Best of LA for the budget-minded among us

So I’m looking for people’s recommendations re: the best options for those of us on a fairly limited budget.

I’m thinking mainly here of places to go eat a meal out, as well as the specific dishes/items you’d recommend ordering at those places, although I am also open to recommendations on high-quality-but-cheaper-priced items that can be found for purchase at various grocery stores/markets. [For example, lately we’ve really been enjoying this wine, which is available for about $6/can at the Trader Joe’s locations we frequent on the west side: I like it because I normally don’t want to open a full bottle, but this is the perfect size for one session for my wife and I. And I think it’s quite good for what would essentially be about a $12 bottle. But like I said I’m thinking more in terms of recommendations for restaurants (and the best items to order at them) than products at grocery stores or markets.]

Really anywhere in LA or nearby would be great, although we’re in West LA these days so that’s what would be most convenient for us as far as weekday outings.

And I know of course that I could just go on Yelp and search for the best reviewed single-dollar-sign eat-out spots in LA or any given area (like the west side), but I’d love to hear from some of you who frequent this board on your particular favorites/standbys, and as far as I can tell, there aren’t any great [recent] posts here asking this kind of “What are your favorite cheap spots” question…

So yeah, anyone have any good ideas/thoughts?!


Westside locations:

Fundamental LA - Not super cheap. But has inexpensive selections and happy hour.

Versailles Cuban, Venice Blvd - Shrimp & Yellow Rice :yum:.

Bamboo, Venice Blvd - They have soft shell crab when in season.

Cafe Brasil, Venice Blvd

Sunnin, Westwood Blvd - Best Hummus! Really good falafel balls & entrees.

MZuma Kitchen, Westwood Bl - Every time I try to go something comes up. But @bulavinaka & @CiaoBob love it.

Happy Eating!


Might be helpful if you give some approximation of what your budget is when you go out (and if that includes alcohol). And if ambiance matters to you.

For me, good cheap eats are California Chicken Cafe; 1/2 sandwich + 2 sides at Gelson’s (only $6.49!!! Make sure you get the sandwich freshly made, and I often check to see what salads might be on sale that week); NY Bagel & Deli; Qin West (haven’t been recently). I only went to Bagel Nosh, but it seemed pretty decent for the price (which was really cheap, for the area). I’ve actually never gotten the Pizza of the Day at 800 Deg, but, if you’re on a budget, it’s hard to beat $5 for a decently sized pizza pie.

People have mentioned Tacos Por Favor previously. I think it’s fine but it doesn’t send me. My vague recollection is that the chicken items at Benny’s Tacos are a pretty good value (but I only ate there once or twice). I don’t think Tacos Punta Cabras is cheap vs. a “traditional” taco joint, but the food there is great, and it’s certainly not what I’d consider “expensive.”

In the slightly more expensive but still fairly affordable range, I’d put the lunch buffet at Jaipur; Takuma (if you’re not super hungry and order carefully); Benitora (many places on Sawtelle would probably fall into this range, actually); Kotoya; Tsujita; Monte Alban; Juquila; Siam Chan (don’t expect anything resembling Thai Town quality from this Chinese-Thai place). TLT can also be a decent value, if ordering carefully. I want to like the food at Bru’s Wiffle more than I actually do, but it’s a completely decent choice. Bru’s Counter has better hrs, I think, though. I find the tempura at Kaido to be surprisingly good (nicely delicate); the other stuff there varies.

Javan isn’t “cheap” per dish (IMHO), but the quantity is quite large. An app + an entree might make a decent meal for 2 adults who don’t have huge appetites (and the food very good and very consistent). LIkewise, Mendocino Farms also isn’t cheap, but I actually find a single sandwich there to be pretty filling, and they have free seltzer water.

You might want to check out the happy hour menu are various places around town to see if any of them appeal. The one at Palomino seemed to be quite good value (although I only went once many yrs ago), and there are a ton of other places on the westside w/ Happy Hour. The only one I’d avoid is Baltaire (the food is not good at any price, unforgivably bad for the price they charge).


I have to respectfully disagree w/ Sunnin. I tried it once, the falafel was like a hockey puck. :frowning: Have they improved their food recently or did I have an off experience?

+1 on Versailles.

Agree w/ Fundamental when it comes to the lunch hour. Partner and I were there last Friday. Like Mendocino Farms, a single sandwich isn’t “cheap,” but it’s pretty damn filling.

@ipsedixit mentioned a Brazilian place in Westwood. Was it called Mesa? Haven’t checked it out myself, but that might also be an option for the OP.

Oh, and Metro Cafe. The dinner menu isn’t cheap, but it’s a good value for the quality of the food, and the breakfast/brunch menu is great. The french toast there is particularly yummy, IMHO.

I have mixed feelings about Amandine, but many of the pastries (but none of the cakes) go on sale after 4PM daily. Edit: the Brentwood Farmer’s Market (and I imagine other ones) have reduced pricing on the produce when they get close to closing time (around 1-2 PM, I think?).

1 Like

The $23 6-hand roll set menu at kazunori… and then another 6 rolls for dessert.

