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Must-Try Cheap Eats Around Los Angeles

By Lesley Balla
August 12, 2013

All-you-can-eat deals, free bar food, high-end happy hours: a good dining deal isn't hard to find around LA. No matter your income, eating and drinking on the cheap is welcome to any pocketbook. If you're looking to save a buck, whether it's dining at Spago or finding the perfect slice, here are some of our favorite bargains right now.

  • Photo by: Ron Dolette/Flickr

    Pizza by the Slice

    We have amazing wood-fired pizza, California-style pizza and everything in between. But when you just need a taste and you want it on a budget, you need a slice. Joe’s, Vito’s, Tomato Pie and Village Pizzeria rank high for their New York-style thin-crust pizza, the kind you need to fold over to eat.

    With everything from mac-and-cheese pizza to regular cheese slices, Pizzanista keeps the Arts District fed well into the wee hours. It's especially good when you’re drinking at Tony’s Saloon next door (they’ll slip your slices through a window in the bar so you don’t have to leave). And a slice at Two Boots in Echo Park and Downtown LA has a crispy cornmeal crust and spicy sauce that’s hard to beat.

    Photo: Ron Dolette/Flickr

  • Photo by: Scarpetta

    High-End Happy Hours

    How to eat at Spago without breaking the bank: go for the bar menu, which features things like bincho-grilled chicken wings with soy glaze togarashi, smoked marrow toast with jam, and spaghettini with littleneck and razor clams, all priced from $9-$14. There’s also a happy hour from 9-11 PM on Tuesday through Saturday nights, during which specialty drinks are only $10.

    Across the street, get $4 beers, $5 glasses of house wine and $7 cocktails, plus snacks like steak tartare, truffle popcorn or $2 oysters, at Bar Bouchon on Monday through Friday from 4-7 PM. And Scarpetta recently launced an $8 bar menu from 4-8 PM in the bar, featuring dishes like baby lettuce with grilled peaches and ricotta salata, chicken liver pâté with pickled cherries, and lobster croquettes.

    Downtown, Drago Centro’s happy hour goes all day long and includes deals on cocktails, wines by the glass, beers, and food like polenta with cauliflower and brown butter, panini and pizzas for under $10.

  • Photo by: Lesley Balla

    Tacos

    Tacos are best when they’re cheap. For less than $10 you can eat at least two or three with a cerveza or agua fresca on the side. You can’t go wrong with Ricky’s Fish Tacos, which moved from Los Feliz to the LAX-C complex in Chinatown, for the Baja-style batter-fried fish or shrimp tacos topped with cool cabbage, crema and pico de gallo.

    The al pastor tacos are only $1 at Leo’s Taco Truck. You know they have to be good when some of the city’s top chefs go out of their way for them.

    For classic orange cheese-topped crispy tacos, Tito’s Tacos in Culver City or Henry’s in Studio City hit the spot. Free tacos? Hit La Cuevita, the cool Highland Park bar from the same group behind Bigfoot Lodge and Sassafras, on Tuesday nights after 10 PM. You’ll find a taco bar as well as $5 margaritas.

  • Photo by: Osteria Mozza

    Prix Fixe Deals

    DineLA Restaurant Week is great for the inexpensive menu deals, but it only happens twice a year. Thankfully, several of the city’s top spots always have great deals. The Amaro Bar menu at Osteria Mozza is a steal: choose any dish from the cheese bar menu, a pasta and dessert plus a glass of Bastianich wine for $42 (Sunday through Thursday only). It may not fit everyone's definition of "cheap," but it's surely good value. And at the Pizzeria, get a pizza, dessert and a glass of wine for $20 on Monday through Thursday from noon to 5 PM and 11 PM to midnight at the bars only.

    Dominick’s (Sundays) and Little Dom’s (Mondays) both feature $15 three-course menus that change every week, plus bottles of house wine for $15. Look for dishes like tricolore salad, skirt steak with salsa verde, and chocolate budion at Dominick’s, and roasted root vegetables, saba-glazed beef brisket with potato puree, and dessert at Little Dom’s.

  • Photo by: Top Round

    Stuffed Sandwiches

    A great sandwich is the sum of its parts: the ingredients, especially the bread, are equally important. And a perfect sandwich doesn’t have to cost more than $10. Around LA, beef lovers can get the best pastrami at Langer’s, slow-fast-food pastrami at The Oinkster, slow-roasted roast beef sandwiches at Top Round, or a classic French dip at Philippe or Cole’s. For a perfect Italian sub, try East Side Deli, All About the Bread and Bay Cities, with the latter’s Godmother reigning supreme.

  • Photo by: My Last Bite/Flickr

    Dim Sum

    The rooms are huge banquet halls, the service is often lacking (save for the women pushing carts around), and waits can be exhausting on busy weekends. But getting your fill of shu mai, Chinese broccoli, pork ribs and other dim sum is one of the best values out there. Everyone has their favorites, but Ocean Star, 888 Seafood and Sea Harbour top Zagat lists. Din Tai Fung is always packed, both the original and the annex, for soup dumplings. And for the graddaddy dumpling of them all, hit Wang Xing Ji for the giant xiao long bao that’s so big, you need to slurp it with a straw before trying to eat the juicy pork and shrimp filling. The best part? It’s only $5.

    Photo: My Last Bite/Flickr

  • Photo by: Gobi Mongolian BBQ

    All You Can Eat

    There are myriad AYCE Korean BBQ restaurants throughout Koreatown, but it’s hard to find quality that matches quantity. Oo Kook hits both, with better meats and lots of banchan, all for around $30 per person.

    At Gobi Mognolian BBQ in Silver Lake, you can build your own bowl - rice or noodles, tons of veggies, various meats and sauces - and the cooks will grill it up for you. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, it’s all you can eat for $15 per person (dinner only).

    Mark Gold brings his famous all-you-can-eat fried chicken dinners from the now-closed Eva to Chez Soi on Sunday nights. Just $29 per person gets chicken and craft beer - or sodas for the non-drinkers and the young 'uns (kids 10 and under eat for free).

  • Photo by: Jar

    Free Bar Snacks

    High-end: Sit at the bar at Suzanne Tracht’s Jar restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, order a martini and ask for a bowl of the amazing housemade potato chips and sour cream dip. When you sit at Stark Bar at LACMA, a bowl of waffle chips miraculously appears with your cocktails. The best reason to sit at the bar at Hatfield’s isn’t just the cocktails and excellent wine list, it’s the free bowls of garlic-rosemary-olive oil popcorn. Il Moro offers an entire buffet spread of complimentary finger foods (ceviche, eggplant lasagna, tomato and mozzarella) for happy hour (Tuesday-Friday, 5-7 PM).

    Casual: You’ll probably go to the Red Lion Tavern for the $5 giant pretzels and the 25% discount off all booze (cocktails, beer and wine) at happy hour, but if you sit at the downstairs bar, you’ll get free snacks, like chicken wings, cheese and crackers, or chili. At the Melgard Public House on Melrose, one free cheese pizza miraculously comes to any table where everyone orders beer or wine for happy hour (3-7 PM daily).

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