Fave Five: Cheap Eats

While we do enjoy luxury and decadence up here on the fourth floor, we also know it’s important to stick to your budget. So when it comes time to pinch our
pennies, we try and make the best of Toronto’s sky high cost of living with
it’s delicious bargains abound. From ramen noodles on Dundas east to tacos
on St. Clair west, this city is overflowing with multicultural
delicacies that won’t break the bank. Although it’s a pretty tough task,
we set out to find our favorite five cheap eats.

North of Brooklyn Pizzeria

Relatively
new to our great city, North of Brooklyn Pizzeria has all the right ingredients
to make a great slice. Located at 650 1/2 Queen Street West,
owners Josh Spatz, Alex Potter and Frank Pinello set
out to make high end pizza at a low end cost. With fresh, never frozen
ingredients, patrons have the choice of five different slices all under $5.00.
Just one bite of this Neapolitan delight and you’ll be hooked.
Banh
Mi Boys


The
boys have returned with a vengeance and in our humble opinions, they’ve never
tasted better. With line-ups out the door, these sammies are not to be missed.
For just $5.99 you can delve into Braised Beef Cheek, slow cooked and topped
with onion chutney and if your feeling extra hungry top it off with a side of
kimchi fries.
Santouka Ramen 

Have
you heard? Ramen is all the rave. Toronto is packed with great noodle joints,
but here at rock-it we’re particularly fond of Santouka Ramen, located at 91 Dundas St. East.  For just $11, 
Santouka’ s mix simmering pork broth with
delectable chewy noodles, making the perfect winter food to warm your belly.


Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods

Especially in the winter, nothing hits the spot like a warm, spicy Jamaican dish. A small jerk chicken is just $7.50 and comes with rice, peas and coleslaw. Or if you want to be more authentic, a traditional Jamaican oxtail dinner, also with rice, peas and coleslaw is a mere $10. If you’re really scrimping, a beef or vegetable patty is just $1.35. Dem’s cheap, delicious eats. 


Tacos El Asador


Right
in the heart of Koreatown, you can find some of the best tacos north of the
border, and they were cranking out delicious, authentic tacos long before the current taco craze hit the city. With a smorgasbord 
of options all under $10, Tacos El Asador is a great place to grab a quick bite
or take out for more intimate dining experience. We went on many a student date here, but it still lives up to standards now that we’re all grown up.



Yum, Yum: Taco Wars

If you live in Toronto, chances are you’ve eaten a taco, or at least thought about eating a taco, in the past month. With a plethora of options to enjoy these tortilla delights, we thought we’d give you a run down of the top spots in the city.


El Trompo (277 Augusta Ave.) 

Perhaps the only cactus grill in Toronto?



Pros: Located in Kensington Market, El Trompo offers the most authentic Mexican tacos of the group.  The menu also offers Quesos Funditos, which besides being fun to say is a clay pot filled with molten cheese. 

Yum. 



Cons: The fillings are pretty traditional, so don’t expect to be wow’d by innovation. Ditto for the cocktail and beer menu. This is a Kensington staple, but maybe not where you’d want to bring someone you’re looking to impress.


Taco tip: While their west-facing patio is often busy, table turnaround is quick so you’re never waiting long. Another bonus? El Trompo offers a Mexican brunch on the weekends, with huevos (eggs) done a few different ways. 


La Carnita (501 College St.) @la_carnita

Look at all that space!



Pros: If you ever had to wait in hour-long line-ups when La Carnita was just a pop-up, you’ll be happy to hear they’ve newly opened a permanent location. With a big dining room, guests are seated and satiated very quickly. We love that they’ve continued to distribute their signature artwork to each guest.

Amazing.



Cons: While we loved their Voltron fish taco, overall our tastebuds weren’t blown away by the steak and chorizo tacos. Plus, a taco joint that plays hip hop? Sounds remarkably similar to another place on our list. 


Taco tip: We got three words for you – Mexican. Sweet. Corn. We highly recommend starting off your meal with this tasty app. 


Playa Cabana (111 Dupont St.) @PlayaCabana

Cute and welcoming.



Pros: Reservations! Not only does Playa Cabana take them, but we highly recommend you make one. We seriously enjoyed the Ancho Braised Short Rib-Brisket Crispy tacos, but were also drooling over their Oaxacan cheese-wrapped chorizo tacos.

Tasty, but a bit pricey.



Cons: Playa Cabana is the priciest of the bunch. We had a bit of sticker shock after a recent dinner there, so be warned – tacos ≠ cheap. As well, vegetarians get a bit jilted on taco choices.


Taco tip: The extensive menu has a wide range of offerings outside of tacos. The Spicy Mole Enchiladas were delicious and we’ll definitely be ordering the Poblano Chile Rellenos the next time we’re in. 


Grand Electric (1330 Queen St. W.) @grandelectricTO

Simple, yet satisfying.



Pros: You may have heard some buzz about this Parkdale hotspot. And, well, the buzz is warranted. Tacos are nearly perfect – ultra-affordable at around $3 each, creative toppings/flavour combinations and the fish taco is one of the best we’ve ever had – Mexico and California included. We also dig the casual atmosphere, 90s hip-hop soundtrack and extensive bourbon list. Non-pretentious. 

Tacos come served on one big tray. Tough to decide which to eat first.



Cons: The wait. Lining up for 2 hours is worth it maybe the first time, but gets tired pretty quickly. Plus, sometimes you get booted out of your seat after having ordered, for another party that’s been waiting longer (true story). They also no longer take phone numbers when the patio is open so you can’t leave and come back, and definitely don’t take reso’s. Another “trend” we’re tired of. 


Taco tip: Come hungry. Very, very hungry, so you can order one of each taco, plus guac and any of the other non-taco menu options. They’re all amazing. Also, make sure to try whatever their daily special is, especially if they have their fantastic pozole on offer.


Tacos El Asador (690 Bloor St. W.)



Pros: Nostalgia! This Koreatown joint (yep, tacos in the heart of kimchi land) has been around for ages and is one of the original spots in the city for authentic Central American eats. It’s also cheap, so was a go-to date spot for those of us who did undergrad in the city. Cute and cheery inside, with tons of colour, picnic tables and Latin music playing. If you like spice, their salsas and hot sauces are muy caliente. 

Carne asada.



Cons: It’s small. But perfect for this heat – take them to Christie Pits. Sometimes the tacos can be a bit dry. 


Taco tip: If you love nachos, order them here to get a sense of how they should truly be served (sorry, Sneaky Dees. Yours aren’t so authentic). No sour cream, but they’re served with a ton of toppings – beans, fresh avocado, cotija cheese, jalapeños on the side, etc. Grab a Negro Modelo to go with.


There you have it: our guide to the best tacos in the city. Buen provecho!