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Eat & Drink

The top 10 restaurants for taxi drivers in Toronto

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / January 25, 2014

Toronto restaurants taxisTaxi drivers can function as kind of highlighter for often otherwise underrepresented restaurants in Toronto. When you see a stream of cabs parked in front of some hidden joint, you just know it's a place with cheap and good eating.

There seems to be only a few guidelines cabbies follow when making their meal choice - inexpensive, filling and relatively tasty, easy parking access, welcoming and open late, and finally, and this is the most variable one, familiar. That can mean the traditional flavours of home, like Rendez-Vous or King Palace (or as one driver described to me "we just go eat wherever we're from"), or it can mean a different kind of homecoming, someplace where every body just digs in.

Here are the top 10 restaurants for taxi drivers in Toronto-

Caffe Brasiliano
Caffe Brasiliano has a special place in the hearts of its customers, especially the taxi drivers that line the booths every lunch Monday through Saturday. Operated by the Conners family (Kenny Sr., Mary, Kenny Jr. and Brock) you'll be hard pressed to find kinder, more joyful service any where in the city. Food is hot, home-cooked, cafeteria style and hella cheap. Chose between bean, green or macaroni salad, pastas, rice, roast chicken or grilled steak or fish, or try their famous veal or chicken cutlet sandwich.

King Palace
You'll find King Palace, near Church and Yonge, by their donut shaped sign and the slew of cabs in the parking lot. Specializing in Pakistani and Indian food, there are numerous dishes such as aloo gobi, chicken tikka masala and mater paneer that you can pile in combos for less than a tenner. It's open from 11 am until 6 in the morning. The ambience may be lack-lustre and the meals reheated by microwave, and yet the fans are legion.

Mehran
Open from dinner till dawn, Mehran Restaurant has South Asian basics like butter chicken, chana masala and naan. It gets a lot of Church Street party stragglers and the parking lot is full of cabs. Mehran is entirely without frills, but it seems customers are either too busy or too blurry-eyed to care, and tend to leave satisfied with their quick, filling and inexpensive meal.

Rendez-Vous
Care for a Rendez-Vous? Cabbies do. This Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant on the stretch of the Danforth known as Little Ethiopia comes highly recommended. You can get a massive platter of tibs, kifto, asa or veggies with the traditional injera, as well as sandwiches, salads and breakfast items. I'm not sure how taxi drivers fit Rendez-Vous into their schedules (it's better suited for a slow and savouring dining experience) but there's no doubt it is worth a long lunch.

Makkah
Makkah Restaurant on the Danforth boasts authentic tandoori ovens where you can watch your naan made right from the front window. Staff are friendly and helpful, large combo platters aim to please, and the kabob list is great for those on the go. You chose from a variety of wonderfully spiced South Asian dishes, wait for your number to be called, and then pay when you are finished.

Leslieville Pumps
At Leslieville Pumps drivers get to do something they don't often get the chance to do- gas up the cab and fuel up with food at the same time. Offering a gourmet selection of brisket and breakfast sandwiches, corn fritters and deep-fried pickles amongst other items, when you eat at the Leslieville Pumps you have the convenience of breath mints and gum handy to perfume the next trip.

Halal Noor Pizza and Restaurant
Taxi drivers head to Noor Pizza and Restaurant on Parliament when they want to get their halal-friendly 'za. They have traditional Ethiopian on the menu as well, and on weekends they often prepare specialty hulbat marakh, a meat and potato stew flavoured with tomato, onion and fenugreek. Only those who can read the Amharic signage outside are aware "we also send money".

Al-Madina Pizza and Bakery
Al-Madina Pizza and Bakery is a notorious go-to place for cabbies to get a grease wheel. Everything is 100% Halal and they also have a dizzying array of wing specials too. They advertise "open regardless of holidays" 7 days a week, which must be real blessing for those who work when most else are at rest.

Vesta Lunch
Vesta Lunch is what is it-a rather dingy lunch counter, open 24 hours a day, serving diner staples like fry-ups, burgers and liver and onions, complete with murky gravy. Still, it's inexpensive and oddly comforting to the round-the-clock workers, lonesome folk and late night partiers that frequent the Dupont institution. Think of it as a hot plate time machine.

