Auditions are slow, you just made $80 working a seven-hour shift at a coffee shop, and your landlord is already texting you again about rent. You’re not exactly in the market to drop a ton of money on a meal. Here’s the good news - there are plenty of very good, affordable meals in this city that don’t involve drive-throughs. Whether it’s a few slices of pizza, a lamb gyro wrap, or a breakfast burrito that’ll keep you full until 4pm, here are 21 great meals that cost around $10 in LA.
It’s hard to eat well when you’re waiting for your big break. Get the rest of The Actor’s Guide To Eating & Drinking In LA here.
Hiho isn’t doing anything profoundly different with their burgers, which is exactly why we love this order-at-the-counter spot in Santa Monica. The bun is squishy, the double patties taste like the grill, the cheese and onions get all over your hands, and there’s only a tiny bit of lettuce involved.
Order: Double cheeseburger, $6.95.
Thai Town has no shortage of places to find a quick, affordable Thai food. But if you’re cutting across town by yourself, your top choice should be Sapp Coffee Shop. It’s an actual coffee shop, but the kind where old men read the newspaper in the corner, not where affected people in scarves drink $7 lattes and shout about the Oregon coast.
Order: Boat noodles with beef or the jade noodles, $8.25.
If you haven’t noticed yet - this town is run by taco trucks. And while most people have a neighborhood go-to, Leo’s continues to reign supreme. The al pastor with pineapple is their signature, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything on their tiny menu. They now have locations in both Mid-City and East Hollywood.
Order: Al pastor tacos, $1.50 each.
This tiny order-at-the-counter shop on Figueroa in Highland Park serves our favorite pizza in the city. It’s Roman-style, which means the pizza is thick and cut into square pieces that are priced by the ounce. The menu changes frequently, but if the asparagus or sausage is available, get it. Then, go enjoy it all on their back patio.
Order: Any slice of pizza, around $1 per ounce.
Pine & Crane is an order-at-the-counter Taiwanese/Chinese spot in Silver Lake that’s one of the most popular spots in the neighborhood for lunch and dinner. If you brave the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with excellent, somewhat healthy food that’s extremely affordable (considering you’re in the heart of Sunset Junction).
Order: Dan Dan Noodles, $8.
Some days you get two callbacks and zero condescending emails from your agent. Other days, it’s the opposite. The latter is when you need to sort through your feelings at Pho Cafe. The nondescript restaurant in a Silver Lake stripmall has excellent pho (the pho tai bo vien with filet mignon and beef balls is our favorite) and a serene space perfect for contemplating why you chose this life. Cash only.
Order: All pho falls under $10.
Inside a shipping container on the banks of the LA River, you’ll find Wax Paper - one of our favorite sandwich shops in the city. The space is nothing more than a counter and a small outdoor patio, and their meat-stacked sandwiches are fresh, affordable, and named after your favorite NPR hosts. Just be sure to get there early - once they’re out, they’re out.
Order: Audie Cornish sandwich, $10.
We often think about where we’d be without Trader Joe’s grab-and-go meals, but then we stop ourselves because it gets too dark. If you aren’t eating a pre-made meal from LA’s favorite grocery store at least once a week, you’re either lying to yourself or have never had one of their spicy lentil wraps. Find us a better, more convenient $4 salad or wrap in the city. We’ll wait.
Order: Pre-made salad or wrap, $3-$6.
Dune is an order-at-the-counter Mediterranean spot with locations in Atwater Village and Downtown. While you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, your first order of business should be the green herb falafel sandwich, which involves perfectly crisp falafel on house flatbread topped with hummus, marinated onions, tahini sauce, and shoestring potatoes. This is a wrap we’ll drive out of our way to eat.
Order: Falafel Sandwich, $9.50.
Papa Cristo’s is our favorite Greek food in LA. Open since the 1940s, the classic deli counter/grocery on Pico has a giant menu full of everything from gyro wraps to greek pizza and everything is pretty fantastic. Also, meeting Papa Cristo in person should be on everyone’s LA bucket list.
