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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: http://shakashackburgers.com/

      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: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8271... 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....

                    1. A few places come to mind:

                      Joe's Pizza
                      Tacos Por Favor
                      La Isla Bonita taco truck
                      Tender Greens soups (most items over $7)
                      Veggie Grill (some items run over $7)
                      True Food Kitchen has healthy juices

                      Going into Venice:

                      1. I really like California Chicken Cafe on Lincoln south of Rose in Venice. Good wraps, rotisserie chicken and salads. They also have new curb side pick-up at the Venice location only. There is also another location in Santa Monica on Wilshire near 24th St.

                        1. Mrs. Winstons for a great salad bar on Ocean Park Ave. You can also make simple sandwiches and they have soups available. The Sandwich Spot nearby on Ocean Park Ave is also great. Get your sandwich on the dutch crunch bread which they get flown in from San Francisco. It's so delicious!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bruinike

                            thank you for the Sandwich Spot recommendation. What a fantastic spot! I prefer it to Bay Cities, which i think is overhyped. I do not get the Godmother (it's a fine sandwich but don't think it deserves a spot in the sandwich hall of fame and the unending outpouring of love and devotion) and I do not get the hype over their bread. I loved the dutch crunch at the Sandwich Spot and it's a lot calmer than Bay Cities. Easy parking, too. I value convenience.

                            1. re: soniabegonia

                              oh glad you liked sandwich spot. how good is that dutch crunch bread?! i still love bay cities though. i took a loaf of their hot bread home the other day and it was quite good.

                              1. re: bruinike

                                As much as I like the food at Sandwich Spot they need a serious remodel and general clean up inside. The more I look around when I'm in there the more concerned I get about how the general lack of cleanliness may translate into my food.

                              2. re: soniabegonia

                                Agree 100% - the Godmother, and almost everything at BCID, is unduly deified.

                            2. There's a little restaurant on Santa Monica (north side of the street), on the corner of 15th (yellow umbrellas) with amazing $5 lunch specials. It's a little italian restaurant and I can't remember the name, but it's the best deal in town.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: yogachik

                                Buon Giorno Caffe http://losangeles.menupages.com/resta... (Have you ever tried any of their Mexican food? They've got a pretty extensive Mexican food menu according to Menu Pages).

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Yes, Buon Giorno! Thanks. Never tried the mexican food, didn't know about it, but everything I've had there has been really great. They have a fantastic breakfast, too.

                                  1. re: yogachik

                                    Hmmm, after reading this thread I thought I had a new regular spot. When I ventured there at lunch Wednesday there were no "cheap" lunch specials to be found. They did have three lunch specials on a board, but they were basically all menu-priced at $9.99-13.99.

                                    1. re: john gonzales

                                      They have a $5 Lunch Special Menu - did you ask about it? I have it all the time.

                                      1. re: yogachik

                                        Odd. I saw the specials on the board but also specifically asked the waitress (at 12:40pm) if they have any lunch specials. I didn't specifically ask for any "cheap" specials, She basically read us three specials off the dry-erase board and said nothing else, Kind of dumb if they do acutally still have them.
                                        I'll call them next week and see whether they still have them. Otherwise my $9 sandwich wasn't good enough for me to go back.

                              2. The prices are a tiny bit higher than you specified (more like <$8), but I recommend Cafe Zella.

                                I eat there every time I take my kid to see his doctor at the hospital over there. It's at the corner of 16th and Wilshire.


                                1. Tacomiendo.
                                  Hungry Pocket.
                                  La Playita.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      On Wednesdays all of the Shack's burgers are $2 off. I like the double-cheeseburger (massive) better than the Shackburger with the split sausage/dog.

                                      1. re: nosh

                                        I like to make an effort to get out to the Playa Del Rey location at least once every couple of months. It really is a "beach shack" environment that fits the food perfectly.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          When I'm that far it is so difficult not to go a little further to Big Mike's on Main in El Segundo for the Philly Cheesesteak and light-battered onion rings. Nice little drive skirting LAX along the ocean.

                                    2. the amazing Sabra Lebanese place in Redondo and in El Segundo is opening up a place in SM in six months. I would wait until then!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Fraiche on Wilshire btwn 3rd and 4th. Has very inexpensive sit-down lunch choices. Pizza is very good.

                                        1. Monte Alban (oaxacan) on SM Blvd/Bundy.... i worked in Santa Monica and went here for lunch a few times per month and it wasn't too far and has a lot...so that is good.) has $6.99 lunch specials. you have to dine in I believe but it includes a soft drink. might want to check if you can do take-away.

                                          1. Cheap and Santa Monica in the same sentence?? That's a tough bill to fill. Try Cora's on Ocean Ave near the pier. Great little breakfast/lunch place but closes at 3P. They use all fresh ingredients, in fact, most are purchased at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. See: http://www.corascoffee.com/menu/