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Jan 9, 2008 11:32 AM

Being a ChowHound on a Tight Budget

I love food. If you're reading this, odds are you love food too. I currently am in law school and am living on student loans. Needless to say, this means that I am on a very tight budget.

One of the things I've really loved about this board is that most of the time, I can find good food recommendations that are in a reasonable middle-class price point. Sometimes, however, I feel like there are two camps here - the average joes who like food that tastes good and the wealthy gourmands who are uncompromising on the level of quality of their food and are unnecessarily condescending to those of us who can't afford the very best. The average joe suggests a decent restaurant and the gourmand says that the food is foul. Average joe suggests mid-range restaurants. Gourmand suggests brunch at the Ritz Carlton.

Certainly, I aspire to one day have the ability to drop $150 on dinner... but for now, spending more than $20-25 at a meal for one person is just *not* doable. Heck, I try to stay under $20 a day.

All ranting aside, I ask all of you - Gourmands included --

What do you think are the best deals in the Los Angeles area (SGV/SFV/OC/SM included)?

Where can you get just AMAZINGLY delicious food while staying on a tight budget?

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    1. Woodlands Pure buffet for lunch, friday dosa madness or weekend brunch

      Rahel AYCE eat lunch buffet or the hudade combo for dinner

      El Katracho

      Sabor A Mexico

      Senior Fish

      The Stand's monday hot dog special

      Chili My SOul

      Yum Cha Cafe

      India's Sweets and Spices buffet.



      more, I gotta think

      1. Vallarta's deli and bakery

        Bobby's cofee shop

        John O Groats


        LAnger's pastrami sandwich or plate

        Bella Roma SPQR

        Follow Your Heart Cafe

        1. I'm with you on this one, RaeRenee. :)

          I think the SGV is a great area to get good food without going broke. Endless Chinese (HK, Taiwanese, etc.) choices, as well as some good Vietnamese and Thai places, too. Some of my favorites...

          Phoenix Food Boutique
          1108 S Baldwin Ave
          Arcadia, CA 91007
          (626) 446-7668

          A & J Restaurant
          1269 E Valley Blvd
          (626) 284-3549

          Saigon's Flavor
          208 E Valley Blvd
          San Gabriel, CA 91776
          (626) 572-6036

          Garden Cafe
          228 W Valley Blvd
          Alhambra, CA 91801
          (626) 289-1833

          Savoy Pizza & Pasta
          138 E Valley Blvd
          (626) 308-9535

          Dumpling House Restaurant
          5612 Rosemead Blvd
          Temple City, CA 91780
          (626) 309-9918

          Yung Ho Tou Chiang
          1045 E Valley Blvd # 105
          San Gabriel
          (626) 280-9317

          Banh Mi & Che Cali
          8450 Valley Blvd
          (626) 288-5600

          8450 E. Valley Blvd. #103
          Rosemead, CA 91770
          (626) 572-8646

          Noodle World
          46 W Valley Blvd
          (626) 293-8800

          Sam Woo
          140 W Valley Blvd # 107
          San Gabriel
          (626) 572-8418

          Pho Saigon
          8036 Garvey Ave
          Rosemead, CA 91770
          (626) 782-0166

          1. I have to disagree. I don't think anyone here discounts the food simply because the restaurant's not upscale enough. Good food is good food whatever the ambiance or price might be.

            That said, here are my recs: Musha, Tacos por Favor, Monte Alban, Malibu Seafood. Although I haven't tried it, I've read good reviews for 10th Street Cafe

            11 Replies
            1. re: whatsfordinner

              I take slight offense to being called out by the OP, as if to say that just because my budget is higher that my tastes are dulled. People here on the board certainly recognize that humble surroundings often belie the treasures within, and it's often up to the individual diner to make that leap of faith.

              But frankly anyone who can't find budget eats on the LA Board isn't looking very hard.


              1. re: SauceSupreme

                I fully agree. OP's post made me wonder if she/he has been reading the same board I have.

