The Best New Cheap Eats in Toronto, 2008
When it comes to cheap eats, it seems the past 12 months in Toronto were all about three things - burritos, burgers and poutine. Yup, this was the year that burgers went gourmet. We had hints of this in 2007 with the emergence of The Burger Shoppe in Riverside; but since then it seems that almost every downtown 'hood has claimed a Mcburger alternative of its own, from the bison variety in Parkdale to organic on King West to an Australian pineapple concoction in Cabbagetown.
And what better to pair with burgers than poutine! Was it me or did half the restaurants in the city scramble to add some variation of La Belle Province's gravy and curds staple to their menu? But none went as far as a new spot at Adelaide and Simcoe that features 15 different varieties including the gut busting butter chicken poutine.
And then there were the burrito wars. It wasn't too long ago that Toronto was a burrito depraved city where we had to settle for eating them with a knife and fork at Mexitaco. But I guess when Chipotle moves into Toronto Life Square and charges close to $10, the bells start ringing at MBA schools leading savvy local entrepreneurs to stake out turf for a hot burrito franchise of their own.
And let's not forget the Burrito Boyz drama which has brought us Burrito's and undoubtedly an even more cut throat burrito battle to come.
Despite the onslaught of burgers, burritos and poutine, some other offerings managed to find there way into the best new cheap eats of 2008. Here's a look at the top 10:
Manpuku photo by Squeakyrat on Flickr
Nothin' more complicated than well-sized burgers made from locally-sourced beef and seasoned just right. Keep it simple with the Organic Burger or dress things up with the Craft Bleu (topped with blue cheese and avocado). But the darkhorse here? The poutine. Made with giant cheese curds and perfect gravy it's one of the city's best. More »
Speaking of poutine, Craft Burger just won't do if you like your poutine 15 ways. There's nothing here but yummy, greasy, salty, meaty, artery-clogging, deliciously gluttonous stuff. The best bet is the bacon poutine; but the more adventurous might prefer the prime rib or nacho grande. More »
The new king of Toronto's delis is still trying to keep up with demand for its house-smoked and hand cut smoked meat sandwich. Found inside the Monarch Tavern on Clinton. It's just a matter of time before Zane Caplansky needs to find bigger digs. More »
Finally a Japanese restaurant that isn't about California rolls or some guy slicing steak at your table. This modern Japanese hangout across the street from OCAD makes excellent (and cheap) udon and must-have takoyaki. More »
In the same food court as Manpuku, Mission Burrito finally gives Toronto a burrito that's steamed, not grilled. While it's not quite up to par with the burritos found in the taquerias in San Francisco, it's easily one of Toronto's best, especially the fish burrito made fresh to order on Fridays. More »
Is that a pineapple on your burger? It sure is if you're eating the Aussie Burger from Cabbagetown's newest hole in the wall burger joint. In this variation, a juicy patty is served on a soft crusted egg bun with bacon, pineapple, braised beets, a fried egg, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a creamy house mayonnaise. More »
In the sea of pho and meat that is East Chinatown, it's nice to have a place like Green Earth. As the name suggests, the entire menu is vegetarian. And what a menu! From tacos (interesting, but not necessarily recommended) to noodle dishes and big bowls of soup, the offerings here are cheap, healthy and 100% meat free. More »