We won’t go into all of the dark, depressing details (not really our lane), but let’s just say we’ve all been trying to cut back on spending lately. And while it’s important to remain “fiscally responsible,” that doesn’t mean you have to resort to meal-prepping oatmeal. It just means that you need to know where to order from. So for all the penny-pinchers, ballers on a budget, and kind souls who were once called a “severe financial risk” by their bank (that was a rough day), this guide’s for you.
Whether you’re recovering from an impulse buy, or just want, like, really good raw fish, your next order should be from Ali’i Fish Company. Simply put, this spot in El Segundo serves some of the best poke in the city. From spicy ahi to ponzu-soaked salmon, the menu here is on par with anything you’d get in Hawai’i. Which makes sense - they source their seafood directly from the islands. And unlike a plane ticket there, or the limited-edition StarKist drawing you purchased last night, nothing on the menu costs more than $15. Ali’i Fish Company is available for takeout and delivery. Call (310) 616-3484 or order online.
This soon-tofu spot in Koreatown is open 24 hours a day, and their Wilshire outpost has hosted everyone from Academy Award-winner Bong Joon Ho to a pre-COVID us after a long night of neighborhood bar-hopping. And for good reason - their banchan is some of the best around, and they’re one of the only places that includes an entire fried fish (!!) with every order. Plus, some of the best stuff on the menu (like their bibimbap and signature soon tofu) costs about $14. Call (213) 382-6677 to place a takeout order, or find them on UberEats.
If you ever find yourself aimlessly wandering around Venice, hungry and incredulous at all of the citrus trees growing in tiny front yards, don’t steal an underripe lemon. It won’t make for a very good lunch, and plus, La Isla Bonita is waiting for you nearby. This truck on 4th and Rose is even more affordable than American Beauty across the street, and their especially tangy ceviche and mixed seafood tostadas contend with the great Mexican seafood trucks across the city. If you’re looking for something meatier, they do have al pastor, carne asada, and chicken tacos or burritos, but come on. You’re at a Mexican seafood truck after all.
Although ordering from this Southeast Asian pop-up might take a bit of calendar management (pick-ups are only held on the second Tuesday of the month), when you live in a city with so few Burmese options, some maneuvering might just be worth it. Everything here is sold by the kit, like tea leaf salads and party packs of curry - the latter of which comes with coconut rice, fried garlic, and parathas (flaky flatbread), and can be expanded to feed as many as six people. Whether those are six different people, or just one person over the span of a single afternoon - that’s between you and your Outlook calendar. DM their Instagram account to pre-order.
You know what they don’t tell you about selling your clothes on the internet? It’s a lot of f*cking work. Sifting through your closet, engaging with people online, determining which low-rise jeans do or do not spark joy (spoiler alert: it’s always the latter), and for what? A couple extra bucks a month? No. Just order from CHD instead. Baskets of mandu, or Korean dumplings, come either grilled or steamed, and start at just $10. Or if you’re feeling like a certain Queen song and just Want It All, get the combination plate. For $14, you’ll get ten pieces filled with pork, kimchi, galbi, shrimp, and chili - which, no offense, is a much better deal than anything you could find on Depop. CHD is available for takeout and delivery - call (213) 334-4333, or find them on most major apps.
Ever since shelter-in-place went into effect, we’ve been taking up a ton of new hobbies, such as lounging the couch, lounging on our bed, and buying way too many bags of heirloom beans. And if you, like us, have accidentally spent most of your discretionary income on French-style green lentils, but still want to eat incredible handmade pastas, place an order at Colapasta. This Santa Monica spot is an affordable Italian palazzo, with dishes like gnocchi di ricotta, squid ink bavette, and agnolotti in truffle butter that range from $12-16. Available for takeout, call (310) 310-8336 to order, or find them on delivery apps.
Rainy days, after-work bites, whenever you only have $40 in your bank account (which is somehow supposed to last you until next Friday?) - Daichan is our go-to for almost any situation. This tiny spot in Studio City specializes in Japanese soul food at prices that won’t break the bank. Entrees hover around the $8-12 mark, like spicy curry udon, Japanese-style fried chicken, cold soba, and gigantic tempura rice bowls. Available for takeout and delivery.
Not only does this family-owned restaurant win the award for being the most criminally overlooked lunch spot in Silver Lake, but they also serve the best Cuban sandwich in the entire world (seriously). Plus, all of the sandwiches here, including that aforementioned Cuban, cost about $10, and their larger plates, like their ropa vieja, lechon asado, and marinated palomilla steak, cost less than $20. El Cochinito is available for takeout and delivery - call (323) 668-0737 or find them on the apps.
