Finding wallet-friendly fast food isn't that difficult. Even McDonald's will sell you two of its burgers for two bucks. But identifying a spot that's not only quick and inexpensive but serves good grub as well can be daunting. Here are a few of NOW's favourites where you can dine like royalty on a tenner.
Chinatown's Pho Hung (350 Spadina, at St. Andrew, 416-593-4274; and 200 Bloor West, at Avenue Road, 416-963-5080) has long been Toronto's best-loved Vietnamese noodle house. Watch its generous meal-in-one soups become even more popular now that a new pagoda-shaped pergola doubles the number of tables.
Once nearby karaoke bars close, the Owl (700 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-538-3030) in Korea Town becomes a zoo of late-night revellers slurping spicy $7 Pork Bone Soup as hangover prevention.
Across the way, oblivion awaits after a bottle of Jinro Chamjinisulro, the potent Korean grain spirit rotgut that accompanies Buk Chang Dong To Fu 's (691 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-537-0972) short lineup of Seoul food. Available in five versions - kimchee, mussels, pork, beef or unshelled shrimp - these fiery miso-laced stews come served over oven-baked sticky rice and dressed with raw egg and scallions.
NOW knows someone desperate enough for a fix of Brar Sweets ' (2646 Islington, at Albion, 416-745-4449) exceptional south Indian vegetarian takeout - paneer in sweet tomato gravy laced with slivered almonds, sweet shredded-carrot halva with almonds and sultanas, layered with silver leaf - that they regularly make the two-hour return trip by TTC. OK, it's me.
Closer than Schwartz's on the Main, Mel's Montreal Delicatessen (440 Bloor West, at Howland, 416-966-8881) is the only local purveyor of authentic Montreal-style smoked meat this side of Baie d'Urfe.
While its superb six-buck Friday-only pot roast dinner has put microscopic Petite Marché (33 University, at Front, 416-955-0302) on the foodie map, its recently introduced Asian lineup has made it even more crowded on Monday.
Le Petit Gourmet (1064 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-966-3811) first introduced quiche to Toronto back in the 70s - somebody had to do it, I suppose - but continues to offer formidable French fare like classic coq au vin stewed in white wine rather than red, sided with scalloped-style potatoes and crisp green bean salad for all of $8.95 in its bohemian back room.
Monica Miller 's Saving Grace (907 Dundas West, at Bellwoods, 416-703-7368) first introduced this then dreary stretch to café society five years ago. Since then, her modest lunch 'n' brunch bistro has become a hit with the fiscally challenged, especially on the weekend.
There's always a crowd at Tacos El Asador (690 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-538-9747), the tiny taqueria that puts a Salvadoran twist on Mexican street food. But then, six customers make for standing room only in the gaudy room.
There's always plenty of space at Little India's terrific Lahore Tikka House (1365 Gerrard East, at Highfield, 416-406-1668), the crowd-pleasing Pakistani spot that's been undergoing renovations for the past year. Regulars who can't fit into its swanky new digs kick back in tricked-out construction site trailers parked out back.