As rents increase and living affordably in Los Angeles seems daunting, there are still endless spots to find an affordable lunch. You don’t need to travel far to experience cuisines from around the world. On his CNN show Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain introduced the world to the possibilities of living and eating in culturally rich L.A. by highlighting the city's ethnic enclaves, from Koreatown to Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Tehrangeles and beyond. Street vendors are now legal, and some of the best bites can be found in tiny strip malls, family vans, makeshift pop-up stands, food trucks and food halls. The Los Angeles food scene is America at its best.
Soothe your soul (and belly) with grub that won’t empty your wallet. Here are 10 dishes for $10 or less (drinks not included) — crunchy tacos, fresh ceviche, döner sandwiches, udon noodles, bowls topped with fresh sushi and homemade chorizo burritos. Los Angeles is a foodie paradise, its 503 square miles offering a vast array of hard-working Angelenos preparing your next lunch with pride.
Palms: Wiki Salmon bowl at TikiFish ($9.95)
Dive into the healthy Wiki Salmon Signature Bowl topped with fresh, sushi-grade salmon and filled with green onions, cilantro corn, jalapeños, crispy shallots and spicy sesame ponzu made in-house. Select your preferred base (sushi rice, brown rice, mixed greens or kale) or create your own Hawaiian-inspired bowl with a tiki twist sprinkled with beach vibes. Add premium toppings like creamy uni for more bucks and ask for off-menu items like the Fire Bomb Special with ahi tuna, spicy mayo, green onions, masago and wasabi. Find this casual spot in a tiny plaza on Overland next to Phorage.
3300 Overland Blvd., Palms; (310) 876-0442, tiki.fish.
Koreatown: Pork belly bowl at GoGoBop ($8.95)
K-town is known for affordable eats but this Korean rice bar, diagonally across from the Line Hotel on Wilshire, is one of the best. It offers affordable kimbop (Korean rice rolls) and build-your-own rice bowls with tofu or succulent meat options including pork belly, spicy pork, braised beef, carne asada and chicken — similar to a poké bowl but with cooked proteins. Start with Korean mixed rice, two sides (black beans, pinto beans, grilled cabbage), and add toppings such as green onions, miso peppers, kimchi, cucumbers, mac salad and more. Finalize your lunch bowl with sauces, such as sesame oil, sriracha, soy sauce, red salsa or the signature gochujang-mayo sauce. Enjoy free udon broth and save room for the $2 Hotteok (Korean sweet pancake) filled with syrupy brown sugar.
3456 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown; (213) 385-1089, gogobop.com.
San Pedro: Chori-bean and cheese burrito at the Chori-Man ($8.95)
Several years ago we discovered an unforgettable breakfast burrito with homemade chorizo from a tiny stand outside Brouwerij West, a Belgian-style brewery and taproom in a San Pedro warehouse. The Chori-Man (Humberto Raygoza), a fourth-generation Zacatecas-style chorizo maker, now has his own brick-and-mortar restaurant offering handmade Mexican chorizos. The traditional red style chorizo is a guajillo chili blend with chicken, while the Southern Mexican style is green pork chorizo with poblano chilies filled with herbs and spices. Pick your preferred meat before the burrito is packed with Chori-beans (mayacoba beans simmered in chorizo spices), cheese and salsa.
2309 S. Alma St., San Pedro; (424) 287- 2414, facebook.com/TheChoriMan.
Westside: Carne asada hard taco at Tacos Por Favor ($3.75)
Order two of these generously stuffed, wide crunchy tacos with lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, onion and cilantro, topped and loaded with shaved cheese. The seasoned meat tacos with crisp crunchy shells made in-house can be found at three locations on the Westside, all casual spots to roll in with flip-flops. Enhance your taco at the salsa bar. Each order comes with a bag of tortilla chips, which are perfect for scooping up all the remnants falling out of the crisp shell.
1408 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 392-5768; 11901 W. Olympic Blvd., Sawtelle, (310) 479-2818; 826 Hampton Drive, Venice, (310) 392-6700; tacosporfavor.net/index.php.
Downtown or Venice Beach: Shrimp ceviche tostada at La Tostadería ($9.50)
Sit at the counter at the downtown Grand Central Market location to meet new friends over the heaping chilled shrimp ceviche blended with cucumbers, parsley, red onions, celery, cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. The colorful medley sitting atop two crunchy tostada shells tastes fresh and light but is still filling. And now Westsiders can devour their fresh Mexican seafood tostadas and tacos in Venice.
