Located in the International Student Centre on the U of T campus, Radical Roots (33 St. George, at College, no phone) is Toronto's only non-profit worker-run vegan café. Because of its overwhelming popularity with a health-conscious but cash-strapped clientele, the collective has introduced sliding-scale prices so they can continue to serve nutritious dishes made with organic and Fair Trade ingredients. Seven bucks for a brimming bowl of lemongrass-marinated tofu stir-fried with veggies over barley - $5 for the fiscally challenged - is still a steal. Anyone looking for a complete meal for under a tenner should check out downtown's east-side Somali eateries like Liban (211 Queen East, at Sherbourne, 416-214-5901), where the lemon chicken steak dinner ($8.95) includes tasty boneless breast on basmati rice as well as sides of stewed veggies, iceberg salad, goat soup, bottomless plastic cups of mango Freshie and a banana.
Close by Ryerson and NOW's headquarters, Kathy's Corner (139 Dundas East, at Mutual, 416-367-0645) has a rotating lineup of Greek-style comfort food - lasagna on Monday, moussaka Thursday (both $6) - but the best of all is Tuesday's ambrosial baked vegetarian lima beans in Old World tomato sauce ($3.50).
Francophiles know that the best way to pinch pennies and still eat in style is to go prix fixe. Long-running Le Select (328 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-596-6405) offers a great post-theatre two-course package - steak frites or duck confit with crème brûlée - nightly for only $15.95. Equally romantic, La Palette (256 Augusta, at College, 416-929-4900) delivers its three-course version for $28, while Pony (488 College, at Markham, 416-923-7665) in the former Palmerston only charges $22.95 Monday to Thursday evenings for the same.
Uptown, Mezzetta (681 St. Clair West, at Christie, 416-658-5687) discounts its card of more than 40 Middle Eastern and Mediterranean mezes Monday night, when every second dish is a buck (with a limit of 15), Tuesday dinner they're a toonie, and at lunch on weekdays all vegetarian dishes are $2.
But the queen of cheap cuisine has to be Narula's (1438A Gerrard East, at Ashdale, 416-466-0434), a low-rent south Indian vegetarian spot where, on Tuesdays, everything on its short but delicious menu costs $2.29, including the multi-course thali that regularly goes for all of $3.99!