Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.’s 101 Best Restaurants
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Taco Trucks and Taquerias
Los Angeles is a taco truck mecca, with hundreds of mobile kitchens serving up delicious and affordable Mexican fare across the city. These roving restaurants offer wallet-friendly tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more for just a few bucks each. You can grab lunch on the go or enjoy an impromptu sidewalk picnic. Tacos here are the ultimate budget bites.
Tacos Leo on La Brea is a local favorite, drawing long lines for their steamy, made-to-order tacos. Carnitas, al pastor, shrimp – they've got all the classics, wrapped up in a fresh, handmade tortilla. At just $1.50 each, you'll want to sample a few different kinds. The pastorcita, stuffed with succulent marinated pork, cilantro and onions, is a standout.
If you're downtown, hunt down Tacos El Poblano for top-notch authentic street tacos. Their specialty is tacos de lengua (beef tongue), which are insanely tender and full of deep, beefy flavor. Pair it with some spicy salsa for the perfect bite. At $2 a pop, you can try out a bunch without breaking the bank.
Over in Koreatown, Tacos 1986 draws crowds for its Korean-Mexican fusion tacos. The kimchi and pork belly taco, with crispy, caramelized pork and tangy kimchi is a treat for your taste buds. As is the bulgogi taco, featuring thin slices of sweet and savory Korean BBQ beef. At just $3 each, these gourmet tacos are a steal.
Don't miss Mariscos Jalisco food truck in Boyle Heights, which serves up what many claim is the best shrimp taco in LA. These plump, perfectly fried shrimp get tucked into a double layer of corn tortilla and topped with cabbage and a tangy salsa. One bite and you'll taste why people are obsessed. At $3.50 a taco, it's easy to order a couple.
If you're craving an epic California burrito, Hugo's Tacos has got you covered. Their eponymous Hugo's Burrito packs french fries (yes, fries!), carne asada, cheese, pico and guac into a massive, made-to-order tortilla for just $6. Perfect for sharing after a day at Santa Monica beach.
What else is in this post?
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Taco Trucks and Taquerias
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Downtown Delights
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Food Finds in Koreatown
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Hollywood Hole-in-the-Walls
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Venice Beach Takeout Treasures
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Culver City Cuisine on a Budget
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - San Gabriel Valley Savings
- Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Westside Wonders
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Downtown Delights
Downtown Los Angeles has transformed into a buzzing food destination, with spots like Grand Central Market housing dozens of delicious budget eats. Inside this historic food hall, you'll rub elbows with locals while sampling regional delights from the city’s top chefs.
Tacos, anybody? Check out Villa Moreliana, slinging authentic Mexico City-style tacos for just $2.50 each. Their loaded grilled chicken tacos, with juicy poultry, melted cheese, sautéed onions and cilantro, make the perfect quick bite. For adventurous eaters, the beef tongue tacos offer incredibly tender shreds of lengua topped with onions and salsa.
At Berlin Currywurst, a steaming sausage loaded into a pretzel roll gets smothered in garlicky curry ketchup for just $6. It’s a fun remix on the classic German street food. Or try Wexler’s Deli for their towering pastrami sandwich, with over a quarter pound of expertly cured meat piled high on rye for $16. It’s one of the best pastrami sandwiches in all of LA.
Overseas fare is also well represented, with stalls like Goa Taco serving up Indian burritos and bowls. Their flavorful chicken tikka burrito packed with basmati rice, spinach, mango and mint chutney is just $8. Or how about Chinese comfort food at Howlin Ray’s? Their peppery Nashville-style fried chicken sandwich has a cult following. At $8, it's worth the potential long line.
If you’re craving sweets, stop by Valerie Confections for beautifully decorated petits fours and macarons, just $3 each. It’s an elegant yet affordable treat. You can also grab premium scoops of McConnell's ice cream, with unique flavors like eidar cheese with blackberry crackle and toasted pepitas for $5.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Food Finds in Koreatown
Koreatown is one of LA’s most diverse and exciting neighborhoods for food, with authentic Korean flavors blending seamlessly with other Asian cuisines as well as Mexican. You’ll find an incredible array of wallet-friendly eats here. Walk along Olympic Boulevard or venture into the Korean mega-malls and food courts to scout out these delicious hidden gems.
