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$2 and under

You've got two shiny gold-coloured coins in your pocket. What's the best food (it doesn't have to be a full-on meal, obviously -- it could be one exquisite piece of chocolate) that you can get for that $2? (Let's pretend you have seventeen extra cents to cover the tax.)

Obviously you can get a hot dog at 7-Eleven or a candy bar, but let's talk about things that are really worth spending that $2 on. (And no, spending it on public transit fare to a restaurant doesn't count!)

You can get a banh mi at any of several places in Little Saigon, including Banh Mi Che Cali.

You can get che at the same place for $1.

You can get a plate of dim sum at New Capital in Rowland Heights.

You can get two pieces of beautiful sour sausage at the Wat Thai food stands.

You can get two (and sometimes three) tacos at any number of taco trucks, including Tacos La Fonda in North Hollywood.

And you can get a Diddy Riese ice cream sandwich for $1.25.

What else?

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  1. You can get three mini-cream puffs from Paradise Pastry in Glendale. ($1 or $1.50)

    You can also get a lovely palm-sized fresh fruit tart in a chocolate shell from Paradise Pastry in Glendale. ($1.50)

    You can get a bag of Lay's salt and vinegar chips. ($1?)

    You can do the 99-cent menu at a myriad of drive-thrus.

    1. any of porto's house specialties such as:

      papa relleno, pastel de carne, pastel de chorizo, etc.

      1. The fried curry bread at Famima!! for $1.85

        1. A big burger and fries or a quesadilla hits the spot at McCormick & Schmick's during happy hour for $1.95.

          3 Replies
          1. re: LisaStitch

            This is probably the most food you can get for the $2. Pretty darn good too.

            1. re: MeAndroo

              Except you need an additional $3.50 to spend on the drink minimum. And I thought the food was priced right for the quality.

              1. re: skinny malinky

                I don't remember a drink minimum? Huh. The $1.95 deal does stiff the waiter from a tip if you wanted to keep it under $2 anyway. I always feel bad for the servers during happy hour.

          2. Hog dog and a drink at Costco

            4 Replies
              1. re: ns1

                Or one slice of the pizza is $1.99 (but it is one huge slice cut into two slices)

                1. re: slbear

                  Let's not forget the delicious churros.....

                2. Donuts! At least 1, probably 2 at Bob's, Stan's, Primo's, Donut Man, even Fritelli.

                  2 mini cupcakes or 1 full-sized from Buttercake.

                  Fries from the Apple Pan (I think) are $2 - golden, warm.

                  1 slice of pizza from the Co-op on National Blvd in West LA. Possibly a slice from LaMonica's in Westwood?

                  A cup of sweet, cinnamon-y cafe de olla at Monte Alban.

                  1-2 plates dim sum at Yum Cha cafe.

                  1 scoop of ice cream at Baskin Robbins or a triple decker at Rite Aid.

                  A couple pieces of organic fruit at any farmer's market.

                  A small cheese roll (possibly 2?) from Breadbar.

                  1-2 onigiri triangles from Nijiya Market on Sawtelle. Or 1 spam musubi or 1 handroll (spicy tuna, cucumber).

                  2 bagels from Bagel Works on National & Sepulveda or Western Bagel. Maybe a bagel & cream cheese.

                  And on and on.

                  1. You can get 2 samosas from India Sweet House (Pico & Fairfax) and still have 50 cents left over.

                    1. A declious, fresh aqua fresca (horchata, melon, sandia, jamaica, etc.) from Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa.

                      1. i know it's not "buck fiddy" anymore... BUT you can get a sub sandwich in westwood from that walk up booth over on gayley which i hear is $2.90 (do do we call it two-niddy???

                        i love westwood =) good ol' cheap eats college memories... i remember saving my money in terms of diddy riese/buck fiddy/campus meals... (the shirt is $10... do you know how many diddy riese cookies i could get with that?!?!) =)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kinipela

                          For some strange reason, their sandwiches always tasted better after 2 a.m. as I headed back up gayley

                        2. Chinese breakfast of soy bean milk with thinly sliced crullers at Young Ho Tou in San Gabriel.

                          1. On Tuesdays you can get a leg and thigh meal from KFC for $1.99

                            And Popeye's (beach blvd between Warner and Edinger) has a leg and thigh for 99 cents on Tuesdays too, so I guess you could get two orders of that.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kingkong5

                              I like KFC, and I've never purchased the 1.99 meal. Sounds like a deal.

                            2. Two chicken fried tacos from FRESCA's on Taco Tuesdays for $2.00...or a beer & 1/2 taco.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: OCAnn

                                Tom has a good thing going with Fresca's... good food.

                              2. Black & White Cookie --- Katella Deli, Los Alamitos

                                5 Rolled Tacos w/ guac & mountain o' cheese --- Molcasalsa, Whittier

                                Potato Wedges from KFC --- why am I addicted to these evil things?

                                In n' Out Cheeseburger --- well done, grilled & raw onions

                                Leg & Thigh from Church's Chicken --- 99 cents for both Tuesday-Thursday

                                Side of hot potato chips --- Jerry's Dogs, La Habra

                                Okay I'm hungry now.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Oh Robin

                                  I love In-n-Out burger w/grilled & raw onions.

