Cheap Trick

Where to get great cheap eats in L.A.

It's hard to narrow down our favorite cheap eats in a town full of taco trucks, hidden street food and strip mall gems. Whether it's found curbside, in K-Town or Thai Town, some of the city's best fare can be had for less than the price of a Hamilton. Here are our favorite bargain bites in L.A.

Breakfast of champions: Free Range, various locations

If a blowout dinner isn't in the cards, you may as well splurge on breakfast. Catch this mobile operation around town (at the Melrose Place Farmers' Market, Coffee Commissary or Stumptown Coffee Roasters) for its honey-Sriracha fried chicken biscuit ($9). It's everything we want to start our mornings with: tempura-battered free-range fried chicken coated with spicy local honey, sandwiched between an impossibly flaky, buttery biscuit.

For sick days: Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, Koreatown

When we're feeling under the weather, nothing less than an absurdly giant bowl of handmade noodle soup will do. Chewy wheat noodles are expertly hand-rolled and sliced into long ribbons or flat discs, then served in a seafood-based broth with everything from chicken ($9) to kimchi ($9). The meal comes complete with a spread of banchan and a bowl of barley rice to start and burned rice porridge to end. Be prepared to queue during lunch and dinner rush.

The Godmother at Bay Cities | Photo: Joe Chang via flickr

For a taste of Little Italy: Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, Santa Monica

Homesick New Yorkers and lunchtime crowds alike grab a number and queue for this Santa Monica deli's sublime subs. Quality meats are hand-sliced to order and sandwiched between chewy, crusty house-baked bread. Perhaps no sandwich is more popular than the fabled Godmother ($6.50 small, $9 large), loaded with Genoa salami, capicola, mortadella, prosciutto, provolone cheese, mayo, mustard, Italian dressing, pickles, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and spicy peppers.

Feast on the cheap: Ruen Pair, Hollywood

Thai Town is a gold mine of great cheap eats, from boat noodles to late-night greasy spoons. But when we want in on a full spread without breaking the bank, we turn to Ruen Pair. The strip mall storefront turns out the city's best papaya salad ($8), mixed with tomatoes, green beans, dried shrimp and chopped peanuts for a tangy-spicy-umami punch. (Tip: Get it topped with raw blue crab.) Other favorites include sautéed morning glory (market price) and spicy Pad Ka Prow ($8).

On your lunch break: Sticky Rice, Downtown

When lunchtime rolls around, the Grand Central Market is our one-stop shop for everything from tacos and burgers to pastrami and egg sandwiches. But no matter how many other options tempt us, it's tough to resist the siren song of Sticky Rice and its khao mun gai: The Thai version of Hainanese chicken rice ($10) is served with fragrant garlic rice, delicate consommé and savory fermented soy bean sauce. Other specials to keep an eye out for include vegetarian-friendly green curry ($7) and another specialty of the house—spicy Isan-style sausage ($8) stuffed with pork and lemongrass.

One-plate wonder: Taste of Tehran, Westwood

We can't talk about cheap eats without including one of the many Persian restaurants lining Westwood Boulevard, and this tiny shop serves a deal that's tough to beat. An order of spice-packed beef or chicken koobideh (aka ground meat kebab) comes piled with rice ($10)—be sure to top it with butter—grilled tomatoes and the beet-topped house salad.

When you have the munchies: Whiz, Koreatown

Sure, L.A. may not be the home of the Philly cheesesteak, but Whiz comes pretty damn close to nailing the classic sub, albeit with some grown-up touches. The eponymous cheese is made in-house and melted atop peppered meat and grilled onions, then packed with house-pickled jalapeños or smoked bacon on a straight-from-Philly Amoroso's hoagie ($8.50 to $9). If you're feeling flush, add an order of Old Bay-coated Philly Crab Fries for $4.