Though the three-course $25 lunches and $45 dinners at swanky Canoe (66 Wellington West, at Bay, 416-364-0054) and ultra-romantic Auberge du Pommier (4150 Yonge, at York Mills, 416-222-2220) are always the first to sell out, the $20 lunches and $35 dinners at Oliver and Bonacini's Luma (350 King West, at John, 647-288-4715) and Biff's (4 Front East, at Yonge, 416-860-0086, all oliverbonacini.com) offer a similar experience with slightly less view and amorous atmosphere.
Top Chef Susur Lee is never more accessible than when his Lee (601 King West, at Portland, 416-504-7867, susur.com) offers the likes of tuna ceviche, jerked pork ribs and Vietnamese coffee panna cotta for $45 at dinner. And we're sure the kids who go gaga for ramen will dig the similarly priced teppanyaki spread at Benihana (100 Front West, arcade level, Royal York Hotel, at York, 416-860-5002, benihana.com). Watch out for flying knives!
Those who like their meals molecular will appreciate Colborne Lane's (45 Colbourne, at Church, 416-368-9009, colbornelane.com) $45 dinner lineup of pickled Irish salmon with puffed tapioca followed by braised pork belly with lily bulbs and pumpkin pie with candied kumquats.
On a more rustic note, Zucca (2150 Yonge, at Hillsdale, 416-488-5774, zuccatrattoria.com) keeps it old-school with wild boar meatballs, almond-crusted tile fish and panettone pudding, while punky Parts & Labour (1566 Queen West, at Fuller, 416-588-7750, partsandlabour.ca) promises (both $35 dinner) pork belly 'n' trotter in pickled shallots, roasted quail and beaver tails with butterscotch and whipped cream. (Beaver tails are pastries, btw, not the nether regions of our national animal.)
Looking for the biggest bang for your buck? A lunch of country pâté, coq au vin and chocolate mousse at La Société (131 Bloor West, at Avenue Rd, 416-551-9929, lasociete.ca) goes for all of $20. Five dollars more gets you a modish Middle Eastern-inspired dinner at 93 Harbord (93 Harbord, at Robert, 416-922-5914, 93harbord.com) of grilled calamari with Turkish figs, lamb tagine with couscous and poached apricots in almond syrup.
Even better, a lunch of garlicky mussels steamed in wine, house-made tortellini and tiramisu will only set you back $15 at La Bruschetta (1317 St. Clair West, at St. Clarens, 416-656-8622, labru.ca). The same lunchtime cash gets you pumpkin quiche, smoked chicken tacos and apple crumble at the historic Peter Pan (373 Queen West, at Peter, 416-593-0917, peterpanbistro.wordpress.com).
Wherever you go, tip well - 25 to 30 per cent before tax instead of the usual 15. It surely wasn't your servers' idea to work three times as hard for a third of the money. And would it hurt to order a glass of wine or local microbrew instead of Lake Ontario's finest, big spender? Just because it's a discount prix-fixe food fest doesn't mean you have to be cheap.
For the complete Winterlicious lineup: toronto.ca/special_events/winterlicious/2013/index.htm