We eat our way around town, noshing on all manner of well-priced sandwiches, stews, and sweets to bring you our 43 finds. To round out the top 50, we called on seven discerning chefs to reveal their cheap eats of choice. At these prices, you can’t afford not to eat out.
PLUS Learning the ropes from three food-cart owners and three inventive illustrators sketch their fantasy food trucks With files from Cindy Deachman (CD) and Anne DesBrisay (AD), bolstered by 14 staff picks (SP) and chef suggestions 1. Cheesus Crust Almighty If you don’t get struck down for blasphemy first, you may still keel over eating the Cheesus Crust Almighty, The Joint’s unique and “mysterious” take on a grilled cheese sandwich. They take mac ’n’ cheese, roll it in a “secret ingredient” (Cinnamon Toast Crunch?), plunge it into the fryer, then “slam” it into a grilled cheese sandwich. This heavenly combo gobsmacks the palate with a jumble of salty, sweet, tangy sensations — the latter if you choose to dunk the sandwich into the accompanying house-made Bollywood sauce (think butter chicken gravy sans chicken). It would be “criminal” not to include a side of deep-fried Britney pickle spears. $7–$10. The Joint, 352 Preston St., 613-656-5849. ~SP 2. Hot chicken sandwich A long-running tradition on the corner, Ada’s Diner morphed into Wilf & Ada’s last year and serves diner classics with a twist — they’re made from scratch. We’re big fans of the hot chicken sandwich, a pile of moist pulled chicken on a root-vegetable mash, piled on house-made bread and smothered with full-flavoured onion gravy, well peppered and well made. Served with good fries and arugula salad. The taste of the 2015 diner? Bring it on! $14.50. Wilf & Ada’s, 510 Bank St., 613-231-7959. ~AD 3. Square pizza slices Centretowners know that the best slice isn’t sitting under a heat lamp at a chain pizza joint. It’s made to order in a humble pizzeria that has anchored the Somerset strip from Bank to Bronson for 15 years. Pavarazzi offers white or herbedflecked dough, and one order gives you two four-inch squares of satisfying ’za, which is usually plenty. But if you’re soaking up a night of beer swilling, go for two. Leftovers make perfect hangover food. From $3. Pavarazzi, 491 Somerset St. W., 613-233-2320. ~SP 4. Deep-fried shrimp dumplings Hanbiao Lin learned the high cuisine of dim sum as an apprentice in his native Canton. So if you want the genuine article, visit Hung Sum, which Lin owns with his wife, May Lee. His shrimp dumplings are beauts. The crisp exterior of the deep-fried wonton yields to a sweet filling of shrimp and pork. And as for the feathery-light frilled edge — oh! $4.25 for three dumplings. Hung Sum, 870 Somerset St. W., 613-238-8828. ~CD
5. The brown bag lunch Always — or almost always — topped with potato chips of some pedigree, the sandwiches in the brown bag lunches at this contemporary bakery (chef Michael Holland is best known for his jewel-like mini layer cakes and softserve ice cream) come with a cookie or a mini brownie and a drink. Or you can pay a little more and upgrade to a cake. Which is the clear way to go. $8.50. Holland’s Cake & Shake, 229 Armstrong St., 613-695-3311. ~AD 7. Cold green bean noodles Anyone who has visited Beijing in summertime appreciates any relief afforded from such scorching heat. Eating liang fen is one way. By green beans, Frank Pay means the mung beans used to make these slippery, translucent noodles. At his Harmony Restaurant, Pay himself makes them. The sauce? Simply soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and chilies. Bring on the heat! $2.95. Harmony Restaurant, 769 Gladstone Ave., 613-234-9379. ~CD 8. Pho When Byward Market News moved out, beefy-rich pho moved in — the sort of noodle soup that starts with beefy bones, adds a light bouquet of star anise and cinnamon, and doesn’t need a few squeezes of sriracha or lime to taste like something. Served in a long, thin alley of a place with a penny floor that looks like a million bucks. Large soup $11–$13. Asian Alley, 8 ByWard Market Sq., 613-860-9889. ~AD 9. Jicama rolls Sure, you can go straight for the usual soft roll — shrimp or chicken or tofu bundled with noodles and greens and herbs and rolled up in rice paper — but the jicama rolls are so much more interesting. Jicama rolls feature warm softened jicama, ribbons of omelette and diced Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, lettuce, basil, and mint. They need no sauce. They are perfect as is. $5 for two. Huong’s Bistro, 359 Booth St., 613-237-8755. ~AD 10. Flatbread The brilliant brains behind Bridgehead now bring us flatbread for lunch, available only at their Preston Street roastery. The potato, broccoli rabe, and fontina cheese version is particularly good. $6.25 for a generous slice. Bridgehead, 130 Anderson St., 613-233-1221. ~AD 11. Olive fougasse Where else in the Ottawa-Outaouais region do you find such fat fougasse? Only at Gatineau bakery La balade des douceurs. Michel Pépin, baker and co-owner, keeps memories of his native France alive with these stuffed breads. One is made with humungous green and black olives. No better lunch than this, to boot! $4.95. La balade des douceurs, 1540, boul. Gréber, Gatineau (Gatineau sector), 819-205-1288; 166, rue Montcalm, Gatineau (Hull sector), 819-205-7088. ~CD 12. Kolo “After work, the family always gathers together to talk about their day,” says Samuel Demissie, owner of confectionery Royal Variety. “During that time, especially, we [nibble on] kolo.” The English have their