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LA's Best-Tasting Cheap Meals

Nickel Diner Monica May - Kimberli Ransom Photography
(credit: Monica May/Kimberli Ransom Photography)

Eating out in Los Angeles can prove to be a pricey ordeal if you venture out for meals on a regular basis. How can you eat well and keep those hard-earned dollars in your pocket? The key is visiting some of this city's inexpensive, yet satisfying spots around town. Here are a few of your best bets for a bargain meal.

Blueberry Pancakes - Kimberli Ransom Photography
(credit: Kimberli Ransom Photography)

Nickel Diner

524 South Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 623-8301

Although it does require a trip down to the seedy section of downtown, Nickel Diner shines brightly as a beacon of breakfast. Pancakes, French toast, scrambles and sandwiches dominate the morning offerings. A simple stack of three pancakes is just $7.50 and huevos rancheros with corn tortillas and beans is a mere $8.50. If you prefer a sweet start to the day, grab one of the Maple Bacon Donuts or housemade pop tarts.

Jinya Ramen Bar - Jinya Ramen Bar
(credit: Jinya Ramen Bar)

Jinya Ramen Bar

11239 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 980-3977

There's almost nothing cheaper than ramen noodles, each and every college student seems to know, but Jinya Ramen Bar serves the real deal, and it's worth the extra dollars. The restaurant is known for Tonkotsu ramen, which starts with a rich pork bone-based broth. Choose from variations featuring combinations of seasoned egg, scallions, seaweed, garlic chips and slices of pork belly. There are also a few chicken and vegetable based-ramen bowls.

Cilantro Mexican Grill - Renee Barrera Yelp
(credit: Renee Barrera)

Cilantro Mexican Grill

7214 Whitsett Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 91605
(818) 765-7998

Cilantro Mexican Grill shares space with Chevron, but it is more than just a pit stop off Highway 170. Chef Adolfo Perez's mouth-watering barbacoa, carne asada, chicken, shredded pork and beef tongue are all made fresh to order and can be the main ingredient in tacos, burritos, quesadillas or tortas. Top everything off with one or more of the creations from the salsa bar. The black salsa de molcajete, pineapple salsa, roasted tomatillo salsa and creamy habanero and cilantro pesto sauces are excellent. Tacos are inexpensive, as are the burritos and quesadillas which are in the $5 range. With chips and salsa on the side, this is a great price for a quick and casual meal.

India Sweets & Spices - Sunny de Jesus Yelp
(credit: Sunny De Jesus)

India Sweets & Spices

3126 Los Feliz Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 345-0360

India Sweets & Spices is a full-fledged market on one side and a restaurant on the other. Quick-service lunch or dinner is available when you are ready for a good fix, and it is in your best interest to go for one of the three specials. Each one allows you to sample a variety of authentic food. Special #3 includes your choice of a shake or lassi and a dessert, so you may as well spend a couple of extra bucks for a sweet ending. The best part is India Sweets & Spices is very vegetarian-friendly, so almost anyone can find a good deal here.

Schooner Beer and Pickled Eggs Joe Jost's - Amber G. Yelp
(credit: Amber G.)

Joe Jost's

2803 East Anaheim Street
Long Beach, CA 90804
(562) 439-5446

Joe Jost's is a neighborhood haunt that boasts an interesting menu like pickled eggs, salty pretzels and old-school rye bread sandwiches -- all for less than $4. Joe's Special is inexpensive and it's a Polish sausage with Swiss cheese, a pickle and a slather of mustard on rye. If sausage is not your thing, try a salami, liverwurst or egg salad sandwich for just a few cents more. A basket of pretzels, chilis and one pickled egg is only $1.25. Some say Joe Jost's has the coldest beer in town, so order a schooner to wash everything down.

Arancini Dominick's - Dominick's
(credit: Dominick's)


8715 Beverly Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 652-2335

Dominick's is known around town for consistent and quality Italian-American fare. Although its regular menu is fairly priced, there is an easy way to sample the restaurant's fare for less money – make a reservation for Sunday Supper. Sunday Supper's three-course meal is just $15. The menu changes often, so there is always a reason to return. Grab a Moretti for just $3 during Sunday Supper, and it's a complete meal.

Papa Cristo's - David C. Yelp
(credit: David C./Yelp)

Papa Cristo's

2771 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 737-2970

Papa Cristo's is a gem that lets you experience a family-style dinner with strangers. For just $24 a person, sample several Greek wines, nosh on a variety of appetizers and a multi-course meal that also includes dessert and coffee. Taramasalata, dolmade Greek salad, feta, hemon and oregano chicken, lamb, roasted potatoes and baklava are just a few of the dishes on the menu. Towards the meal's end, enjoy live music and a little dancing. Venture next door to the market if dinner encourages you to grab imported items for home.

Chrystal a freelance food, events, culture travel contributor for CBS Los Angeles, Basil Magazine, Frugivore Magazine and Politic365. She is the co-editor of the recipe blog, The Duo Dishes, and manages her own lifestyle and travel blog, Any and Everywhere, as well as the Farm 2 Plate Culinary Club site.
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