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Leo's Taco Truck
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The 15 best cheap eats in Los Angeles

Save your big bills for another day. We have you covered with a few of L.A.’s best cheap eats for $10 or less.

By Erin Kuschner and Stephanie Breijo
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Rents may be sky-high, but Los Angeles is still a city where you can find great food without breaking the bank—and we’re not just talking about a Double-Double at In-N-Out. Times are especially tough and every dollar counts, so from udon in Glendale to tacos in West L.A., here are a few of the city’s best inexpensive eats, all ringing in at $10 or under.

Discover more affordable restaurants with our checklist of the 50 best affordable food joints in L.A.

Just a quick note: You may find that some of these dishes are anywhere from a few cents to a couple of dollars more expensive on popular delivery apps than the prices we’ve listed below. To help keep all of these dishes affordable (and to better support restaurants), we’ve included as many links as possible that allow you to order directly from each spot.

Get your spare change ready:

The Win-dow at American Beauty smash burgers
The Win-dow at American Beauty smash burgers
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. The $3.95 smashburger at American Beauty

Restaurants Steakhouse Venice

Try as you might, there’s no arguing with a $3.95 burger—especially when it’s this good. Neon-lit and full of chic clientele, American Beauty is a full steakhouse that offers farmers’ market sides and cool-kid vibes in Venice, but its casual walk-up window, American Beauty, is a sunny—and affordable—taste of the restaurant. It also happens to serve one of the best smashburgers in town for only $3.95: At that cost you can snag a straightforward, wholly satisfying single patty with American cheese, house sauce and grilled onions on a potato bun just a few blocks from the beach. Really hungry? The double will only set you back $6.25.

Mariscos Jalisco tacos de camaron
Mariscos Jalisco tacos de camaron
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. The $2.25 tacos de camaron at Mariscos Jalisco

Restaurants Trucks Boyle Heights

One of the long-standing heroes of the old-school taco trucks (a.k.a. loncheros), Mariscos Jalisco has earned a deservedly loyal and devoted following. Their signature tacos dorado de camaron, or shrimp tacos ($2.25), are far from a secret, but they live up to the hype with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that is then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. Other dishes, such as the towering, seafood-packed Poseidon tostada ($8.75), are also worth an order but our favorite move is to fill up on those crispy fried beauties. Note: These trucks are cash-only.

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Cena Vegan Mexican vegan food Los Angeles pop up
Cena Vegan Mexican vegan food Los Angeles pop up
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. The $8 Big Vegan Burrito at Cena Vegan

Restaurants Vegan Lincoln Heights

Forget the myth that vegan food is bland. At Cena Vegan, generational recipes for salsas and marinades—the kinds of marinades normally reserved for meats—make this entirely plant-based Mexican-food spot home to some of the most flavorful tacos, burritos and nachos around, and they’re all incredibly priced and massively portioned. Vegan food can at times be pricy in L.A., but Cena’s big vegan burrito is only $8 and the size of a small child. You’ll get to choose your choice of plant-based protein (we’re crazy about the seitan al pastor) and enjoy it wrapped up with rice, refried beans, marinated red onions, chipotle cashew crema, pico de gallo and other salsas. Go even bigger and add guac for $2 because hey, life is short. Looking for another steal? The bean and rice burrito is also gargantuan and only $5.

Bánh Mì Mỹ Dung
Bánh Mì Mỹ Dung
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. The $4.25 bánh mì at My Dung

Restaurants Sandwich shops Chinatown

It’s easy to get caught up in the flashier new restaurants and pop-ups in Chinatown, but the neighborhood is rife with decades-old classics—many of which offer affordable and delicious meals at all hours. My Dung is one such spot, a Vietnamese sandwich shop at the intersection of Broadway and Ord with crates of also-affordable fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors to supplement their bánh mì in a range of options. The sandwiches are sizable and only $4.25 apiece, with fillings such as grilled pork (sausage), chicken, pâté, or pork with skin, and they all involve cilantro, jalapeño, shredded carrot and pickled radish on a crusty French loaf. Make it a meal by adding a bottle of fresh locally made soy milk ($1.25) or some fresh fruit and you’ll still find yourself below $10. Just note: This spot is cash-only.