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, downtown, (213) 624-2378; 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; latostaderia.info.
Baldwin Hills, Century City, Compton, Santa Monica, South L.A., University Park: Jamaican jerk chicken at Everytable ($7.95)
Launched as a way to offer healthy alternatives in low-income neighborhoods where only fast food was available, Everytable tailors its prices to the neighborhood (around $7 in Santa Monica; $5 in underserved communities). Chefs create seasonal dishes from scratch, inspired by the local cuisines and communities. Calorie counts are listed next to each dish, along with the protein in each item. Meals can be taken home or warmed up in Everytable's microwaves. Everytable donates whatever is not sold. In Santa Monica, the smoked Jamaican jerk chicken with spicy BBQ sauce comes with coconut rice and beans, kale, carrots and plantains. Try the carnitas bowl or the baby kale salad with farro, beets, pepitas, raisins, pickled red onion, crumbled feta cheese and lemon-tahini dressing. Locations coming soon to Brentwood and Watts.
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, (323) 296-0311; Westfield Mall Dining Terrace, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City, (323) 458-6979; 253 E. Compton Blvd., Compton; the Bloc, 700 S. Flower St., downtown, (213) 318-3836; 1101 W. 23rd St., University Park, (213) 973-5095; Third Street Promenade, 1315 Third St., Santa Monica; everytable.com.
Sawtelle: Tonkotsu udon at Marugame Udon ($8.50)
Slurp your square-shaped, handmade Sanuki noodles cooked al dente at this Japanese restaurant on Sawtelle. Made-to-order udon noodle bowls include soup stocks made from sardines, mackerel, bonito, Japanese kelp and soy sauce. Popular choices include beef udon and the tonkotsu udon with pork broth, chashu pork, miso ground pork, garlic, egg and chili oil. Your perfect bowl (kake udon) can be concocted with complimentary toppings (green onions, cilantro, wasabi, grated ginger, tempura flakes) or additional tempura vegetables and proteins. For an extra $1 each, enhance your udon with light and crispy shrimp tempura or vegetable kakiage tempura (onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, green onions). Large bowls are less than $10.
2029 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; (424) 317-2222, marugameudon.com.
Westwood, Eagle Rock: Istanbul beef döner sandwich at SpireWorks ($9.50)
The Istanbul beef döner sandwich is flavored like the traditional döner kebab that we’ve sampled in Turkey, Israel and Berlin, but this version is held together in a fluffy crusty bread with seasoned fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled red onions and za'atar labneh (spiced yogurt sauce). SpireWorks offers vertically spit-roasted meats with unique flavors and creative toppings from around the world. Select from beef or chicken döner, or veggie kofte, a meatless meatball medley made of cubed vegetables mixed with chickpea flour and Urfa pepper. The incredible bread comes from a legendary L.A. baking family. Sample the standard Mediterranean flavors or branch out to the other “destination” flavors. Not in the mood for your döner on a sandwich? Have it protein-style on rice or salad. The modern döner awaits!
1061 Broxton Ave., Westwood Village, (424) 220-6299; 4945-B Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 895-7888; spireworks.com.
Downtown: Dirty Chili Dog at Dirt Dog ($7.25)
Elevate your wiener with “the Official Hot Dog of Los Angeles.” Load the ultimate bacon-wrapped hot dog with Dirt Dog’s specialty house-made all-beef chili and melted bacon cheddar and you have a luscious dirty ol' lunch. All juicy wieners are made with quality beef franks and come wrapped in bacon, but you’ll find it difficult to decide which messy delicious gourmet dog to choose . Add a side of corn or fries for an extra-Dirty dish.
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2528 S. Figueroa St., downtown; (213) 749-1813, dirtdogla.com/default.asp.
Silver Lake, Whittier: Double cheeseburger at Rick’s Drive In and Out ($7.60)
What’s more SoCal than a burger? Sometimes your body has to have one — that greasy cheeseburger seasoned just right, with clean crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and Thousand Island dressing in classic drive-in paper wrapping. This old-school diner doesn’t disappoint. Order up a fire-grilled quarter-pound of meat or a double patty on a warm toasted bun with gooey cheese or bacon cooked to perfection. Add chili or a side of fries.
2400 Fletcher Drive, Silver Lake, (323) 660-5988; 7254 Greenleaf Ave., Whittier, (562) 698-4464; ricksdrivein.wixsite.com/ricks.