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LA Food Tour: Signature Item Cheap Eats

Whenever family or friends of mine come into town, I like to take them on an LA food tour. I will take them to 10 or 12 cheap eats places in a day (frequently ethnic), at each place getting just one or two signature items that are truly extraordinary and/or unique. Below is a list of places that are currently on my food tour (the list is loosely arranged geographically). I am looking for any new suggestions.

The main criteria are (although I admit that there are a few exceptions to these rules on my list so I am open to an exception or two):

1. They should have a totally awesome specific item which generally costs between $2 to $10.

2. It generally should be a place we can just pick something up and eat rather than having to sit down and order from a waiter.

3. Geographic range can be anywhere from Santa Monica/Venice to Culver City to Downtown to Echo Park to Burbank/Glendale to Sherman Oaks and everything in between. I don't really want places further than this (e.g., Monterey Park or Orange County or Woodland Hills) because the key to making this food tour work is that everything is close geographically so that there is a very small drive in between places, even if in the day you may cover a large geographic range.

I definitely need some more places on the Westside if you got 'em (although I can think of lots of good restaurants on the Westside, I can't think of many good & unique cheap eats items).

In addition, I don't have too many dessert items so if you got them, lay 'em on me.

The key to this is that after we taste each item, everybody should say "wow, that was frickin' awesome and/or wow, I have never had anything like that (in a good way)!!" That's the kind of reaction we want after each stop.

I look forward to your help...

mike ;-)


Dino’s Chicken and Burgers (1/2 grilled chicken + French fry plate)
2575 West Pico Boulevard (2 blocks west of Vermont)

Papa Cristo’s (gyro sandwich)
2771 West Pico Boulevard (at Normandie)

El Taurino (carne asade & al pastor tacos)
2306 West 11th Street (1 block south of Olympic just east of Hoover)

Langers (1/4 pound pastrami or pastrami sandwich)
7th and Alvarado

Mr. Churros (churros)
15 Olvera Street

La Luz del Dia (champurrado—Mexican hot chocolate-type drink)
1 Olvera Street

Phillipe’s (lamb or beef French dip with blue cheese, double-dipped)
1001 N Alameda St

Bahn Mi My Dung (Vietnamese sandwich)
314 Ord Street---closes at 3:30 pm
(213) 617-7094

Family Pastry (Chinese char siu pork buns)
715 N Spring St (just north of Ord)

Daikokuya (ramen)
327 E 1st Street (two blocks west of Alameda)

Mikawaya (mochi ice cream)
118 Japanese Village Plaza (1st street, two blocks east of Alameda)

El Atacor (crispy potato tacos)
3520 North Figueroa Street (exit 26b on 110)

Huarache Azteca (huarache [flat, hard taco] with al pastor)
5225 York Boulevard

Galco’s Soda Pop Shop (rare sodas)
5702 York Boulevard

Casa Bianca Pizza (sausage + eggplant pizza or pepperoni pizza)
1650 Colorado Boulevard (323) 256-9617
opens at 4pm—closed Sunday and Monday

Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine (falafel)
1000 South Glendale Avenue (just north Chevy Chase)

Baklava Factory (baklava)
1415 E Colorado St (just east Verdugo)

Porto’s (guava cheese strudel, cheese strudel, coconut strudel)
315 North Brand Boulevard (just south of the134)
Sunday closes at 4pm, other days at 7pm

Mush Bakery or Sasoun Bakery (lahmajun [Armenian pizza])
Mush: 5224 W Sunset Blvd (just west of Normandie)—closes at 7pm
Sasoun: 5114 Santa Monica Blvd (and Normandie)—closes at 6:30pm

Sapp Coffee Shop (Thai boat noodles)
5183 Hollywood Boulevard (just west of Normandie)

Sahag’s Basturma (soujouk [Armenian sausage] sandwich)
5183 Sunset Blvd. (just west of Normandie)

Bhan Kanom Thai (Thai desserts)
5271 Hollywood Blvd (just west of Normandie)

China Express (taro boba drink)
1907 N Hillhurst Ave (at Franklin)

