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Great Eats on the Cheap: L.A.'s Best-Value Restaurants



At restaurants all over Los Angeles, there are great deals to be had on delicious food, which makes it tough to choose the ten best-value L.A. restaurants. Of course, inexpensive and delicious taco stands and trucks are everywhere – that's what the city is justifiably famous for – but there's more to cheap eats in the City of Angels than simply Mexican specialties. From pizza to organic salads to vegan delights, there are plenty of places that won't break the bank while leaving you not only sated, but often with enough food to actually have two meals for the price of one. For outrageously good tacos, Guisano's and Tito's Tacos lead the way. Vegetarians and vegans know that Tender Greens and Vegan Glory are two top choices in the Southland, while pizza lovers cannot go wrong with Joe's Pizza. And for those in downtown Los Angeles, there's a cornucopia of reasonably priced eateries inside the venerable Grand Central Market, which is undergoing a real foodie Renaissance these days. And Versailles Cuban Restaurant takes the prize as the best value in town, with its always satisfying, inexpensive platters of shredded pork or garlic chicken, served on plates groaning with rice, beans and plantains, too.


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Ever since 1959, Dinah's Family Restaurant has made the corner of Sepulveda and Centinela in Westchester a culinary landmark. Still family owned after all those years, the diner-style eatery is often so packed (especially on Sundays) that getting a parking space can be a challenge. That's because of their famous fried chicken, for starters. It's made with their secret "original recipe" and can be carried out in a box, tub or barrel. Eat in and you'll also find BBQ beef ribs, pork ribs and chicken, as well as a complete homestyle menu of meatloaf, pork chops, chicken fried steak and more. Make sure to have a piece of homemade pie for dessert, too. Open every day for breakfast as well, Dinah's is also known for their oven pancakes (apple, banana walnut, etc.), waffles and other morning comfort food, all offered at very reasonable prices.


Ike's Place
Photo courtesy of Ike's Place


Ike's Place in Westwood is the only Los Angeles enclave of the much-loved sandwich shop that Ike Shehadeh started in San Francisco on Halloween 2007. There are over 25 locations these days, which makes it pretty obvious that Ike is doing something right with the reasonably priced and delicious subs he serves up. With quirky names like the John Wooden, the Paul Reubens, the Shrek, the Tony Soprano and the seriously yummy Menage a Trois, Ike's Place likes to keep its customers thinking fast. With a combination of meat-stacked sandwiches and vegan offerings, there's a sandwich here for every taste. Using top ingredients including Halal chicken, wild salmon and sliced rib-eye steak, along with Ike's special "Dirty Secret Sauce" and fresh bread baked every day, Ike's Place has taken the spot in our hearts as the best-value sandwich shop in all of Southern California.




At Grand Central Market, you'll find a wide assortment of restaurants â€" and there is sure to be at least one that tickles your palate and isn't too hard on your wallet. Look for lean pastrami and other house-smoked meats and fish at Wexler's Deli; egg sandwiches done to perfection at Eggslut; Texas-style smoked barbecue at Horse Thief BBQ (who also have an outdoor garden and a bar); Las Morelianas, if you love authentic carnitas; and many other taste delights. For dessert, check out Valerie at GCM for baked goodies and McConnell's Fine Ice Cream, where you must try the Salted Caramel Chip and the Dark Chocolate Paso Brittle. All their ice creams are made from scratch, which is obvious from the first lick.


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Patys Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Patys Restaurant


Patys Restaurant opened near Warner Bros. Studio in Toluca Lake in 1960 and has been going strong ever since. It certainly helps that back in the day people like Bob Hope, James Garner and John Wayne used to stop in for a bite; these days, you just might notice Miley Cyrus or Vanessa Hudgens sitting at a patio table. What everyone loves about Patys are the reasonably priced, freshly ground Angus burgers, the homemade roast turkey and their justifiably famous pies. Plus, Patys is renowned for its breakfast (served all day), with buttermilk pancakes made from scratch and plenty of other favorites on their extensive menu.


