One in a many-part series about eating on a strict $20 budget around Los Angeles for Cheap Eats Week. This installation explores Hollywood and environs, mostly Little Armenia and Thai Town.
When I first pitched this idea to Eater LA Editor/benevolent overlord Matthew Kang, my first thought was, "I have to nail down Hollywood for myself." After all, Hollywood is home to one of L.A.’s best cheap eats neighborhoods.
Thai-style noodle shops pack it in along Hollywood and Sunset just east of the 101, their battered signs calling out to me like seasoned hawkers in a crowded bazaar. But Thai food isn’t the only culture represented in town — East Hollywood is also home to Little Armenia, and there’s some serious cheap eats to be had here.
Immediately, I jotted down cost-benefit analyses of what would be the most culturally sensitive treatment of East Hollywood for less than $20, whether or not I should skip breakfast, whether I should avoid places that were too well-known, whether I should include my morning coffee. While I was overthinking, my stomach’s rancorous grumbling led me to an epiphany: I should just eat what I want, on a budget.
Quick Note: Most of my fellow participants in the challenge have been incorporating a "satiety" rating. Unfortunately, I am on the larger side (think Michael Jordan’s height and… Michael Jordan’s post-retirement weight) so I can’t give a very accurate gauge of satiety. On the other hand, I think the day’s eats approach or exceed 2,000 total calories.
Breakfast: Lahmanjune and Beorek at Taron Bakery | Cost: $2.75 | $17.25 remaining
Lahmanjune is billed as "Armenian-style pizza," and insofar as it is a thin, crispy disk of pastry with a savory topping, it’s an accurate description. If lahmanjune is Armenian pizza, beorek (pronounced ‘byorek’) is the Armenian calzone, a folded triangle of pastry stuffed with various savory fillings.
Taron Bakery came by the recommendation of an Armenian friend, and the spartan digs with a couple of small picnic-style two tops on the patio facing Hollywood Blvd. are manned by a woman who takes orders, puts the pastries on a round dish and then pops them in the oven to be toasted. The lahmajune is a snack, the disk topped with savory mince with hints of onion and garlic, and the beorek is a more substantive triangle stuffed with cottage cheese.
Lunch: Quarter Chicken Plate at Zankou Chicken | Cost: $8.71 | $8.54 remaining
Time: 11:30 a.m.
I know what you’re thinking, but the Zankou Chicken on Sunset and Normandie is the original stateside location of the famous chain. Founded by an Armenian couple hailing from Lebanon, the Zankou chicken empire has survived in the face of significant turmoil, including a murder-suicide involving the founding mother, her son and daughter, and legal infighting between factions within the clan.
The food? It’s just as good as it was the first time you tried it — dark meat chicken is still fall-apart tender. Swap the pretty pedestrian hummus for the muttabal, an eggplant puree that’s so intensely smoky that it borders on junk food, smear that white garlic sauce on everything and let the vinegary pickles serve as brief palate-cleansing intermissions.
Dinner: Duck Noodle Soup at Rodded | Cost: $8.25 | $0.29 remaining
Time: 7:05 p.m.
Make sure dinner doesn’t run too late, because Rodded closes at 8 p.m. — much earlier than some of its competitors on Hollywood Blvd. Don’t even bother pulling out the menu: You’re choosing between the beef noodle soup or the noodle with duck soup. Revel in that incredible broth: Clean, refreshing, savory and fragrant with spices, a perfect complement to perfectly stewed slivers of duck and a small mound of al dente egg noodles.
Food this good shouldn’t cost this little, and the fact that Hollywood has so many competitors in this price range (Hoy Ka, Pa Ord, Sapp Coffee Shop and the rest of the lot) is a testament to just how great Hollywood actually is as a cheap eats destination.
Just make sure to bring cash.