$18 bara chirashi bowl at sushi tsujita


love the Sunin bakery for a quick snack the ‘maneesh extra’ and ‘Spinach Fatayer with cheese’ are both really tasty


Good question @paranoidgarliclover. My selections were for inexpensive sit down. But they may just be looking for cheap eats.

If wine is a must, you may want to ask if you can bring your own, as less expensive places don’t have a liquor license.

I thought of Palomino. I have to have that Hot Crab Dip at least once a year. Food is a tad pricey, but hadn’t thought about happy hour. Always seek out happy hours if you’re on a budget.

Yeah, it’s a great place. I’ve been going since the restaurant was in the bakery location.


Sorry about the hockey puck falafel balls. I do like them pretty firm on the outside. Good for dipping in their delish tahini.

My biz partner and his kids love Mesa Brazilian. He goes to an inexpensive Brazilian grill too. I’ll try to get the name.

I’m with you, mixed feelings about Amandine. Good to know about the pastries.

For me…

Pann’s Patty Melt, Turkey Dinner, and Fried Chicken
800 Degrees Pizza of the Day is $5.00
Wurstkuche Rattlesnake and Rabbit sausage
Leo’s Taco’s Al Pastor $1 each
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Sapp Coffee Shop
Tender Green Steak Salad
Guisado’s $7 sampler
Bay Cities Italian Deli
guerrilla tacos
Egg Slut (Venice opening soon)
The Original Pancake House
Kula Rotating Sushi Bar
Langer’s Deli Anything with Pastrami


Is there a primer somewhere on FTC about how to link to a specific post? :slight_smile:

@TheCookie: yeah, the other nearby place (to where I live) about which I have mixed feelings is Literati Cafe. Some people love it, but I’ve been vaguely indifferent for the most part. They have, though, recently upped their game a bit (the chicken in the cobb salad tastes better, for instance, and is now “shredded”). And, if you need a place to work undisturbed for hrs a time, it definitely fill that niche. So I respect them for that. And some people love the place (although I cannot quite understand why). So it might be worth trying for the OP.


When I get cravings for inexpensive food in LA, this is what comes to mind:

Bean and cheese burrito with green sauce - Al and Bea’s
Chicken shawarma - Ro Ro’s
Chicken with fries - Dino’s
Crispy pork with holy basil - Pa Ord
Enchiladas or Nachos - Tere’s
Jade Noodles - Sapp
Kim chi fried rice - Chibiscus
New Delhi and a mocha milkshake - Sack Sandwhiches
Old Boy - Seoulmate
Potato balls, chicken croquettes, and guava/cheese pastry at Portos
Quesadilla with chorizo - Guisado’s
Shrimp tacos - Marisco Jalisco
Tacos al Pastor - Leo’s
Tempura - Hannosuke
Vampiro’s - Mexicali


they only sell 15 a day for lunch.

Go to SGV.

Specifically Valley Blvd between Del Mar and Rosemead.

As to which restaurant in particular? Really any Chinese one will be more than ok and fit your criteria. Even a place like Shanghai No. 1 as long as you stay away from live seafood.

As to what to order. Ask for recommendations from the server. Tell him/her you are doing a review piece for the Pasadena Star News, which will be translated for the Chinese Daily News (aka the World Journal).


No primer. But here’s how to do it.

Put the text you want hyperlinked in brackets and the hyperlink in parentheses.

Like this.

(text you want hyperlinked)[]


1 Like

Wow, a bunch of very quick replies, and some real helpful stuff in here! I especially appreciate the recommendations in the West LA area, as that’s the most convenient for us for weekday dinners. So yeah, thanks all!

A lot of the above mentioned places are ones we’ve been to and like (we enjoy CA Chicken Cafe a lot, for instance), but there are plenty of others that will be perfect for us to go check out, so I really appreciate it.

I’ll probably come back and reply again to add additional comments soon, but at the moment here’s the first thing that caught my attention enough to make me want to follow up now: What exactly is the attraction to Egg Slut? I went once to the GCM location a few years back when they were still pretty new and got a breakfast sandwich that I felt was very average. And yet I see the ridiculous lines there every time we’re back in GCM (which we like to stop into and get coffee drinks and pastries from G&B–probably my wife’s favorite coffee spot). I thought maybe Egg Slut was just a place that for whatever reason was really trendy with a certain crowd, and hence the consistently long lines. But I see that wienermobile recc’d it above, along with plenty of other clearly good spots (Guisados, Bay Cities, Langer’s), so I’m wondering if I need to give it another shot…? (Or order something different next time…?)

Gracias! And apparently clicking on the “time” of the post gives you the hyperlink! Excellent. :slight_smile:

It is tasty but only worth it if the line is short. Go early, grab a mid week breakfast and I suggest ordering the Fairfax sub biscuit. Pretty tasty.

1 Like

Gonna go a notch higher dollar wise …

my two cents, Mid-Wilshire.
metro café, Culver City.
Chunju Han-il Kwan, Koreatown (but there are tons.)
status kuo, Mar Vista.

1 Like