Eastside Market Italian Deli
If you’ve been binge-watching The Sopranos in quarantine and are craving a good, old -fashioned red sauce meal (and want to save a little money), look no further than Eastside Market Italian Deli, an 85 year-old sandwich shop that still somehow remains a local secret. The sandwiches coming out of here hover around the $9-12 mark and are the messy, old-school, red sauce variety that are hard to find elsewhere in LA. The #7 (roast beef, pastrami, and cheese) is probably our favorite, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the D.A. Special (sausage, meatball, roast beef, and pastrami) is your one way ticket to an at-home power nap.
So, you haven’t filed your taxes yet. That’s fine. Not only because the deadline’s been extended to July 15th (little did you know, we’re also a financial literacy website), but because even though you haven’t cashed out that fat return yet, you can still afford to order from Hi-Fi Kitchen. This casual rice bowl joint on Beverly Blvd. is filled with traditional Filipino dishes like pork belly sisig, vegetable pancit, and chicken adobo covered in cranberry soy marinade. Plus, nothing costs more than $12, so it doesn’t even matter how abysmal your checking account balance is. Available for takeout and delivery, call (213) 258-8417, or order online.
So, you’re telling us a wood fired this pizza? Well, we hope it got a good severance package… We’ll see ourselves out now. All horrible puns aside, Elio’s Wood-Fired Pizza is an excellent little pop-up shop operating from the back of an early-aughts Chevy Silverado in a liquor store parking lot in Silver Lake. A basic, medium-sized cheese pie here costs $10 and comes with fresh basil, with each additional topping costing another $1. We often go for the sausage, pepper, and onions because we understand the value a sweet-spicy-crisp balance.
Life is full of little surprises. Despite their expiration dates, Bed Bath & Beyond coupons never go bad. Al Pacino’s real first name is “Alfredo.” And some of the best Hawaiian food in LA is being served in a bowling alley in Gardena. Almost everything at this tiny diner is great and hovers around the $10 mark, from the kimchi bacon fried rice to the smokey, fatty kalua pig and cabbage), but what everyone is ordering is the Hawaiian Royal. This massive plate of eggs, rice, chashu, and Portuguese sausage is an all-out-brawl of flavor in your mouth, which, now that we’ve written it out, sounds kind of unpleasant. But trust us, eating it is nothing but pure, Aloha State paradise.
Sure, most dessert shops are affordable, but this tiny Historic Filipinotown storefront is the most affordable, and serves the best donuts in the area, hands down. Pretty much everything in their glowing glass case costs next to nothing, from crispy apple fritters and fluffy, freshly made glazed donuts to one of the best deals in tow: Ten donut holes for just $1. Cash only. Takeout available, pick-up in-store.
This well-known San Gabriel Valley spot is less of a food court, and more of a cafeteria-style restaurant, but if we’ve learned anything from our time as writers, it’s that semantics are for losers, especially when the food’s this good. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so we’ve outlined our favorites - and luckily, they’re all relatively inexpensive. Focus on the crispy, pan-fried bao, beef rolls, and soup dumplings, and if you’re feeling a little frisky (read: you just got paid), pick up a package of their frozen dumplings from the freezer before you leave. Available for takeout, call (626) 308-3898 or order through their website.
Both the Culver City and Arts District locations of this low-key taqueria are offering delivery and takeout. And besides the low-hanging pun we just made, there’s a lot to like about this affordable taco shop: Their pollo primo tacos are spicy, and packed with flavor, and the mushroom molcajete - basically a burrito bowl - is always an excellent choice. But what keeps us coming back are their fluffy flour tortillas. Made in-house and thicker than a bowl of oatmeal, these things are the perfect vehicle for everything on the menu, and deserve some type of award… even if that’s just your patronage. Order through their website, or find them on most major delivery apps.
If you’ve been following us at all this past year, you know that aside from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, there’s nothing we love more than a good breakfast burrito. Especially when they’re super big, filled with thick-cut bacon, and only cost $7. Which is exactly what you’ll find at Lowkey, a weekly pop-up in the South Bay and Koreatown. Each burrito comes with a crispy outer layer of griddled cheese and jalapeño (genius) and is filled with ingredients like grass-fed marinated tri-tip, fresh salsa, and hash browns. It’s basically like the “Elaine” of breakfast burritos. Or the “Selina Meyer.” Or… actually, you get the picture.
