Los Angeles is not only one of the most interesting places to eat in North America at the moment, it is also unbelievably spoiled when it comes to eating affordably. In fact, one could argue that some of the best food in the city is also the least expensive. By way of example, here are ten dishes—a scratch on the surface of what’s available—for less than $15; most of them just so happen to come from some the most talked-about restaurants in the city. Go. Eat. Them. All.—David Landsel
$10 Cocktel mixto at Holbox
A sleek new spot
inside the USC-adjacent Mercado La Paloma dishes up high-end Yucatecan seafood specialties at remarkably casual prices, all day long. This mixed seafood cocktail features quality shrimp, octopus and oysters, swimming in house-made salsa along with avocado, onion, cilantro and lime.
$10 Quarter pound pastrami sandwich at Ugly Drum
An old-school Southern California tradition (eating a lot of pastrami) gets kicked up to the next level at this Smorgasburg LA vendor. Buttery meat is served up almost beet-red and thick-cut on impeccable, crusty-chewy rye bread, smeared with mustard—it’s the stuff food dreams are made of.
$8.25 Sorrel Pesto Rice bowl at Sqirl
Once just a modest, café in Virgil Village, now a nationally-acclaimed sensation, Jessica Koslow’s famous-for-avocado-toast spot does a terrific rice bowl (California-grown, nutty, short grain brown rice, to be specific) topped off with a poached egg and sheep’s milk feta and funkified via a three-flavor pile-up of sorrel pesto, lacto-fermented hot sauce and preserved Meyer lemon.
$2.25 Shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco
An afternoon (or anytime, really) sojourn to Boyle Heights for the purposes of double-fisting some of LA’s best tacos is tradition for some local eaters. Deep-fried and best enjoyed topped with avocado and buried in a tidal wave of bright, fresh salsa flecked with chopped cabbage, it’s a bite of Los Angeles on a Styrofoam plate.
$12.45 Tsukemen ramen at Tsujita Annex
Los Angeles is the rare city outside of Japan where ramen is largely regarded as a mere convenience food, rather than a trend, but everyone gets slightly fanatical over Tsujita, a chainlet with two shops in West LA’s Little Osaka and one in Glendale’s Americana shopping center. You can order tonkotsu, but most people are here for the tsukemen, a deconstructed specialty featuring a big bowl of thick, porky broth and heaps of perfectly chewy noodles will fill you up for the rest of the day.
$10 Chicken Adobo Bowl at LASA
Chinatown’s Far East Plaza has become a hive of tasty energy in the years since Roy Choi opened Chego here—this talked-about Filipino spot offers a casual, counter-service lunch featuring updates on old favorites, including this well-crafted dish of vinegar-braised chicken served over Jasmine rice with crispy garlic, radish, fresh scallions and plenty of well-seasoned jus.
$9 Beef noodle soup at Pine and Crane
A deceptively simple Taiwanese classic (working its way toward becoming a Southern California classic, too) gets an ingredient upgrade at this hip Silver Lake spot. Beef shank, baby bok choi and preserved mustard greens pile into a bowl of fragrant broth for a one-dish meal that goes perfectly with a cool California evening.
$9 Grilled steak Bäco at Bäcoshop
The casual, Culver City spinoff of Josef Centeno’s Baco Mercat (a downtown dinner favorite) focuses on the popular (and prolific) chef’s grilled flatbread sandwiches—the steak is coffee rubbed and topped with a mild red chile romesco and scallion crema. No big deal.
$7 The Fairfax at Eggslut
For one of the city’s most memorable breakfasts, come to the thriving Grand Central Market’s memorably named food truck-turned-market stall, home to this breakfast sandwich of champions featuring ever-so-softly-scrambled eggs, chives, caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar and Sriracha mayo on either brioche or one of the West Coast’s most properly Southern-style biscuits. Not downtown? Check out their locations in Venice and Glendale.
$4 and up specials at Guerrilla Tacos
Wes Avila’s roving kitchen pulls crowds from far and wide. Avila, classically trained and a veteran of the Ducasse organization, draws on a wealth of knowledge to create some of the best modern Mexican cooking you can get from a truck outside of a coffee shop, anywhere. Delicate fish tacos, inventive vegetarian tacos, decadent tacos topped with foie gras, tostadas brimming with quality seafood, Baja specialties like sea urchin, blood clams or chocolate clams—bet on all of it showing up here from time to time. There is always a featured agua fresca ($3) and it is always very good.