For those seeking a true Korean food experience, Sun Nong Dan is a classic hole-in-the-wall joint serving up steaming bowls of hearty soondoobu jjigae. This soft tofu stew bubbles away with kimchi, beef, and vegetables in a rich, spicy broth. An order of this soul-warming comfort food costs just $9.95. Right nearby, Hodori Restaurant offers the ultimate Korean barbecue feast. For just $21.99, their Pork Belly Lover combo brings you over a pound of savory sliced pork belly to cook up with kimchi and veggies right at your table - a steal for this much high-quality meat.
Bibimbap is another stellar budget meal, with Martin's Cuisine offering huge stone bowls piled with warm rice, veggies, beef, a fried egg, and gochujang chili paste for mixing. At $8.99 it's a deliciously hearty meal. For homemade Korean dumplings, Jin Soon Dubu scores rave reviews. Their fried pork and chive dumplings deliver major flavor for just $9.99 an order. Washed down with a cold Korean beer, it's a perfect night out.
Those craving late night Korean fried chicken and beer absolutely must visit Kyochon. This lively joint serves up plump, crispy wings and drumsticks with the perfect chili-soy glaze for just $10.99 an order. A bucket of six hot wings paired with a round of Sapporo will only set you back $15. For more great pairings of beer and fried delights, stop into Beer Belly. Their kimchi fries, with caramelized kimchi, green onions, and melted cheese over Belgian-style fries costs just $7. It's a delightful fusion creation.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Hollywood Hole-in-the-Walls
Hidden amongst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood are scores of hole-in-the-wall eateries serving up delicious grub for bargain prices. While tourists flock to the famous hot spots, locals in the know hit up these under-the-radar joints for authentic flavors and charming atmospheres without breaking the bank.
Melrose Avenue offers several stellar finds, like Luscious Dumplings. This tiny spot dishes out succulent potstickers and soup dumplings for just $1-3 each. Their pork and napa cabbage dumplings deliver a savory punch of flavor. Pair them with the garlicky chive dumplings for a textural delight. Right down the block, Oinkster is a casual counter joint focused on pastrami. Their loaded pastrami burger features thick slices of the tender cured meat blanketed in melty swiss, pickles and mustard on a brioche bun for just $9. Charbroiled and packed with meaty flavor, it's one of LA's best burgers.
Venture east into East Hollywood for Hat Yai, a funky Thai spot specializing in southern style fried chicken. Their gently fried boneless chicken thighs get tossed in a sweet, tangy nam jim sauce. An order of five tender, juicy pieces costs just $15. Every Friday, they offer these spicy, crispy birds for the unbelievable price of $1 per piece. Get there early before they sell out!
Nearby, Maru Coffee serves up premium pour over coffees along with fluffy Japanese souffle pancakes for under $15. Light, airy and delicately sweet, they're the perfect pairing for an expertly brewed small-batch coffee. The relaxing patio offers a surprising oasis in the middle of the city. Or grab an ube mochi doughnut from Donut Friend - their rotating flavors and punk rock vibes make this pink-box dispensary way more than your average donut shop.
Finally, no trip to LA is complete without tacos. For some of the city's best, head to Leo's Taco Truck on Sunset Boulevard. There's usually a line of locals waiting for chewy al pastor tacos, smoky carne asada, and citrusy shrimp tacos for just $2-3 each. Their generous $1.50 dog "tacos" (hot dogs in tortillas) make a filling and fun meal too. It's the ultimate late night budget grub spot.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Venice Beach Takeout Treasures
The bohemian heart of Venice Beach pulses with an intoxicating blend of surf culture, artistic expression, and laidback vibes. Lining the iconic boardwalk are endlessly enticing eateries offering delicious takeout eats perfect for enjoying oceanside on the sand. From poke bowls to plant-based plates, the grab-and-go goodies here reflect the chill essence of the neighborhood.
For feel-good fare with a side of social justice, Venice's Plant Food + Wine nails the progressive beachside zeitgeist. Their 100% plant-based menu bursts with fresh flavors, turning vegetables into irresistible fast-casual masterpieces. Bursting rainbow jewel boxes with marinated kale cost just $8, while loaded grain bowls like the Dragon Bowl with black rice, charred broccolini, pickled shiitakes and chili crunch deliver supreme satisfaction for $15. Add some coconut ceviche or jackfruit crabcakes and you've got a beach picnic for the ages.