Pazzo Gelato or Scoops (unique gelato/ice cream flavors)
Pazzo: 3827 West Sunset Boulevard (323) 662-1410—(just south of Santa Monica)—11am to 11pm
Scoops: 712 North Heliotrope Drive (323) 906-2649—just N of Melrose 2 blocks East of Vermont

Zankou (tarna [chicken schwarma] sandwich, extra-crispy bread with extra garlic sauce
and mutabbal [baba ghanoush])
Assorted locations

Skooby’s (barbecue-spiced Fries with Red Pepper Aioli)
6654 Hollywood Blvd. (east of Highland)

Animal (Poutine with Oxtail Gravy and Cheddar Curds)
435 N. Fairfax Ave (a few blocks north of Beverly)—323 782-9225—opens at 6pm (sitdown)

Millions of Milkshakes (milkshakes)
8910 Santa Monica Boulevard (just west San Vicente)

Sky’s Gourmet Tacos (seafood tacos)
5408 W Pico Blvd (at Hauser, a few blocks west of La Brea)

Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles (fried chicken and waffles)
Sunset & Gower or Pico just west of La Brea

Sinai Kosher Market or Elias Kosher Market (Persian koobideh kabobs)
Sinai: 8680 West Pico Blvd (a few blocks east of Robertson)
Elias (in back): 8829 West Pico Blvd (a few blocks west of Robertson)

Crazy Fish (unique California-style sushi)
9105 West Olympic Boulevard (just West of Doheny)

Diddy Reese (ice cream cookie sandwich)
926 Broxton Avenue

Attari Sandwich Shop (Persian Kuku sandwich)
1388 Westwood Boulevard Los Angeles

Father’s Office (burger and sweet potato fries)
3229 Helms Avenue

Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken (biscuit and fried chicken)
9537 Culver Boulevard (a few blocks west of Robertson)

Cemita Truck (milanese cemita [Mexican sandwich] with papalo)
In front of Smart & Final at 10113 Venice Blvd just west of Clarington (near Overland) closes at 2pm

Spudnuts (potato-flour donuts)
11285 Venice Blvd (Sepulveda)
or 3001 South Figueroa Street (above Jefferson)

Baby Blues BBQ (beef rib)
444 Lincoln Blvd. (Venice) or 7953 Santa Monica Blvd (just west Fairfax)

Jack in the Box (ice cream shake)

In ‘N’ Out (burger with extra grilled onions)

Kogi Truck (Korean short rib tacos)

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  1. Tacos Baja Ensenada on Whittier Blvd in East LA for the fish taco.

    Monte Alban in West LA for any of the Oaxacan foods (queso fundido, clayuda, and taco de barbacoa are all very good there).

    Rockenwagner for the pretzel rolls or pretzel twists with cheese and bacon (Venice).

    Monte Alban
    11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

    Tacos Baja Ensenada
    385 W Whittier Blvd, Montebello, CA 90640

    1. As I understand it, you're not asking for comments on your list, since those are places you already like, but I will say that we have somewhat different conceptions of "totally awesome."* If you'll let the tab slide upwards occasionally -- totally awesome is cheap only sometimes -- I'd add:

      Yuca's for the neatly folded, juicy, delicious, and inexpensive cochinita pibil burrito.

      Gelato Bar (now in two locations -- see: www.gelatobar-la.com ) for outstanding affogato -- my favorite is w/veneziana gelato.

      Big Mista ( www.bigmista.com ) for mighty spare ribs and brisket (various locations but Atwater is in your geographic range).

      Pie 'n Burger for great pies and burgers and creamy hashbrowns; peach is especially good right now.

      Tonny's for wonderful aguas frescas (and other fine food, but you want t.a.*).

      The Golden State for an excellent, perfectly cooked "gourmet" burger -- exactly the kind I usually hate, but these are worthy contributions to the cause.

      Los Cinco Puntos, if you're willing to travel a couple miles east of your downtown limit. Exceptional carnitas served on unusually thick and tasty tortillas with nopales and other good things. Go by mid-afternoon to get meat in the best condition.