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Thousand Layer Pancake sandwich at Joy on York in Highland Park Los Angeles
Thousand Layer Pancake sandwich at Joy on York in Highland Park Los Angeles
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

5. The $5–$8 thousand layer pancake at Joy on York

Restaurants Taiwanese Highland Park

“Budget-friendly” describes every item at chef Vivian Ku’s Highland Park staple, where Taiwanese noodle bowls, scallion-bread sandwiches and wontons all ring in at around $8 apiece. It’s impossible to go wrong with anything here, but the thousand-layer sandwich is undeniably one of the restaurant’s best—and at $8 for the works, it’s a deal. It starts at $5 for plain, but you can add cheese at $6, and at $7 you can fill it with egg. For $8 it comes fully loaded with egg, cheese and purple basil, which mingle with hot sauce at the center while a warm thousand-layer pancake folds around them for a handheld lunch or dinner that’s filling, nostalgic and totally unique.

Marugame Udon Japanese restaurant Los Angeles
Marugame Udon Japanese restaurant Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. The $5.50–$9.50 noodle bowls at Marugame Udon

Restaurants Japanese Beverly
Pull up a tray because you’re going to want a little bit of everything at Marugame Udon, the cafeteria-style Japanese udon emporium that’s popping up all over L.A., including DTLA, Sawtelle and Glendale. The fresh noodles get pulled to order and made before your very eyes, then slid into your choice of broth. Regular portions start as low as $5.50, and even the large sizes of most flavors keep it under $10, but the real gems here are the vegetables, with 12 or so tempura options hitting the fryer at any given time and priced at around $1 apiece. Pick your noodle bowl, then add à la carte tempura, eggs, meats and chilled accoutrements to build your perfect meal.
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Fish and chips from Malibu Seafood
Fish and chips from Malibu Seafood
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. The $8.95 fish and chips at Malibu Seafood

Restaurants Seafood Malibu

Where else can you eat some of L.A.’s freshest seafood with a view of the ocean for under $10? A local icon since its launch in 1972, Malibu Seafood is one of PCH’s top meal meccas for locals and visitors alike. Half market, half restaurant, the tiny shack serves steamed, grilled and deep-fried shellfish, salmon, squid and more, and you can always expect stellar quality (it is owned by commercial fishemen, after all). You can snag fried oyster, shrimp or fish sandwiches for only $6.95, but our order will always be the crispy, rectangular battered-and-fried white fish on a bed of thick fries—at $8.95 for a one-piece meal and $13.75 for two pieces—with a seat on the top deck for the best view in the house.

Al pastor tacos at Tacos Leo
Al pastor tacos at Tacos Leo
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

8. The $2.50 al pastor taco at Leo’s Taco Truck

Restaurants Trucks Mid City

There are countless affordable taco trucks in L.A.—hell, that’s pretty much what we live on—but the $2.50 al pastor at Leo’s is a classic budget meal at its best. The small tortillas come with pork carved straight off the trompo along with a sliver of pineapple, and if you stop by the trucks after dark, you’ll also be getting dinner and a show for that price while the taqueros slice and toss pork and pineapple into their tortilla-packed palms. One taco won’t be enough, but you’ll have change to spare—and with seven truck locations to choose from, chances are there's a Leo's near you.

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Khao soi at Northern Thai Food Club
Khao soi at Northern Thai Food Club
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

9. The $7.99 khao soi at Northern Thai Food Club

Restaurants Thai East Hollywood

Everything—truly everything—is flavor-filled and worth an order at Northern Thai Food Club but the restaurant’s khao soi is the platonic ideal of this curry noodle dish, and at only $7.99 with all the bells and whistles, it’s a great deal. Choose between chicken drumstick or beef (for $1.50 more), then slurp your way through a creamy coconut curry soup laden with flat, perfectly chewy egg noodles. Dress it up with the side of lime wedge, sour mustard, shallots and crispy noodles to add acidity and even more texture. While you’re there, don’t neglect the Northern Thai spicy pork sausage—also priced at $7.99—brimming with fresh herbs.

Xiao long bao at Mama Lu's
Xiao long bao at Mama Lu's
Photograph: Christine Ver

10. The $6.99 pork dumplings at Mama Lu’s

Restaurants Chinese Monterey Park

When you want tasty handmade and inexpensive dumplings, Mama Lu’s Dumpling House is the go-to. The Shanghainese restaurant with Taiwanese influence is beloved for its pan-fried dumplings and its beef rolls, but the most prized option of them all is the xiaolongbao, or soup dumpling. Here you can get 10 plump, meaty dumplings for $6.99; with skin tender but sturdy enough to contain the ground pork and broth, it’s a solid example of the style and a delicious and filling deal.

