One in a many-part series about eating on a strict $20 budget around Los Angeles for Cheap Eats Week. This installation explores Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Echo Park.
I live in the neighborhood and yes, this challenge could easily have been accomplished within each individual neighborhood of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Echo Park, respectively (Echo Park, especially, is an embarrassment of inexpensive food riches). Alas, Los Angeles is a large city and some abridging was necessary, hence the summary grouping of these three distinct areas. So, to the many, many fine cheap eateries I was not able to include — Yuca's, Blue Corn Quesadilla Lady, Maya's Tacos, Reggie's Deli, Tacos Delta — I say this: you're all winners in my heart, if not necessarily this article.
Here's one way to fill yourself up on delicious, relatively inexpensive food in Los Feliz, Echo Park, and Silver Lake for less than $20:
BREAKFAST: 2-for-$1 bananas at 7-11 | Price: $1 | Remaining cash: $19
Address: 1647 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Hunger level: 8 (10 being most hungry, 1 being fully satiated)
OK, did I say delicious? Maybe, at least for this first meal, I just meant "practical." Besides, it's necessary to make some sacrifices now to pave the way for some tastiness later. Sometimes you're living high on the hog; sometimes you're sitting on a concrete parking stop eating 7-11 bananas. This is also just personal preference: I can't stuff myself with a massive amount of food first thing in the morning. It's like going for a workout without doing a little stretching first: it can certainly be done, but you'll likely regret it in about an hour.
Also, a couple of bananas is a great way to start the day: they're easy to take on-the-go, gentle on the digestive system, have tons of potassium and vitamins, their thick skins minimize pesticide exposure, and most importantly, Kirk Cameron loves them. Pay no attention to the naysayers that pronounce bananas "uninteresting" or "boring" (a cadre that includes a disturbingly large number of Eater employees). Bananas can be used to make bread once they've gone bad: can you name another fruit that's still eminently useful after it's rotted?
BREAKFAST, cont.: Cold brew at Intelligentsia | Price: $4.50 | Remaining cash: $14.50
Address: 3922 W Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake
Time: 9 a.m.
Hunger level: 7
All right, now you see why I had to get bananas: because I was about to blow the majority of my breakfast money on overpriced coffee. I could have cheated and made my own coffee at home before going out but I decided to take this $20 challenge literally and pay my hard-earned American dollars for everything I consumed in a day (I drank water from the tap, though; that's the one thing I didn't buy).
I was in a bit of a quandary. You see, daddy needs his coffee in the morning. And I want something good: I'm not about to drink a cup of hot garbage from Starbucks, even if it is only $1.85. I will spend over double the amount to drink a glass of smooth, fruity, lightly acidic Honduran cold brew at Intelligentsia, amongst the fedoras, chunky glasses, and V-necked t-shirts.
LUNCH: Boat noodles with beef at Sapp Coffee Shop | Price: $6.25 | Remaining cash: $8.25
Address: 5183 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Hunger level: 4
By the time lunch rolled around, I was getting pretty hungry. I made the mistake of eating two lousy bananas for breakfast, after all. What on earth was I thinking? So I arrived at Sapp Coffee Shop, one of the best and least-assuming lunchrooms in the entire city, somewhat famished.
It was between the jade noodles and the boat noodles, and I had to go boat. No matter how often I have them, that first bite is a full-frontal assault on the senses: beefy, fishy, bloody, tangy, and sinus-scouringly spicy. You can get a bowl with the works, which includes all the offal, or with beef only. You can't go wrong either way: it's a filling, perfect lunch at a place whose fake wood laminate tables and old school decor would indicate it hasn't changed one iota since the 1980s.
DINNER: Taco sampler at Guisados | Price: $7.25 | Remaining cash: $1
Address: 1261 W Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
Time: 8 p.m.
Hunger level: 2
Why mess with anything but the best? Sure, I could have gotten 8 $1 tacos somewhere with my remaining money, but I'd rather spend a little more for the De La Torre family's gorgeous, tender braised meats on handmade corn tortillas. Based on the line out the door when I arrived, many people in the neighborhood had the same idea.
The taco sampler includes six small tacos, a selection of Guisados favorite/most popular menu items, including: steak picado, bistek with salsa roja, chicken tinga, chicken mole, pork chicharron, and pork cochinita pibil. The cochinita pibil is particularly good: langorously sweet and slightly acidic, served with pickled onions and made a brilliant orange-red color by the addition of achiote seeds.