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10 Best Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

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Fri, Oct 5, 2012 at 1:29 PM

click to enlarge tonkotsu ramen - A. SCATTERGOOD
  • A. Scattergood
  • tonkotsu ramen
As you may have noticed, this year's Best Of issue dropped on your doorstep, metaphorically if not actually, yesterday. There are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of listings, of spas and hikes and cocktails and grottos (yes, grottos), so many that you might get lost -- so many that we thought we'd pull out a few highlights. Drop some breadcrumbs, so to speak. In this case, some that you might be able to translate into dinner. Nothing too fancy, no reservations required. Turn the page.

click to enlarge Hot dogs and tater tots at Fab's Hot Dogs
  • Hot dogs and tater tots at Fab's Hot Dogs
10. Best Hot Dogs: Fab Hot Dogs

Nestled in the San Fernando Valley in Reseda is Fab Hot Dogs, a joint with a menu as big as the U.S. map that hangs in your third-grade classroom. Indeed, you can get your own geography lesson just by scanning Fab's menu: There are the self-explanatory Philly Cheese Steak and Carolina Slaw dogs, a Boston dog with BBQ baked beans and a Texas Burrito Dog topped, appropriately enough, with Fritos. What Fab might be best known for, though, is the Ripper, which comes straight from the northern part of the Garden State: a hot dog thrown into the deep fryer until the casing explodes. For hot dog aficionados on this side of the Jersey shore, this Ripper alone is worth the drive to Reseda: It's a juicy, crisp, lovely frank unlike most anything else you've had. Because tater tots are to hot dogs as french fries are to hamburgers, the tots here should be ordered and consumed — as you did in your elementary school cafeteria — with equal parts ketchup and glee. 19417 Victory Blvd., Reseda. (818) 344-4336, fabhotdogs.com. —Tien Nguyen

click to enlarge Banh mi at Bánh Mì My Tho
  • Banh mi at Bánh Mì My Tho
9. Best Bánh Mì: Bánh Mì My Tho

Bánh mì shops are to the San Gabriel Valley as ramen joints are to the South Bay: You can barely go a block without driving past at least one. That said, the one worth driving several blocks down Valley Boulevard for is Bánh Mì My Tho, a small shop with barely enough space for a counter, a few refrigerated cases and a handful of shelves crammed with Vietnamese treats. For less than the price of a gallon of gas, you can pick up a bánh mì trúng op la, an egg sandwich that may very well be the Angeleno's answer to the New Yorker's egg and cheese on a roll. For lunch, the ac biet is for the meat lover, with a variety of Vietnamese cold cuts — or try the sandwich stuffed with juicy chunks of charbroiled pork (thit nuong). If you're worried about the language barrier, don't be: As it says on the website, they speak English, and Mandarin and Cantonese, too. After all, the language of the bánh mì is universal. 304 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra. (626) 289-4160, banhmimytho.com. —Tien Nguyen

click to enlarge Ta-eem grill
  • Ta-eem grill
8. Best Shawarma: Ta-eem Grill

At Ta-eem Grill, a late-night Israeli joint on Melrose, where a dripping shawarma spit turns seductively in the window, you choose a style of bread and build your sandwich by choosing toppings à la Subway: a dab of baba ghanoush and crushed garlic-chile sauce, a bit of Israeli salad or a handful of green olives. Once you've assembled the perfect shawarma vehicle, thin strips of moist chicken are shaved off and piled on. The meat is indecently juicy, lightly seared and saturated with lashings of turmeric and cumin. If only someone managed to sneak in a couple packets of Zankou's garlic sauce, all would be right with the world. 7422 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District. (323) 944-0013. —Garrett Snyder

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