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What's your really cheap guilty pleasure?

  • c

I operate on quite a budget so many of the places I would really like to eat tend to be out of my range. Consequently, I am quite fond of Empanadas Place in Venice, where my boyfriend and I can share four empanadas and a drink for under $10.00.

I have to admit, though, that when money is really tight, I will frequent the lunch counter at Ikea where, for a mere $5.00 (including tax!) I get a large drink (usually the lingonberry punch), 10 swedish meatballs, 2 new potatoes, gravy, lingonberries, salad, and a roll with butter. Now I'm the first to admit that it ain't gourmet, but that is an awful lot of food for $5.00.

I'd like to know if there are other places where I can get palatable food for so little money. And Norm's doesn't count!

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    1. re: zeke

      I too have guiltily partaken of the meatball-and-lingonberry meal -- and if you're really broke, you can even put it on an easily-gotten Ikea card and pay (much) later...

      here's five more cheap eats:

      1) Feta sandwiches at Porto's bakery in Glendale -- simple cheese and fresh tomatoes in crunchy bread with nice olive oil, less than $3.

      2) Plain slice of pizza from Vito's, across from LA City College -- thin-crust, straight-outa-Brooklyn pie. Tho steer clear the mushrooms -- they're from a can.

      3) A coupla fish tacos from El Siete Mares, various locations -- battered, fried fish with crisp cabbage and a nice creamy sauce, not more than $6 for a big heaping plate...

      4) Dim sum at Empress Pavillion -- you get stuffed here and not spend more than $10 per head...

      5) The special Saturday tamales at Yuccas in Los Feliz -- pork and fresh salsa, steamed in banana leaves.

      1. re: nibblehead
        Carolyn Tillie

        Thanks for the reply -- All your suggestions sound quite reasonable (moreso than Chowderhead's...)

        1. re: nibblehead

          I love the flavor of canned mushrooms on really good pizza.

          1. re: 2chez mike

            I'm sorry. that's just wrong.

            1. re: 2chez mike

              My ex-mother-in-law, knowing that I was a "gourmet", used to open a can of mushrooms (store brand, no doubt), add a little unseasoned tomato sauce, and set it at my place at the table for a treat.


              Funny the assumptions people make about you when they hear you like good food.

            2. re: nibblehead
              Michael Robertson Moore

              Damn right about El 7 Mares. Was on jury duty a couple of years back, had a very long lunch break, headed right over to Silver Lake for the fish tacos. Just gross enough to be a total pleasure.

              Then the DA peremptorily challenged me 'cause he thought I didn't like cops. Fool.

          2. How about finding yourself a new boyfriend?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chowderhead
              Carolyn Tillie

              Ah, so the "Chowderhead" mantle really fits, huh?

            2. You have to keep this a secret from the rest of the world but the best, cheapest food is at a stand on Lincoln Blvd. called La Playita. It is on the West side of the street just North of Rose Ave. in Santa Monica. Get the Tostada Mixta...about 4 pounds of mixed seafood ceviche and a fistfull of tortillas for $3.00. Tacos are a good deal but the Tortas (I like the Al Pastor) at $1.50 are a steal. A plate of beans and rice is $.50. It is right next door to Lincoln Discount Tire. I have eaten there dozens of times and have never had a problem with the food. Usually they have an A or B rating.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Larry

                The "secret" is out if one takes note of the line-in-front-of-the-sidewalk at all hours of the day. Great place though.

                My "guilty pleasure" favorite? Tito's Taco's on Washington Pl., Culver City. Another "outed secret" but you can't get away from there without eating at least 4 tacos.

                1. re: cagey

                  When I was in Westchester High School, we used to go to Titos all the time.
                  I swear I saw a horse being led into the kitchen.

                  1. re: Bob Barnett

                    I wouldn't be surprised, but if it's true, it's damn fine horse meat.

                    Over at Daily Diner there are constant disagreements about Titos. I think it's a love it or hate it kind of place, no in between.

                    1. re: muhlyssa

                      Horsemeat is rather good when cooked correctly. I had a "Steack de Cheval" at L'Auberge des Chapelletiers in Brussels and it was quite decent. Only thing that marred the meal was my dining companions' impassioned Mr. Ed impression.

                      I do not, however, believe that this delicacy is available at Tito's...

              2. Costco for a polish dog and a coke for a buck fifty.

                1. 1. An all-pork burrito the size of your head at Chabelita (Western at 10 fwy).
                  2. Of course, the polish dog & drink at Costco.
                  3. Almost anything at Grand Central Market (see recent thread). Try the whopping fish tacos (I think under $2) at the stand on the east end near the tortilla production line -- which is also a pretty good place to stand while horfing them.

                  1. The Costco Rotisserie Chicken (see thread below) is an amazing buy at 4.95... plus, it tastes great!

                    In which part of town do you live? That would help me recommend a few more.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Tom P
                      Carolyn Tillie

                      I am in the SouthBay -- Redondo, actually. But have many occasions to head towards Orange County, the Valley, and Hollywood.

