15 Meals in LA For Under $15
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
For so many reasons, this might be a good moment to give your wallet a breather. Maybe you just returned from a baller trip to Portugal like everyone else, or simply ordered too many (totally unremarkable) negronis last weekend. It's possible you're just out here living during what feels like the most expensive time to be a person in history. We get it.
On this guide you’ll find bulgogi tacos, jerk chicken plates, steak burritos, and boat noodles from a Thai Town institution, all for less than the cost of a movie ticket. When you don’t feel like spending a ton and want something delicious, here are 15 meals for under $15 to seek out.
photo credit: Nicolas Zhou
The Meal: Braised Pork Belly Rice, $10
The most expensive dish at Liu’s Cafe, a casual Taiwanese spot in Koreatown, is around $14. Considering all of the portions work for two people, that means you can eat a lot of Taiwanese and Chinese comfort food for less than a 3-pack of Uniqlo socks. Get the braised pork belly or the chiayi chicken, both of which come in deep bowls of sticky rice. And don’t forget about Liu’s pastry case. It’s full of soft pineapple buns, creamy egg tarts, and crunchy beef curry croquettes made fresh for less than $6 each.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
The Meal: Za’atar Extra Open Mana’ish, $6.99
Almost everything on the menu at this classic Lebanese bakery in Granada Hills costs less than $15. That includes gooey cheese boats, thick falafel pies, and soujouk saj. Good luck not walking out with boxes of each, but if you’re not trying to spend a lot of money right now, go for the za’atar extra open mana’ish. This doughy, circular flatbread is about the size of a 12-inch pizza and comes topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, and mint leaves, plus a thin coat of za’atar as a base. We almost always have leftovers.
photo credit: Massis Kebab
The Meal: Koubideh Combo, $14
The prices at Massis Kabob’s brick-and-mortar in Glendale are comparable to other fast-casual spots, but the quality (and quantity) of food at this Armenian mini-chain earns a special place in our hearts. For $14, you’ll get two plate-filling koubideh kebabs that are perfectly seasoned and burst with juice when you cut into them with your plastic knife. Mix and match ground beef or saffron-stained chicken with a pile of salty, buttered rice, pita, and blistered tomato and pepper.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
The Meal: Borekas Pinukim, $12
If we ever came up with a guide to the best secret menu items in LA, this play on an Israeli breakfast sandwich would top the list. It starts with a boureka stuffed with spinach and cheese or potatoes and brown butter, then takes a wonderful left turn—each flaky pastry is split in two and loaded with creamy soft-boiled eggs, tomato slices, and diced pickles, plus tahini to pour over the top. The whole package is rich, buttery, and definitely filling. And even though it’s technically a secret, you can just walk up to their takeout window in Sherman Oaks and ask for it by name.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
The Meal: Paratha Plate, $11
Paratha Grill in Artesia serves 12 kinds of buttery Indian flatbreads stuffed with things like creamy paneer, spicy chili, and turmeric-dusted aloo. The paratha’s flaky whole wheat dough arrives golden brown and speckled with char, and for $13, you get a large side of curry for dipping. Our top pick is the smoky dal tadka, which smells like a mountain of cinnamon and cardamom, and the juicy dhaba chicken, which is loaded with ginger and garlic. Paratha Grill also has some Indo-Chinese specials on the menu that are pretty great, too.
The Meal: After School Special, $12.48
Everything at Trophies, a fast-casual spot on Fairfax, costs under $10. Their short menu involves what you’d expect to find at an old-school burger joint: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. But their all-black space is made to impress people who wait in lines for streetwear. Fortunately, service is pretty quick on weekdays, which also happens to be the best time to try their After School Special—it comes with one of their delicious burgers, crispy fries, and a fountain soda to chase it down.
photo credit: Seoulmates
The Meal: 2 Korean Fried Chicken Tacos, $12
Seoulmates serves a bunch of inexpensive and excellent Korean fusion dishes like bulgogi hoagies, bibimbap bowls, and loaded tacos. The fusion aspect doesn’t feel gimmicky here because the execution is so good—lots of acid, heat, and freshness to hold up against the marinated meat. Our move is to order a couple of tacos (on Taco Tuesdays you’ll get a discount), grab a seat on the sidewalk patio, and snarf them down while the world whizzes by.