Order: Gyro wrap, $9.99.
San Diego might be the standard bearer of fish tacos, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have good ones in LA. Case in point - Ricky’s. Parked on Riverside Drive on the border of Atwater Village and Silver Lake, this taco truck has been making near-perfect, Baja-style fish tacos for several years now. The deep fried fish is light, airy, and packed with a tremendous amount of meat, and you’ll probably love these even if you’re usually turned off by fried food.
Order: Fish Tacos, $3 each.
On those days when you have back-to-back-to-back auditions, lunch isn’t always guaranteed. You need to eat something early-on to sustain you for a while. You need a Cofax breakfast burrito. The tiny shop on Fairfax has coffee and donuts, but the not-so-well-kept secret is their tremendous chorizo breakfast burrito. Every ingredient is fresh and fantastic, but it’s the crispy potatoes that take it to the next level.
Order: Chorizo burrito, $9.25.
Located inside the Far East Plaza, Lasa is a family-run Filipino restaurant usually hidden by the never-ending line for Howlin’ Ray’s. While we like to come for dinner and share a bunch of Filipino classics, we all know that small plates can get pricey. Come for lunch instead when it’s all about the pancit bowls - huge helpings of egg noodles mixed with calamansi butter and egg yolk.
Order: O.G. Pancit Bowl, $10.
Dave’s Hot Chicken started as a late-night food stand in a Hollywood parking lot, quickly gained a rabid cult following, and opened up an order-at-the-counter shop on Western. The menu is simple and features three different hot chicken combos, with your choice of tenders, sliders, or both. Just be careful with your heat level. Anything above a medium is going to be very intense.
Order: Combo #1 (two tenders and fries), $10.50.
Your weekday breakfast is usually composed of an extra-large iced coffee and whatever Nutri-grain bar calls out to you that morning. But some days, you need something a little more wholesome. Go to Breakfast By Salt’s Cure. The order-at-the-counter spot in West Hollywood has a small breakfast menu with eggs and sausage patties, but you’re here for one thing - the oatmeal griddle cakes. They’re basically pancakes, but better, and clinically proven to make you feel OK about the fact that you haven’t gotten an audition in two months.
Order: All griddlecakes, $10 and under.
Yes, the lines are just as long at this Virgil Village cafe as they were when you went two years ago. But that’s because the food here is still worth waiting in line for. Whether you go for the sorrel pesto rice bowl, the giant ricotta toast with jam, or whatever else looks good that day, this is the kind of food that makes every other brunch you’ve had this year seem shameful. Go early or during the week for slightly smaller crowds.
Order: Sorrel pesto rice bowl, $8.50. Ricotta toast, $9.
Mariscos’ location on an industrial stretch of East LA isn’t exactly the most convenient, but this classic taco truck makes our favorite taco in the entire city, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t put it on this list. The taco de camaron is stuffed with massive chunks of fresh shrimp encased by a crunchy, deep-fried shell that’s then topped with housemade salsa and avocado. It’s a perfect taco. Also, the rest of their seafood dishes are equally fantastic.
Order: Tacos de camaron, $2.25 each. Poseidon Tostada, $8.25.
Here’s how a meal at Zam Zam works: You walk into this tiny Pakistani market in Hawthorne and 20 minutes later you’ll be staring down at a glorious feast of kebabs, curries, naan, and the best biryani we’ve ever eaten. There’s no menu, so prices are a bit of a mystery, but just know that they’re extremely reasonable.
Order: Biryani and kebab plate, $10.
You could go to Larchmont Wine And Cheese, pick up a bottle of red and some goat cheese, and walk away very happy. But you’d also be missing out on the greatest part of this high-end wine shop - the back sandwich counter. The menu is small, the sandwiches are simple, but the quality in each ingredient makes these some of LA’s best sandwiches. Call ahead to avoid the lines.
Order: #5 Italian prosciutto on a baguette, $9.50.