                                  Ditto Molcasalsa...there's one on Harbor & Imperial Hwy in Fullerton too.

                                  1. re: Oh Robin

                                    Black and white cookies as in the black and white cookies you get in NYC???!!!
                                    I thought I was going to have to wait to go back to get one...are these the big soft almost cake like ones? Or the dry lemony ones?

                                    1. re: veronykah

                                      boy, you can get those all over LA. Even Jerry's Deli sells em

                                      1. re: Diana

                                        And ironically, Jerry's version ain't half bad.

                                        Other good ones are at Beverlywood Bakery, the Beverly Glen Market (bakery), and Brent's (right?... I believe that's what I had for dessert last I was there..)

                                      2. re: veronykah

                                        Soft, moist and gi-normous. I like to call them cupcake muffin tops. One of my favorites from Katella Deli. I like to cut them in strips for a cookie tray.

                                    2. As many chocolate rugalas from Canter's. Probably about 6-9

                                      1. 2 of those big fried sesame-filled & sesame-coated balls (what are those called?) fresh & warm from 99 Ranch.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Sugar Jones

                                          Jin dui, though they're generally filled with lotus seed paste or mashed red beans. I'm on a laptop, so I can't give you the characters.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            Thanks DU. These were filled with black sesame, however I think they also have some red bean ones as well.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              Umlat-challenged? That is a first. Get a Mac.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  I know there not umlauts. I just like tying that word. Cheers.

                                          2. Head over to TBE on their Taco Tuesdays! :)


                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Dommy

                                              You can also get two tacos at Sabor a Mexico from their weekend Taco table, or two tacos from the taco truck on Lincoln and Rose.

                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                GRAND CENTRAL MARKET in Downtown LA!

                                                You can't lose. I've seen great produce...I'm talking 5+ pounds of bananas for $1!!! A bunch of super-sweet strawberrys for $2.

                                                Gigantic tacos for $2. Ceviche for $1.50. Fabulous papusas for $2. Even an entire Hawaiian fried fish with rice and soup for $3.

                                                Go to Grand Central. It's at 3rd and Hill.

                                                1. re: foodmonster

                                                  Ta-ta-ta... the fish with rice and soup is out, I only have $2.17 in my pocket!! :-P

                                              2. 5 cream puffs from Angel Maid Bakery.

                                                1. I drove by a place in LA today that had 45-cent tacos Tuesday through Thursday. I think it was on Glendale Blvd. and Alvarado, in Echo Park. How's that for cheap?

                                                  1. A half pint of the pan-fried noodles with garlic, or the spicy asian slaw, or the stir-fried noodles with vegetables at Himeko Chicken on S. Arroyo in Pasadena for $1.75.

                                                    1. Who knew 2 bucks could go so far...

                                                      Natas from Nata's Pastries
                                                      at CPK, an order of whole wheat pita and a thin bubbly parmesan caramelized pizza crust (the tricolore crust), or a deep fudgy brownie (.89)
                                                      McD's ice cream cone and plain buttermilk biscuit (only edible thing for me)
                                                      Koo Koo Roo brownie--one of the best
                                                      Side of Zankou garlic sauce
                                                      Cannoli at the Beverly Glen Market Bakery
                                                      three glazed old-fashioneds at K's Donut Emporium
                                                      side order of charbroiled chicken at la salsa or eduardo's
                                                      10 or so florentine cookies from Gelson's
                                                      Cream cheese brownie from Ralph's (surprisingly dense and fudgy with dark chocolate chips)
                                                      Raisin Bran muffin from Ralph's

                                                      1. Since I'm on croissant streak for the last few months (OK, 8 months):
                                                        - Amandine's delicious choc croissants for 2 bucks or regular for 1.50
                                                        - I think they sell their scones for 2 bucks as well.
                                                        - Variety of good croissants from Normandie bakery
                                                        - Decent but HUGE croissants from the Santa Monica's farmer's market
                                                        - Donuts at Primo's
                                                        - Beard Papa's 1.75 - decent sized cream puff
                                                        - 2 Carl's Jr's chicken sandwiches which I actually like.
                                                        - Is 2 buck chuck from TJ's still 2 bucks?

                                                        Hmm... I'm blanking out, will add on later

                                                        1. At Safeways and other supermarkets with a deli counter, a piece of fried chicken usually costs about a buck. Makes a nice mid-afternoon snack. Get a pear to go with it, and you've almost got a meal.

                                                          1. Hah! I can beat all.

                                                            Go to whole foods on a Saturday and buy a buck's worth of Bulk wheat germ. then sample yourself silly around the store.

                                                            You can do similar for 99 Ranch market, Costco and any farmer's market-wherever large amounts of samples exist. many of the better bakeries do it too.

                                                            OK, it sounds awful..but they put it ut, right? Just be sure to not be greedy about sampling one item.

                                                            I mean, Ive gone into whole foods, gotten a sample of bread, taken it to the cheese smaplers and used it to hold my various cheese samples, sampled whatever other savory items are available, then sample fruit, and finally done the dessert samples. I've walked out stuffed!!

