L.A.'s Real Cheap Eats

Grill 'Em All Truck | Photo: standardpixel/Flickr/Creative Commons License

There's a disturbance in the world of "cheap eats." As more and more shows, columns, and food blogs are (rightfully and understandably) sticking their mitts into the world of frugal food, the definition is beginning to expand a bit too much. It only makes sense -- if you're putting together a TV show, you want the places to be photogenic; if you're writing a column, you want more options to choose from. Case in point: In this article at the leisure section of FoxNews.com, Jeff Mauro, host of the new Food Network series "$24 in 24" writes this when discussing his favorite L.A.-based cheapie:

To find cheap eats, Mauro likes to frequent the Japanese and Korean restaurants in Los Angeles. He likes to order the tofu seafood soup ($8.99) at Tofu Ya, which comes with banchan, small side plates like kimchi and fermented tofu.

"You might be disgusted with yourself," said Mauro of the unlimited helpings of banchan that the waitstaff happily refill.

Bolding and underlining, mine.

See, $8.99 is not a cheap eat. That's tax and a small tip away from being a full $10 bill. And that kind of thing just should not fly when you're in the discussion of what "eats" are "cheap." So instead of that suggestion, here are five places in L.A. where you can get plenty of items without having to give up your precious Alexander Hamilton:

Kien Giang Bakery
Cakes and pastries are the go-to items at the Kien Giang Bakery in Echo Park, located in a keep-your-eyes-peeled-or-you'll-miss-it building set back from the street. But beyond delicious desserts, they also have one of the greatest lunch deals around. For a tad north of $4, you get (1) one of their banh mi sandwiches -- the vegetarian option is the best -- on a piece of their freshly-baked bread, (2) a drink, and (3) a dessert from their multitude of helpings. That's a bargain.

1471 Echo Park Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90026

India Sweets and Spices
Fair warning up front: I am not the biggest fan of Indian food. There's just something in the spices that doesn't sit well with my meat-and-potatoes sensibility that was born, raised and cultivated in the lard-and-deep-dish-pizza-laden land of Chicago. But after a number of lunches here following a round of golf at the nearby Los Feliz Par 3, I can safely say I don't hate Indian food anymore. (That may seem like damning with faint praise, but it's an actual important development in my culinary palate.) The menu is pretty extensive, so I'm not going to list it here, other than to say the lunch special is a tremendous bang for your buck.

3126 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Grill 'Em All
While most food trucks veer into the realm of "should we really be paying this much for eating on the stoop?" Grill 'Em All's burgers are not only reasonably cheap, they're some of the best in L.A. no matter the price. You are going to end up paying $7-$8 for a burger, but that's still technically below our pre-established price point at the top of this post, so it counts!

Various places, since it's a food truck and all.

Andre's Italian
To get a good bargain at Andre's you can go with a personal-sized 10-inch pizza -- five toppings will still only put you at $8.75 for the whole pie -- or go for one of their bargain panini sandwiches. In order of tastiness, I recommend the chicken, the vegetarian and then the meatball. Or try them all and you'll still be under $20 for the whole absurd meal.

6332 W. 3rd Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90036

El Gran Burrito
Heading back home after a night on the town, there's no shortage of taco trucks lining the sides of the road. But if you're in the mood to actually sit down -- albeit, on cheap plastic seats under a tent -- and give yourself a few extra minutes to transition from a night of drinking into sleepy indigestion, well, you've probably already been to El Gran Burrito. It's cash only, of course, so make sure you hit a non-fee ATM beforehand. But when you get there, you'll have more extensive offerings than your run-of-the-mill taco truck, including a breakfast burrito with eggs and hash browns for only a tad over $5.

4716 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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