Sometimes when you're traveling you just don't want to spend all of your hard earned mullah on pricey restaurants and lose out on all of that shopping you were planning on. Los Angeles has a fantastic array of affordable eats for the struggling artists and starving students, which is great for you! Chow down on some excellent, authentic Japanese ramen, homemade biscuits and gravy, or a midnight meal from one of the award-winning food trucks that roam the city looking for hungry young folk like you. Here are 15 best of the best eateries, diners, food trucks, and such you may come across on your trip to Tinsel Town.
1. Philippe the Original
You probably wouldn't expect a Chinatown diner to be serving up mouthwatering French dip sandwiches but then you'd be missing out on one of the best meals in LA. They have a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items but most people stick to the sandwiches. Choose from beef, pork, ham, lamb, and turkey for just $6.75.
While you can get the oysters on ice for $19, Ink.Sack is known for their sandwiches which range from $5-8. Cold fried chicken, Reuben, turkey melt, and Cuban sandwiches are favorites of regulars. Be warned that the sandwiches are fairly small and most patrons get more than one to satisfy cravings.
3. The Bun Truck
Food trucks are known for innovation and The Bun Truck meets this by making their own steamed Asian Bao Buns into which they stuff Korean inspired foods. Grab a Kalbi Bun with sirloin, tempura onion, and aioli with a side of duck fat fries all for less than $10. They even have a combo special: two buns, fries, and a drink for $10.
4. Buna Ethiopian Market
Serving up authentic, quality Ethiopian style food, Buna's dishes range from $6-13. Vegetarian and vegan recipes are a specialty though the stewed and marinated meat entrees are a fan favorite as well. Try the Tibese, beef sauteed in onions, jalepenos, and spiced butter or the Kitifo, beef tartar seasoned in herbal butter, mitmita and cardamom. It's an adventure but a delicious one.
5. The Pizza Studio
Located near USC for those poor college students, The Pizza Studio is serving up customizable pizzas at an extremely affordable price. They even have a "starving artist" option for $6! Build an artisan style pizza with unlimited toppings for $7.99. It's cheaper than Domino's and tastes a hundred times better. No offense Domino's.
6. Grilled Cheese Truck
This Orange County staple is consistently rated among the most popular food trucks in LA. Gourmet grilled cheese and "dessert melts" make up this mouthwatering menu. Choose a menu favorite like the French Onion Soup Melt or Pepperbelly Melt or choose your own artisanal cheese and add in extras like avocado, BBQ smoked pork, Fritos and more. P.S. Try the S'more Melt for me, brioche bread filled with Nutella, graham crackers, and marshmallows. Sandwiches average at $6.75.
Another USC, starving student eatery, Urbnmrkt is a highly affordable cafe/deli/coffeehouse. If you don't mind being surrounded by hipster students, grab a seat and a panini for $5.99. Taco Tuesday serves up $1.49 tacos, unlimited. You can't beat that with a stick.
Reportedly the best taco joint in the city, Guisados earned its reputation with their handmade tortillas and fresh ingredients. And guess what? ALL TACOS ARE $2.75! You can literally get three tacos for less than $10. That's math. Delicious, spicy math.
9. TLT Food
"New American Cuisine Without Boundaries," TLT Food was born from a food truck and like the love child from those adaptive, innovative vehicles, TLT continuously makes mouths water like Pavlov's dogs. Blue crab grilled cheese on Cotija crusted sourdough is only $9 while the Ultimate taco, filled with pulled pork cooked over 12 hours, is only $3.50. Food truck prices, gourmet plates, two locations. All over win for you.
10. Diddy Riese
Desserts deserve a place on this list, especially since you basically consume three times as much dessert on vacation as you do at home. That's just a harsh reality you have to deal with so deal with it at Diddy Riese where you can pick up an ice cream sandwich for a steal, only $1.75. I'm pretty sure that's cheaper than the ones you can get at the gas station, and these are a heck of a lot more delicious. Regular ice cream scoops start at $1.25, $1.75 for two scoops.
Oddly, and wonderfully, the chefs of this truck have mixed French traditional cuisine with Asian Fusion making an amazing blend of awesomeness. The Killer Combo gives you four tacos for $10 or you can try the favorite Kimchi nachos, truffle fries, or meatballs in Romesco sauce. Two restaurants and a traveling truck make up the Komodo empire.
A Japantown classic, Jidaiya gives you only the best of Japanese cuisine. Bento boxes price at $8.95 with a choice of simmered mackerel or chicken while mini bowls like spicy tuna or salmon sashimi are only $4.95. The dumplings, six for $4.25, are a savory favorite for regulars as is the spicy miso soup.
13. Kogi BBQ
Possibly one of the most iconic food trucks in the city, Kogi BBQ bases its cuisine on Korean barbecue fused with American classics. Regular tacos are only $2.29 a piece while you can grab a calamari taco for $3.29, a Kogi kimchi quesadilla for $6, or a Pacman burger for $8. Combos will get you three tacos and a drink for $8.
14. Bistro on the Boulevard
This cafeteria style eatery is a low-key diamond in the rough. Though it's said to be a little hard to find, it's worth the effort. Entrees, for all day meals, range from $3.90 to the priciest of pricey: $6.75. Grab a cold or hot sandwich special for less than five bucks. Score: they also deliver within three miles of the restaurant!
15. Free Range
Finally comes Free Range, a greasy spoon that masquerades as a food truck. You absolutely need to try the fried chicken biscuit with sriracha, honey, and egg, only $9. If you must get something else, try the avocado, egg, and cheese muffin for $7.75 or the twice cooked, hand-torn crispy potatoes for $4.