By Davey Wavey

Having been to Toronto at least ten times—each for a month or longer—I’ve had plenty of time to tantalize my taste buds with some of the city’s best fare. And while Toronto is a huge metropolitan city, there are plenty of restaurants without huge metropolitan prices.

And although this food isn’t necessarily health-friendly (hey, at least Canada has universal healthcare if you have a heart attack), it’s definitely wallet-friendly and delicious. To that end, here are a few of my top picks:

1.     Kuni Sushi Ya (20 Baldwin Street). Toronto has a number of great all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, but this is my favorite. For about $20 (it’s cheaper during the week), you can order unlimited sushi, sashimi, rolls, tempura, teriyaki and more. Though the kitchen food is good, too, stick to the rolls and sashimi to really get your money’s worth. And fear not—it’s not buffet-style; all menu items are made-to-order. Just make sure that your eyes aren’t bigger than your appetite—you will be charged extra for any wasted food.

2.     Olympic 76 Pizza (8 Gloucester Street). Though Toronto isn’t known for its pizza, this joint is truly a diamond in the rough. Located a stone’s throw from the city’s gay village (and adjacent to one of Toronto’s biggest gay clubs), Olympic 76 Pizza serves up some heavy pies and slices. The pizza is great, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed, the prices are reasonable, the patio offers some great people-watching—and it’s definitely super gay-friendly. What more could you want?

3.     Dumpling House Restaurant (328 Spadina Ave). As about half of Torontonians were born in a country that isn’t Canada, the city’s ethnic neighborhoods are rich in culture and cuisine. Toronto’s Chinatown is among the world’s best and most vibrant—and a visit to the Dumpling House Restaurant won’t disappoint. Spadina Avenue is the heart of Chinatown, and passersby will notice chefs busily preparing dumplings in the restaurant’s front window. For about $6, you’ll get a dozen made-to-order dumplings—either steamed or fried. There are dozens of dumpling choices to pick from, and I suggest trying them all (though pork and chive is my favorite).

4.     Street Meat (Nathan Phillips Square). The center of Toronto is said to be the plaza at Nathan Phillips Square. Just in front of Toronto’s iconic city hall, the plaza is host to a number of food trucks serving hot dogs, burgers, fries and more. Torontonians affectionately refer to this as “street meat”—but don’t let the name fool you, it’s delicious. The oversized hot dogs are cooked over an open flame and come in beef, chicken, turkey and veggie varieties. For more adventurous foods, I also recommend trying the very heart-unhealthy poutine. It’s hand-cut French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. And it’s absolutely amazing.

5.     European Delight (Lower Level, Saint Lawrence Market). A small, family-run delicatessen in Toronto’s famed Saint Lawrence Market, owners Boris and Bella Reizas specialize in authentic Ukrainian fare. The shop looks more like a kitchen than a deli, and all the foods are prepared on location from Bella’s old-world recipes. Menu items include soups, stews, cabbage rolls, perogies, latkes, lasagnas and more. The perogies are the best I’ve ever had—and everything tastes like it was cooked with love by mom.

Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, don’t miss these culinary gems. Though small on price, they’re absolutely huge on flavor—and I hope you’ll come to love these top Toronto picks as much as I do. 

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