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Saby's in Mar Vista

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Welcome back to Dining On A Dime a bi-weekly feature in which Lizbeth Scordo surveys LA's cheap eats—often obscure, ethnic, unsung restaurants—proving that dining on a dime is alive, well, and quite tasty in this here city. Where do you think she should go next? Drop us a line.

If some like it hot, Saby’s, a tiny Mexican joint in Mar Vista, likes it scorching. The place doesn’t skimp on the heat, dousing its dishes with searing sauces spiked with chile peppers, onions, and whatever other ingredients they can throw in there to make you break into a sweat. But in a good way.

While there on a recent weekend morning – along with a kid-heavy family, a post-workout diner, and a couple of other folks picking up takeout – my husband and I choose a couple of breakfast dishes (huevos rancheros for me, chorizo and eggs for him) from a menu written in marker above the counter.

Owners Mario and Lupe make everything -- from the salsas to the tortillas – from scratch, and it shows. I love the ranchero sauce that comes draped over my huevos. It’s super spicy, of course, but also showcases the sweetness of the tomatoes, and gets a boost from a sprinkling of queso fresco and a bit of cilantro. The moist rice is super flavorful, and while the pinto beans are cooked perfectly, I find them bland. It’s hard to fully evaluate the tortillas that come with the huevos rancheros, since they’re buried beneath everything else and do a good job of sopping up the eggs. My husband’s entrée comes with three piping hot tortillas on the side, a good opportunity to try them on their own. They’re thin and light and taste as if they were made moments ago.

As for the chorizo, it’s the one thing that manages to stay mild, but not after it gets a tiny dollop of red sauce made from blazing ground chiles that comes on the side. When we ask for something a bit milder as back up, we’re served a deliciously thick chipotle cream that starts off cool and ends, well, you can probably figure it out.

There aren’t many tables in the stark dining room with its gleaming wood floor and kitchy Mexican knick-knacks displayed on Lucite shelves, since most of the shop’s space seems to be taken up by the large kitchen. Saby’s started out as a juice and coffee shop about a year ago and five months later added an entirely sub-$5 menu of tacos, tortas, burritos, and mulitas, all filled with either Oaxacan sausage, steak, chicken, or pork. There’s even what they call a “sexy LA hamburger” (you’ll have to ask about the sexy part before you order one) along with their fresh-squeezed juices. On Tuesday mornings, Mario (it’s his wife who does most of the cooking) picks up 20 pounds of ahi for fish tacos he serves throughout the day on “Taco Tuesday.” I’ll be back for one of those, and my guess is, Saby’s will find a way to make it spicy.

(310) 313-3867

All items: $1.25 to $5.00
— Lizbeth Scordo

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