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Great Lunch Deals Downtown

What is your favorite lunch bargain in downtown LA? I've worked here several years now, and I'm always on the hunt. By bargain, I don't mean just the cheapest thing you can find. I mean, value for your money in terms of quantity and quality. Here are my top three:

1. Marugame Monzo. Here, with the order of any udon dish, you get a reduced price rice bowl on the side. Yesterday I had the oroshi soy sauce udon (which is spectacular) with a kariage don rice bowl (rice with assorted vegetable tempura, shrimp, and scallops). Together, this very filling and outstanding meal was $9.95 + tax and tip. Other rice bowls include negitoro bowl ($4 supplement to any udon), thin sliced pork belly bowl ($3 supplement) and a few others.

2. Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. What I usually do here is just order a single taco for my entire meal, which is $3. They serve it with a ridiculous amount of meat and extra tortillas, enabling the creation of multiple tortillas. I've always found the meat here to be more flavorful than the meat at its rivals in the market, but opinions vary. Another good option is the $4 gordita.

3. Kazunori. I admit to being smitten with this new place. The quality of the hand rolls is just so high given the relatively modest pricing. Is $17.50 a lot for lunch? Sure. It's not a daily lunch routine. But I think it would be very hard to find sushi of this quality at this price. And frankly I've been full each time after 5 handrolls. Also, for those of us that need to get back to work quickly, I enjoy the no-nonsense approach.

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  1. My wife and I like Koraku in Little Tokyo.

    It is NOT a high end Japanese place. It is NOT fancy. In fact, I've never really recommended it before on CH because I've been cautious about sending CHers there.

    We like it because to us it's Japanese comfort food. It's not a cool sushi bar or trendy ramen place, It's a place to get some good donburi or curry or something like that. My wife is Japanese American and she gets Japanese comfort food cravings (which is different, to her, than being in the mood for good sushi or something more high end); she likes a place where she can put a little rice in her hot tea.

    It's massively cheap.

    On Second Street. Cash only. Open really late, if that matters.

    7 Replies
    1. re: PaulF

      Massively cheap? Koraku? Are we talking about the same place? The one with the really dingy booths? And really not-good Chinese fried rice for $8.5/plate, or a bowl of mapo tofu for almost $9?

      Kang Kang: mapo tofu with a box of rice, $4. That's cheap, and also cash only, and about the same in qualify.

      Sorry for the knee-jerk reply, but 2 times at Koraku really pissed me off.

      1. re: TonyC

        That's okay.

        Like I said, we go there for certain things. To us it's pretty cheap. I have never mentioned it here, this thread seemed like it might fit.

        1. re: TonyC

          It's kind of cheap in the the same way 2am denny's is kind of cheap. that's exactly what koraku is for me.

          we must have different definitions of "massively cheap" than PaulF.

          1. re: ns1

            nailed it.

            i'll also venture to say Koraku is literally a sorta-Japaneses sorta-Denny's in Little Tokyo at 1am to me.

            1. re: TonyC

              We think of it as the Canters of J-town.

        2. re: PaulF

          Thanks for the rec. The picture I've seen of the omelette rice looks nice.

          1. re: PaulF

            in that vein i'd offer the suggestion of suehiro cafe.

          2. Would a plate lunch at LAX-C count as part of Downtown? I personally found the sandwiches at Mendocino to be good value, but I may have a different food budget than others.

            1. While I liked Kazunori, it reminded me what a great deal Sushi Gen's Sashimi Lunch Special is.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JAB

                I agree with this, but it's hard for me to even consider it given the ridiculous line. I have ordered it to go before though, and it was still pretty damn good.

              2. Farid ... chicken kebab plate for $8.00

                Bronzed Aussie ... meat pie or fish n chips *and* lamingtons

                Suehiro ... just because

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Suehiro actually does have good daily lunch specials listed on their chalkboard. And it's just plain fun : )

                  1. re: jessejames

                    Sorry, jesse, but I disagree about Phillippe's being a "great lunch deal." One sandwich just doesn't come close to satisfying me for lunch, even with a side of slaw or potato salad. So I need another sandwich, or at least a bowl of chili or beef stew, and now I'm way over $10 into the mid teens.

                    On the other hand, a hot roast beef and pastrami sandwich at Eastside Market Deli (west of Chinatown across the 110) more than fills me up. Unless I'm feeling absolutely famished, a half-sandwich does it and I wrap the other half for dinner.

                    I also vehemently disagree with J. Gold's "Mega Taste, Mini Money" list today including Langer's and specifying the #19. I love Langer's, but it is a splurge for lunch. The #19 adds superfluous elements (and additional cost) to the perfect plain pastrami on rye. Split an order of crinkle fries (well done) and even stick with ice water, and with tax and tip you are north of $20 pp. A great lunch? Definitely. But far from mini money.

                    1. re: nosh

                      langer's is definitely in the $20 lunch category.

                      1. re: jessejames

                        my objection is somewhat cost but more proximity. if you include philippe's as doable at lunch then you've probably got a number of lunch specials available in chinatown, and given there's now a lot of vietnamese places in chinatown, bahn mi's at half the price of a french dip.