Lahore Grill and Fast Food
"Now, that's a wrap!' could be the tag-line for the Lahore Grill. You can get other Pakistani and Indian options, but it is the wraps that stand out here, a perfect, cheap and transportable lunch that has taxi drivers filling the parking lots in the wee hours. Did I mention it's open all night, until 8 am?

Top photo of King Palace

Discussion

20 Comments

Cool post / January 25, 2014 at 06:16 am
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...thanks for keeping it offbeat, curious and fun, BlogTO!
ThatGirl / January 25, 2014 at 09:19 am
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I wish there was a like button for comments. I share 'Cool post' sentiments. This was an interesting idea.
Mar / January 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm
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Great idea! Thanks for this one!
Chester Pape / January 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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You'll never see a taxi driver get a sandwich or a corn fritter at Leslieville Pumps. After 9PM they basically close the kitchen and stop selling sandwiches but they leave a big pot of curry on the stove and they sell it all night long, the taxi drivers go for the all night curry, not for the sandwiches.
pz / January 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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good stuff, cool article!!
Joseph / January 25, 2014 at 01:38 pm
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Check dinesafe for Lahore Grill
Gourmet Chaplain replying to a comment from Chester Pape / January 25, 2014 at 02:06 pm
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True. The lady who makes the curry chicken and rice told me so. (She's not the same cook who makes the Southern "gourmet" cuisine.)
Gourmet Chaplain / January 25, 2014 at 02:16 pm
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If you include Leslieville Pumps' curry chicken and rice, five out of ten places on this list serve south asian food. Stop being ridiculous, people. This list is not racist. It shows that we Torontonians eat diversely -- and that fish 'n' chips places are not open late. (Most restaurant kitchens close by 9 or 10 pm.)
Gonzo / January 25, 2014 at 03:43 pm
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I want to like king palace but they microwave your food. They have the best naan bread I've ever had. Food tasted good but every time I've been I've gotten explodo butt
Eastsyda / January 25, 2014 at 05:24 pm
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Well, as someone who lives on the east side of Toronto...it's nice to finally see some representation here on this blog.

See? The west end doesn't have all the cool stuff. We've got cabbie food!
poh / January 26, 2014 at 11:26 am
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This is a great little roundup. Considering that many restaurants close their kitchens before 11 in the city, it's good to know of places that are open later.
pedro / January 26, 2014 at 11:45 am
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Yes with beans that refry can become fine sitting or driving dinner - many if not most of some can have a pork or have a chicken or a lam or a turkish in wrapping with meter not running. Yes no problem with napkins it's not too unclean.
AA / January 26, 2014 at 05:29 pm
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Bamiyan Kebab is where many of the cabbies go... Or so they tell me
ZestyMordant / January 26, 2014 at 09:40 pm
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Unless the writer is a cabbie herself, how was this review conducted?
poh replying to a comment from ZestyMordant / January 27, 2014 at 11:18 am
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Gee I don't know, maybe by asking cabbie's where they go for a quick bite to eat. You are allowed to talk to them...
Nahom / February 28, 2014 at 08:30 pm
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Caffe Brasilliano is legit. My Dad is a cabbie and I went there as a kid for years. Amazing ownership and even better food. I remember going there before they moved across the street into the bigger location.

It wasn't mentioned but their coffee is also very nice.
Nikki / March 1, 2014 at 07:41 am
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Blog To should follow Toronto Paramedics for good places to eat. They definitely know the best places.
east ender replying to a comment from Joseph / May 4, 2014 at 11:12 pm
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Lahore Grill is like a diner people for people of another country or culture so don't expect servitude as everyone is treated equally to delicious food and decent service from a hard working crew. I have had many late night meals from there without issue and recommend them for the food.
Nd / May 5, 2014 at 03:20 am
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I've never seen cabs at leslieville pumps.
tammy terrific / May 5, 2014 at 05:22 pm
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Cafe Brasiliano is a great place but it is only open in the mornings and afternoons and closed all day sunday.
Delicious home made food at great prices and generous portions.

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