      Tonny's Restaurant
      843 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

      2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

      Pie 'n Burger
      913 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

      Gelato Bar Wholesale & Retail
      4342 1/2 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, CA 91604

      Cinco Puntos
      3300 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90063

      The Golden State
      426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

      1. Al & Bea's burrito

        La Taquiza al pastor burrito

        Antojitos Carmen (anything, but specifically huitlacoche sope or their quesadillas)

        Tacos Por Favor chorizo & cheese tacos

        Umami Hatch Burger

        Chego Hen House (or pork belly) bowl

        Nickel Diner Maple Bacon Donut

        Tacos Por Favor
        1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

        Nickel Diner
        524 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

        La Taquiza Restaurant
        4149 Tweedy Blvd Ste C, South Gate, CA 90280

        Antojitos Carmen
        2510 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033

        3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

        1. Patisserie Chantilly in Lomita for their cream puffs. They usually offer them filled either with their Chantilly cream, black sesame cream, or one other flavor like chocolate or maccha. Call ahead for the order or order there and wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, if they haven't run out of their choux.

          JJ Bakery in Torrance (and other locations) for the mochi cakes. Light cream filled cakes enveloped in mochi. Mango, strawberry and maccha flavored fillings and mochi.

          Delicieuse Cafe in North Redondo Beach for exceptional French-style ice creams. The exacting measures of their processes combined with unique and exceptional ingredients make them a true gourmet ice cream perveyor. Their hours can be limited.

          Susiecakes in Manhattan Beach and Brentwood (and other locations) for their cupcakes and cakes. Their puddings are great as well.

          Just about anything on the menu at Torihei fits your criteria except the order-out part. One needs to eat it there if not just for the flavor aspect. I haven't tried every item on their menu, but from those that I have, they have been at least very good, if not exceptional. Torihei is in Torrance.

          Izakaya Bincho on the Redondo Beach Pier for their nabe (nah-beh) items, their ricotta tofu, fried chicken w/ green onion sauce and chicken meatballs.

          Partamian Armenian Bakery in Midtown for authentic lahmajun with ground lamb.

          Patisserie Chantilly
          2383 Lomita Blvd., #104, Lomita, CA 90717

          2503 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

          Izakaya Bincho
          112 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

          1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

          3 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            I'm not sure the South Bay (or at least the South-South Bay) is in the OP's preferred area, but since bulavinaka has already suggested some of my favorites in that region, I'll toss in a couple more:

            1) The paneer tikka masala at Al Noor (Lawndale) Mindblowingly good; a bit on the soupy side so order plenty of naan to soak it all up

            2) The late-Tuesday-night okonomiyaki half-price special at Gaja (Lomita). Full of young Japanese expats and starving college kids in the know; one special (now
            $9ish instead of $18ish) and one or two small izakaya sides can easily stuff two hungry people

            Al Noor
            15112 Inglewood Ave, Lawndale, CA 90260

            1. re: Bradbury

              I was wondering about the South Bay being within the OP's bounds myself. But since it wasn't expressly omitted, I figured why not. I love the South Bay's food offerings. I just remembered a couple other places that might fall into the OP's perimeters:

              Handel's Ice Cream in South Redondo Beach has gotten some initial praise by Hounds. I haven't been yet but plan on it the next time I'm within striking range.

              Chego in the Palms area for another layer of Kogi-inspiration. The bowls are happening but most are pretty to very spicy for those with non-ethnic heat tolerance. Request a toned-down version if you can't stand the heat.

              Simpang Asia in the Palms area does very good to excellent Indonesian dishes at a cafe level. The beef rendang is great as are their nasi items, and definitely order their curries if you want a flavor trip back to the Spice Islands.

              Simpang Asia
              10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034

              3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

              1. re: bulavinaka

                bulavinaka, thanks for the South Bay contributions. I grew up there and go back often for work and to visit aging parents. Always great to have more food options!

          2. these threads have tons of suggestions:

            Favorite Meal Under $10?

            Favorite Meals Under $5

            1 Reply
            1. re: aizan

              In Westwood Village Stan's Donuts
              I understand the Peanut Butter ones are the most famous but I favor the blueberry old fashioned.


