled cabbage dumplings in whole-wheat wrappers ($7.49) paired with soupy Da-lu noodles with chewy ear fungus, minced pork and shredded cabbage ($7.99).
Sunday to Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement; barrier-free (Spadina). Rating: NNNN
Zorba's 681 Danforth, at Pape, 416-406-1212
This no-frills family-run spot on the edge of Greektown might not be the fanciest taverna on the strip, but it's certainly one of the most delish, especially for those who remember when you used to just go into the kitchen and point.
Order this: the Broiled Platter, two lamb chops, two pork souvlakia, two chicken souvlakia, a chicken chop-steak, a beef chop-steak and a gyro sided with salad, rice, roasted potatoes, tzatziki and garlic bread ($39.95 for two).
Sunday to Thursday 9 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am to midnight. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: short step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN