Our annual roundup runs the gamut from shawarma pizza to rice noodle rolls. Here's where you can fill up on a budget
By Rebecca Tucker
Sep 1, 2020
Since our last cheap eats roundup a year ago, the dining landscape has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city for months, forcing many restaurants to pivot to takeout and delivery and – in many cases – to alcohol and grocery retail. Other restaurants have closed all together. And while in-restaurant dining resumed in late July, the industry is still catching up – as are we all.
All of the restaurants in this year’s cheap eats guide offer takeout and delivery options – we’ve noted where and how you can pre-order online, and if there are delivery specials you might want to consider if you’re using a food-delivery app. In addition, the 10 restaurants below are all locally owned; businesses like these make Toronto what it is. Supporting independent restaurants has never been more important – even if it’s just five dollars at a time.
Combining two low-cost Toronto takeout cornerstones – a slice and a shawarma – the shawarma pizza at Chito’s is a budget-nosh dream come true. Chito’s used to dole out discount dishes to just Bloordale residents but relocated to North York in 2017. The menu – and the prices – haven’t changed much, though: Owner Ergun Yaldiz still offers single slices of pizza piled high with fresh-from-the-skewer chicken and garlic sauce for a measly $5.99 a slice.
On the apps: A chicken shawarma – non-pizza version – on large fries for $12.99, via UberEats.
Few things will satisfy as much for as little as a burrito. And the fewer the frills, the better – it’s a don’t-mess-with-perfection type of food. Gus Tacos knows this: its burrito – which comes with a choice of seven proteins (10 at its Kensington Market location), including vegetarian and vegan options – is the platonic burrito ideal: your protein is packed into a flour tortilla with beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce and chipotle mayo (the basics, in other words) and served hot for an extremely doable $11.
On the apps: Available on Ritual, DoorDash, UberEats and Skip the Dishes; no delivery specials at this time.
The must-order item is right there in the name: jyu cheung fan, or rice-noodle rolls – this GTA mini-chain’s specialty. For the uninitiated, rice noodles are long, flat strips made with rice flour and tapioca or glutinous rice flour and water. They’re a dim sum mainstay, but can – and should! – also be consumed on their own for a small meal or snack. At Yin Ji Chang Fen, the fillings with which the rice-noodle sheets are stuffed are plentiful: choose from shrimp, pork, beef or seafood, all served with chives, and combined if you like. Prices range from $9 at the high end to $3.25 on the low end (admittedly, for a plain roll) for a single rice-noodle roll, which is eaten smothered in seasoned soy sauce.
On the apps: A beef and shrimp roll with a choice of “Asian snack” (think: lettuce with oyster sauce, deep-fried peanuts, curry fish balls) for $7.25, via UberEats
First thing’s first: Fahmee does a great Jamaican patty, and you should absolutely get one. You should also absolutely get one at the Kennedy, Warden, Bathurst and Islington subway stations, whenever you find yourself there. With that being said, Fahmee’s is also notable for its jerk chicken – and, more specifically, its jerk chicken sandwich, which is served piled high on fresh-baked coco bread for a very reasonable $5.50.
On the apps: The jerk chicken meal, with coleslaw, hot sauce, soy sauce peppers, pickled onions and your choice of side, for $8.50, via Skip the Dishes.
Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean skipping out on some of Toronto’s hipper west-end eateries. At Grant van Gameren’s Bar Piquette, the mortadella sandwich – an almost-too-high-to-bite stack of mortadella and pickled fennel with a swipe of garlic mayo, nestled between milk buns from Thuet – will run you just five bucks. It may not be a full dinner, but it’s at least a serviceable snack or small lunch, and the $5 price might just be low enough to justify splurging on a glass of Bar Piquette’s expertly curated wines.
On the apps: The entire menu is available for twice-weekly delivery or daily pickup. The ham n’ cheese snack pack is a good budget pick for two or more: it includes a baguette, pickles, a cheese of the day, cultured butter and jamon for $34.
337 Broadview, 5 Coady; completo.club
This Broadview restaurant and its hole-in-the-wall Leslieville counterpart specialize in big piles of food at low costs. Take the “Box” – aptly named (and what else would you call it, really?): A mound of hand-cut fries piled high with your choice of steak, pork, chorizo or a housemade veggie patty, two sunny-side-up eggs, tomato-cilantro salsa and Completo’s very own hot sauce for just $10.50. Beans or avocado can be added for another couple dollars, and they’re recommended – but certainly not because you’ll be left wanting for more sustenance.
On the apps: Completo offers order-ahead for pickup via Ritual. The menu is the same as it is in person.
South Indian Dosa Mahal
9 Roncesvalles, 1285 Bloor West
The dosa is an incredible South Indian dish, resembling a pancake or a crepe: It’s long and often paper-thin, made from fermented rice and husked garam. Masala dosa is a stuffed dosa – the dosa itself is filled with spiced potatoes and served with sambar (a tamarind-broth based vegetable stew) and coconut chutney, all for $10.99. It’s intensely flavourful, satisfying and extremely filling – not to mention vegan and gluten-free, to boot.
On the apps: Available on DoorDash and UberEats, no in-app delivery specials at this time.
This Koreatown favourite specializes in Sundubu-jjigae, or tofu stew. A bowl of bubbling-hot soup, prepared directly within the vessel in which it’s served (unless, of course, you’re ordering take-out), the dish is made with fresh tofu, vegetables and gochujang, with a choice of proteins and a raw egg, which is traditionally cracked and mixed into the soup as soon as it’s presented. The seafood version comes with oysters, shrimp and mussels. All soups are served with a selection of banchan, or side dishes, including kimchi, bean sprouts, soy beans and pickled radishes.
On the apps: On UberEats, Skip the Dishes and DoorDash, no in-app specials at this time.
In May, beloved west-end mainstay Beast rebranded as Beast Bodega, a takeout-friendly concept offering meals to go as well as bottled beer and wine, grocery items and merchandise. Among its picnic-friendly offerings is the pig-ear parm sandwich, a 72-hour braised pig ear that’s deep fried until golden and crispy and baked with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan, nestled in a Martin’s Potato Bun. At $12, the price is a little heftier than the average sandwich, but trust us: you won’t be left wanting.
On the apps: Beast delivers via UberEats, where prices are a little heftier than ordering from the restaurant directly. Grocery items are available exclusively through the restaurant.