5 Toronto restaurant gems by budget ($-$$$)

Some nights are for quick, cheap bites. Some nights are for going all out (hello, payday!). Here is your easily digestible guide to impeccable Toronto restaurants, whatever your budget may be. 

$ = $25 or less  

$$ = $50 or less

$$$ = $100 or less

Wvrst (less than $)

Cuisine: Craft sausages and elevated pub food 

609 King Street West
Phone: 416-703-7775

65 Front Street West 
Phone: 416-283-3251

photo by Blog TO

If an Austrian street food vendor and a craft brewery hipster got together, Wvrst would be the lovechild. The shared tables and wooden beams give off a summer camp vibe; if the mess hall were totally chic and had an impressive beer list. Like most beer-hall-esque restaurants, Wvrst is best enjoyed with a beer and big group of friends (neither of which are included in the price scale.) 

Sausage options range from classic to outlandish. Among the traditional options we see, Italian, Oktoberfest, bratwvrst and my personal favourite, chorizo. The wilder options (game) consist of rabbit, venison, elk, kangaroo and more. 

Indecisive? Wvrst isn’t for you! On top of choosing a sausage, you must decide on toppings for the toasted bun. Jalapeno? Sauerkraut? Swiss raclette? How about you skip that bun all together and get the sausage cut up and soaked in a tomato curry sauce? Your choice! Tie the meal together with either a warm-baked pretzel or some intoxicating duck fat fries on the side. 

Maha’s ($) 

Cuisine: Egyptian 
Location: 226 Greenwood Ave
Phone: 416-462-2703

Image from Post City Magazines

Be prepared to wait in line for Maha’s, as the popular spot does not accept reservations. The head chef and namesake of the restaurant is Maha Barsoom, an Egyptian mother who knows a great deal about home-cooked meals. Her dishes are always served with Egyptian pita bread, Eish Baladi, which they refer to as edible utensils. Eating with your hands may be frowned upon in most restaurants, but this spot feels more like home than that. Dig in!

Although they refer to themselves as a brunch restaurant, keep in mind that brunch doesn’t always happen in the morning. Open until 5:00 p.m. on weekends and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays (closed Wednesdays), Maha’s makes brunch a respectable lunch or dinner option. 

The Cairo classic dish is everything you could ever hope for in a brunch: sweet, salty, paired with homemade feta cheese, yes! If you aren’t in the mood for breakfasty food, easily the best choice is to try the pharoh’s po boy. It will leave you dreaming of Egyptian street food all the way to the travel agent to book the trip for real. 

Don’t underestimate the small space, Maha’s Famously known as Maha’s brunch.

Il Covo ($$) 

Cuisine: Italian 
Location: 585 College St.
Phone: 416-530-7585

Photo from YellowPages 

Il Covo is my go to suggestion for date night. Why? It is the restaurant that makes you feel like you’re spending a fortune, without actually spending all that much. Also, good Italian is hard to dislike. And this is some good great Italian food. 

The restaurant’s motto is ” you always cook thinking about someone, otherwise you’re just preparing something to eat.” Which somehow makes me miss home-cooked meals from the Nonna I don’t even have. There is love in this Italian food, or maybe that’s the garlic? Who can tell the difference. 

The costoletta d’alce ($22), a braised elk rib, can only be described as beautiful. The optional addition of white truffles (+$40) will change the budget scale quite a bit, and be slightly over-indulgent, if you ask me. 

Tanto ($$-$$$) 

Cuisine: Argentinian, Tapas 
Location:  74 Ossington Ave
Phone: 416-546-3022 

Image by Yvonne Tsui 

Tanto is for sharers. Like any tapas restaurant, you can’t just order one dish (or two); the menu is best experienced if shared in large quantities between your party. The pricing is stuck somewhere between ($$) and ($$$), because well, it’s what you make of it. If you’re like me and over-order, you pay a bit more. But you can make the dinner easy on your wallet too, if that’s what you’re looking for.   

Please keep in mind, as I wish someone had warned me of this, the menu is not the same as what is posted online. It changes often, which I appreciate for the quality and freshness of the food. 

Do yourself a favour and try the ceviche, if they have it that day. It packs a bit of a kick, so those scared of spicy beware. The radicchio salad is also classic, and for dessert, poached pear. Magnifico

Don Alfonso 1890 (+$$$)

Cuisine: Italian/Mediterranean 
Location: 19 Toronto St. 
Phone: 416-214-5888 

Photo from TripAdvisor

Don Alfonso is the type of restaurant that makes me frustrated Canada isn’t recognized by Michelin ratings. Don’t fret, however, because technically Don Alfonso is still recognized for it’s two-star rating in Sorrento. Though there are multiple locations, the Toronto venture is as charming as any; it is impressive on every level. The space is bright and elegant; a dinner party from a dream. 

You can order a la carte here, but I wouldn’t suggest it as the best way to try “The Don.” Go for one of the two prix fixe menus: classic or contemporary, both options are impeccable. To decide, look carefully at their menu before going. My advice: go with your gut. And honestly, it doesn’t matter which option you choose first, you’ll be back again. 

If you do decide to go a la carte, do so carefully. You’ll want to start with one of their tartare options (your choice of tuna, bison or carrot), then move on to a main. I suggest trying rigatoni vesuvius, the true star of the show, but everything on that menu will impress. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the impressionist view on the espresso, a creative take on coffee-essence dessert. 

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