                      1. re: Carolyn Tillie

                        Well, most of the places I like for cheap eats are in Glendale or the Valley. But here are a couple in case you make it this way :

                        1) POLKA : this is a terrific little polish restaurant at the corner of Verdugo and York in South Glendale. With each meal (from $5 at lunch or 7$ at dinner) you get a bowl of soup (some of the best soup in LA, no kidding), a small salad, and an enormous plate of food consisting of your entree choice, various fresh vegetables and noodles and starches (potatoes or rice). I eat ALOT, and I never finish everything on my plate here, I always take food home. It is fresh and wonderful.

                        2) CASITAS TACO - various locales in the Valley. (there is one on Ventura Blvd in Studio City, and two on Magnolia - one at Mag and Victory, and one on Mag just East of the 170) This is my favorite grilled chicken taco in LA. I love them. And once a week the Arroz Con Pollo, which is enough for two, is offered on special for just under $6. Their homemade salsas are good, and their Guacamole is very fresh.

                        1. re: Tom P
                          Carolyn Tillie

                          Thank you for that one! I will make a point of heading to Glendale just for it.

                          I have to admit, the Mexican offerings haven't thrilled me. I'm allergic to raw tomoatoes and cilantro which precludes most salsas and accompaniaments. But, being a Polish/Czech girl myself, I'll opt for your suggested comfort food anyday!

                    2. Lowbrow chili, no beans, molten, stains your clothes orange. Like from Wolfe Burger in Pasadena, Carneys, Tommys, etc.

                      1. Taco Bell or if I'm really broke, two tacos for 99 cents from Jack in the Box.

                        1. This is a tricky question for me - as a graduate student, I think normal people's "cheap eats" price range equals my "night on the town" price range. I can stand the loss of time and stature and the late night library jam sessions most times, but I really start to question it when I pass the sushi joints and realize that my budget for the night's meal and the price-of-entrance for the sushi differs by about a factor of ten. That said -

                          Empanadas Place is sort of at the center of a whole butt-load of cheap eating, most of it Mexican. It's at the center of Oaxacan neighborhood. There's a Guelgezetza around there, but to my taste, it's a lot blander than the Geulg. in K-town. Much better, and cheaper, is a place called El Sazon Oaxecqueno, on Washington, about 3 or 5 blocks west of the 10, on the north side of the street in a little corner strip mall. (Is it still a strip mall if it's in the corner?) Great, beautiful moles, and cheap, too! Mole negro con pollo for what, 6 bucks? And lovely little mole snacks, that could fill you up for $3. There's been some debate on this board about that place - J Gold loved it, and others have complained that it's irregular - the chicken is sometimes piping and fresh, sometimes lukewarm and a little old. I have found this to be so. One solution is to get my favorite dish there - enchiladas with their red mole. Chicken gets shredded and reheated in any case, and the dish is flory for abour $4.50.

                          A little further down on Washington, on the south side of the street, before the Costco, is Tamara's Tamales. Try the mole tamales, try the sweet tamales. They had sweet pumpkin tamales once, in season. Yum!

                          There are, of course, many branches of Zankou Chicken, which if you have not experienced the roasted chicken and garlic sauce of, mightily should ye get your ass down for. Yeah.

                          I've been cruising this town for tacos, and my favorites thus far are the Antonajiro Denise's. There's one on Olympic in East LA, and one on Hollywood Blvd. just east of Little Armenia. Carnitas, carnitas, carnitas. The East LA branch has lonja, which is skin with a hunk of flesh on it - stiff and gnawy and full of flavor, the Hollywood branch has chicarrones, which is just bits of fried skin - less flavor, but what texture! The carnitas at the East LA branch edges ahead a little.

                          Benito's Taco Shops - get the Tacquitos, aka rolled tacos. There's one on Beverly at the corner of... Fairfax? One on Santa Monica, in SM. The rolled tacos here are the equivalent of Tito's - horribly Americanized, covered with guacomole and *orange cheese*, but horribly addictive. The tortilla is crunchy on the outer roll, and soft and melty by the inner. Who cares if there's any meat inside? And 5 for three dollars, hey!

                          In Little Odessa - the strip of Russian stores on Santa Monica between, say, Fairfax and La Brea, tons of Russian deli food for cheap. There's a little bakery next to the Whole Foods on Fairfax and SM that makes damn fine pierogies that reheat up like little sweet grease bombs.

                          Chinese hand-made noodle places. The usual suspects - Mandarin Deli, Mandarin House. Check out J. Gold's book, counter intelligence - the man has a nose for the noodle. And a dowsing rod for the dumpling. My fave's Mandarin House, on 8th in Koreatown. Changmia noodles with black meat sauce. Fish dumplings at Mandarin Deli. Strangely, my mother located what, to my tastes, are the best chinese-style frozen dumplings in Costco. The Panda brand. Big ol' bag for five bucks.

                          There's more, but I have this sudden violent need for some Antonajiro Denise's.