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  You're absolutely right - most of the time everyone on this board is very nice. I actually went to edit my post and someone had already responded to it earlier so I couldn't edit. (Oddly her post is no longer here)

                2. re: SauceSupreme

                  Here's a list of places I've eaten at in the past three months with great food that also happens to be at a lower price point.

                  Cactus Taqueria
                  Sapp Coffee Shop
                  Ruen Pair
                  Maria's Seafood
                  Tumbras a Tomas
                  Golden Deli
                  Pho 79 (Alhambra)
                  Pho So 1
                  Bun Bo Hue So 1
                  Pho Bolsa
                  Banh Mi Cho Cu
                  Shin Sen Gumi (Hakata Ramen and Yakitori)
                  Chili My Soul
                  Fredo's Philly Cheese Steak
                  101 Noodle Express

                  That list doesn't include a bunch of SGV and OC places whose names totally escape me due to their totally minimal nature.

                  Probably not the lowest prices around, but huge-ass portions. Again, past three months:
                  Ondal 2

                  I haven't been very recently, but these also happen to serve good food at budget prices
                  Gumbo Pot
                  Pho Thanh Lich
                  Thai Nakorn
                  Thai Boom
                  Beverly Soon Tofu
                  Luigi Ortega
                  Dos Arbolitos
                  Las Fuentes

                  (It's still hard for me to want to be helpful after being insulted. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Anti-elitism is a form elitism itself.)

                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    I'm with Sauce on this one. I eat at a lot of high end places regularly but that doesn't lessen my appreciation for the cheaper options. Some of my favorites include Sabor a Mexico, Shamshiri, Samosa House, Musha, Guelaguetza, Annapurna, Sakura House and Sunnin.

                    I enjoy the dollar tacos from the truck by my office every bit as much as I enjoyed the deconstructed lobster taco on the tasting menu at Bastide.

                    1. re: hrhboo

                      also, shamshiri grill offers practically their entire menu as 'lunch specials' at lunch time on weekdays. hard to beat the quality/quantity/price ratio of those specials.

                  2. re: SauceSupreme

                    I apologize for offending you. I didn't intend to. I don't believe that because you have a higher budget that you have duller taste. In fact, because you area able to experience a higher quality of food, you likely have a much more sophisticated palate than I do. Heck, I even said that I aspire to be able to join your ranks.

                    That being said, when I look for sushi recommendations and I see people spending more on a meal than I used to make in two days of work, it shakes me a bit. There's nothing wrong with thinking that omakase's the only way to go, but it's just not something that some of us can do -- but we *want* to, and so it's hard to not feel a little ashamed or sad that we can't.

                    I've gotten a ton of great recommendations for this board, and I have done searches for cheap eats. I seriously appreciate the list that you made, and am looking forward to trying some of those places.

                    1. re: RaeRenee

                      Your gracious apology is humbly accepted, especially after a disappointing night at Mori Sushi that was only cleansed after going to FuRaiBo for fried chicken.

                      A lot of recommendations get thrown out and about, and especially here in the LA Board where we tend to be a vocal (and opinionated) bunch. If you find people who consistently recommend places within your budget, I highly suggest seeking them out and emailing them and adding them to your profile's reading list. Many posters have contact info (or blogs) on their profiles and of course all 'Hounds love to go and meet new people over food.

                      By the way, I'm sooo done with omakase these days. If the fish quality sucked, it shouldn't be in stock, and by ordering myself a la carte at the bar, I can control the pacing.

                      1. re: SauceSupreme

                        Hey Sauce... is Mori that place on Gateway and Pico? I heard it was THE PLACE to go... could this be wrong? Last time I was at FuraiBo the service was offensive. Any improvement on that, or might I have been there on an off night? THx.

                        1. re: WORX4FUDE

                          The service has always been spotty on FuRaiBo on the really busy nights, but because it was a weeknight (Wednesday), me and two other guests had no problem. If given the choice, sit in the main hall, as it's hard to flag someone down from the tatami room.

                          Also, with regard to Mori, a lot of people say it's THE PLACE, but then a lot of people also say that Zo is THE PLACE. Me, I opt for neither and prefer Sushi Ike.