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Eat Your way through LA

So some friends and I are looking to spend a day experiencing as much cheap gastronomic goodness as we can find. The loose rules are we are looking to spend probably no more than $20 for each meal and they should either be LA landmarks or local to LA. Thoughts so far are :

Breakfast - The Pantry
Lunch - Pinks, Canters, Phillipes
Dinner - Titos Tacos, Senor Fish, Roscoes.

Chains are ok if they are LA only chains such as Roscoes. Any ideas for snack places are also welcomed. We are located mostly on the west side so would probably like to end up that way but are open to most anything in the Downtown / Santa Monica / West Ho / West LA area.

Thanks in advance for any ideas.

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  1. The pantry ain't all that.

    I reccomend John O Groats on Pico, or The Griddle.

    Forget pinks, the dogs suck. Go for an Oki Dog if you want a real LA only hot dog. Or, for the best Pastrami in the country, go to Langer's for a #19 or a Pastrami paltter.

    Senior Fish is well-liked on here. Titos is overblown (like Pinks)

    Other Chowish options are :
    Sabor A Mexico
    Lots of Places in the Original Farmer's Market on Fairfax
    Rahel's AYCE Ethiopian buffet for lunch (also on Fairfax, further south)
    Dim Sum in the San Gabriel Valley for lunch-try a sit down place or Yum Cha Cafe

    A burger and Pie at Pie N Burger in Pasadena.

    Inda's Sweets and Spices for the lunch buffet

    Diddy Reese for cookies

    The Godmother at the Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica

    Leda's cupcakes for mini cupcakes and cookies (San Fernando Valley)

    Skaf's Grill in Glendale or Van Nuys/Studio City

    The Father's Office Burger (I hate Father's Office, but the burger is an LA fave, an expensive burger, though)

    Churros from a vendor on Olvera Street

    Cheese from The Artisan Cheese Gallery (good sandwiches, too) or Silverlake Cheese

    Potato Balls or a sandwich from Porto's

    A chocolate croissant from europane

    Pastries from Nata's in Sherman Oaks (near Leda's)

    Ice Cream at Scoops. Go Across the street to Pure Luck for a good beer and vegan pub food.

    Sushi or Fro Yo from Farm Boy Market

    A trip down "Thai Gulch" in North Hollywood.

    Hummous Bar in Tarzana

    Chocolates from Comparte's, Boule, K's, Chocolate

    Gin Patisserie on Abbot Kinney

    3 square on abbot Kinney

    A pice of Tres Leches cakes from Vallarta

    Udon at Santokua, daikokuya (sp?) or just ask Rameniac for his fave.

    Mochi from Fugestsudo in Chinatown.

    Much more out there..LA is such a big place.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Diana

      Just a couple of thoughts on a nice list from Diana:

      I'd recommend an ice cream sandwich at Diddy Reese. $1 or slightly more for 2 warm cookies and a scoop of ice cream. Great bargain.

      I believe Fugetsudo is in Little Tokyo.

      You want ramen at Santouka or Daikokuya or Shin Sen Gumi or Asa, not udon.

      Other than that, I only have a couple of recommendations:
      a chicken plate from Dino's (so deliciously bad for you)
      Pink's is fine for the experience, but I really only get a spicy polish there
      Kyochon fried chicken
      Grand Central Market in Downtown LA

      1. re: MeAndroo

        oop, you are right, Little Tokyo. Brain fart.

      2. re: Diana

        I would get a hickory smoked burger from Apple Pan and their banana cream pie rather than going to Pie N Burgers, if I were you.


        1. re: burumun

          HICKORY CHEESEY WITH FRIES.... then anyone can die happily.

        2. re: Diana

          It really is funny all the hating Pinks gets. It's not like great dogs with natural casings are common. Plus it is a fun L.A. experience.

          Of course I like Tito's as well, so I guess my taste is suspect. Don't forget Phillip's, although I always prefer to go before a game at Dodger stadium

          1. re: AAQjr

            Pinks are not "great dogs" and in LA, Natural Casings are easy to find. Go to The Stand. Better dogs and links, less of a stupid line, and WAY better tasting.

            1. re: AAQjr

              Are you talking about Phillips BBQ around Crenshaw?

              1. re: AAQjr

                Carny's chili dog...Apple Pan Hickory Burger, Fries, Dr. Pepper, Pecan pie and vanilla ice cream (both homemade)

              2. re: Diana

                Not much to add, but my eight cents...