                                                            1. 2/3 of a glorious Cal Red peach.

                                                              1. An order of plantains at happy hour at Cha Cha Chas in West Hollywood is $1. A couple bucks more and you get a glass of their yummy sangria.

                                                                1. Also, aren't the egg creams at Barney Greengrass something like $0.50?

                                                                  The tacos at Super Taco where Mama Voula's used to be are $1 each all the time.

                                                                  1. $2.20 for a yummy chili cheeseburger at Tommy's on Lincoln at Pico. For another $1.00 you can have fries with that.

                                                                    1. Four mexican wedding cookies at the bakery in the Farmer's Market.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: aylowe

                                                                        My local Mexican mercado sells pan dulces for 25 cents each.

                                                                      2. Oyster shooters at Oyster House Saloon in Studio City are $.75 each from 3pm to 7pm and again from 11pm until closing, whenever that is.

                                                                        1. I can't believe I forgot this, but there are 3 $1.99 restaurants in Orange County that would get you a great meal for the $2 limit. They have steak/rice, hu tieu and mi noodle soup, stir fried noodle dishes, and some other good choices. The only exception is the half fried chicken meal w/ rice which is $2.75, but everything else is $1.99.

                                                                          There is one on Garden Grove Blvd, just west of Harbor at West. The other one is on Beach Blvd, and there is a third one on Edinger between Euclid and Harbor.

                                                                          For cheap eats, this is where to go!

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: kingkong5

                                                                            How do they sell entire meals for $2? How do they make a profit? I always wonder if this means the quality of food is really bad.

                                                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                                                              I wonder it too, but we've eaten there probably 8 or 9 times and haven't gotten sick. The portions are slightly smaller than you would get at a full price place, but it's enough. When me and my wife go there to eat we'll get 3 items and it's plenty of food.

                                                                              They also charge for water, and they charge $1 extra on each item for "to go" orders.

                                                                              I guess they make it up in volume, although I still don't understand how they can sell the steak and rice for $1.99. And the sauce that goes with the chicken is amazingly good!

                                                                              We try not to eat here too often, because my wife shares the same concerns as you - how clean can they keep things in the back and charge such a low price? However, every once in a while when we put our bargain hunting caps on, we hit up the $1.99 for the value.

                                                                              Also, it's cash only = adjusted gross revenue for the owners probably shows them not making a lot of money ;-)

                                                                              1. re: kingkong5

                                                                                Thanks. It's really amazing. That's cheaper than a meal in China (or about the same cost). I would love to get a detailed report on how these businesses make money. Maybe they make the money on the extras, like beverages, sides, etc., which add up. I bet a large soft drink could be more expensive than a meal there. :)

                                                                            2. re: kingkong5

                                                                              The prices have risen. I was there about a month ago and the chicken and rice was $3.75. I believe the pho/hu tieu items are still 1.99 though, while everything else has gone up.

                                                                            3. Costco Very Berry Sundae. $1.60 something including tax. One of life's great pleasures - ask for extra berries!

                                                                              1. Ubergeek, you wrote that "you can get che at the same place for $1". What's "che"?

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: bagdoodle

                                                                                    I'm guessing that che is the Vietnamese word for "tapioca." It might also mean "pudding." I have found a number of recipes wth "che" in the name that are for pudding (e.g., mung bean pudding, banana pudding, etc.).

                                                                                    1. re: bagdoodle

                                                                                      che is the word for the Vietnamese soupy dessert. It doesn't refer to a specific type, as the modifiers tell you what is in it. Che Ba Mau means Che Three Colors, so it's a three colored soupy dessert. Che Dau Xanh is green mung bean, Che Thai is my favorite - it's a thai style soupy dessert with fruit and agar gelatin that's really yummy.

                                                                                      There are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants that serve you some complimentary che at the end of your meal. Or, you can go to specialized stores that sell che and other stuff (such as Banh Mi Che Cali), and there are even stores that sell ONLY che like Hien Khanh (one in the T&K Mall on Bolsa near Bushard, the other is on Westminster between Bushard and Brookhurst).

                                                                                      There's Che Bap, made from corn and so much thickener that it comes out looking like a bunch of snot with corn in it. But it tastes pretty good, and you add sweetened coconut cream on top. There's Che with Taro balls, dough balls with green bean paste inside, and Che with bananas.

                                                                                      I'd say for the che novice, start with the Che Ba Mau for its simplicity and ease of eating, then advance to the other types as you get more adventurous. Che is usually $1 for a small cup, and at Banh Mi Che Cali you get the Buy 2 get 1 free deal.

                                                                                        1. re: kingkong5

                                                                                          That explained it a lot better than I would be able to. :)

                                                                                      1. A 1/4 pound sliced black forest ham and a hunk of village cheese from Jon's Market - Or, sub for about 1 doz freshly made corn tortillas @ 75c !

                                                                                        One of those yummy ice cream sammys from Valley Produce for 1.99$ - Rose Market's Persian Pistaschio ooo la la!

                                                                                        And, always a treat or two from Porto's

                                                                                        1. 1 scoop (which is really 2) of gelato at Scoops - $2