The 17 Best Places in LA to Eat on a Budget
The City of Angels isn't all gyms for dogs and exorbitantly expensive detox juices—it’s also quite possibly the greatest city in America to eat on a budget.
You don't have to have the theme song from La La Land running in an endless loop in your brain to know that seekers come to Los Angeles to find fame and riches. Nowhere else but LA can you get away with washing your clothes in San Pellegrino or unironically spending $90 on a cup of coffee. That said, the City of Angels isn't all gyms for dogs and exorbitantly expensive detox juices—it's also quite possibly the greatest city in America to eat on a budget.
From a killer Korean-Mexican rice-bowl emporium to a Chilean grocery-cum-deli famous for its empanadas, Los Angeles offers countless options for the discerning budget-conscious eater—you know, those of us who don't believe a lack of money necessarily means eating instant ramen at home in our underwear.
That said, finding the best and brightest budget eateries in the land of cheap burgers, old-school diners, and bacon-wrapped hot dog stands is no easy feat. To that end, here are the 17 spots you shouldn't miss if you're eating in LA on a budget.
For more recommendations for taco joints, fine dining restaurants, cocktail bars, strip mall spots, and more, check out the complete MUNCHIES Guide to Los Angeles.
Sack Sandwiches: When Michael Voltaggio does sandwiches, he does not fuck around. Sack Sandwiches offers solid classics but also blows minds with sando innovations, such as the Spanish Godfather with ham, chorizo, Manchego, olives, mayo, peppers, lettuce, tomato, and sherry vinaigrette.
JNJ Burger & BBQ: A cash-only Americana mecca for barbecue and burgers. It's hard to leave hungry. Barbecue plates and sandwiches are served with hearty sides like baked beans and macaroni salad, and the burgers are generously stacked.
Dino's Chicken & Burgers: One of those places with a hell of a lot going on in the menu. You can go with Mexican specialties but you should head for the namesake Dino's Famous Chicken.
Chego: Bowls of pan-Asian fusion food by Roi Choi. The Kimchi Spam Bowl is an eight-dollar, sesame-laced delight with butter-fried kimchi, Spam, scrambled eggs, and baby bok choy.
Pollo a La Brasa: There's nothing noteworthy about the Pollo a La Brasa space itself, but who cares when the Peruvian rotisserie chicken is so damn good? Pair your bird with aji, a sauce made of tomato, cilantro, and aji pepper that adds a bright spiciness to the garlicky meat.
Philippe the Original: There's a lot of debate about where exactly the French Dip was created in LA, but we're leaning toward the Philippe origin story. Embrace the confusing old-school deli line and don't forget to order some spicy mustard. Less famous but also delicious: the freshly-made cake doughnuts.
Oki's Dog: You're getting a hot dog here—just not the dog you're used to. The Oki Dog features two hot dogs wieners served in a tortilla stuffed with chili, fried pastrami, American cheese, pickles, and mustard.
Good Girl Dinette: Vietnamese and American comfort food come together in this sunny Highland Park restaurant. The breakfast banh mi is the perfect bridge between breakfast and lunch with scrambled egg, bacon (or mushroom), pickled daikon and carrots, and cilantro-Maggi mayo.
Grand Central Market: A bustling amalgamation of culinary traditions from all parts of the globe. Find third-wave coffee (G&B Coffee), bulk mole (Chiles Secos), and matzo ball soup (Wexler's Deli) all under one roof.
Boo's Philly Cheesesteaks: Not only does Boo's offer authentic Amoroso rolls straight from Philly, but they also go all out and serve Cheez Wiz, too. Not an artisanal spin on Cheez Whiz—we're talking the real-deal Cheez Whiz.
Simpang Asia: A spot for straightforward Indonesian favorites like chicken sate, gado-gado (an OG of tempeh, vegetables, a hardboiled egg, and peanut sauce), and spicy laksa soup. Cendol, an icy yet substantial dessert, goes down smooth on a hot LA day.
Bánh Mì My-Tho: A cash-only bánh mì staple named after the owner's hometown in southern Vietnam. The tiny spot has been serving their baguette sandwiches and other Vietnamese delicacies since 1993.
Dune: A petite Mediterranean place known for falafel and seriously good shakshuka. Plates offer a little something of everything, complete with house flatbread, house pickles, marinated cabbage and onions, olives, and seasonal greens.
Zankou Chicken: A family-owned Mediterranean spot celebrating their Beirut roots. Shawerma, rotisserie chicken, and falafel play well with bright pickled vegetables and creamy hummus.
Papa Cristo's: An authentic Greek market and restaurant with a weekly Big Fat Greek Thursday night dinner. The bakery churns out flaky baklava that makes for a sweet ending to a meal of grilled meats and lots of Tzatziki sauce.
Rincon Chileno: A Chilean deli famous for empanadas, both vegetarian and meat-filled. A hot LA day warrants a cup of their mote con huesillos, a Chilean peach and wheat drink.
LocoL: A Watts fast food venture from Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson. Imagine affordable healthy-ish breakfast, lunch, and dinner items like carnitas foldies, veggie cheeseburgs, and chicken nug crunchies.
For more info on the best budget food spots in the City of Angels, plus more tips for where to eat, drink, and hang, check out the complete MUNCHIES Guide to Los Angeles.
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- Eating on a budget
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- MUNCHIES Guide to Los Angeles