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May 9, 2012 01:05 PM

Cheap Lunch in Santa Monica?

Looking for affordable (<$7) lunch options in Santa Monica (for purposes of this discussion let's use Lincoln and Santa Monica as our center). No chains. The kind of spot where I can run in and take-out a falafel, soup, sandwich, whatever. Already tiring of Bay Cities. Would love to find an affordable juice bar if one exists.

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  1. Have you been in to or seen Z Garden on Pico? I can't recommend the falafel but I've tried some of their other dishes (and their fruit smoothies too) and I was pleased. Pita sandwiches about $6.50 and up a little bit from there. Basically at 23rd and Pico on the south side of the street.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      ...and I keep trying to get over to Shaka Shack Burger on Ocean Park and 17th, but so far I've not been able to make it happen:

      1. re: Servorg

        Wanted to like Shaka Shack. Very friendly people, trying very hard. Burger was dry, overdone, just not very good. This was probably six months to a year ago, so maybe they've gotten it together.

        For a burger in that area, I like Tommy's (which is legitimately associated with the original) on the N/W corner of Lincoln at Pico. Order the fries (huge portion) well done.

        1. re: nosh

          Agreed on the Shaka Shack. "Ernest" is the term I would use, but food wasn't great to me.

          1. re: PeterCC

            Er, I meant "earnest" of course.

          2. re: nosh

            Try Pier Burger. I don't remember if its in the OP's price range, but its cheaper than umami or fo and I like it better.

            1. re: nosh

              Tommy's is actually on the SW corner.

          3. re: Servorg

            Made a couple rips to z-garden and I can't say much for it. Got a combo plate the fist time - shish taouk tasted like a pre-packaged "middle-eastern spice mix" marinade and the rice was unacceptably bad cafeteria rice. Also tried the lamb merguez pita sandwich, which was like a vaguely lamby chorizo. I was curious about the baklava on the counter and when I asked for a rec got steered into the most expensive one (knaafa, I think, for $3?!?!). It was some sort of cheese thing with a terrible consistency and so over rose-watered that eating it felt like walking inside a Tehran whorehouse.

            Skaf's this place ain't. Santa Monica - where cheap lunch goes to die.

            1. re: mrgreenbeenz

              I've eaten their food 3 times now and the chicken shawarma was the best of what I tried (although I liked their rice and they have a garlicky mayo based sauce that is very, very good as far as my taste buds are concerned). The falafel I had was really not very good. Sorry it was a bust for you..."...and another one bites the dust..."

              1. re: Servorg

                The person I ate with last had the chicken schwarma pita and said it was pretty good. A paucity of choice will inevitably drive me to try it sooner or later.

                Incidentally Servorg, I read your comments below about The Shack in Playa Del Rey and am in full accord. It really is the last of a breed and I may have to make the trek down there for a burger next week.

                1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                  Your comment about my Shack post makes me think of our recent try out of Shaka Shack on Ocean Park Blvd. at 17th (across the street from Bob's Market). Pretty darn good if you aren't looking for an absolute bargain basement experience (although we shot the moon on their more expensive items, so I'm sure one could come away for a lot less than we spent). See the post here: I mean, if you just go for the Shack burger it's $5.95 and it's a quarter pound burger.

            2. For a small lunch, grab some omusubi at Sunny Blue.

              1. * There's a Thai place on 4th just below Wilshire.
                * The diner, Cafe Crepe, on the edge of the third street promenade at Broadway is good and cheap. (Swingers, near Bay Cities, is likely above your price point.)

                If you have a car or are willing to walk slightly farther, there's also:

                * Big Jo's Burgers on Broadway and 20th.
                * 18th street coffee house on Broadway and 18th, which has good food.
                * a great bagel place - NYBD - on Wilshire at 22nd. (Bagel Nosh and the two kosher-style delis, also on Wilshire, are skippable.)

                Good luck.

                1. The Hungry Pocket on the north side of Pico at 16th or so, across from Santa Monica College. Very good falafel, very good shwarma.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nosh

                    Hit up the Hungry Pocket today. Very serviceable falafel - not a perfect fry but a little bit spicier than most. Lettuce could have been crisper. Can't be too picky - it was under five bucks. Passed Tacos Por Favor today and after seeing it written up in the LA Weekly 10 Best Tacos (likely as a pro forma concession to their WestSide readers) it is next up on my list.

                    1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                      Thoughts on the Hungry Pocket Combo Plate: Lamb over-marinated and somehow both under and overcooked at the same time. Babaganoush and Hummus both served with a puddle of tahini on top - also weird, but not unsuccessful. Tabouli salad - parsley was unchopped - kind of liked it but the lettuce under had brown patches. Regrettable pita. Not terribly inexpensive. Holding out hope for z garden.

                      Tacos Por Favor had a mixed reviews cemita poblano - at least they had good bread. Al Pastor was not up to par but if their not going to treat their torta like a complete afterthought they earn a follow up.

                  2. +1 on the Sunny Blue and Big Jo's recs.

                    La Playita on Lincoln (Venice border) for cheap, good mariscos.
                    Tacos Por Favor on 14th and Olympic for their chorizo cheese tacos.

                    What else in the < $7 range....