Further down the boardwalk, Poké-Poké stimulates tastebuds with build-your-own poke bowls starring impeccably fresh sushi-grade fish. Dive into juicy ahi tuna or creamy salmon over sushi rice with vibrant toppings like edamame, mango, and crispy onion. A regular bowl runs just $13, but the real move is to grab the $10 appetizer special - four heaping scoops of poke with just enough rice and fixings to tantalize your tongue. Enjoy with the sound of rolling waves as your soundtrack.
The breeze off the Pacific pairs perfectly with a steaming bowl from Men-Oh Ramen House, where slurping savory broths are practically a religious experience. Their tonkotsu ramen features rich, full-bodied pork bone broth brimming with tender chashu pork, wood ear mushrooms, and springy noodles for $12 a bowl. Extra noodles, soft-boiled egg, or spicy bomb make delightful add-ons. For a lighter option, the chilled lemon chicken ramen offers bright, gingery flavor for a refreshing beach bite.
No vein of LA dining would be complete without tacos, and Venice's plethora of taco carts deliver the goods. Grab a trio of melt-in-your-mouth carnitas, zesty shrimp, or earthy mushroom tacos from neighborhood fixture Tacos Por Favor for $3 each. Alternatively, Stuffawa's Korean-Mexican fusion fills griddled tortillas with bulgogi beef, spicy pork, or crispy tofu for creative flavor combos starting at $3.50. Wash it all down with an agua fresca and take in that salty sea air.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Culver City Cuisine on a Budget
Tucked into the lively streets surrounding Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City has blossomed into an unexpected hub for creative, affordable dining. Once a sleepy suburb, Culver City is now a magnet for some of LA's hottest restaurants, drawing food-lovers eager to explore inventive cuisine on a budget.
While prices in LA continue skyrocketing, Culver City remains an oasis of value. At Dia de Campo, succulent grilled meats like carne asada and chorizo sizzle over a wood fire, then get tucked into hand-pressed tortillas or piled atop roasted veggie tacos for just $4-6 each. Their generous TJ-style quesabirria tacos with consommé dipping sauce offer braised beefy bliss for $5.50. With colorful Mexican tiles and dia de los muertos artwork lining the walls, the vibes here are as vibrant as the flavors.
Further uptown, Ugo dishes out fresh pasta starting at just $16 a plate. Housemade tagliatelle in a silky carbonara sauce or rigatoni with velvety wild boar ragu transport tastebuds to Italy without the flight miles. Don't miss their Instagram-famous giant meatballs for just $9 - these baseball-sized beef and pork spheres sit perfectly perched atop polenta and rich tomato sauce. Combined with Ugo's laidback ambiance and budget-friendly wine list, it's an underground gem.
The arts scene also infuses flavor into Culver City's foodscape. At Café Roe, walls showcase stunning large-scale paintings while dj beats pump through the speakers. All that creativity lands on the plates too, with gourmet loaded fries heaped high with short rib, bacon and blue cheese for $14 or fiery jerk chicken served over sweet plantains for $15. It effortlessly blends café fare with global inspiration.
Paying homage to its Sony studios surroundings, The Backlot oozes Hollywood history with film reels and clapperboard decor. But the food takes center stage, with their classic cheeseburger oozing cheddar and gruyere from a pretzel bun for $17 or refreshing watermelon feta salad with mint and pickled onions for $14. Pair it with a local craft beer or seasonal cocktail amidst the industry insider crowd for a glutinously fun, budget-friendly night out.
Beyond downtown Culver City, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar offers a cozy neighborhood vibe with a market-driven small plates menu that belies its acclaimed chef pedigree. Feast on ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, perfect charcuterie boards, or hearty chicken liver mousse toasts while sipping natural wines or local craft brews. With most plates costing $7-15, you can sample widely without draining your wallet. It's fine dining in a comfortably unfussy setting.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - San Gabriel Valley Savings
Tucked into the sprawling eastern suburbs of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley offers a world of mouthwatering foods from across Asia without the high price tags. This vibrant region bursts with authentic Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and other Asian eateries, beckoning bargain hunters with bowls of pho, plates of dim sum, and traditional hot pot meals sourced from imported ingredients. From hole-in-the-wall noodle joints to bustling mega-malls filled with food stalls, the SGV provides a portal into the cuisines of the Far East without the long flights or vacation budget.
