Leña Restuarante, located at Yonge and Richmond Streets, one of many Winterlicious restaurants near Ryerson campus. (Tianna Reno/ Ryersonian)

By Alexis Perikleous

Jan. 25 marked the first day of Winterlicious, one of Toronto’s favourite annual food events. Every year some of the city’s best restaurants offer three course, prix fixe lunch and dinner menus ranging from $23 to $53 per person.

It isn’t too often that students are able to treat themselves to a high-class evening and indulge in fine dining. With tuition, rent, bills and other expenses to cover, there’s usually not much money left to spend on entertainment, let alone at a pricey restaurant.

With nearly 200 restaurants participating all over the city, Torontonians have the opportunity to indulge in a variety of different cuisines for an affordable price. This is a great way for students to enjoy delicious meals at otherwise unaffordable restaurants.

Right in the heart of downtown, Ryerson students have access to premier culinary establishments in the city. Here are five Winterlicious restaurants you can walk to at lunch or after class.

Leña Restaurante

Upon entering Leña Restaurante, patrons are greeted with an eclectic and chic atmosphere. The walls are lined with beautiful paintings and the grandiose bar gives off a Great Gatsby feel. The restaurant is spacious and the interior design is stunning; the décor making the visit worthwhile on its own. Large windows line the front facing wall giving guests a glimpse out onto busy Yonge street.

The menu features tapas style dishes with both Spanish and Italian influences, making it the perfect location for a night out with friends. However, you haven’t truly experienced Leña, until you’ve tried one of their seafood dishes. Their garlic shrimp entrée offers very generous portions with a large plate of jumbo shrimp, doused in delicious garlic and almond cream sauce, with a side of rapini and baby Yukon gold potatoes.

Adega

Adega is the place to go if you’re looking to enjoy a classy and romantic evening, on a budget of course. Adega translates to “wine cellar” from Portuguese, most definitely living up to its name with wine bottles lining the walls and a rustic, inviting atmosphere that transports you to a little town in Portugal.

Their menu consists of an extensive seafood selection, with everything from grilled squid to freshly steamed mussels, as well as steak, pasta, risotto, salads and tapas platters. Not only do they have an extensive wine list, to ensure your vino is perfectly paired to your meal, Adega also offers dessert wines.

Via Mercanti

If carbs are the way to your heart, as they are for most of us, then Via Mercanti is for you. This family-owned Italian restaurant has a simple yet contemporary style with colourful paintings and exposed brick walls. Although your grandmother didn’t design this place, it sure tastes like she cooked the food.

Their menu consists of all your favourite Italian, home-cooked meals like ravioli, pasta bolognese, lasagna, homemade meatballs and veal cutlets. But what they’re best known for are their mouth-watering pizzas. Mercanti offers both tomato sauce-based and olive oil-based pizzas, with toppings like prosciutto, artichokes, ricotta cheese and even french fries.

Jazz Bistro

Offering up much more than just food, Jazz Bistro gives its guests a classic dining experience. The cool, speakeasy atmosphere features romantic lighting, a glitzy chandelier and the bistro’s name in big, red neon lights. You can sip on a cocktail while enjoying live jazz music, as they have different musicians and singers performing throughout the week.

Although Jazz Bistro doesn’t have a large menu, the dishes are worth the visit. Their prosciutto wrapped lamb tenderloin with red cabbage puree, eggplant galette and broccolini with lamb jus is the perfect meal to indulge in. Or if you’d prefer a meatless meal, you can try the pea and mint risotto with whipped ricotta, marcona almonds and spinach.

Bangkok Garden

Serving up high-end Thai food, Bangkok Garden offers a full atmospheric experience with a beautifully decorated space. The décor is both calming and inviting, featuring high ceilings and ample greenery in their Thai inspired dining room.

The menu consists of classic Thai dishes such as mango salad, Thai noodles, cashew chicken, pineapple shrimp curry and vegetable fried rice. The banana fritters with sesame, coconut flour and ice cream are the perfect compliment to any meal.  They have an expansive list of entrees and appetizers that can accomodate a number of dietary restrictions, including gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Winterlicious will be running until Feb. 7, for the full list of restaurants visit their website.

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