Throughout the pandemic, foodies on a budget have been taking advantage of takeout and delivery options for some of the best cheap eats in Los Angeles. With health guidelines and social distancing protocols finally allowing businesses to open back up for dining, people are beginning to funnel back into restaurants to experience in person the best cheap eats in Los Angeles. While you may think you might have to spend some money to satisfy your cravings for a platter of cheesy chicken tamales or a full course Japanese bento box, you’ll be surprised with the cheap, yet delicious, options hidden in LA’s underground food scene.
Located in Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market, Sarita’s Pupuseria is a small vendor that’s been selling dozens of different handmade pupusas and other Salvadoran eats to the community for years now for just under US$5. Crowds of people stand in line for a full menu of delicious thick corn tortillas stuffed with a variety of different cheeses, meats and vegetables (vegan options are available). If you’ve never had an authentic pupusa before, this is the spot to check out in LA.
Tito’s Tacos is located in Culver City, and locals have been coming here for crispy tacos since 1959. Although this authentic Mexican cuisine has simple eats like bean and cheese burritos, crispy cheese tacos and homemade chicken tamales, locals keep coming back to Tito’s for their cheap, high-quality food – and their US$10 tub of Tito’s Guacamole to take back home.
Home to some of LA’s finest Sri Lankan food, Kurrypinch has undiscovered and traditional recipes that are unlike any other in the area. Think of a fusion of foods from India, Portugal, England and the Netherlands with strongly spiced flavors, plates of colored rice and fine cuts of marinated meat. You may think these plates sound pricey, but here you can find curry bowls for US$7 and starter mackerel cutlets for only US$2.
Northern Thai Food Club
East Hollywood’s Northern Thai Food Club is the most authentic tasting Thai food on the east side of Los Angeles. With comfort and homestyle dishes ranging from US$6-10, the menu is full of fresh ingredients that pay homage to the culture and unique flavors of Thai cuisine. Be on the lookout for their khao soi, a curry noodle dish at only US$7.99, with aromatics that’ll soothe your taste buds and noodles that soak up all of the flavors lingering on the bottom of the bowl.
Mama Lu’s Dumpling House
A traditional Chinese family restaurant takes on a Taiwanese twist as its new owners are committed to serving some of the best (and cheapest) dumplings in the area at Mama Lu’s. Not to be confused with other Mama Lu’s locations, the Garvey Ave location is not associated with the former owners currently facing charges for tax evasion. With a menu expanding close to 100 items, the restaurant is known for specialties like their juicy pork dumplings, green onion fried pancake and French styled beef tenderloin. The restaurant also has the option for frozen dumplings made for you to prepare at home, so you can go all in or all out on Mama Lu’s dumplings.
Yaki’s The Original Teriyaki
Home for the original chicken teriyaki bowl, Yaki’s is a Burbank walk-up stand that has been serving their bowls of charbroiled boneless chicken breasts and lean beef with five different marinated flavors to choose from. Although they’re known for their US$6 bowls served only on Wednesdays, their menu also includes things like burgers and sandwiches just under US$5. Hands down, this is one of the best affordable places to eat in LA.
Leo’s Taco Truck
One of the best budget meals and most reliable taco trucks you can find in the city, Leo’s Taco Truck is the definition of low-cost quality food. If you’ve never had the fresh flavors of sliced marinated pork straight off the trompo, Leo’s can provide you with the most flavorful al pastor tacos for only US$2.50 a piece. With truck locations scattered from the east to west of Los Angeles, Leo’s has been serving food that starts from US$1.25 for around nine years now. You can literally spend 10 bucks here and leave the truck with at least five to seven things to munch on.
Asian marketplace Mitsuwa Marketplace has everything you need if you’re craving some Eastern cuisine. Head to the food court inside for a number of vendors serving all styles of food from Japanese street food to sushi to Chinese dishes. Stick around for a while to explore the aisles filled with tons of imported goodies.
Japanese restaurant Misasa has an Asian-infused menu that serves everything from Japanese rice bowls to deliciously eye-drawing bento boxes for under US$10 in the Mitsuwa Marketplace. Although this spot has cheap plates, the quality and portions of food do not disappoint for anyone wanting something wholesome to fill their stomachs. Most things on the menu are under US$10, so you’re able to share their famous curry katsu after a 5-course bento box.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
Pink’s Hot Dogs are Hollywood’s hot dog legends and have been operating their stand since 1939. This Hollywood landmark is known to serve around 2,000 hot dogs in a single day. The restaurant was closed for many months due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they are officially back open. With a reputation of serving some of the best hot dogs in the city, Pink’s isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. All you need is just US$5 for the best chili dog in Los Angeles.
Pine & Crane
Despite LA’s many options for chowing down on the classic Taiwanese dish known as Dan Dan Noodles, this well-known spot in the east side of Los Angeles is known for their savory and unforgettable take on this dish. Pine & Crane has created a menu that’s both eye-appealing and approachable to anyone’s first time trying this type of cuisine. Most items range from US$5-10, so you can start off with something small like their scallion pancakes, and then lead into their famous Dan Dan Noodles for US$7.50.
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