Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Get a bulgogi burger for five bucks at St. Clair subway station

Toronto is filled with soulless, concrete buildings, but thankfully, some of them house hidden restaurants serving great ethnic food. One such gem is Airima's Kitchen, which serves homemade Korean cuisine in the bowels of St. Clair subway station at St. Clair and Yonge.

Airima's opened about six months ago in a food court by the subway entrance and has quickly gained popularity with local office workers. It was opened by Joe Bang, a Toronto-born former extreme sports spokesperson. His retired parents, an adorable couple who are originally from Seoul, helped their son launch the restaurant and have never left. "They're retired and they're having fun, so they stayed on," says Joe. "It's nice to have them around."

Indeed, it was Joe's mom (named Airima of course) who came up with the idea of selling a bulgogi burger (above), a fusion dish. It features traditional Korean sliced sirloin marinated in soy, garlic, brown sugar and onion, served on an oversized hotdog bun. Overflowing with fried onions and crisp cucumbers, it's topped with hot sauce and Airima's homemade thousand island dressing.

The meat isn't as high quality as you'll taste at some Korean places, but for just five bucks, you'll find it to be a satisfying, if somewhat messy treat. However, Joe himself prefers the traditional method of eating bulgogi on rice. "I think the bulgogi burger is weird," he confesses. "I've never tried it."

The restaurant recently added a $5 kimchee burger to the menu. It's a chopped pork cutlet topped with kimchee, a pungent Asian cabbage pickled with salt, garlic and spices. You can also get a bargain priced Korean pancake for $1.91 and dok boki, a wonderfully alien-looking dish of spicy rice cake that is served on the streets of Seoul, for $6.99. The Korean classic rice dish, bibimbap, sells for $7.49.

One of the nice touches of this place is the free boricha tea, a wonderfully rich caffeine-free drink made with roasted barley and corn kernels (shown below). That alone makes it worth a stop if it's approaching lunch time and you find yourself travelling along the Yonge-University line. 

Thanks to Angelina for the tip. 

Airima's Kitchen is located at 12 St. Clair Ave. East at Yonge, lower level; tel: 647 340 6262. Hours are 7:30 a.m. til 6pm Monday to Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday. 

View Larger Map


  1. If you're looking for more places to have bulgogi burgers, then check out "Crazy Wings" at Yonge and Finch. It was pretty good also, but not as cheap as $5. I might need to make a pit stop at St. Clair station one of these days to try it out!

  2. Thanks for the info Mary. I haven't heard about Crazy Wings but I see someone on Chowhound is describing it as a "Korean-style Kelsey's." Intriguing...

  3. I work near there ... thanks for the tip!

  4. This looks awesome! Must borrow metropass

  5. Airima's kitchen... The food is incredible, so much flavour, amazing quality with amazing prices!! Try the Kalbi meal, it's my fav!