photo credit: Maciel's
The Meal: The Italian Sandwich, $14.50
Maciel's is your best bet for a vegan sandwich in Highland Park, and possibly all of LA. They make all of their own plant-based meats in-house and offer dairy-free cheeses by the pound. Our favorite lunch at Maciel’s is the classic Italian—it’s loaded with meat-free salami and pastrami, chopped pepperoncini, and a tasty pickled cherry pepper spread. If you’re looking for vegan food that makes you feel like someone cares about you (and your taste buds), you’ll love this place.
The Meal: Wonton Noodle Soup, $12.50
There are tons of random ways to spend $12.50 at Pine & Crane in DTLA. Part Taiwanese restaurant, part market, this place sells everything from flower bouquets to bamboo rolling pins that you can use to convince people that you’re good at baking. The best way to spend your pocket money here, though, is on a bowl of wonton noodle soup. The housemade noodles sit in a hearty chicken-pork broth with crunchy bok choy and lots of plump shrimp wontons. And even if you visit this counter-service spot during peak hours, the piping hot bowl of soup will be dropped off at your table in minutes.
The Meal: Beef Rendang, $14.95
Whenever we’re at The Original Farmers Market (or hungry at The Grove), we inevitably find ourselves in line at Singapore Banana Leaf. This tiny stall serves excellent Singaporean staples like coconut-rich laksa soup, mee goreng, and one of the best plates of beef rendang in town. Their version of this fragrant braised curry tastes buttery and earthy and comes packed with tender chunks of beef that could be cut with a spoon if you wanted.
The Meal: Zhengyalov Hatz, $7
It doesn't get much better than Zhengyalov Hatz’s namesake dish: a warm, doughy flatbread that’s wrapped up with a very appropriate 15 types of herbs. There’s a thin brush of sunflower oil that holds it all together, mint leaves strewn throughout, and lots of minced spring onions that add a satisfying crunch. If this perfectly constructed wrap were an Olympic competitor, it’d be Simone Biles winning her ninth gold medal.
The Meal: The Sandwich, $6
We’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately, so believe us when we say: the cold-cut sandwich at Roma Market is one of the greatest value propositions in the game. For less than you’d pay for a latte, you’ll get salami, gabagool (also known as capicola), mortadella, a few slices of provolone, plus a healthy drizzle of olive oil, all served on a buttery, crusty roll that’s made in-house.
The Meal: Jerk Chicken Plate (Medium), $15
Massive portions, affordable prices, and plantains so juicy, you’d think they were a song by Doja Cat—the jerk chicken plate from Blessed Tropical Jamaican Cuisine comes bathed in a sweet and spicy sauce that’ll send you straight to heaven. A meal at this classic Inglewood spot is great any day of the week, but come on a Wednesday, and you’ll be treated to their wonderful lunch special: an entire plate of expertly cooked jerk chicken for just $15.
The Meal: Jade Noodle, $14
The boat noodle soup at this Thai Town institution usually gets the most love, but our sleeper favorite on the menu is the jade noodles. You’ll find them in the “soup” section, even though they’re served dry. They're bright-green noodles (tinted from the spinach) topped with a beautiful balance of BBQ duck, pork, peanuts, dried crab, and cilantro. Even though it’s a pretty big portion, you won’t want to split this with anyone else.
The Meal: Bánh Mì Dac Biet, $6
It’s surprisingly hard to find a good bánh mì in LA proper (of course, that’s no issue over in Westminster). That’s why My Dung is so treasured. They’re located in a tiny market stall on Ord Street, where you’ll be greeted by a vibrant array of produce, a huge, hand-painted menu, and one of the warmest shop owners in town. Make no mistake, these aren’t fancied up bánh mì or filled with truffle mayonnaise (yes, it’s a real thing)—just straightforward baguettes plus accouterments and your choice of either grilled pork, cold cuts and pâté, or sardines. We’re partial to the pâté, mostly because it makes us feel like a posh little prince.