Cheap lunch in the Financial District can be found at longstanding staples with loyal followings of office veterans as well as a few fresher-faced options that inject some excitement into the midday routine. It can be tricky to find affordable and health-conscious options in this area while avoiding all the same old boring chains in food courts (let's face it: they all start to look alike after a while), but it's not a hopeless task.
Here are my picks for some of the top spots to work into your lunch rotation, all of which clock in under the $10 mark.
This cheaper takeout alternative to Four Restaurant next door has a daily hot sandwich on freshly baked bread for $8.45 (Mondays feature pulled pork with pepper jack cheese; on Fridays, there's a reuben with sauerkraut and gruyere). There is also a variety of other sandwiches on focaccia (roast beef and truffle chicken among them) that come with a side of field greens ($7.95/$9.95) as well as made-to-order and ready-to-go salads ($5.95-$7.95).
The 67 Richmond St. West location of Sandwich Box is a Financial District staple, thanks to its appealing concept: Customers can come up with their own made-to-order gourmet sandwiches using fresh and natural ingredients. You pick a fancy bread, spread and combo of three toppings for $9.50. If a deluxe salad is more up your alley, you can create your own at $2.35/100g; choose carefully to get the most value out of your meal.
The second location of Cafe Plenty (the first is at Dundas and University) recently opened at 1 King West. Sandwiches ($10) come with a side of greens and change up daily, with offerings like The Plenty Club - chicken confit, smoked bacon and tomato jam - or its signature roast beef with house-made horseradish, caramelized onions, pickled mushrooms and blue cheese. There are also a variety of fresh salads (superfoods like quinoa appear regularly) to choose from (two for $7, three for $10).
Tropical Energy Juice Bar
It's been around for over 20 years, and this smoothie and juice bar is an essential stop for many who pass by every day. Tucked away in the Commerce Court concourse by the King subway station in the PATH, Tropical not only provides freshly squeezed liquid sustenance to harried office workers but also quick grab-and-go pre-made eats like Korean japchae ($3.33), salads ($5.53) and Chinese buns ($1.14).
Coffee is what most people line up for at this stall right next to Tropical Energy Juice Bar, but it's a great option for a quick lunch as well. All the wraps (stuffed with tandoori, butter or lemon chicken) and sandwiches (the usual variety: tuna or egg salad, turkey, ham, etc.) include a soup, fruit or small beverage and top out at $7.25 with tax.
Vegetarian and vegan offerings abound at the takeout counter of this health food store in the Market Place corridor of First Canadian Place. Zucchini lasagna, yam burritos and lentil loaf are just some of the hot dishes you can get for under $8 tax included. For an extra few coins, they'll even toss in a salad.
This spot in First Canadian Place's Market Place is super friendly on the wallet, although maybe less so on the waistline. The prices of the Chinese buns and pastries at this outpost are a little higher than at the bakery's Chinatown location, but at $1.45 with tax for a pork or curry beef bun (buy five and get one free), it's tough to complain too much.
A relative newcomer to the Exchange Tower's food court, this place specializes in pressed panini made from local and organic ingredients. The Fourno Club (chicken, pancetta, asiago, tomato jam, pickled red onions and mustard seed aioli) comes on white or multigrain ciabatta and costs $7.90. All of the panini can be made as minis ($3.60), and combined with a salad for $3 extra, can make for a pretty satisfying midday meal.
Brick St. Bakery
This chain of bakery-cafes features a location under First Canadian Place, a favourite destination for comforting grab-and-go eats. Grab a grilled cheese or BLT sandwich for less than $5 or splurge on one of the many individual-sized meat pies filled with chicken, steak or the classic shepherd's pie (all $6 each).
Technically, this spot on the fourth floor of the Bank of Nova Scotia building is a subsidized cafeteria for Scotiabank staff, but it's an open secret that non-Scotia workers also head up to eat, as IDs are never checked. Offerings change weekly and can vary in quality, but you reliably can score a hot entree lunch - curries, pastas, fish and chips and souvlaki are some of the rotating options - with a side, beverage and dessert for under $7.50. Worth a trip if only for the cheap thrill of eating somewhere you're not supposed to.
Did I miss any? Leave your favourite cheap lunch options in the Financial District in the comments.
Photo of Cafe Plenty by Jesse Milns.
by Christina Cheung via blogTO