If you're getting lunch in LA, it's either A) cheap and from a taco truck that uses "beef", or B) $15, which's why we hit up the dude behind the daily $10-and-under lunch blog Midtown Lunch (and the super-sweet podcast Food Is The New Rock) to get his picks for the absolute best spots where you can get full on a single Alexander Hamilton.
Ricky's Fish Tacos (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "Two deep-fried, Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos, and a fresh agua fresca. This long-standing favorite still does fresh, fried-fish better than just about anyone from its free-standing Virgil truck."
What It Costs: $7
Ink.Sack (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "Any of their sandwiches. Nobody would have blamed Michael Voltaggio for cashing in on his Top Chef winner status by opening a $12 sandwich shop next to his restaurant Ink, which makes the prices at Ink.Sack all the more incredible -- the porky Jose Andres and the spicy banh mi are two all-stars, but every single one's a winner."
What It Costs: $6 per-sandwich, plus a couple extra bucks for a side of pork rinds.
800 Degrees (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "Pizza. This crazy-good pizza from the Umami Burger dude operates on a Chipotle-esque pick-your-toppings model, which means you've got ultimate control over what your 'za costs you."
What It Costs: $6 for the pie, plus a bit more depending on your topping choices.
Fat Sal's (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The Fat Jerry. You can't go wrong with anything at this let's-throw-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-in-your-sub shop, but you're definitely going to want the Fat Jerry, which tops a cheesesteak with chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon, eggs, and French fries."
What It Costs: $8.95
Top Round (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The Combo. This upscale Arby's on La Brea hand-cuts its roast beef. They literally just dropped a combo with a sando, a drink, and curly fries that won't empty your wallet, but will fill your stomach."
What It Costs: $9.15
Sapp Coffee Shop (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "Jade Noodles. If you're sick of dropping $20+ at Jitlata, hit this Thai Town spot instead -- its sweet noodles're less than half the price, and are loaded with crab, pork, and duck."
What It Costs: $6.75
Mexicali Taco & Co (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "A vampiro, a taco, and a drink. This formerly illegal street vendor kept its prices cheap when it moved into this brick-and-mortar just over two years ago, and its lunch combos make things even cheaper; the pro-move's to avoid the two- and three-taco combos and to load up on vampiros -- these crunchy, garlicy bites of amazing."
What It Costs: $6.75
Wah's Golden Hen (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "Everything. Forget about under $10 -- lunch can be half that at this actually-good East Hollywood Chinese food dive. For $4.50, you get to choose three items from their four-item menu of fried rice, chow mein, sweet and sour chicken, and one of the best egg foo yungs you'll find in all of Los Angeles. Recently hit a jackpot in Vegas? They'll give you all four for an extra 50-cents."
What It Costs: We'll make that math equation easy: $5
Hannosuke (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The shrimp tempura-don. This small stand in the Mitsuwa Marketplace serves up some of the best tempura in Los Angeles, with a bowl that comes with shrimp, vegetables, seaweed, and shishito peppers, plus a tempura-fried poached egg to break over the whole thing."
What It Costs: $9
Chego! (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The Beefy T. Super-acclaimed Chef Roy Choi may have moved his affordable Asian rice bowl spot from Palms to Chinatown, but it's still a great, cheap lunch destination. They've added new bowls that are inspired by their new digs, but you can't go wrong with the classic, meat-laden Beefy T. Looking for even more of a lunch-time deal? Their '$12 Salad' actually costs $7."
What It Costs: $9
Guisados (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The Sampler Plate. Every restaurant should have a sampler platter like the one that you get at Guisados (now in Echo Park and Boyle Heights), with mini-versions of the first six tacos on the menu (they change, but usually are, like, tinga and cochinita pibil, and awesome), all served on their delicious homemade corn tortillas."
What It Costs: $7
Kobawoo (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "The Bossam Plate. Kobawoo's got some of the best pork belly that exists -- they call it Bossam, and it is, um, Aossam. At dinnertime, a platter of the crazy-delicious meat will run you anywhere from 20 to 35 bucks, but at lunchtime, it can be had for just under $10, and comes with all the lettuces and daikon slices for wrapping and face-stuffing."
What It Costs: $9.50
Dream Korean BBQ (click here for address and deets)
What You're Getting: "All-you-can-eat. Duh. Stuff your face with HQ bulgogi and a monstrous salad bar that's also stacked with pre-made braised meats. Then do it again."
