When the nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees, you know it's winter in Los Angeles. But what to eat during these nippy 60-degree days? Our normal cheap-eats go-tos — from tacos to banh mi — just don't do enough to warm the soul anymore, leaving us to seek out other affordable dishes that will stop the stomach growling with some hot, guilty-pleasure goodness.
We asked around the L.A. Weekly office to see what our writers and editors were eating right now and here are their suggestions for hot and cheap meals. No judgement for chains and corporate dining either, since nothing's over $8 here, folks.
Chicken Plate at Dino's Chicken and Burgers
Fork by fork, there's no better deal in town than Dino's Burgers $7 chicken plate, half of a fire-red bird dripping juice onto a heap of singed French fries. Ordering, however, is torture. As you wait for your styrofoam container, you have a wide-open view of the chefs flipping a phalanx of chickens lined up wing-to-wing on a grill that stretches for a full yard. Finally, yours is served with a few bites of coleslaw and a roll of tortillas. Can you finish the whole thing? Not likely. Will you try? For sure. 2575 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 380-3554; dinoschickenandburgers.com —Amy Nicholson
Cheeseburger at Haché LA
Not strictly a winter food, but when isn’t it a good time to eat a hamburger? This casual, order-from-the-counter, allegedly French spot opened in the not-quite-completely-bourgeoise part of Silver Lake earlier this year. With Umami quality meat at nearly half the price, Hache LA became, overnight, the go-to spot for burgers in the tri-hipster area. The burgers and buns are all delicious; so to are the fries, though that’ll cost you another $3. Plenty of beer, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. 3319 Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake; (323) 928-2963; hachela.com —Hillel Aron
El Pollo Loco's Chicken Tortilla Soup
Whenever we're feeling the early stages of a winter cold, we make a beeline for the nearest El Pollo Loco for some of their chicken tortilla soup. It may not be the most authentic recipe in town, but the broth is rich and satisfying, and they wisely put the tortilla strips, cilantro and cotija cheese on the side, so you can add everything to taste (and so the strips stay nice and crisp). A large serving will set you back about $7, including tax, and is more than enough to share — but we usually just eat the whole thing. Wouldn't want to spread those cold germs, now would we? Multiple locations, (877) 375-4968, www.elpolloloco.com. —Andy Hermann
Hot Sub Sandwich and Eggplant Parmesan at Cricca's Deli
You can't go wrong with a hot Italian sub from Cricca's Deli in Woodland Hills, where it serves up a loaded and rich meatball and melted cheese toasted sub, and a sausage and peppers with cheese toasted sub, both of which warm your stomach and leave you feeling satisfied for just $6.95. But the real Italian-deli delight here is the steaming hot eggplant parmesan, which they serve with a separate container of hot marinara sauce that you pour on yourself — all for, yes, $6.95. It's the perfect stopover on a chilly winter day when you're ready for lunch but need something heartier and more rib-sticking than a burger. The Italian family who owns this little spot, tucked between a shoe repair and donut store, employs a number of its members behind the counter — affable people who enjoy turning out a good, hot meal, and call back to the kitchen in their charming Italian accents if your order hasn't appeared right away. There are a few small tables inside and on the sidewalk,often filled up, or you can call ahead 10 minutes if you want to pick up and go. Cricca's closes at 6 p.m weekdays and even earlier on weekends, so think “lunch.” 4867 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, 91364. (818) 340-0515. —Jill Stewart
Corned Beef and Egg Sandwich at ink.sack
For a good, cheap meal in the West Hollywood vicinity, it's hard to beat ink.sack's unique sandwiches, all of which are between four and seven dollars. They're compact but cheap enough that you can order two if you're hungry. A highlight is this corned-beef-and-egg one, which runs the gamut of textures, from mayo to fried egg to corned beef to potato chips, which are, yes, inside the sandwich, giving it a satisfying crunch. If we lived in a true meritocracy, chef Michael Voltaggio would put Subway out of business. 8360 Melrose Avenue #107, Beverly Grove. (323) 655-7225, mvink.com —Zachary Pincus-Roth
Hot Dog and Pizza From Costco Food Court
Many people don't realize this, but you can eat in the Costco food court even if you're not a Costco member. You'll need to pay cash, but that won't be hard, since almost nothing here costs more than $5. You can get a huge soda and a large slice of pizza and get change from your fiver — or enjoy one of the famous fat Costco hot dogs for even less. There are sometimes other, more complex dishes on special, but why bother, when the hot dogs are so damn good and cheap? Multiple locations, (800) 774-2678, costco.com —Lisa Horowitz