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Boyle Heights
Guisados
Photo courtesy of Guisados Restaurant

Guisados began in 2010 as a small taco shop in Boyle Heights, with the idea of making Mexican food just like Mama used to make at home. Think meat and chilies in a simmering stew, usually served on warm homemade corn tortillas. The owners â€" Armando De La Torre Sr. and his son Armando De La Torre Jr. â€" made sure that their tacos were reasonably priced, charging $2.75 per taco for most. With favorites like Steak Picado, Cochinta Pibil, and Tinga de Pollo, it didn't take long for Guisados to catch on. Now there are five locations, including taquerias in West Hollywood, Downtown L.A., Echo Park and Burbank, with all the food still being made in Boyle Heights and transferred to the different locations. Some are also open late, so getting a cheap and delicious taco fix whenever the mood strikes is simple.


Vegan Glory


Sunny and bright, Vegan Glory is a vegan Thai restaurant that attracts diners from across the Southland looking for tasty, healthy, non-meat-based dishes. While plenty of menu options feature only vegetables, you'll also find soy and wheat versions of chicken, pepper steak and fish; tofu features prominently as well. Combination meals, which are a staple at lunchtime (and very reasonably priced at $8.95 for most) and dinner, include soup, an entree, steamed brown rice, a spring roll and salad. Be sure to leave room for the coconut ice cream with palm seeds, the banana spring rolls and/or the mango sticky rice. All are superb dessert options priced at around $3.50 each.


Joe's Pizza
Photo courtesy of Joe's Pizza


When Guiseppe (Joe) Vitale moved to New York City from Sicily in 1978, he never imagined that he'd become one of Los Angeles' most-loved pizza-pie makers. He honed his skills for years in Brooklyn, working as a pizza maker, then opened his own pizza parlor in Brooklyn in 2003. But when the lure of sun and palm trees became too much, Joe and his son immigrated to L.A., bringing his authentic New York-style pizza with him. Now he's got five locations, from Hollywood to WeHo, Century City and Downtown, all serving up his famous slices for under $5 â€" and whole pies, too. His pizza is thin-crusted and crispy, with a tangy marinara base, mozzarella cheese and traditional toppings with like pepperoni, sausage, chicken or meatballs. Joe's also serves classics like chicken parm sandwiches and calzone. Close your eyes, take a bite and you'll think you're back in Brooklyn.


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Culver City
Tito's Tacos


Looking for the real thing in Los Angeles? Then head to Culver City and Tito's Tacos, the legendary taco stand that has been dishing out addictive burritos and tacos since 1959. That's the reason you'll almost always see a line; they are usually long, but they move fast. This is a no-frills joint, serving up beef or bean tacos in a hard or soft shell, as well as burritos (try the one packed with chili con carne), enchiladas and tamales. You'll only find chicken in one dish, a tamale smothered with a green chili meat sauce. Go for the extra guacamole; even with that, you'll have a full meal for well under $10 here. Note that Tito's is cash only.


Tender Greens
Photo courtesy of Tender Greens


Tender Greens began its takeover of California with a small casual restaurant in Culver City about ten years ago, with the idea of bringing a farm-to-table eating concept that wouldn't break the bank. Nowadays there are locations all over Northern and Southern California, proving that the idea of serving fresh, healthy, chef-inspired, farmer's market sourced dishes at an affordable price in a relaxed environment is truly what people want. For around $12, guests can get plenty to eat, starting with those "tender greens" and personalizing every other element, from grilled chicken, steak or fish to fresh vegetables, vegan items, nuts and many other choices. There's also hearty soups on the menu, as well as side dishes ranging from mashed potatoes, quinoa and green hummus. Eat in or take out, the fine foods that Tender Greens serves up cater exactly to creating the meal that coincides just for your tastes.


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La Cienega Corridor
Versailles Cuban Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Versailles Cuban Restaurant


Versailles, the venerable Cuban restaurant that began in Culver City and now boasts locations in Encino and on the La Cienega corridor in the heart of Los Angeles, has consistently served up some of the best food in Southern California since 1981. And while each of the locations offers a full menu of Cubano delicacies, most of us keep ordering the same two dishes â€" either the incredibly juicy and delicious Lechon Asado marinated roast pork or the Famoso Pollo Versailles, a half chicken marinated in the restaurant's famous garlic sauce. Other standout dishes include Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice), their classic Cuban sandwich made with pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles, and the Rabo Encendido, a hearty oxtail stew. And with prices that hover around $13 for a full plate of food (black beans and rice usually come, too), Versailles is one of the best-priced places in town.


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Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny

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