            2. Lares on Pico - carnitas

              Gilbert's El Indio - machaca, al pastor, mulas burritos

              Amandine - almond croissants

              Bay Cities Deli - godfather or godmother

              Sunnin Lebanese Cafe - schwarma, kebabs, etc.

              Huckleberry - maple bacon biscuit

              Gilbert's El Indio
              2526 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

              Sunnin Lebanese Cafe
              1776 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

              1. Egg salad sandwich at Europane, Pasadena
                Chicken fried steak and eggs at Eat at Joes, Redondo Beach
                Horseradish potato salad at Cassell's Koreatown
                Egg custard at Sea Harbour, Rosemead
                XLB at Dean Sin World, Monterrey Park

                Dean Sin World
                306 N Garfield Ave # 2, Monterey Park, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: martyR

                  Marty, does Eat at Joe's server their CFS all day? Thanks!

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    Yes they do as far as I know. They were open for dinner for a couple years, but I think they've gone back to just breakfast and lunch

                2. At Bite Bar & Bakery:
                  Regular and/or Chocolate Croissant
                  Seasonal Fresh Fruit Croistada
                  Lemon Bar............etc, etc........
                  All wonderful and can grab and go to your next stop!

                  Bite Bar & Bakery
                  3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sel

                    ...at Bite Bakery, right?

                    Bite Bar & Bakery
                    3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

                    1. re: aching

                      Yes, I think I fixed my post, somehow my places link dissapeared!

                  2. Nice list, film_score! I am currently in the middle of a huge love affair with Dino's (the one in Azusa). They now have one in Pomona on Arrow Hwy and Towne. That chicken (and that sauce!) is the stuff that my dreams are made of. I have been going so often, that now, they just start making and ringing up my order before I even get in the door!! ;-)

                    1. For perhaps the best Carne Asada Taco in LA, check out El Parian, it's less than a mile east of Dino's Burgers:

                      El Parian
                      1528 Pico Blvd
                      Los Angeles
                      (213) 386-7361


                      For something on the west side, try the Godmother Sandwich at Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Bay Cities' Godmother Sandwich is a contender for the Best Sandwich in LA

                      El Parian
                      1528 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                      Dino's Chicken and Burgers
                      2575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90006, USA

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Norm Man

                        If it's an evening, get a quesadilla de huitlacoche with salsa seca (dry salsa) from Nina's on Chavez and Breed.

                        Flan from La Serenata de Garibaldi in Boyle Heights

                        Causa del día from Mo-Chica near USC

                        Blood orange (or any other) ice from DiDio's in Santa Monica

                        Fish tacos from Ricky's Fish Tacos (you'll have to search for his current location)

                        Papaya salad with blue crab from Khanhthong Song Fung Kong, in the back of La Fiesta Super Mall in North Hollywood (closes at 8, closed either Tue or Wed, I forget which)

                        Colombian empanadas from La Perla del Pacífico, right next door to Khanhthong Song Fung Kong in the same plaza, same hours

                        Ceviche mixto from Las Quenas, across the street from La Fiesta (Peruvian style, best in the city)

                        Dulce de leche croissants from La Monarca Bakery in Commerce or West LA

                        Tacos de marlín from Mariscos Chente (Mar Vista or Inglewood)

                        La Serenata
                        10924 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                        Mariscos Chente
                        10020 Inglewood Ave, Lennox, CA 90304

                        3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Orange day-glow chicken plate from Dinos
                          Fish tacos from Rickys Fish Tacos
                          Fish tacos from Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
                          Teri Chicken plate from Bernie's Teriyaki
                          Chicken Plate from Pollo a la Brasa
                          Arroz con Pollo from Baracoa Cuban Cafe
                          Boat Noodles & Crispy Pork from Ord Noodles
                          Tacos from La Estrella
                          Bowls from Chego
                          Godmother from Bay Cities
                          Bahn Mi from Bahn Mi Che Cali
                          Potato Balls, Cheese Rolls, Guava strudel, etc from Porto's Bakery
                          Ditto on Blood Orange ice from DiDio's
                          Ube Shake from Oinskter
                          Chicken Pot Pies from Moffett's
                          $5 foot long from Subway (j/k)

                          Porto's Bakery
                          315 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

                          Ord Noodles
                          5401 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                          Baracoa Cuban Cafe
                          3175 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

                          La Estrella Restaurant
                          330 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

                          3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            I haven't been following this story... is the Breed St. market back, or is Nina just revisiting old haunts?

