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$5 lunch in Pasadena-- is it possible?

I am craving an even cheaper lunch today. Usually, my average is $7-15 for a decent lunch.
Is it possible to get a good lunch for $5-6 in Pasadena? If so, where? I am willing to drive, but close to home in the Playhouse District would be even better. Del Taco? Rick's? Lovebirds? I would appreciate any recs. Thank you.

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    1. re: kajtf

      Do they have a lunch special? Maybe, I'll check them out today. Thank you. :)

      1. re: kajtf

        pie n burger would be too expensive, unless a delicious slice of pie could be considered lunch.

        tough one, maybe an americanized taco for luigi ortega's.

        a slice from avanti's if they do slices (they have stuff like duck sausage, etc.)

        1. re: kevin

          Actually, pie does sound good. Thanks for this suggestion. :-)

          I have a feeling I'm incapable of a $5 lunch here.

          1. re: katkoupai

            better yet, if haven't already, give Bulgarini a try, get pistachiio and a couple other flavors (3.50 small, 4.50 large).

            oh, and hopefully strawberry pie is in season at pie n burger.

            1. re: kevin

              Yeah, I've been eating Bulgarini about once a week for the last month at the Laemmle Playhouse 7. Love that stuff! Bulgarini for gelato, 21 Choices for yogurt. Re. Bulgarini, I've had pistachio, cantaloupe, lime custard, and pineapple so far-- all delicious!

              I'm really tempted to check out Pie N Burger.

              1. re: katkoupai

                pie n burger wit run you at least 13-15 for a full meal though.

                6.25 for a burger, fries 2 or 2.50, pie 3.50, coke 2 or so.

                1. re: kevin

                  I know-- I was thinking just that-- won't be $5. Thanks for the details. Still thinking...

                  I might just have to hit up King Taco, again.

                2. re: katkoupai

                  just thought of something bowl of seafood corn chowder from fanta sea grill in south pasaden, next to rite aid? on fair oaks.

                  hasn't been mentioned for a while on these boards.

                  they also have garlic pepper shrimp, ahi w/ a yogurt wasabi sauce, and bowl of shrimpin garlic butter sauce all above your requirements though. mostly 10-15 per, except for the chowder. and everything is still cheaper than a haute restaurnat since served on paper plates. plastic utensils, utilitarian surroundings.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Sounds really delicious. Thank you.

                    1. re: kevin

                      do you know what kind of sea food they put in the seafood chower, I am pickey about the seafood, it sounds really good

                      1. re: monkfanatic

                        no i don't know. drop by and check it out, they have some sauteed fish dishes in addition to the chowder and also shrimp dishes one a cajun soup versian, a veggie gyro, and a tofu-blue crab burger.

          2. La Estrella - any of their locations, really, although I'm thinking of the new one on Orange Grove. $1 al pastor tacos - four is a meal.

            2 Replies
            1. re: condiment

              Okay, this is what I'm talking about. Cheap. Gotta find this place, see how far it is...

              1. re: katkoupai

                Make sure you try the Tacos de Cabeza! I LOVE 'EM. Don't be put off by the name. The meat is actually from the cheeks.

            2. I've always liked Los Tacos in the brick strip mall on the Northwest corner of California and Fair Oaks. I think tacos are $1-$1.50, and 2 or 3 is filling. I think you can get 4 for less than $5, but no drink.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                They also have a multi taco deal (like 4 or 5) that I believe is around 5 bucks. It's definitely cheap (and good).

              2. Try Los Chiles Locos or La Paloma in Monrovia and Duarte (right off the 210):

                1. I'm not too familiar with Pasadena, but you can definitely do it in the Arcadia area. Here are my recs:

                  Moffett's (Baldwin Ave/past Golden West)--chicken pot pie for $2.50 each (they are small ones, and you can order it to go for around $2.50 per pie)
                  Garden Cafe (Baldwin Ave/south of Huntington Dr.)--I think Garden has lunch specials that start at $3.99 (sandwich dish with soup)
                  In and Out--cheeseburger and hamburger combos would get you out under $5.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: WHills

                    IMHO, Tasty Garden would be a better choice than Garden Cafe. It's just a few blocks down the street on the southeast corner of Duarte and Baldwin (close to Moffett's). But avoid Vietnam Kitchen, which is located in the same mini-mall as Moffett's. Their food isn't that great.