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Pollo maciaco with cole slaw, tortillas, and fries at Dino's Burgers #2
Pollo maciaco with cole slaw, tortillas, and fries at Dino's Burgers #2
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

11. The $7.95–$8.99 famous chicken dinner at Dino’s Chicken & Burgers

Restaurants American Central LA

It’s not called famous for nothing: This dish is a bona fide steal for those craving actual finger-licking–good poultry. A half plate of chicken arrives with two massive, charbroiled pieces of meat along with your choice of two sides: We’re partial to the fresh-cut fries and beans, but other options include slaw, rice, salad and tortillas, and prices vary slightly depending on which you pick. Regardless of your sides choice, you’ll need plenty of napkins—but it’s all worth getting messy for. 

12. The $9.50 Hakata ramen at Shin-Sen-Gumi

Restaurants Japanese Little Tokyo
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Ramen often starts as an inexpensive dish, but when the egg, extra soup, wontons and chashu get added, the price can climb well well toward $20. At Shin-Sen-Gumi, the Hakata ramen starts at $9.50 and already includes the best accoutrements: chashu, green onions, sesame and red ginger in a rich pork broth, enough for a complete meal on its own. Add-ons start at $1.50, so even if you tack on extra noodles, some corn or some wakame, you still won’t break the bank.

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French dip sandwich at Philippe the Original
French dip sandwich at Philippe the Original
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

13. The $9.25 French dip sandwich at Philippe the Original

Restaurants Sandwich shops Chinatown

Sometimes you have to pick a side, but when it comes to all-around cost efficiency, we have to give it to Philippe’s over Cole’s in the French dip war. The iconic sandwich shop has been selling beautiful, meaty French dips at its current location since 1951, where you can still snag the iconic roast beef served on a French roll dipped in au jus. The roast beef is the classic, but for $9.25 you could also have your pick of roast pork, turkey or ham. (If you want to splurge, the lamb or the pastrami will run you $10.50.) Adding your choice of cheese only costs 45 cents to 80 cents, pick depending, so your meal still makes the under-$10 cut if you’re going classic. Of course we wouldn’t fault you for going over budget with a slice of their famous pie, either, and we definitely recommend bringing home a bottle of their famous spicy mustard ($5.25).

Eggplant parmigiana at Pinocchio's Restaurant in Burbank
Eggplant parmigiana at Pinocchio's Restaurant in Burbank
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

14. The $9.95 eggplant parmigiana at Pinocchio Restaurant

Restaurants Italian Burbank

Sporting red checkered table cloths, basket-wrapped bottles of chianti, and an old-school cafeteria-style setup, this family-owned red-sauce joint has been a Burbank fixture since the ’60s. Pinocchio’s ticks off every box for when you’re looking for Italian-American comfort food, and at a great price: All entrées from the steam tray (and most specials) fall below $10. Pasta options range from cheese ravioli to baked ziti and there are ample subs, but the gem is the large wedge of eggplant parm drowning in your choice or meat or marinara sauce for $9.95, and it’s served with a stack of buttery garlic bread to soak up every last drop. Looking for greens? Side salads start as low as $1.95. Want to bring some red sauce home? The restaurant is attached to Monte Carlo Deli, where you can pick up cold cuts, cheese, sauces, gelato, rainbow cookies and other Italian specialties to create your own feast. 

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Pearl River Deli PRD Macau pork chop bun
Pearl River Deli PRD Macau pork chop bun
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

15. The $10 Macau pork chop bun at Pearl River Deli

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

One of L.A.’s best pop-ups found a home in one of our favorite food destinations, and all its dishes can be found at a great price. Johnny Lee’s Pearl River Deli serves up traditional Cantonese cuisine in Far East Plaza with delectable char siu and silky egg scrambles galore, and while it’s all priced under $20, the Macao pork chop bun is an essential bite and only $10. Lee’s Macau-style “piggy bun” involves a crispy slab of fried heritage-breed pork chop that’s topped with his own addition of spiced sautéed onions and Maggi mayo. It’s all sandwiched between a fluffy pineapple-flavored bun, so it’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s crunchy, it’s creamy: a perfect taste of Lee’s reverence for tradition, as well as creativity.

Want more cheap eats?

Sweet potato at Guerrilla Tacos
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

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