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The best cheap eats in Los Angeles

Not travelling on a blockbuster budget? No problem. LA is home to incredible food for less. Start your day with pancakes and bacon at Good Neighbor, or try Sqirl for bargain brunch options (but be prepared to queue). For something less fancy but just as delicious, In-N-Out Burger is a must. And of course, there’s the food trucks. Kogi BBQ started the trend 10 years ago and is still going strong – their Korean meets Mexican tacos start at just $3.

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In-N-Out Burger

Where? You’ll find these restaurants all across LA, from Santa Monica to Pasadena. Check their website for locations.

It’s not often that you’ll find a burger chain listed in a guide to the best places to eat, but In-N-Out Burger is different. Started in an LA suburb in 1948, the restaurant chain is still privately owned and has a strong commitment to quality and fresh ingredients – nothing is frozen, and the french fries are cut freshly on the premises each day. Even Gordon Ramsay says he’s a fan. (Oh, and don’t tell anyone, but there’s a Secret Menu, too.)

Kogi BBQ

Where? Four taco trucks across LA: check the website for their schedule. The Taqueria restaurant is at 3500 Overland Avenue.

Back in 2008, the first Kogi BBQ truck rolled into town, and a legend was born. Their $3 short rib taco has become something of an LA institution, and now they’ve expanded to four taco trucks as well as the Taqueria restaurant, not to mention a rice-bowl restaurant called Chego! and the Alibi Room bar. You’ll also see the Kogi taco trucks roll up to music festivals all over the place.

Sqirl

Where? 720 N Virgil Avenue.

Chef Jessica Koslow has turned breakfast (and lunch, and lunch that’s still breakfast) into something of an art form at Sqirl, yet still at a surprisingly low price. Her menu features such delicious, exotic concoctions as The Larry David (house smoked whitefish, lacto-fermented pickles, rugbrød and shu greens) and The Woodstock (pulled free-range organic chicken, shredded vegetable, sprouts and sunflower tahini on Bub & Grandma’s bread) – but be prepared to queue to get your hands on it.

Porto’s Bakery & Café

Where? Five restaurants across LA: check the website for locations.

Rosa Porto opened her first bakery on Sunset Boulevard in 1976, and this family run bakery and café has since expanded to another four locations across the city. Their beautifully decorated cakes are phenomenal, but Porto’s famous cheese rolls and potato balls are the favoured cheap eat for locals on the go.

Pampas Grill

Where? 6333 West 3rd Street & 3857 Overland Avenue.

This traditional Brazilian BBQ restaurant has an innovative ‘pay by the pound’ system, whereby you put your plate onto scales at the till, and the cost is calculated by weight. In practice, this means you can grab some deliciously juicy steaks for a fraction of the price you’d usually expect in a fancy LA steak restaurant. Yum!

Good Neighbor

Where? 3701 Cahuenga Boulevard West.

Open for breakfast and lunch, Good Neighbor makes an excellent refuelling stop on the way to nearby Universal Studios, and a great place to sample a huge traditional American breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon – or even a delicious breakfast burrito with chorizo, scrambled eggs and cheese.

Philippe the Original

Where? 1001 North Alameda Street.

Philippe’s ‘French Dipped Sandwich’ is a wonderful creation that features your choice of beef, pork, lamb, turkey, pastrami or ham in a freshly baked French roll which is dipped in gravy. Apparently its creation was an accident, when in 1918 the proprietor, Philippe Mathieu, accidentally dropped the bread into a roasting pan while making a sandwich for a policeman – and the policeman thought it was so delicious, he came back with friends the next day and asked Philippe to do it again.

Howlin’ Ray’s

Where? 727 North Broadway.

Howlin’ Ray’s was born after chef Johnny Ray Zone fell in love with hot chicken while visiting Nashville and decided to bring this sumptuous southern dish back to his native LA. Visitors rave about Howlin’ Ray’s amazing yet affordable food, but popularity has its drawbacks – get set for a long queue to make it through the restaurant’s hallowed doors.

Tocaya Organica

Where? Eleven locations across LA: check the website to find them.

Tocaya Organica was founded on the principle of modern Mexican food made with locally sourced, natural ingredients, and its menu features a tempting and beautifully presented array of salads, tacos, burritos, bowls and quesadillas. The restaurant also has a wealth of options for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian diners, as well as seasonal dishes.

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Published November 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.