                  2. Zankou isn't too far away from you.

                    1. King Taco comes to mind
                      if you like that sort of thing

                      1. Walk over to Sitar for Indian buffet. Used to be rather yummy. Service stunk tho. 618 E. Colorado just W of Walnut.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Kitchen Queen

                          Hi KQ. Actually service seems to have gotten better and the food is just as good (went down there for a while). Also, Kat, try my favorite place for Al Pastor (they also have other good stuff, but the AP is my fave) - I have posted about it many times already. In the back of a neighborhood market (and out front during lunchtime and evenings) Fernando and Isaura serve up some of the finest Al Pasor that has ever passed my lips. Here is a link from a previous post which also links my initial review.
                          Tacos $1; HUGE burritos $4

                          1. re: WildSwede

                            Thanks, WildSwede. I noticed your post about this place, and I wanted to check it out, but I still don't know where Hammond and Summit are in Pasadena. I will have to find it on YahooMaps. Thanks for reminding me about this place again-- your review of the food there makes it sounds really good. :)

                            1. re: katkoupai

                              Definitely try it. Tell me when you are going and I will meet you there if I can. Hammond is 1 block north of Mountain and Summit is 1 block east of Raymond. You can go up Fair Oaks, turn right on Hammond and it is on the north-west corner of H & S a few blocks over.

                              1. re: WildSwede

                                Okay, thank you. I don't know when I will go, but I will try to drop you a post here when I do. :)

                        2. Try the California Culinary Institute's School Cafe!! It is on Green and Madison. They post their daily menu online at www.theschoolcafe.com - they also have a regular menu of standards - assorted pizzas, sandwiches, salads, etc

                          1. Try Lee's Hoagies on Colorado about a block west of Sierra Madre (in same strip mall as the Little Cesars) - most sandwiches are in the $4-5 range, add on a soda for a buck or two more. Good food!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ElsieDee

                              while i endorse lee's as well,. they've raised prices. more like $6 for a sandwich but when you throw in the complimentary pickles (armenian influenced) it's still worth it to me.

                              1. re: barryc

                                Sorry to hear about the price increase - I've actually not been there since they started closing at 5:00 (before then it'd been on our once a week rotation for dinner sandwiches).

                            2. El Toreo Cafe
                              (626) 793-2577
                              21 South Fair Oaks Ave
                              (Right next to Cheesecake Factory on Fair Oaks in Old Town)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Jr. Burger, Awesome Fries enough to feed an army, and a small shake (fresh banana? Peanut Butter? ) comes to just over $5 at Connals. www.connals.com

                              2. Ernie Jr's Taco Truck on the Caltech Campus. $5 at the MOST.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wcab06

                                  YEAH! Also anything from Fuller (Seminary), in their cafeteria should be relatively cheap and on a day like today! Buuuteeeful!

                                2. Well, I ended up getting a big piece of fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream on top and an order of french fries from Pie N Burger. It was very crowded there around lunch time, and the total came to about 10 bucks + $2 tip = $12. I broke the $5 budget. The pie was really good. I could've passed on the fries though.

                                  I was really surprised to see all the new posts on this. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I will refer to this again, I'm sure, on a daily basis. Thank you. :-)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    We're all desperate for a place to eat, because Pasadena is Weak.


                                    1. re: katkoupai

                                      thanks kat, now we now they the strawberry pie currently, sounds good.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Thanks for the suggestion of Pie N Burger, kevin. :-)

                                    2. Famima!! ? *duck*

                                      But honestly, I do like their egg salad & ham katsu sandwich.


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: AquaW

                                        Yeah, I go to Famima!! all the time. I usually end up buying a ton of stuff though-- an item here, an item there, and then somehow I end up dropping $20 on food and non-food items.

                                      2. OK. I am going to let you in on a secret. There is a taco truck that makes its rounds around various locations in the Caltech campus. Ernie's Al Fresco. Lunch is $4 or $4.50 with a drink. Portions are huge. Everything is pretty decent and some things are actually quite good. He does Mexican and American lunch food and everything on the menu is modular (e.g. one can get any item in a taco, quesadilla, sandwich, torta, salad, etc.)
                                        Basically he is at the loading dock from 11:30-1:15 (off Holliston Ave) and at the Post office (California and Wilson) from 1:15-2:00 PM.
                                        Ernie is a true Caltech instutution and a better, cheaper lunch is hard to find anywhere in Pasadena. Otherwise, Zankou or Tonny's $0.90 tacos are probably your next best option for the price.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: oro3030

                                          Thank you. Someone mentioned this above too. Sounds great! :-)

                                        2. Connal's Burgers, Salads & Subs
                                          1505 E. Washington Blvd.
                                          Pasadena, CA


                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: monku

                                            Great prices and menu! Jackattack mentioned above that one can get a jr. burger, fries and shake for about $5 at Connal's. That's truly unbelievable. I think it's even cheaper than In N Out. This might be dinner.

