As we see it, cheap is not a dollar amount, it is a genre—a style that encompasses anything that’s best when served on grease-stained butcher paper, eaten with fingers on curbsides, or paired with a pickle. Hot dogs, soup dumplings, fish tacos, tuna melts, pho—these are the foods that sustain us day to day, humble dishes that deserve celebration. Nothing featured here will set you back more than $15 (including tax), but we kept our persnickety standards intact. To arrive at the final selections, we visited close to 300 noodle bars, taco trucks, and burger shacks, from Torrance to Altadena. Each spot that made the list offers can’t-miss and (perhaps the ultimate L.A. endorsement) worth-driving-across-the-city kind of grub. Snag a napkin, heck, a whole stack, and dig in.
Lettering by Steve Wilson