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              You can follow Nina on Twitter at @breedstscene and her son will post the latest locations...


                              1. re: Dommy

                                I've checked it sporadically, and the tweets are few and far between. Does this mean that she is up for business only rarely? or do I need to do a better job of finding her?

                                1. re: mdpilam

                                  The @BreedStScene tweets are unfortunately very infrequent. The last one was Aug. 4.

                                2. re: Dommy

                                  ...sometimes. The best thing to do is call the number in the Twitter information (on the right side). They speak English and Spanish.

                                  1. re: Dommy


                                    It's one thing when the FancyTruck™ owners advertise to the trendy hipsters with their iBerry phones and their Tiny Old Man Hats (TOMH) using TwitBook® technology. But now that even the humble, noble street vendors like Nina have flipped... what hope is there for us lovable, curmudgeonly luddites?

                                    Mr Taster
                                    (Whose 8¾ sized head would never fit into a TOMH)

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Yup... lots of street vendors and more traditional taco trucks are using twitter... some great ones to follow are:


                                      BTW, hipsters aren't the only ones with Smartphones... A Spanish Language Futbol App across all phone platforms has been one of the most popular downloads of the year...


                            2. Are any of these places in/near the Financial District or the Convention Center? I'm from out of town and trying to learn what streets/neighborhoods are where. Thanks!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: DeirdreReid

                                You might want recourse to Google Maps.

                                Nina runs a food stand on the corner of Breed St and Cesar E Chavez which is not too far (you can even take the metro Gold Line). She doesn't set up every day but even if she doesn't there will be other food stands and trucks around.

                                La Serenata de Garibaldi is about a hundred feet from the Mariachi Plaza stop on the Gold Line. Mexican seafood which is OK, but the flan is really excellent.

                                Mo-Chica is near a Blue Line stop and is not terribly far.

                                Tacos Baja Ensenada is not far from downtown, but you'll need a car or to take a bus; no rail goes there.

                                Please feel free to open a new post asking for recommendations specific to your needs (cheap, public transit-enabled, not far, no cuisine X, whatever).

                                Tacos Baja Ensenada
                                5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

                                La Serenata
                                10924 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  ALSO NOTE: Nina tends to be a nightowl. Even when she's annouces she's going to be there, I've shown up at 6p and no sign.... Luckily Antojitos Carmen is down the block, open EARLY (8:30a Morning) and LATE (Midnight) and Carmen has a bigger menu and tables... You can get to both easily from the Soto Goldline stop...

                                  Also, there is a new Boyle Hieghts Farmer's Market at Mariachi Plaza that sometimes Carmen goes to and there are other vendors there selling Fish Tacos, Ceviche, Pupusas, etc... all VERY Good.

                                  And getting to Tacos Baja via public transit is easy. We did it just this Friday, just get off on Atlantic, take a bus going up Atlantic a couple stops to whittier, then walk a block... Tacos Baja and you can even catch a popular first run movie with Spanish Sub-titles with a fun crowd at a VERY nice theatre across the street to make your east side experience complete... ;D


                                2. re: DeirdreReid

                                  If you have access to a car, some of these are within close driving distance: Langers, Dino's, Papa Cristo's, Phillipe's, Daikokyua, Family Pastry, Spudnuts, to name a few...

                                  The Kogi truck (Verde) is very close to the Convention Center at Olympic & Olive on Fridays between 12 and 3 (although that may change, as the City may be placing new restrictions on food trucks soon).

                                  Papa Cristos
                                  2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                  Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                3. LA Street Dog at Fab's Hot Dogs in Tarzana

                                  1. The Donut Muffin at Village Bakery in Atwater is worth your time.

                                    The Village Bakery & Cafe
                                    3119 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039