                Farm Boy is not a must, in any stretch of the imagination... it's good frozen yogurt, but it's just frozen yogurt.

                Mashti Malone's for rosewater ice cream

                Tacos Por Favor or Tacomiendo

                Monte Alban

                Sanam Luang or Jitlada for Thai

                Definitely the Griddle for decadent breakfast fare; John O'Groats ain't nothing special IMO

                Aunt Kizzy's for fried chicken, sweet potato pie

                Cynthia's for blackberry cobbler

                Amandine for a choc croissant

                Zankou if you're interested in the garlic spread

                Urasawa for a sushi adventure, or Zo or Wa or Echigo

                Al Gelato

                Michel Richard Patisserie

                1. re: Emme

                  Urasawa?? WAAAAAAYYYYYYY over OP's $20 per meal budget.

                  1. re: fdb

                    i totally missed that... oops, but i do love the place ;)

                  2. re: Emme

                    emme's right about farm boy.

                    the only fro-yo place worth the trip is Sno:LA.

                    1. re: Emme

                      oooh, I love Mashti Malone's. Ginger Rosewater is my fave. They do a good mango and also faloodah.

                      Emme, you have to go to John O Groats with me one day. If tey let you put caramel on the pumpkin pancake...bliss. Although I have yet to myself go to the griddle-I eat pancakes once a year as a treat, and I always crave biscuits with them for a carbo overload. The Griddle does not do biscuits, and the monster cakes sot of would make it impossible to eat biscuits with them!

                      No one could get out of Urasawa for the "$20 a meal" criteria the OP has!

                  3. Don't be provincial; go to the SGV for dim sum for breakfast; it's four/five off-ramps past downtown, and way better bang for your buck than the Pantry (and if you're driving, parking will be nominal; NOT true at the Pantry...).
                    Grand Central for Mexican street food.
                    Chichen Itza (probably must be for lunch to hit your price-point)
                    Almost anywhere in Thai-town for dinner; Yai, Jitlada, and even Palms Thai (what is more iconic for LA than Thai Elvis?!)

                    which will, of course, put you near Scoops for ice cream

                    1. One thing that might get the OP better responses is to narrow the search to three types of cuisines or maybe three areas of town and then ask for responses based on that. As it is, people likely aren't responding because it's just such a broad request.

                      1. An order of wings at Pann's - get'em as a plate entrée, because the waffles are kinda boring, and this is too fine an example of fried chicken to waste it on a gimmick. Get the real live mashed potatoes and gravy, and sorry about the boring steamed veges. For starters, you gotta have the pea soup.

                        I've not been to the Apple Pan, mostly because the descriptions of their food have not compelled me to go there. I like my burgers with only lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard and cheese, and I love the ones at Pie'n'Burger. The tuna sandwich is an excellent alternative.

                        For ice cream, Fosselman's in Alhambra. Could be the best in the world, certainly the least expensive of that quality.

                        Grits and eggs and bacon at Square One.

                        And you MUST have pastrami at Langer's.

                        1. Try squeezing in a slice of pizza from Vito's between lunch and dinner :)

                          I also second/third skipping the Pantry. I just don't get it. John O'Groat's is far better, as is Toast, BLD, 101 Coffee Shop, and The Griddle. The Griddle is probably best as far as how you are looking for places local to LA and kind of "institutions." Or perhaps Pacific Dining Car downtown - I believe all the breakfasts there are under $15 and I'm not sure if it's an official landmark, but it's been there since about 1921.

                          I also suggest you end your day with a martini at Lola's, the purported inventor of the apple martini.

                          1. don't go to original pantry.. like most everyone's saying here... it's a hyped up denny's. grub and joe's are pretty good.. def check out fO (father's office) for burgers.. some ppl like the counter but it's rilly jas cuz of the variety of toppings. shabu shabu house in the little tokyo plaza is awesome and cheap. daikokuya is awesome too... as is santouka's spicy miso. langer's deli.. c&O trattoria.. sweet lady jane~ have fun!! :D

                            1. I like the Pantry's cole slaw with toasted bread.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: snooze button

                                Grub LA in Hollywood has a great breakfast on weekends. They have a great croissant french toast. It is such a cute, little cottage house tucked away in Hollywood near the post production houses. They also have a great lunch including a great Panko chicken salad and great sandwiches. This is Betty from Top Chef season 2's place...and she also serves the Tomato soup/grilled cheese spin for lunch that was the winning dish on one of the episodes. Very quaint and moderately priced within your price point...and much better than the Pantry.

