We teamed up with Los Angeles Magazine in this food adventure. The June issue of the magazine highlights 101 of the best cheap eats in L.A., featuring great mom and pop spots where you can fill your belly for $15 or less.
Neri's Bakery is a Filipino favorite and is nestled in the heart of Filipino Town. Rumor has it that boxing champ Manny Pacquiao has stopped in for one of his homeland favorites, the Sisig. For a taste of the Islands, check out Bruddah's Hawaiian in Gardena, where you can get a real bang for your buck. Not only are the portions large and the prices little, but the Loco Moco will have you motoring back for their crazy good gravy. For a taste of Europe, we headed to Eagle Rock and stopped in at Spitz, home of the Doner Kebab. It was so good that Eye on L.A. host Tina Malave even broke her personal "no lamb eating" rule!
For a taste of Baja, head downtown to Mexicali Taco & Co. The taco joint is a mouthful, beginning with the names of the dishes, like the "Cachetada," a taco plate that's $3 and the "Vampiro" taco plate, which is only $3.75. Our next stop takes us to La Cevicheria in Los Angeles. This mom and pop shop specializes in ceviche, a popular Latino seafood dish. Their best-selling item is the "Chapin Ceviche," a combination of fish, shrimp, octopus and crab meat, for under $10 [Watch video].
When it comes to cheap eats and the most loyal customers on the planet, no one does it like Joe Jost's in Long Beach - where the Marmion peanuts are plentiful and you have a choice of a hot dog, sausage, liverwurst, salami or egg salad sandwich on rye for under $4. And don't even get the regulars started on Joe's famous pickled eggs!
When looking for the best cheap eats in town, some of the best deals can be found on happy hour menus. Eye on L.A. discovered a few spots guaranteed to make you and your pocketbook very happy! At The Escondite, the food is so good customers assume it's a restaurant, where it's actually a bar that serves some really good food. Even better? No appetizer is more than $5 and no entrée is higher than $11.
For an upscale experience at low scale prices, you can't beat Napa Valley Grille, where you can get great wines for $4 and filet mignon appetizers for $6. But for a classic happy hour along with some cheap and tasty eats, the place to go is the Backstage Bar, directly across from the Sony Studios lot in Culver City. Everything is under $5, including their very popular sliders and their delicious macaroni and cheese.
If you're looking for cheap gourmet eats that come with a side of outrageous, look no further than L.A.'s food trucks - including the heavy-metal themed Grill 'em All truck, which attracts bona fide rock stars like Tommy Lee. The menu includes heavy-metal inspired burger combos like the Dee Snyder, a burger with peanut butter and jelly, bacon and hot sauce, or the Behemouth Burger that swaps the buns for two grilled cheese sandwiches on either side. Another unique truck is the Frysmith, where you'll redefine a "side of fries." At the Frysmith truck, the fries are the meal with top-notch toppings piled on like free-range Jidori chicken and Kurobuta pork belly. Dare we say, these fries are gourmet?
The Kogi Korean barbeque food truck kick started the food truck revolution in L.A., and now the Kogi family has opened Chego, a sit-down restaurant with the same mix-match of Asian and Latino flavors packed into specialty rice bowls. Their other specialty is the "Ooey Gooey French fries" covered with meat and sauces. They're bursting with flavor! They're nothing short of addicting [Watch video].
Some of our favorite foods are comfort foods. Sure they may not be very healthy, but they just taste so good! One great spot for comfort food is Boo's Philly Cheesesteaks and Hoagies on the border between Silver Lake and Los Feliz. It's so authentic that Philly-born Tina Malave gave it the Eye on L.A. seal of approval!
Next, we hit up the Dog Haus, in Alhambra. The hot dog spot offers unique dogs like the "Grand Slam," which is topped with egg, smoked bacon and tater tots, and also the "El Mariachi" dog , which is layered with grilled onions, bell peppers, jalapeños and melted cheese.
You can't talk comfort foods without mentioning a top barbeque spot, and Bludso's in Compton knows how to do this southern favorite right! For a true bargain, try the Texas sampler, which feeds four to five people. This monster deal includes ribs, chicken, brisket, tri-tip, homemade sausage and two large sides for only $28.50.
Eye on L.A. Facebook fans have asked us to please find them some healthy options that won't eat up their whole paycheck. Ask and you shall receive!
At Lotus Vegan in North Hollywood, healthy dishes are served up tasty Thai style - proving that there is such a thing as mouthwatering vegan food! For Mexican-food-loving vegetarians, CaCao Mexicatessen offers a low priced veggie taqueria menu. Try a squash blossom, corn truffle and fried avocado trio of tacos, or the Jamaica sopas.
With few healthy options in South L.A., the Toffee Sensations Café & Bakery has filled a huge void in the area. At prices not much higher than fast food chains, Toffee Sensations offers gourmet options like the Caribbean salad and veggie wraps with salmon or shrimp. And don't forget the desserts - the place is called Toffee Sensations! Their toffee-infused cookies and signature toffee red velvet cheesecake cupcakes are finger-licking good!
An Eye on L.A. pick for best value goes to sister restaurants Dominick's in West Hollywood and Little Dom's in Los Feliz for their "Family Suppers." Every Sunday night at Dominick's and Monday at Little Dom's, customers can enjoy the $15 prix-fixe dinner, which includes an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. You can also get their signature red or white wines for only $12 a bottle.
Fisherman's Outlet is considered an absolute institution in Los Angeles for an incredible seafood dining experience. This place feels like you are sitting on the pier somewhere down in San Pedro, when you're actually between Little Tokyo and the L.A. Flower Market downtown. The experience comes with a lot of shouting as the cashiers yell out the orders to the cooks, which is all part of its charm. But for gourmet quality shrimp, fish and more at great prices in a very cool, city setting, you just can't beat it.
Eye on L.A. had a belly-filling fun time at Papa Cristo's, an authentic Greek market, bakery and restaurant that takes up an entire block on West Pico Blvd. Every Thursday night, Papa Cristo's becomes an extra special, unforgettable dining experience with their "Big Fat Greek Thursday Night Family Night Dinners." The $24-Greek extravaganza, hosted by the lovable Papa Cristo himself, all begins with a Greek wine tasting, a bouzouki player and yummy appetizers. Soon the customers, all sitting at family-style tables, begin to become like family, and that's when more food comes out and continues to flow! When all bellies are full, you can even get in a little exercise by joining the belly dancer for a little wiggle time.
See the complete list of all of the places featured on this week's episode.
[Original air date: May 26, 2012]