Chances are you’ve either: recently planned a trip (good for you), bought something nice for yourself (self-care!), or relearned how much drinks cost when going out (sorry about that). Meaning… this might be a good time to give your wallet a break.
Which can be hard, given that gas prices, much like our anticipation for The Green Knight, only continue to skyrocket. On this guide, you’ll find Cantonese omelettes, Armenian mantee, tropical ice creams, and The Best Cuban Sandwich in the World, all for less than $15. When you don’t feel like spending a ton and you need something delicious, here are 15 dishes under $15 you should seek out.
THE (UNDER $15) SPOTS
The Dish: Zhengyalov Hatz, $6.99
Up first on our list is 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 scattered 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 Dish: Exactly 6 Tacos De Camarón, $13.50
It’s the most iconic dish in the city – a perfect amalgamation of seafood, deep-fried tortillas, and avocados that are always fresh. The shrimp tacos from this Boyle Heights truck are as much a part of Los Angeles as the Hollywood Sign or that giant Kermit the Frog statue on La Brea Ave. Of course, with $15, you could order a few other things on the menu. But why would you?
The Dish: Jerk Chicken Plate (Large), $12
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 $10.
The Dish: The Sandwich, $5.50
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 Dish: Jade Noodle, $9.95
The boat noodle soup at this Thai Town institution usually gets the most love, but our sleeper favorite is their jade noodles. You’ll find them in the “soup” section, even though they’re served dry – colored bright-green (tinted from the spinach) and 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 Dish: Fish Katsu Sandwich, $13
While we wait for their brick-and-mortar restaurant (slated for late 2021), head to Yess Aquatic’s colorful truck in the Arts District for some of city’s freshest fish. It’s run by a well-known London chef, Junya Yamasaki, and his mantra here is to basically serve “whatever’s freshest” that day. Lately, that means jumping on the fried fish sandwich trend. Theirs is made katsu-style, so think flaky, white fish coated in panko breadcrumbs then deep-fried. It’s crunchy, a little tangy from the tartar sauce, and exactly what you want to be eating when you spend the last of your paycheck on vintage salt and pepper shakers.
The Dish: Silky Shrimp Scramble, $12
Served warm and runny, like the best kinds of scrambled eggs, this velvety dish from Pearl River Deli combines all our favorite things in the world – giant shrimp, diced scallions, sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce. What results is a mix of familiar flavors, one-part American brunch, one-part basket of siu mai on a Sunday morning. Although, if you’re willing to spend just a bit more (and find yourself there on a weekend), you should probably throw in an order of Hainan Chicken too, just to be safe.
The Dish: Mantee “Traditional,” $14.95
Clocking in at just under $15 is Mantee Cafe’s titular dish. Served in a tray not dissimilar to a gravy boat, you’ll find a pool of meat-filled raviolis stuffed with spinach and a big ol’ dollop of fresh garlic yogurt sauce on the side. It’s a warm, comforting dish, and one we travel to Studio City for whenever we can’t stand the sight of another Chef Boyardee can.
The Dish: Lechonsita Sando, $14
The recently reopened Lasita’s pork belly behemoth isn’t for the faint of heart – if eating a massive amount of pig isn’t your thing, you might want to consider channeling our eighth grade-selves in PE class and sit this one out. Served on Bub & Grandma’s signature ciabatta loaf, this giant sandwich is filled with pork belly cubes, charred scallions, and a calamansi vin stew that’s just the right amount of sour. It’s a bit of an undertaking, but as Coach Tanaka always reminded us, it takes perseverance to win the war.
The Dish: Strawberry Donut, $4.50 each
Browsing The Donut Man’s giant desserts case is sort of like revisiting Madonna’s discography – confusing, if you don’t know where to start. So we’ll make things easy: get the strawberry donut. Topped with fruit that taste like they were picked that morning (which is sometimes peaches, when they’re in-season), these bright-red orbs are drizzled in a sticky glaze then plopped on top of the fluffiest donut you’ve ever seen - don’t blame us if they ruin every other version in existence.
The Dish: Bánh mì, $3.50 each
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 accoutrements and your choice of either grilled pork, pâté, or sardines. We’re partial to the pâté, mostly because it makes us feel like a posh little prince, but the creamy spread also goes quite well with the crusty bread loaf.
The Dish: Cheeseburger, $3.95
This Venice steakhouse’s cheeseburger is only $3.95. For context, that’s even cheaper than a Big Mac and approximately $4,996 less than a Fleurburger 5000, a.k.a., the most expensive burger in the world. This one from American Beauty is served out of their fast-casual operation, The Window (stylized The Win~Dow) and is a burger in its purest form. It comes with one smashed patty, caramelized onions, pickles, and a single, silky slice of American cheese.
The Dish: Strawberry Lilikoi Ice Cream (Half Pint), $8
This Historic Filipinotown pop-up has become a bonafide frozen dessert shop, with a rotating list of icebox pies, sorbets, ice creams, and sherbets. They come in a half-pint and pint-sized containers (our freezers currently hold at least six of them), with inventive flavors like milk chocolate + buckwheat + blueberries, citrus honey mezcal, and, our favorite, strawberry lilikoi - a passionfruit-based sherbert that tastes like a fruity, tropical vacation on a spoon.
The Dish: File Gumbo, $12.99
This Creole restaurant in Carson does many things well – fried catfish, jambalaya, being really nice and friendly to us even though we only had four hours of sleep and feel grumpy. But they also make excellent gumbo. There are two versions (the fancier one is served with French bread and jambalaya instead of white rice and costs $15.99), but they’re both topped with a generous amount of chicken sausage, andouille, and imported Louisiana blue crab. Each piece of shellfish is impeccably seasoned, and is an ideal complement to the rich, gravy-like roux.
The Dish: Cubano Sandwich, $13
El Cochinito’s Cubano isn’t just the best in Silver Lake, or even the city – according to the International Cuban Sandwich Festival, it’s the best in the world. For just $13, you’ll get a perfectly pressed panini, filled with the perfect proportions of ham, pork, Swiss cheese, a light spread of mustard, and crunchy, crunchy pickles. Was this sandwich engineered in a laboratory? How does the bread taste so buttery? And are they available to cater our next birthday party?