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The best new cheap eats in Toronto are, as the Barenaked Ladies would say, like LeAnn Rimes: all about value. While Chinese chicken isn’t necessarily on this list, there are a whole lot of other great Italian, vegan, pizza, Taiwanese, Greek, Japanese and Korean eats that feel worth much more than they’re listed for on the menu.

Here are the best new cheap eats restaurants in Toronto that opened in 2017. 

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SUGO

Sugo pays homage to classic Italian red sauce joints like Commisso Brothers and California Sandwiches where owners Connor Joerin and Alex Wallen of next door The Emerson grew up. The Italian word “sugo” typically refers to this red sauce.

It’s a daytime spot that elevates casual Italian fare like hot sandwiches, pasta and salads with quality ingredients and professional technique while still offering them for a reasonable price point. This place previously housed a string of fast food restaurants.

Though it hasn’t been transformed massively, it’s a far cry from what it used to be, with checkered tablecloths and floors, bar seating, big screen TVs and the foosball table from The Emerson.

Caprese salad ($10) is made from thick medallions of squeaky, shiny mozzarella pulled fresh from curd every morning, with tomato, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Calamari ($12) and a few slices of hot banana pepper are battered lightly with gluten-free chickpea flour and served with sweet marinara, savoury mayo, and some fresh lemon.

Stuffed peppers ($3 each) are a winner, hot banana peppers stuffed with sausage and loaded up with red sauce and cheese.

The veal sandwich ($13) laden with sauce, cheese and a little basil is made with white veal, as opposed to the much cheaper and more common red veal. It’s about twice the price, calves fed vitamins and minerals and treated well so the meat is super tender.

1279 Bloor St W



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FAT LAMB KOUZINA

Fat Lamb Kouzina is a Greek takeout joint that really doesn’t feel like one. It feels way more like an authentic Greek kitchen, cooking a simple menu of homey recipes using authentic imported ingredients.

Open a mere six hours (11 to 5) in an office-heavy area, expect to pop in here more for lunch than dinner. Make sure you get one of their Greek coffees at the end though, because one of these rich meals feels more like a pre-nap snack than a light workday lunch.

However, the energy of owners Vera and Chris alone could revive you. They’re constantly conversing with customers in the small space, asking their names and providing them with info about the food. This makes sense seeing as they also offer cooking classes and catering.

A slow-roasted herb pork gyro ($12) is served on their legendary soft, satiny pita bread laden with their signature tzatziki (no tricks here, just grated cucumber, garlic and dill in fourteen percent fat Greek style yogurt), tomato, red onion and parsley. It’s messy but so full of flavour.

Imported Greek olive oil goes into many dishes, including that luxurious pita ($2). As you eat it solo or wrapped around gyro sandwich ingredients the oil positively coats your hands, but you’ll walk away with silky skin since it’s such high quality. 

4874 Yonge St

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY PIZZA

General Assembly is possibly my favourite pizza place in Toronto. Orders come out within seven to nine minutes, tipping is firmly insisted against, drinks are self-serve and there’s a dedicated takeout area. Perhaps best of all, pies are personal size four-slicers.

It's the brainchild of owner Ali Khan Lalani, Chef Cale Elliot-Armstrong (who came up at the likes of Village Pizza and Terroni) and star international pizza consultant Anthony Falco.

Design by Commute is airy, spacious, and accents the long narrow space with hits of teal, metal and texture, a long communal wood table in the centre of the main dining area.

The pizza here isn’t Neapolitan, it’s kind of its own thing: the dough uses Canadian and Italian flour and olive oil, which is a Neapolitan no-no but gives the crust crunch and a nice browning.

The King Shroom ($14) is vegetarian, topped with mozzarella, grana, and funky gorgonzola, with white balsamic, black pepper, and drool-worthy garlic chips.

The Don Diego ($13) is where we reach a crossroads of sorts. Basically a taco pizza, this one shows a creative side to Assembly, starting with a whipped cream base that amps everything up. It’s topped with mozzarella, sweet and hot tender chorizo, and some green onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime that sing beautifully together.

Not only beer but wine and cocktails are available on tap.

331 Adelaide St W

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PLANTA BURGER

Planta Burger comes to us from the same people behind Yorkville vegan destination Planta. The tiny joint in the Financial Strict that used to be home to seafood spot Little Fin, is serving up all-vegan eats in a space with copper and teal accents and a touch of greenery.

Even with these boho elements the small 14-barstool spot mimics an old school burger hut well. Minimalist patio seating overlooking Temperance serves as overflow space during warmer months.

The Classic ($10.50) burger is nut- and gluten-free, the patty made from mushroom, black bean, lentil, and grated beet that completes the trompe de l’oeil by lending a texture and pink tinge that makes it look like juicy meat.

Topped with potato- and carrot-based queso, mushroom “bacon” that’s been smoked for an hour and pickles, it’s a veggie burger I’m happy to stuff my face with. Swap out your toppings for tomato, banana pepper, avocado, and pickled onion, and you’ve got yourself a “California.”

A caesar salad ($3.75, $7.75 for a large) gets topped with the same mushroom bacon, pickled onion, almond “parm,” and a cashew dressing that incorporates nutritional yeast for an extra boost of flavour.

Spicy buffalo cauliflower ($5.00) brings a lot of great spice and a stunningly accurate blue cheese flavour in the dressing.

Sliced carrots and radishes bring a little crunch that highlights the snappiness of the cauliflower. You can also get the buffalo cauliflower as a sandwich ($10.50).

Also serving animal-product-free onion rings, tater tots, root beer floats and ice cream sandwiches, Planta Burger shows off the greasier side of Planta, giving vegans something to really sink their teeth into.

4 Temperance St