                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                              I like Connal's alot.

                                              But every time I go there I end up spending waaay more than $5.

                                              Just so many goodies to get ... the burgers, the malts and shakes, the onion rings (or the "frings"), and really, who can resist the avocado fries??

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Are avocado fries guac on french fries? Sounds interesting. :)

                                                1. re: katkoupai

                                                  Yup. Guacamole and fries ... and sometimes I'll order up a side of chili and glop it onto the fries. So damn awesome.

                                                  For a while there, the avocado fries had me putting guacamole on baked potatoes.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Wish I could get some avocado fries right now-- too late, though.

                                            2. re: monku

                                              Interesting Connal's link. I've been going there for more than 10 years, and there are things on that menu - the Connals Special, the megaburger, the freezes, the availibility pepperoncini and grilled onions on the grinders - that I never knew existed.

                                              1. re: monku

                                                Am I missing something with Connal's?

                                                I've tried the burgers, sandwiches, dogs, avocado fries, Everything seems straight off the SYSCO truck to me. Is that Hormel chili on their burgers?

                                                1. re: B Minus

                                                  I was just about to drive to eat at Connal's after work today, but B Minus, I read your comments here just before driving in that direction, and I believed you. Maybe I'll save Connal's for another day.

                                                  I hit up Mediterranean Cafe, again, instead. I like the food there, but why is it all the places that I like in Pas have mediocre customer service? I rarely get that "welcome" feeling. I need to start cooking at home more. :)

                                                  1. re: B Minus

                                                    I love the piping hot, seasoned-salt fries at Connals, they may be frozen but they're done up RIGHT! And go there for the shakes. PB & BANANA? Yum on a hot day!

                                                    1. re: jackattack

                                                      Okay, jackattack, these sound good.

                                                2. How about Senor Fish in South Pasadena, on Mission and Grand. Great shrimp burrito for about $6.50, large fried shrimp. Their tacos are good and they have a good selection of fish.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: paprkutr

                                                    Grilled scallop taco, ~$4, possibly the best deal in town...

                                                    had one for lunch at the downtown location. (then again I eat a *LOT* of their salsa)

                                                    1. re: ttriche

                                                      Yes, ttriche, you had recommended Senior Fish to me in a prior post, and paprkutr recommends it too. I am adding it to my list. Sounds delicious. Actually, everything recommended from the top to the bottom of this thread sounds great.

                                                  2. Oreans Health Express. Cheap, tasty, and healthy.
                                                    I always forget about this place b/c I only go occasionally. (As an avowed meat eater, I try to limit my vegetarian consumption.)
                                                    Anyway, their shakes are killer and cpntain no dairy (yay for lactose intolerants like me).
                                                    They have some great items and you can cobble together a tasty $5 meal easily.


                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: ozzygee

                                                      How cool is this? I just realized Orean's is a vegetarian drive-thru! This is the first time I've heard of such a thing. How nice. :)

                                                      1. re: ozzygee

                                                        Okay, ozzygee, I finally tried this place. (I am slowly working through this list of suggestions.)

                                                        I got the strawberry shake (made with soymilk and some kind of strawberry corn syrup), the baked french fries, and the African quesadilla. By the time I ate the fries and the shake, I was pretty full, so I only had a taste of the quesadilla. I have to admit, I did not know what I was eating. There were so many flavors and textures in this quesadilla (salsa, beans, possibly soy cheese, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds). I had to wrap it back up and eat it for dinner, because it was too much food.

                                                        My first impression was that I was surprised to have a vegetarian drive-thru in my area. Orean's is on Lake Ave. just past Orange Grove. I thought that was cool, because I have never been to a vegetiarian drive-thru before. I thought the food was okay, but I appreciated the experience, because I probably never would've noticed this place, without this board.

                                                        The shake had 150 calories, if I remember correctly, but it did not taste like your normal strawberry shake. The fries reminded me of the tater tots I used to eat in elementary school. They had the same exact flavor, and it was truly a blast from the past, for me.

