Cheap Eats in LA: Best bang-for-your-buck meals for $20 or less
Meals that are delicious, filling and a bargain? Check out the top spots for cheap eats in LA that will set you back only $20 or less.
Fri Mar 22 2013
Highland Park's Sycamore Grove Park is the Eastside's gathering place for alfresco birthday parties and family reunions, and also the site of the long-present sea blue El Mar Azul truck. Mexico City native Felipe "El Campeon" and El Paso native Rosie "The Texas Girl" Cejudo are the husband and wife team who sell five variations of the seafood tostada, including tostada mixtiada ($3)—a combination including pollack (of the cod family, but close to crab in taste and texture), shrimp, abalone and octopus. The seafood medley is arranged on a crispy corn tortilla and topped with creamy cole slaw, relish, a secret blend of spices and fresh avocado slices. Add some chile sauce and a squeeze of lime to perfect the light meal, best enjoyed at one of the park’s many picnic tables.
- Highland Park
- Critics choice
Karabagh is a market, deli and butcher shop that serves East Hollywood's Armenian community and in-the-know food (and bargain) hunters. Trays of lule, ground beef or chicken kebabs, are crafted in-house and on display. Order a kebab sandwich—juicy lule, parsley, red onion in between lavash—at the counter and take it to-go or dine in at the next door bakery, where you'll also find coffee and pastries. With each sandwich at $2 apiece, two sandwiches easily makes an under $5 lunch.
South of Koreatown, the Byzantine-Latino Quarter melds cultural hallmarks from both Greek and Latin communities. The neighborhood's culinary poster child might be Dino’s Burgers #2, a family-owned operation since 1968. The signature dish, Pollo Maniaco, aka maniacal chicken, is a $5.50 plate of grilled half chicken—its reddish-orange tinge attributed to a marinade of vinegar, garlic, chilies and secret mix of Greek spices. Short-order cooks serve the bird atop a plate of French fries and douse everything with more spicy red sauce. Add a container of crispy cole slaw and a stack of corn tortillas for makeshift tacos.
Some of the most authentic (and cheap) Thai food can be found in the SFV, specifically in a strip mall off Coldwater Canyon. Once seated inside the minimalist space, browse the menu's back page for rarely seen northern Thai specialties—owner Don Tamphoon's family hails from Chiang Rai—offered in small and large plates, both of generous portions. Dishes are prepared with fresh produce and cooked with an expert hand. A favorite option is Thai Spaghetti with Bay Leaf Stew (small, $3.50): Rice noodles are blanketed in chopped greens, cassia buds (the taste is similar to cinnamon) and a soupy, spicy curry broth. Pair with one other small plate for a hearty, spice-spiked lunch or dinner.
- North Hollywood