10 Essential L.A. Restaurants Where You Can Eat for Under $10

Crispy anchovies at RiceBar
Crispy anchovies at RiceBar
Anne Fishbein

Did you catch our latest issue, which determines L.A.'s 99 Essential Restaurants? It came out last week, and, as in years past, it's chock full of amazing places to dine – from classic institutions to trendy newcomers, high-end splurges to budget-friendly finds. Here we're highlighting the latter: Here are 10 places where you can have a mind-blowing meal for less than $10.

Especial plate
Especial plate
Anne Fishbein

Burritos La Palma

If your mental projection of a burrito involves a foil-wrapped behemoth the size of a newborn, then the svelte, almost dainty creations at El Monte’s Burritos La Palma might at first seem shocking. Flour tortillas are patted out by hand daily, filled with a spoonful or two of soft braised meats like beef birria or gooey curls of braised chicharron, then given a toast on the grill that lends the tortilla a subtle, golden-brown color. Each taco-sized burrito is a precisely calibrated package, a miniature essay on the joys of restraint, stewed chilies and high-quality lard. It’s not uncommon to order them four at time. Although La Palma is the first American outlet of a chain of tortillerias and burrito stands based in Zacatecas, Mexico, there are little splashes of Mexican-American influences here and there, including on the especial plate, which smothers twin burritos in melted cheese and chili sauce until they resemble enchiladas. Could the burrito be the new taco? Depending on whom you ask, a burrito is just a taco by another name. –Garrett Snyder
5120 Peck Road, El Monte; (626) 350-8286.

Lamb pies
Lamb pies
Anne Fishbein

Beijing Pie House

Navigating the restaurant scene in the San Gabriel Valley can be intimidating, especially for those who aren’t Chinese. You don’t want to be the dude ordering beef skewers at a place specializing in abalone porridge, after all. But if there’s a restaurant where your directives are clear from the moment you sit down, it’s Beijing Pie House. The wildly crowded restaurant in Monterey Park focuses on the most dangerous style of dumpling. Here, the unit of consumption is xian bing, puck-sized dumplings that contain a loose patty of meat and vegetable suspended in boiling-hot broth that spurts out when prodded with a chopstick. How do you tackle the xian bing? Do you perch one on your wide soup spoon and gingerly slurp out the innards? Do you bare-hand the thing and risk first-degree burns? These are matters of personal debate, but what’s undeniable is that the pan-fried lamb and green onion “meat pies” are crispy and juicy and utterly addictive. You drizzle it with a bit of black vinegar and a few drops of chili oil, which perfectly cut through the richness of the minced lamb, and tear off bites of the dumpling’s thick skin piece by piece. Just don’t forget what your chemistry teacher taught you about contents under pressure. –G.S. 846 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 288-3818.

Shrimp tacos
Shrimp tacos
Anne Fishbein

Mariscos Jalisco 

Don’t be fooled by the imitators, the lesser producers, the many other tacos dorado de camaron in L.A. The version at Raul Ortega’s Mariscos Jalisco, the Boyle Heights mariscos truck, is far and away the king of fried tacos, in this city and perhaps in the country. Don’t be confused by the crowds surrounding the other trucks nearby. Go directly to this corner of Olympic Boulevard and wait as they fold the shrimp into a tortilla and fry the whole thing in hot oil, pulling it out at the perfect point of golden crisp, then coat it with creamy slices of avocado and pert red salsa. If you’re in the mood for a feast, the Poseidon tostada, loaded with a jumble of ceviche, octopus and shrimp aguachile, will have you feeling like a god of the sea yourself. For that, and for the crispy tacos, our loyalty will never waver. –Besha Rodell 3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights; (323) 528-6701, facebook.com/mariscosjalisco.

10 Essential L.A. Restaurants Where You Can Eat for Under $10
Anne Fishbein

Philippe the Original

Philippe the Original is mainly billed as the birthplace of the French dip sandwich, and there’s no doubt that’s quite an achievement (though if you ask the folks over at Cole’s, they’ll claim the honor for themselves). But what we find so endearing about Philippe’s, so wonderful, so … essential is the sensation of wandering through some kind of time warp. Philippe’s opened in 1908 and has added some modern amenities in its 108 years: There are a few neon signs behind the counter along with the wooden ones, and in late 2014 the restaurant even started accepting credit cards. But the experience of standing in line, ordering your sandwich and having the meat carved in front of you (go for lamb, double-dipped, and add a magenta pickled egg on the side for fun), then finding a place in the massive dining room, is unchanged. Early in the morning, this is a great place to find a kind of club for old-timers and municipal workers, and the breakfast is unbelievably cheap. The whole place oozes a down-and-dirty charm, the true vintage soul of Los Angeles. –B.R1001 N. Alameda St., downtown; (213) 628-3781.

Crispy anchovies at RiceBar
Crispy anchovies at RiceBar
Anne Fishbein

RiceBar

We use the term “hole-in-the-wall” as a folksy cliche, but RiceBar truly is a hole in the wall, a teeny kitchen with a door on downtown’s Seventh Street. The entire space – kitchen, storage, fridges, dining area – is 275 square feet. The master of those 275 square feet is chef Charles Olalia, an exceedingly friendly dude who often looks kind of happily stunned to find himself here. It is quite amazing to find him here, given that his last job was executive chef at Patina in Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the ritziest restaurants in California. Before that, he worked at the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. At RiceBar, the focus is not on fine dining but rather heirloom, fair-trade Filipino rice bowls in a variety of flavors. The menu is built around the four large steamers in the front window, each holding a different kind of rice. Kalinga Unoy is a rust-colored red rice, grown on ancient terraced fields in Kalinga in the Philippines, then sun-dried. The flavor is lightly nutty and sweet, and it delicately complements RiceBar’s suggested topping, bistek tagalog: tender, pan-seared, soy-marinated beef. There’s black rice covered in hunks of lush avocado, crisp radish, sweet pops of marinated grape tomatoes and tiny, pointy, salty, crunchy fried anchovies. Pork longganisa, a sausage that’s made in-house, comes sliced and accompanied by pickled veggies; it has an almost floral and aromatic yet funky flavor that leaves a light, fatty sweetness behind. Olalia will recommend you order this over garlic fried rice and also that you add a fried egg. He’s a wise man in both regards. –B.R. 419 W. Seventh St., downtown; ricebarla.com.



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