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Best Dinners For Less Than $15 In Los Angeles

(credit: Thinkstock) (credit: Thinkstock)

Los Angeles has plenty of restaurants that fall in the category of affordable, but knowing where to go for a meal that is actually worth having is the key. Discover some new hot spots, as well as local mainstays, for dinner under $15.

Let's Save

Eating out in Los Angeles is often a treat, an occasional necessity, but almost always more expensive than dining at home. However, with a few simple tricks and a little research, the indulgence of restaurants doesn't have to be a drain on your pocketbook. You can save money without sacrificing the experience by knowing where to go (see below) and practice a few of these money-saving tips:

  • Bigger can be better: With portions being the huge sizes they are nowadays, it's easy to get filled up without clearing your plate all on your own. If on a date, keep it reasonable by splitting an appetizer and a meal to cut back on the overall tab if you know the servings are substantial. One main entree can also be stretched into two meals by simply saving your leftovers for lunch the next day; make sure you tailor your order to something that will keep and reheat well.
  • Be smart with your spirits: Make your buck stretch further by finding the BYOB (bring your own booze) restaurants in your city. This will allow for dinner and drinks on a much smaller budget. Always ask about drink specials too. Whether it's two-for-ones or just discounted house wines and wells, you can shave off a decent portion of the tab if you're willing to step away from the premiums.
  • Keep an eye on the clock: Happy hours are not just for drinks, as many places will offer food specials as well. If you are willing to dine earlier or later, you may be able to save on both your meal and your drinks.
  • Have a nose for specials: Many places will have weekly specials, some every day of the week. Whether it's the college cliché of Taco Tuesdays or half-price Mondays, get to know the schedule of the restaurants nearby and frequent them on those days.
  • Sides can steal the show: Free bread or chips and salsa? Unlimited fries? Side salad included? Keep an eye on the extras and a smaller, lower-priced meal could be plenty to fill you up.

Let's Eat

From American cuisine to Chinese food to breakfast, these five eateries are what give L.A. a good name among foodies.

Truxton's American Bistro
1329 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 393-8789

The home-cooked-style brisket is reason enough to have dinner at Truxton's American Bistro. And for the $12.98 price tag on the restaurant's 11-spiced brisket taco salad fits the bill for most people, too. New to Santa Monica with the original location in Westchester, Truxton's slow cooks its signature beef brisket and tosses it with shredded lettuce, black beans and poblana corn salsa. Cheddar and cotija cheeses are sprinkled within the salad along with tortilla strips, and it is served with pico de gallo and a secret spicy 1001 dressing. The tasty salad is served over an over-sized crispy wheat tortilla. The salad is a great choice for watching the game while dining at the counter.

Apple Pan
10801 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 475-3585

Craving a burger, fries and apple pie for dinner? Then Apple Pan is your best bet. For dinner, the hickory or steak burgers are excellent options. Each are $6.75 and prepared the way you like it with mayonnaise, Apple Pan's original secret sauce, pickles and lettuce. Add cheese for 50 cents. French fries, which are made to perfection, are $2.25, and taste delicious when you dip them into the original secret sauce from the burger. And don't walk out the door until you've treated yourself to a slice of apple pie ($5.55) for dessert.

Nickel Diner
524 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 623-8301

The name of this diner is a little misleading, but for sure you can walk out the door for under $15. While the vibe is edgy, this downtown diner features a menu offering something for the "meat and potatoes" guest and for the vegetarian. A favorite of Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" with Guy Fieri, Nickel Diner serves dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Entrees include double-stuffed chicken ($11.75), a mushroom duxelle stuffed under the skin and presented on a pile of old fashioned stuffing served with sautéed spinach and pan gravy, and a grilled veggie pasta puttanesca ($9.25), a pasta main course with roasted tomatoes and garlic, grilled zucchini and eggplant, tossed with pesto, capers and black olives and sprinkled with chili flakes.

Wah's Golden Hen
709 N. Virgil Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 661-0093

Easy on the wallet but completely satisfying, especially when hankering for Chinese food, Wah's Golden Hen is a hot L.A. spot for dining under $15. Order up two egg rolls ($2.25), sweet and sour shrimp ($4.95) and vegetable fried rice ($4.25) and you many even take home leftovers. With a few dollars to spare, Wah's fried shrimp is pretty delicious too ($2.30 for three). The atmosphere is nothing to write home about, but sometimes these hole in the walls are the best. You can definitely count on quality cooking, fresh ingredients and friendly service.

The Original Pantry
877 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 972-9279

Breakfast for dinner is probably one of the most beloved dining experiences. It is always comforting and delicious. The Original Pantry, which has been serving patrons since 1926 in Downtown Los Angeles, has a 24-hour menu that serves breakfast every hour of the day. For the savory palate, The Pantry's ham and cheese omelette ($11.95) is served with potatoes, toast (the diner's sourdough bread is like candy) and coffee. For those who prefer a sweeter breakfast-for-dinner entrée, order the pancakes or sourdough French toast, each are $6.45. A cup of coffee is $1.95 and you can drink as much as you like. The Pantry is a true downtown experience where the portions are very generous.


View more great budgeting advice and Create Your Financial Plan today!

Sheryl Craig is a writer with a passion for interesting finds and treasures in Los Angeles. She has a background in journalism and public relations. A mother of two daughters, Sheryl integrates her healthy lifestyle into raising her children. Her work can be found at

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