                        they have banh mi's in chinatown for $2.50

                      2. $8 daily spicy chicken curry with rice (rotating cast of penang chicken curry, jungle curry, red curry or green curry) at Esaan Thai on 5th and Flower.

                        $9.25 blue plate special (half sandwich + daily soup/salad) at Mendocino Farms at 5th and Flower (I'm partial to the Steak BLT and the daily soup)

                        $8 coldcut banh mi at Hero Sandwich on 6th and Main.

                        $4-$5 daily sides at Cabbage Patch on 6th and Grand. Also like their daily vegan puree (soup) for $4.

                        $8.50 grilled steak burrito or carnitas bowl (both with habanero sauce) at Ocho Mexican Grill on 6th and Hope

                        $10 chinese chicken salad at Valerie Grand Central Market. Also like their ($6?) breakfast hand pie.

                        $10 beef penang with coconut rice at Sticky Rice (Grand Central Market).

                        $8 curry chicken salad sandwich at Sandwich Shop on 6th and Grand.

                        $10.50 three hand rolls at Kazunori was more than enough for me.

                        $7 leberkase or $8 sausage hash (with spice level 3 dressing) at Berlin Currywurst at GCM

                        Treats: $1.80 canele at Figaro Bistrot on Broadway and 6th; $2.50 cheese and herb borek at Bruno Cafe on 6th and Olive; $4.75 (two scoops) basil gelato + watermelon sorbet at Uli Gelateria on Broadway btw 5th and 6th.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: d_doubleyew

                          $8.50 burrito a "great deal"? Not so much. Now the burrito at Tacos Guerrero (9th & Broadway), which last I checked, was $4.00, or $4.50, THAT's a deal!

                            1. re: Haeldaur

                              yes, but the guy did try to balance the list out with Cabbage Patch, Essan Station, Mendo, Sticky Rice, which are all rather edible when Philippe and Koraku aren't.

                              iunno, mebbe cut d_doubleyew some slack? He even got Uli under "treats" for lunch.

                              1. re: TonyC

                                hate on philippe all you like but millions of people have found it more than edible, and affordable. The beef dip is a nice deal at 6.50, and if you like chili, or coconut cake, or pickled eggs, there's that and other affordable fare.

                                I recall on a recent chili thread we had a hard time coming up with much better than Wendy's btw.

                                1. re: jessejames

                                  "but millions of people have found it..."
                                  MCD has served 245 bil hamburgers.

                                  "I recall on a recent chili thread we had a hard time coming up with much better than Wendy's btw."
                                  Smokey Fred’s BBQ, Orange.

                                  we're derailing the thread here. i will never change my mind on philippes; don't give a shit it may be around for another 50 years.

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    not trying to change your mind, just responding to your post calling their food inedible

                                    next time im in orange ill check out smokey freds...

                                    sounds like you need a brew or two and pile of fat burger onion rings

                        2. I just thought of another one...

                          Jist Cafe.
                          Any place that will do a kick-ass ketchup fried rice is "great" in my opinion.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            If I'm solo for brunch, that's where I go.

                          2. West of downtown, but Dino's is a fantastic bargain meal. Their chicken combo is what 90% are ordering -- a marinated half-chicken, flame-grilled, over a huge bed of french fries, with a small cup of slaw and three tortillas. All of $6.99. I ask for extra "sauce" -- it sogs the fries, but worth it: garlicky, vinegary, spicy, addicting. On the N/W corner of Pico and Berendo, two blocks west of Vermont.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nosh

                              Great call, love this place. Rarely go because it will kill my work day for the afternoon, but I think of the chicken there as being up there with Langer's pastrami for iconic LA dishes.

                            2. My current "value" rotation (places that are walkable from my office):

                              (insert GCM vendor here)
                              Hero Shop
                              Mendocino Farms

                              1. If you consider chinatown as dtla...

                                Banh Mi Buu Dien - $2 to $2.50 for the best banh mi in chinatown.

                                If one banh mi isn't enough, if you top it off with $3 in dim sum from Lucky Deli you will be stuffed for still under $6. It is absurdly unsanitary but if you order wisely it definitely can scratch the itch.

                                Second SauceSupreme's mention of LAX-C - the thai steam-tray place there is the bomb and cheap as all get out.

                                Eastside Deli ain't exactly cheap at $8.50 (or more now?) for a sandwich. The DA Special is foulfoulfoul though the sausage and meatball soaked in marinari does justify the rubberiness of their bread by keeping the sandwich cohesive for about 20 minutes. I crave it very occasionally. They also give you weird treatment if you go and try to order a half pound of mortadella - not an admirable quality in a 'deli.' It's the closest food to my house and I eat there about once every two years.

                                1. Regent China Inn, across Ord St. from Phillipe's has a full array of lunch specials from about $5 served daily until 5 PM. The food is tasty and service is not bad, not great.

                                  I would also endorse Tacos Tumbras a Tomas and Eastside Italian Market Deli. Their prices have been steadily creeping upward but their sanwiches are still a good value, especially considering the quality.