While we’re on board for anything that starts with the words “cha cha,” not only is the name of this Caribbean restaurant a fun time, they also serve a great jerk chicken at reasonable prices. A single serving (¼ of a chicken) only costs $9.95, but if you’re like us, and trying to meal prep for the week, get the whole chicken. For just $27.75, you’ll get a gigantic meal, smothered in their signature jerk sauce and served with two sides. Oh, to be an entire, whole chicken smothered with jerk sauce. Takeout and delivery available at both locations, Santa Monica and Northridge.
This fast-casual restaurant in West LA is both our go-to for the delicious, complex dish known as mazemen (Japanese brothless ramen) and an ideal spot for whenever your bank account falls into the double digits and you need food like, now. They make a few variations on the soupless noodle, like ones made with curry, cheese, and veggie miso, but our favorite is the deluxe. Just $15 and full of sliced chashu, spicy minced pork, and two types of eggs (poached and soft boiled), much like Julia Louis-Dreyfus in everything, this dish can’t be beat. Available for takeout and delivery, call (424) 371-5085 to order, or find them on most major delivery apps.
Blink and you might miss it, although this pint-sized bánh mì shop might be small, the sandwiches here are anything but meager. For just $4.25, you’ll get a fresh, crusty baguette loaded with everything from chicken to pâté to grilled pork and xiu mai, accompanied by the traditional carrot, daikon, and cilantro accoutrements. Is this the perfect meal? Absolutely. Have we gotten too excited and ordered, like, four-to-five of them in one visit? Yes. And would we do it again? Again, yes!
Ordering from Nong La is like watching Planet Earth until you pass out on the couch: Consistent, reliable, and gets the job done when you need it. Is it the most exciting Vietnamese food you’ll have in SoCal? No. But outside of Westminster, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better, more affordable meals than their $13 bowls of pho, bun noodle salads, and com rice plates. Both their West LA and La Brea locations are open for takeout and delivery, call, order through their website or find them on most major delivery apps.
As dark and depressing as the world is today, it would be far worse if Pasta Sisters didn’t exist in it. This order-at-the-counter Italian restaurant revolutionized the handmade pasta game by making everything from tagliatelle to fresh spaghetti to pesto alla Genovese affordable. Even their most expensive pasta - an Italian black truffle - is less than $18. Available for takeout and delivery, order through their website, or find them on most major delivery apps.
If you’re looking for quick, inexpensive Cantonese food, Ricebox should be your move. In addition to appetizers such as salt-and-pepper chili wings and wild mushroom bao (both less than $10), for just $15, you can build your own box with a choice of rice plus Chinese faves like roasted and honey-glazed char siu, porchetta belly, or mapo eggplant. Plus, with all that money you’re saving, you can finally focus on paying for things that actually matter, like your electricity bill, or this hyper-realistic portrait of Mr. Peanut. Available for takeout and delivery, call (213) 988-7395 to order or find them on most major delivery apps.
Roma Market Italian Deli
We’ve been watching a ton of Shark Tank in quarantine, so believe us when we say the cold-cut sandwich at this Pasadena deli might just be the greatest value proposition in the game. Served on a freshly baked roll and filled with capicola, mortadella, salami, plus a few slices of provolone, this $5.50 sub is so simple, so effortlessly perfect, it transcends even the need for a name (seriously, it doesn’t have one). Our professional analysis? The return on this investment is simply astronomical - invest now. Roma Market is available for takeout, call (626) 797-7748, or pick-up in-store.
Ruen Pair Thai Restaurant
No matter where you fall on the Thai-expertise spectrum (is there a Buzzfeed quiz for this yet?), with its menu of over 115 items, there’s something for everyone at Ruen Pair. Due to their late hours (they’re open until 11pm during COVID), they’re one of the most essential restaurants in East Hollywood, and while we’ll happily eat their pad thai and papaya salad any day of the “week,” it’s their salty egg and turnip omelette that’s saved us from countless hangovers over the years. Plus everything here costs around $13 - very fiscally responsible. Available for takeout, call (323) 466-0153 to order.
This Filipino spot on Sunset isn’t just obsessive about their pork, they’ve also got a whole roster of excellent jackfruit salads, Brussels sprouts, and a chorizo burger, all for under $14. And while the patita, a slow-roasted then deep-fried pork shank, is by far the most expensive dish on the menu ($24), its addictive chili and vinegar sauce (and sides of rice, egg, and tomatoes), make it enough for a couple meals - and worth a little extra cash. Maybe just skip the dishwasher and wash your plates by hand for a couple weeks? Available for takeout and delivery, order through their website.