                                                        I ate the leftover quesadilla when I got home from work. I was so hungry, that it tasted better leftover. I would say this place is worth checking out, simply because of the interesting vegan menu options.

                                                        Thanks for the suggestion. Oh yeah, the total for the above (shake, fries and quesadilla) was about $8.

                                                      2. Mako Bowl in the Hastings Ranch shopping center by the See's candy. Fresh grilled chicken, steamed veggies, rice and teriyaki sauce all cooked right there before you. The small is maybe 3.50 and the large is around 5. I eat a lot and the small is more than enough for me. Grab some edamame while you're there for later

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: ttriche

                                                          I think there's a Mako Bowl on Colorado near Mentor, too (near Europane?). I've never eaten there, but it does seem to have quite a few customers.

                                                          1. re: katkoupai

                                                            I'd strongly recommend eating elsewhere. There are much better and tastier options.

                                                            Given the policies of the board mods, I suppose I must leave it at that.

                                                        2. I vote for Good Times Pita Kitchen on Arroyo.

                                                          Falafel plate for $6.50, or any of a number of pita wraps for $4.50.

                                                          On payday splurge for a few sides, they're all GREAT and make for fine leftovers if you go overboard.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: cobalt

                                                            Yes, I've heard other recs for Good Times. I haven't eaten their food. I bought their baklava once. They get it from a bakery, I was told. Very dry and brittle. I hear the food is excellent though. I always opt for Pita! Pita! or Mediterannean Cafe, since they are closer. The $4.50 pita wraps sound like a deal at Good TImes. :)

                                                          2. What about the Mediterranian Cafe on Lake? I don't remember their prices, but I know they are VERY reasonable.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: rantsnravesnreviews

                                                              Yes, they are really good. I usually end up spending somewhere between $7-10 there.

                                                              1. re: katkoupai

                                                                I've heard that Gerlach's on Fair Oaks--across from the Water and Power bldg. has good, and cheap, lunches--including a lamb burrito that, I believe, goes for about $7.

                                                                1. re: HungryGirl

                                                                  Thank you. I tried a variety of their food with my family, recently. We were a little disappointed. I am willing to try them again, perhaps down the line. I know a lot of people on this board like Gerlach's. I'll add a link to the thread where I talked about the food that I had there. People have some good suggestions on what to order (and what not to order) in the following thread.


                                                            2. Good Times Pita Kitchen on Arroyo Parkway (in the strip mall directly across the street from Lucky Boy) has a good Gyro and I believe it comes in at under $5. My friend swears by their falafel. Their food seems to be best eaten on premises. lucky Boy (across the street from GTPK) has many items at less than $5. Ummm, Go China on Lake (just south of the Ralphs, between Union & Walnut) has lunch specials which up until a few weeks ago were under $5, but they recently raised their prices slightly. El Metate on Mentor just north of Colorado has really good fish tacos ($1.99/ea). I get two, have the chips & salsa and get all filled up!! I am fairly certain that you can get something at Pita! Pita! for under $5 (on Colorado just west of Mentor). Andy's Coffee Shop on Colorado (a few blocks east of Lake) has food for under $5 (just your basic coffee shop, tho). Ummm, I think I am all out of ideas for the moment. Oh! The School Cafe at the Culinary Institute on Green/Madison (?) has okay food and they post their daily menu at the link: theschoolcafe.com

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: WildSwede

                                                                Thank you. This is quite a list of places. :)

                                                              2. How about this: on the other side of town at Foothill and (259) Sierra Madre Villa is the Pasadena Sandwich Company. Their sandwiches are huge, good, and reasonably priced. I haven't been in a while, but I think their most expensive is maybe $7.50, with plenty of stuff in your price range, and again, huge. Many think these are the best sandwiches in the area. They just might be.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: mcmal

                                                                  Sounds so good. I need to produce a map of Pasadena now with all of these suggested places on the map. Everytime I want to check a place out, I realize all the info is in my computer (on Chowhound), so I just go to the same old places or eat at home. I think my homework tonight it to make this map and put it in my car.

                                                                  I could call it, "Where To Eat for $5 Now," inspired by the Jonathan Gold map.

                                                                2. I have created a map of some of the locations listed on this thread to locate these dining establishments in Pasadena. It may be a helpful resource to anyone looking for cheap eats in Pasadena. I am still working on it.


                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                                                    Pretty cool. Are you going to do the same with the taco thread?