Eat Drink Play blogger Ashley discovered the joys of regional Chinese cooking at Mian in San Gabriel, feasting on xiao long bao soup dumplings, dan dan noodles, and other Shanghainese specialties for under $3 per dish. "I felt transported back to my travels in mainland China but without the costly plane ticket," she shares. "The food quality matched what I had in Shanghai at a fraction of the price." Craving Taiwanese? Head to Dean Sin World in Rosemead for addictive fried chicken cutlets, bubble tea and massive bowls of beef noodle soup for under $10 each.
Abby of @HungryinLA recommends starting your Chinese food explorations at 140-stall food mecca Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra. "I could have spent all day wandering Savoy, nibbling on dim sum, sipping boba, and watching cooks hand-pull noodles," she says. Highlights included intricately-shaped shumai, barbecue pork buns, and turnip cakes, with nearly all items costing $3-5. She suggests going with friends so you can sample more items family-style. Right nearby at Tasty Garden, plates of Cantonese classics like salt and pepper shrimp, eggplant claypot, and crispy fried fish filets run just $10-12.
Those craving Vietnamese flavors will find them in the city of San Gabriel, where Brodard Restaurant draws lines for their legendary nem nuong rolls. These grilled pork skewers wrapped in rice paper deliver an explosion of herbs and peanut sauce. At $6 for 2, it's a steal. The bun thit nuong cha gio combo brings spring rolls and vermicelli noodles topped with marinated grilled pork, imperial rolls, and veggies for $11. Sample it alongside other classics like pho, banh mi, and Vietnamese coffee.
Budget Bites: 14 Wallet-Friendly Eats from L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants - Westside Wonders
Stretching from Santa Monica to Marina del Rey, LA's Westside dazzles diners with upscale eateries along the oceanfront and hip new hotspots popping up in former industrial zones. While prices skew higher, savvy locals have sussed out plenty of wallet-friendly gems hiding amongst the glamour. Follow their lead to discover the Westside's under-the-radar budget bites.
In Santa Monica, duck behind the beachfront hotels to cozy up at The Galley. This nautical-chic spot serves comfort classics like grilled cheese on sourdough with a creamy tomato dipping sauce for $12. Their roasted beet and farro salad with pistachios and goat cheese delivers a nutritious, delicious lunch for $15. Happy hour from 3-6pm weekdays brings $7 snacks like Point Reyes blue cheese croquettes or shrimp ceviche tostadas, plus $8 cocktails like the refreshing Pamplemousse Spritz with vodka, grapefruit, elderflower liqueur and prosecco.
Just off bustling Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Great White conjures beach vibes with breezy patio seating. Sink your teeth into their crunchy fried chicken sandwich dressed with pickles, slaw and comeback sauce for $17. Wash it down with one of 30 expertly curated beers on tap, like bright and hoppy local IPAs, for $7 during daily 3-6pm happy hour. Nearby, The Butcher's Daughter satisfies plant-based cravings with veggie burgers slathered in cashew cheese, pesto and arugula for $14, or nutrient-packed bowls like the Forest goddess with kale, broccoli, squash, and hemp seed Green Goddess dressing for $15.
In pricey Santa Monica, hole-in-the-wall joint Bay Cities has slung supreme Italian subs since the 1920s. Their famously enormous Godmother sandwich layers mortadella, salami, coppa, ham, provolone, and ooey-gooey mozzarella between soft rolls shipped from New Jersey, then gets finished off with olive oil, vinegar, and spicy giardiniera relish. At $11.50 for a half or $18.50 for a full, it’s one of LA’s great sandwich steals. Just be prepared for a line!
Near the beach in Playa del Rey, All'Acqua populates a relaxed patio with locals indulging in thin-crust Neapolitan pies for under $20 each. Opt for classics like margherita or puttanesca, or go bold with creamy burrata, Calabrian chilies and Mike’s hot honey. Happy hour from 4-6:30pm weekdays even offers half-off on pizzas, dropping the price to around $10. It's the perfect pitstop after exploring the adjacent Ballona Wetlands ecological reserve.