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How to Eat for $30 or Less at 7 Top LA Restaurants

By Lesley Balla
January 13, 2014
Photo by: Baco Mercat/Dylan + Jeni

Not to be a bummer, but when the holiday celebrations, parties and gift-giving are over, tax season isn’t far behind. Meaning: this is serious cash-crunch time. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat tacos and cheap burgers for the next few months. There are plenty of restaurants where you can feast for $30 per person (excluding tax, booze and tip) for dinner. Here are seven options that won’t break the bank.

  • Photo by: Andrea Bricco

    Spago

    The best-kept secret about dining at the Beverly Hills star is not how to finagle the best table in the house, it’s how one person can get out of there for around $30 with an appetizer, entree and dessert: sit at the bar. The bar menu is full of dishes for $15 and under, so you can mix and match for a full meal. Start with something like the karaage fried chicken ($8) or pork and leek chile dumplings ($6). Then try the Chinese garlic noodles with shrimp, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms ($10), and then donuts filled with black-sesame custard and yuzu glaze ($6).

    Total: $22-24

  • Photo by: Dylan + Jeni

    Baco Mercat

    The beauty of Josef Centeno’s first restaurant is that the menu has so many shareable options, it's actually cheaper the more people you go with. But if you're rolling solo, you can still get out for $30 with dishes like the yellow beet salad with yogurt, sumac and hazelnuts ($9), and one of the Bacos for an entree. The Toron is a classic, the flatbread stuffed with oxtail hash and cheddar taters ($13). And for dessert, panna cotta with candied pecans, blueberry and honey ($8).

    Total: $30

  • Photo by: Muy Yum/Flickr

    Gjelina

    A hard-to-get table doesn’t mean the prices are extravagant at this super-popular Venice spot. Share a bunch of plates with friends and you’ll stay within budget. If you’re on your own, a meal of the wood-roasted cauliflower ($8), meatballs with grilled bread ($13) and butterscotch pot de crème ($8) will do just fine.

    Total: $29

  • Connie & Ted’s

    As long as you can get in - it is one of the hottest restaurants in town right now - you can easily get out with a seafood sampler for $30 for two. Start with the stuffies, quahog clams stuffed with breadcrumbs, sausage and sweet red peppers (two for $9), and then the asparagus salad with tomatoes and herbs ($11). The Portuguese stew, one of our favorites, has everything - mussels, clams, fish, and linguica sausage in a tomato broth ($22). Don’t forget the hot buttered rolls ($5), and you’ll need a piece of the amazing mile-high devil’s food cake ($9).

    Total: $56 for two

  • MB Post

    The menu at David LeFevre’s hot Manhattan Beach restaurant is all about sharing, and everything will most likely come out as it’s ready - there’s no real appetizer-entree-dessert progression. With that said, you can fight over the buttermilk cheddar bacon biscuits ($5), and move on to blistered green beans with crispy pork ($9), steamed mussels with green curry, Chinese sausage and coriander rice ($14), and skirt steak with broccolini ($18). Finish big with The Elvis, a mess of chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse and bacon brittle ($7).

    Total: $53 for two

  • Waterloo & City

    Two people can eat hearty for $30 per person at this Culver City spot. Don’t skip out on the charcuterie: get a selection of three for $16, things like rabbit and pistachio terrine with Piccadilly, duck and walnut country pâté, and smoked salmon terrine with fried egg and sauce gribiche. To counteract the richness, the simple salad with greens, radishes and ricotta salata is fresh and crisp ($6). For a main course, the very shareable Maine scallops with squash tortellini, pink lady apples and sage beignet ($25). And, of course, sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream for dessert ($9). This is an English-inspired place, after all.

    Total: $56 for two

  • Tar & Roses

    There are so many great dishes on Andrew Kirschner’s menu that it’s easy to over-order and over-spend. Keep it simple and you’ll get out for under $60 for two. The spaghetti carbonara ($13) is a good place to start, with the roasted baby carrots with currants and chermoula crème fraîche ($8), a decadent dish even though it’s vegetables, after all. Then the lamb osso bucco to share ($26), and chocolate hazelnut budino to finish ($8).

    Total: $58 for two

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