What It Costs: $9.99
1. Ricky's Fish Tacos1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles
2. ink.sack8360 Melrose, Los Angeles
3. 800 Degrees Pizza1146 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles
4. Fat Sal's950 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles
5. Top Round Roast Beef1000 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
6. Sapp Coffee Shop5183 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles
7. Mexicali Taco & Co.702 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles
8. Wah's Golden Hen709 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles
9. Hannosuke3760 S Centinella, Los Angeles
10. Guisados1261 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
11. Kobawoo House698 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
12. Dream Korean BBQ100 S Western Ave, Los Angeles
13. Chego!727 N Broadway, Los Angeles
The menu is simple -- as a taco stand's should be. Try their fish or shrimp tacos which are always, for lack of a better and more accurate word, perfect.
Ink's a hole-in-the-wall gourmet sandwich stand lined w/ graffitied blackboards and not much else, opening from Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio, who managed to pull off a somehow under-the-radar build-out despite obsessive scrutiny from media, food blogs, and Val Kilmer's stomach.
The restaurant group that brought us Umami Burger is behind this fast-casual pizza chain with locations all around the world. 800 Degrees is kind of like the Chipotle for pizza -- you choose the ingredients for your pizza at an assembly-line counter, then the pie is cooked under two minutes in an insanely hot (800 degrees!) oven. The pies are satisfying, the service fast, and the ingredients top-notch. Speciality pies and gluten-free crust is also available, so really, the choice is yours.
When all of the sandwiches at an establishment begin with the word “Fat,” you know you're in for some truly flavorful, gut-busting creations. Take the classic “Fat Sal,” for example, which is loaded with roast beef, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and brown gravy -- all served on an extra-wide garlic hero roll. One in a mini-chain of counter-serve spots, this Fat Sal's outpost is a favorite cheap-eats joint among UCLA students, who fill up the tiny, hip space quickly, itching to get their hands on the stacked lineup of hot dogs, heroes, and burgers, like the Fat Bruin: a cheeseburger-, chili-, and bacon-stuffed sandwich that reps the school's mascot.
A surprisingly gourmet sandwich shop that's serving up fancified roast beef eats.
If you're a fan of boat noodles and happen to be in Hollywood, you'll wanna check out this Thai-style coffee shop. Don't know what boat noodles are? No, problem. Still pop in for some Thai tea or coffee and some food that's anything but the norm.
This super simple Chinatown spot is owned by the Baja-bred Esdras Orchoa, who's changing the Mexican food game in LA with his masa harina tortillas. Not too big or too small, the corn flour tortillas are thick enough to hold the weight of beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp fillings, plus a topping of the creamy house garlic sauce. Mexicali's menu is simple and straightforward: aside from tacos, there are quesadillas, tostadas, and nachos. To really get a taste of the kitchen's Baja expertise, go for the Zuperman, a tortilla sandwich filled with a hefty portion of three meats and cheese.
Wah's hands down is some of the best Chinese food in all of LA. Whether you get the Wonton Soup or opt for something of the noodle variety you seemingly can't go wrong.
Remember the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones navigates those seemingly impossible-to-navigate booby traps all in an effort to get that little bald buddha dude statue? Well, Hannosuke is kinda like that, except the seemingly impossible-to-navigate place is the Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace and the bald buddha dude statue is battered-and-fried-goodness from Japan.
With a straightforward approach to tacos, the second branch of the wildly popular East LA taqueria adds a patiod to the mix, but sticks to the original, winning menu of homemade tortillas and a selection of various meats, fish, and vegetarian options. The liquor menu is equally pared down to keeps things simple.
Open since 1985, this Koreatown strip small spot has a reputation for being one of the oldest and most reputable restaurants in the neighborhood. Its speciality is bossam, a giant platter of boiled and sliced pork belly, served with a few kinds of kimchee, raw oysters, fermented shrimp, and giant pieces of lettuce, which are used to wrap everything up in a tight bundle for eating. You should definitely go to Kobawoo for its bossam, but while you're there, be sure to order the seafood pancakes, cold acorn noodles, and pan-fried squid too.
Dream KBBQ has the best of both worlds, Korean BBQ and all-you-can-eat buffet options to go along with your food choice. But make sure you're sufficiently hungry so you get your moneys worth and when you leave you'll have to loosen up that belt a few notches.
Roy Choi’s Chego! is named after a variation on the Korean term meaning “excellent, great, delicious.” Once located in the Palms, Chego! now lives in Chinatown behind Ocean Seafood. Choi’s rice bowl concept lives up to the meaning behind the name, serving up Korean street food with Mexican influence and fine dining technique, tricking out even the basest of foundations (like… rice, for example), and turning them into cravable, affordable, approachable dishes for the LA masses. The Chubby Pork Belly (pork belly rice bowl with a fried egg, and other stuff, but pork belly and a fried egg should be enough to convince you) is one of Choi’s favorites… I’m not saying you have to get it, I’m just saying you should. That, and a side of Ooey Gooey Fries.