U of T is notorious for its lacklustre meal plans. In first year, friends who visited me from other universities were shocked to learn that my meal plan only covered my specific college dining hall and that alternative campus food options were often expensive, unappealing, or both.
Of course, the benefit of going to a school like U of T when you live or have class on the St. George Campus is that all manner of downtown Toronto eateries are a short 15-minute walk away. But this is little help when you have a day full of classes and only 15 minutes here or there to grab a bite to eat. As time goes on, we tend to find certain convenient places that become our go-to choices for food and, often more importantly, coffee. With this in mind, I checked out a number of on-campus food spots for all tastes and price ranges.
16 Bancroft Avenue, on the second floor of the GSU Building
The first thing to note about Harvest Noon is that it’s likely the quaintest lunch spot on campus.With its eclectic mix of furniture, knick-knacks, and coffee table books, it feels like walking into the apartment of a hip grad student. Once inside, you need only grab yourself a glass of water (served in mason jars, of course) and make your way over to claim an absurdly well-priced $5 student lunch, which changes weekly but is always locally sourced and delicious. The café is open 10:00–2:00 pm Monday through Friday, and it is in your best interest to get there early because they sometimes run out of food before the four hours are up. Seriously, wrangle up some friends and take them here — you will seem in-the-know, save money, and feel good about yourself all day. I mean, they make their own bread, for goodness’ sake.
Price range: $
Best item: The $5 student lunch, because it’s delicious, but also because it is $5
Good for: Cheap, local food served up by U of T students
95 St. George Street, to the right of the front entrance of the Rotman Commerce Building
I will admit to being obsessed with The Exchange for about a year now. It was once suggested to me as a meeting place for an interview, and I spent most of the conversation marveling at, firstly, how clean and beautiful it was, and secondly, the fact that I could get a restaurant-quality lunch for under $10. This week, I had the vegetable pasta (which was delicious and featured parmesan, roasted peppers, and fresh spinach), but I suspect I would have been equally happy with one of their daily panini, soups, or the southern chili. It is admittedly a bit more expensive than say, a Subway sandwich, but The Exchange consistently serves up fresh high-quality food, at a price that is equal to many other campus cafeterias. You will be eating amongst a lot of snazzy people in suits, but if you can deal with being a little underdressed and feel like spending a bit more on lunch, there is no better place to do so on campus.
Price range: $$
Best item:Depends: their butter chicken is ridiculous, but they also have all-day breakfast — and by all-day breakfast, I do in fact mean waffles with whipped cream
Good for:Relatively affordable delicious food, close to Robarts, so as to avoid the horrors of the Robarts cafeteria
2 Sussex Avenue, next to Robarts
The Innis Café is something I have often heard praised by my friends in the film program. With this in mind, I decided to finally go try it out. It was not the easiest task, as it is tucked away inside the Innis College main building, and with the current construction, I had to ask a friendly-looking professor for guidance. Once I got there, I asked what the most popular item on the menu was and, before the woman working the counter could respond, three students in the immediate vicinity called out “chicken kabobs!” and everyone else nodded in a surprisingly intense manner. It was good advice — I was presented with two delicious chicken kabobs and, frankly, an absurd amount of salad. If you can find the Innis Cafe, I highly recommend it for delicious eats and friendly service.
Best item:Chicken kabobs and salad
Good for:Grabbing a tasty, relatively nutritious meal on campus with a generous side of salad
Sammy’s Student Exchange
7 Hart House Circle, in the basement of Hart House
Sammy’s is really close to being a great spot to eat on campus. It’s located in the beautiful Hart House building, and has a menu with a wide range of interesting middle-eastern inspired dishes. It should also be noted that the food is pretty good, especially the falafel and chicken dishes. That being said, it’s way too expensive for what you get, the line at lunch is borderline terrifying, and the staff are always strangely surly. Not bad if you’re in a bind and need a bite between classes, but ultimately, it’s a money suck, and no one wants food served with a frown.
Best item: Chicken Shawarma
Good for:It’s likely close to many of your classes, and the food is of a better quality than the chain restaurants in the campus cafeterias
B Espresso Bar
273 Bloor Street West, inside the Royal Conservatory of Music building
The B Espresso Bar is technically not on the U of T campus, but it’s just off of Philosopher’s Walk, so we’ll call it close enough. It’s a beautiful space and always full of professor-types sitting around sipping espresso. Because of this, it’s also crazy expensive — as in “I think I’d like a cookie with my coffee and oh, look, now I’m paying $12 for this” expensive. So avoid the food unless you’ve recently come into some money, but their coffee is really, really good — addictively good. As in, how cam I drink the drip coffee served around campus now that I have found this god-like caffeinated nectar? If you want great coffee on campus, head to B Espresso — but be prepared to never go back to any other campus café once you’ve started.
Best item:The coffee.
Good for: The coffee.