We all make mistakes - like the time you tried to open a jar with a knife (bad), or when you forced yourself to watch 20th Century Women (even worse). And while we can’t go back in time and right those wrongs, we can make sure that your next meal is both delicious and inexpensive, starting with Sticky Rice. Both their Grand Central Market and Echo Park outposts are open for takeout and delivery, which means dishes like spicy, pan-fried drunken noodles, khao soi made with braised chicken, and one the best beef panang curries in the city, all for under $16. Call (213) 200-1341 or (323) 284-8744 to order, or find them on the delivery apps.
This 47-year-old Little Tokyo joint, which was originally started by two sisters, is filled with all kinds of Japanese comfort foods, like chicken katsu curry, oyakodon (stir-fried chicken and egg), and zaru soba. Plus, most things cost less than $15 here - which actually might be even more comforting than the food itself. Call (213) 626-9132 or order through their website.
Sunnin Lebanese Cafe
The good news - you supported your favorite LA restaurants by donating to their Kickstarter campaigns and buying merch (yay!) The bad news - you literally spent all of your money and had to use some of your Venmo balance to pay your rent this month. Ouch. But just because you’re a little tight on liquid cash, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat an incredible meal - like at Sunnin, a classic Lebanese spot with locations in Santa Monica and Westwood. Almost everything costs less than $20, but our go-tos are any of the plates involving their shawarma, cauliflower, and falafel (and their smooth, silky hummus), but at these prices, you almost can’t go wrong. Order through their website or most major apps.
Three months ago, quarantine was something that only happened in Contagion, the words “social distancing” meant nothing to us, and we would have never dreamed of reading one of the books used to decorate our room. And while we still haven’t actually read any of them (we’ve definitely thought about it, though) so much in the world has changed - like Tacos 1986 now having three permanent outposts. This former pop-up can be found in Downtown LA, Westwood, and Beverly Grove, and they all serve their signature Tijuana-style Mexican food like asada tacos, adobada quesadillas, and pollo vampiros, ranging from $3.25-$5. Order through their website or find them on most major delivery apps.
Whenever we’re in the mood for tremendous beef birria and not spending a ton of money, we start an order at Teddy’s Red Tacos. Specifically, we’re here for the deluxe plate, which comes with an almost unbelievable assortment of Tijuana-style dishes, including tacos, a cheese-encrusted mulita, quesadilla, tostada, and an 8 oz. cup of consome on the side, all for just $14. Which means you’ll be able to save your money for more “important” things, like a new desk, or four unpaid parking tickets from last year. Just spitballing. Their South LA and Echo Park trucks are only available for pick-up, and Teddy’s Red Tacos’ Venice location is available via various delivery platforms.
We’re going to cut straight to the chase - the cheeseburger at this Venice steakhouse costs $3.95. For context, that’s a dollar cheaper than a Big Mac and $4,996 less than the Fleurburger 5000, a.k.a. the most expensive burger in the world. Plus, it’s legitimately good - it’s a burger in its purest form, and comes topped with nothing but caramelized onions, pickles, and a single, silky slice of American cheese. Available for takeout and delivery, call (310) 412-0075, order through their website, or find them on most major apps.
This Armenian restaurant in Burbank is a bonafide kabob palace, and a great choice for when you feel like you’re just one overdraft away from starting an OnlyFans account. There’s a ton of excellent options on-a-stick here, from chicken breast to beef shish, but our favorite by far is the beef lule. Also, an extra bag of six pitas is just $3 - some might say that that’s cheaper than therapy. Available for takeout and delivery - call (818) 563-6666, or order through their website.
Both of Triple Beam’s locations in Highland and Echo Park are open for takeout and delivery, with personal-pan pizzas starting at $7, and whole pizzas - which they claim are “for four people” (but really, what is four people if not one person, four times?) - starting at $18. Will these Roman-style pies make you forget the fact that you have seven unpaid parking tickets? Probably not. But a thick slice of their roasted fennel with goat cheese will at least make you feel better about it. Order through their website or most major apps.
The menu at this tiny, counter-service spot in Glendale is sort of like an 89-minute movie: short, sweet, and to-the-point. So, you know, perfect. It consists of only two things: sweet paxlava and its namesake zhengyalov hatz. The latter is served warm - swaddled in thick, whole wheat dough and packed with a fragrant medley of greens, including minced spinach, beetroot leaves, scallions, spring onions, kale, and mint - oh, and only costs $6.99. Like we said, the perfect meal.