                                                                    1. re: mcmal

                                                                      Thanks. It takes some time. I might make a map for the taco thread too, but I haven't tried enough of those places to do so yet. It's a good idea though, mcmal. :)

                                                                      1. re: katkoupai

                                                                        Well yesterday for lunch I had 1/2 a Turkey sandwich and salad for $5.14 including tax at This and That Here and There Cafe across from Target on Colorado. You can also do 1/2 a sandwich with soup or fries for the same price or get a burrito for $4.87. That's what I get when I'm on a budget or just feel like eating lite. I also go to Pita Pita and get chicken shawerma wrap for a little over $6.

                                                                        1. re: handycrafter77

                                                                          Hey, thanks. :) I actually walk by that place regularly. I have never stopped in though.

                                                                  2. How about "The White Hut" off Colorado by Zinke's shoe repair? I started a thread on this place not too long ago and someone posted a link to their menu. It seems like a pretty standard menu, but the prices seemed low!

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bigtums

                                                                      Right. I read your thread on that place. I have never tried it, and it's very closeby. Thanks. :)

                                                                      1. re: bigtums

                                                                        You might want to try The White Hut soon. That corner, including Zinke's is being re-developed. Another massive mixed use luxury project that will remain half empty for years, no doubt. They are going to preserve the Zinke's sign if it happens, though.


                                                                        1. re: mcmal

                                                                          When will the redevelopment happen? I remember reading about it years ago in the paper and the place is still there and kicking.

                                                                      2. Hello. I'm reporting back, after my first lunch at The School Cafe, at the California Culinary Institute in Pasadena. I went today for lunch with a friend. We both got the fish tacos place, and we enjoyed the meal. We added quite a bit of fresh lemon juice and Tapatio to our tacos. I still wanted to add salt, but there were no salt shakers on the table.

                                                                        I also ordered a Tiramisu smoothie and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Both of these were decadent and very sweet. I shared the smoothie with my friend, because it was huge. I still have half of the pumpkin cheesecake left. It was very rich and very tasty.

                                                                        The total cost was about $15-$20 each because we both got drinks, lunch plates and desserts. I would definitely go back. The service was not perfect, but overall, we had a nice time. The food tasted fresh, the flavors were good, and the prices were reaonsable.

                                                                        Thanks for this rec. :)


                                                                        The School Cafe
                                                                        521 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                                                        1. if its still around ricks is pretty good and dirt cheap. I haven't been in a while and they posted that they were closing down but everytime i drive by they're still up. The spuderito is $2 if i remember right and its downright addicting. They make a pretty good burger too.

                                                                          Its right at your limit but at Fredo''s Philly, cheesesteaks start at about $6 and go up to $7 and i'm sure that if you don't eat much it can easily last 2 meals. I've never had anything other than the steaks because thats just enough food for me. + Dan the owner is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. Only drawback is its only open from 11-8 and i don't work in the area so i can only go on weekends but i'm still addicted! If you search the board you'll see i'm not the only hound who really likes this place.


                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Mando

                                                                            Fredo's has later hours on Friday & Saturday now. Until 2am, if I recall correctly. Makes it tougher to decide between them and the taco trucks on Fair Oaks after a night of punishing my liver.

                                                                            1. re: Mando

                                                                              MMMmm....Fredos. I'm craving a cheesesteak right now so bad. Call me a pig, but 1 of their cheesteaks doesn't even fill up my 127lbs. body half way. Every time I go I have to buy 2 of them. They are sooooo good.

                                                                              1. re: Mando

                                                                                Rick's is still there - at least through the end of the year. I finally had their Spuderito and ended up tossing it in favor of my usuals - the hard tacos and tostadas (extra cheese, hot sauce, add onions, no tomato). Not a fan of their burgers, either, although I have to say that I ordered the sourdough burger, so I may not have given it a fair shot.

                                                                              2. Rick's was still there a couple of weeks ago, and you can certainly get a taco lunch for under $5 -- the kind of crisp-shell, hamburger-meat tacos that taste good on a hangover. Their spuderito really packs the calories at low cost, but I don't like the loose and liquid filling.

                                                                                When gas costs $3/gallon, a $5 limit for cheap lunch seems too low. Up the tab a bit and go with Fredo's, one of the best low-price lunches around.

                                                                                1. I went to Classic Thai in Eagle Rock (on Colorado) the other day, they have a lunch special for $5.50 - includes soup and an entree

                                                                                  1. IIRC, the taco plate specials at gerlach's are about $6, but the three tacos and rice & salad fill me up and i have a pretty good-sized appetite.