                                If you want Dim Sum, there is also Empress Pavillon downtown if you don't want to go to SGV.

                                1. re: snooze button

                                  Perhaps I will take a stand here and defend and applaud The Pantry.. Wishiwasbond.. You had it on your list in the first place may I suggest that you go and try it.. Is it very old? yes ( it is an LA Institution, whish we had more here! well we do but not many compared to other big cities ),the food is good if not very good in my book (the ham and eggs are a stand out to me along with the buckwheat pancakes, however any of their meat and egg combos are great including the steak. They have excellent sourdough toast just ask for it dry otherwise its toasted on the griddle with some buttery oil product thats a bit much for my taste) You have picked it right, breakfast is the best meal there. Ex Los Angeles Mayor Riordan owns the place(factoid) and I would go just for the journey to see an old building that dishes out very good breakfast comfort food. Naysayers may say its greasy or whatever(just their opinion not mine at all) I personally prefer it over John O Groats based on The Pantrys old world vibe. I actually like the food better at the Pantry as well. Ask for the free little book about its history and the amount of food that it serves.. you can get it at cashiers window.. try to get it while your waiting in line or after ordering.. It a fun fact filled book. (ie they use X amount if hogs each year to supply the pork products for The Pantry and how many pounds of wheat are used to make their bread products etc, etc.. its good reading for your group while waiting) Enjoy, I know that I do..

                                  Original Pantry Cafe
                                  877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                2. First things first: OKIDOG = HEART ATTACK AND THE WORST STOMACH ACID EVER! As it was said by Anthony Bordaine "What kind of fiendish mind would try packing a hot dog, pastrami, and chili cheese with onion into a burrito?! Dear lawd.

                                  As for your food venture...

                                  Breakfast: Pantry (get there EARLY!), John O'Groats, Maxwell's, Nichole's, Rae's (on Pico.... dirt cheap and GREAT dive)

                                  Lunch: Canters is a good one, Jerry's Deli, Victor's Deli ($5 sandwiches that are off the hook), Il Forno ($5 lunch specials... $6 starting Feb1), Dragon Express Chinese (Lunch specials), Tito's, Baja Buds, Father's Office, Versailles (cuban)

                                  Dinner: Don Antonio's, Sawtelle Kitchen, Roscoes, Dinah's Fried Chicken, the Counter, Emporium Thai (HAD to suggest it, seeing as I reviewed it yesterday), Yashima, Johnny's Pastrami (also makes a MEAN dog), Cafe 50s, APPLE PAN (Best burger on earth), or just take a stroll down Main Street (in Santa Monica) and you're bound to find SOMETHING.

                                  Diana hit desert on the head: DIDDY REESE, in westwood. Fresh, fresh, fresh cookies and brownies with KILLER deals, like say, 3 cookies and a milk for a dollar. Or two cookies of your choice with your choice of ice cream in the middle... a personal ice cream sandwich, $1. This place is westwood's only gem left, after the rasied rates at "Buck-Fitty."

                                  Hope that your fellow hounds helped. =)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: WORX4FUDE

                                    Diddy reese is a must. I find the Apple Pan burger really nothing special-not at all. Jerry's Deli is a joke except the midnight madness after a night at the bars. Tito' s tacos are awful and overhyped. Cafe 50's is nothing compared to Pann's or any other diner for that matter.

                                    For the LA Sandwich of fame and glory, you have to have Langer's Pastrami.

                                    I agree one should try Roscoe's or Dinah's.

                                    Oki dogs are huge and insane and sloppy. You might want to arm yourself with Zantac. A fiendish mind DID come up with them. Sometimes bad is sooooooooooogooooooooood! That's why Oki Dogs have so many fans.

                                    I also suggest Lucky devils for burgers, beer, other good food and a killer milkshake.

                                    Boneyard Bistro is my fave BBQ spot, but not cheap. I love the food (BEANS OF HEAVEN! CORNBREAD MUFFIND! KILLER BBQ PLATES! A GREAT BISTRO MENU!) and the great beer selection.