The San Fernando Valley may have a rep as a “food desert” for those who aren’t in the know but we’ve already put that myth to bed when we compiled our list of the 21 best places to eat in The Valley.
Still, one of the advantages of eating in the heart of The Valley (besides actually being able to find parking) is the huge quantity of hole-in-the-wall style joints, mom-and-pops, or otherwise less famous spots where you can grab great grub on the cheap (or at least, at incredible value).
To that end, we decided to create a rundown of SFV eateries that are sure to tantalize your taste buds without torching your wallet.
As always, feel free to let us know in the comments if you think we missed anything.
List numbered for reference, in no particular order.
1. Fab Hot Dogs (Reseda + Valencia)
Its flashy name matches its menu with – wait for it – a deep fried hot dog imported from New Jersey. The Ripper is their most notorious item but their specialty dogs are all reliably good and paired with crispy tater tots and a drink for a low price makes it that much better.
2. Vinh Loi Tofu (Reseda)
It’s Vietnamese vegan fare made by owner and tofu purveyor Kevin Tran aka The Iron Monk. The tofu is made in house and featured in some of his best dishes including the house special soup with a spicy peanut broth and a combo of “fish”, “shrimp”, and “chicken”. If you’re looking for something more causal order up a side of spring rolls or tofu nuggets and fries.
3. Lum Ka Naad (Northridge)
There’s something to be said for a-hole-in-the-wall that can serve up top-notch Thai food (from the North and South) without breaking the bank and Valley dwellers know we’ve got it good. The spicy Thai food haven, whose name means “delicious food”, offers a lunch special (11:00am-3:00pm) that includes an egg roll and the soup of the day or a salad with dishes like pad thai and chicken satay or fried rice with kung pao chicken.
4. Pita Pockets (Reseda)
Many of us are familiar with shawarma, pitas, and gyros but laffas aren’t exactly on the tips of everyone’s tongues though these should be. The laffa, a popular Israeli flatbread, is stuffed with rice or fries, hummus, veggies, and your choice of meat or falafel and it’s basically a food coma waiting to happen. Bonus: free pickled turnips.
5. Las Fuentes (Reseda)
Mexican food joints are prevalent in L.A. so it’s not hard to find an affordable option however Las Fuentes is usually on the top of everyone’s short list. This eatery has been a Valley staple since 1982 and has since spawned other affordable Mexican restaurants (Melody’s Kitchen, Señor Sol). The vibrant interior- it’s a rainbow explosion of colors- and the large portions make the inexpensive meal that much better. The burritos are filling so if you want the most out of your money that’s a good way to go (though I’m partial to the enchiladas) and the guacamole and salsa don’t disappoint.
6. Jeje Chicken (Granada Hills)
This strip mall eatery (pronounced jeh-jeh meaning “chicken” in Arabic) opened in 2011 and has developed a devoted following mainly through word of mouth. Their food is infused with Syrian flavors (a nod to the family of the owners) with prominent use of the Aleppo pepper and Syrian extra virgin olive oil. Most of the items on the menu are no more than $10 and they have specials Tuesday-Friday. The seasoned fries are a customer favorite and the garlic sauce is perfectly tangy and complements any dish especially their falafels.
7. Bill and Hiroko’s Hamburgers (Van Nuys)
It’s a Van Nuys icon, considered one of the best in the Valley, and it’s a 10-by-20-foot stand. For more than 50 years Bill has been serving up his signature burgers with no sides and no frills just fresh, local meat from Northridge. There’s no ketchup (though bottles are available) and they serve chips and canned sodas so it’s all about the burger and rightly so. Bill is a notorious curmudgeon who is loved for his straight-forward attitude so consider yourself warned. (Note: This place is cash only and they close at 4:00pm and aren’t open weekends. Try to head out before or a little after lunch hour to avoid the crowds).
8. Hayat’s Kitchen (North Hollywood)
Free baklava! Now that I’ve got your attention I can also share that their potatoes harra are covered in enough garlic to scare off vampires and give your taste buds one of the most memorable plates of fries you’ll have ever tried and all for a little over $5. The pita sandwiches are an affordable and filling option but you can also order a plate to share (the chicken is always a good choice) and you’ll both feel satiated and save money.
9. Batterfish (Encino)
It’s only been open for a couple of years but it’s safe to say Batterfish is of the best fish and chips joints in the city and without a doubt one of the SFV’s most affordable options. The U.K. classic is made with love at this Encino eatery by Irish owner/cook Jason Killalee who mans the kitchen and makes everything to order. The menu is simple: pick a fish, a batter, and fries and it’s BYOB so no need to ask for a water cup when you’re craving a beer but don’t want to pay extra. The traditional fish is cod and you can opt for traditional batter and regular hand-cut fries. You can then use the money you saved on a beer to buy yourself a fried candy bar (don’t think about it, just treat yo’self). Fried fish may not be hard to come by in the Valley but finding a place that makes it perfectly crisp but not overly greasy while keeping the fish tender inside.
10. Bun Me! (Northridge)
Don’t let this closet-sized eatery fool you because this food is the kind you’ll find at any great Vietnamese restaurant. The lemongrass chicken banh mi and their pho are two standouts and they also serve boba and spring rolls. The menu isn’t extensive but the portions are a good size and it’s made to order. (Note: $7 minimum when using a card)
11. Nat’s Early Bite (Sherman Oaks + Woodland Hills)
All day breakfast is always a win and the All-American breakfast items are some of the more affordable comfort food options. Their fresh cinnamon rolls and muffins are made in house and a must if you love baked goods.
12. Oi Asian Fusion (Canoga Park)
The f-word is the modern twist on Filipino cuisine courtesy of chef Eric de la Cruz’s heritage. Their umami gravy, Japanese fried chicken, and dynamite sauce are all a must-try. You really can’t go wrong with the bibimbap rice bowl or any rice bowl for that matter.
13. Daglas Drive In (Canoga Park)
Their motto is “Every day is Fryday” so to say they’re generous with their portions is an understatement. Should you order their famous seasoned fries (and why wouldn’t you?) you can expect what looks like the entire contents of the fryer on your plate with a side of a pastrami burger.
14. Bowl & Burger (Canoga Park)
It’s all about tried and true combos at this mom and pop shop and hardly anything is more than $10. Like the name implies this place is all about burgers and fries (try the Super burger with bacon and avocado) and teriyaki meat and rice bowls. Cash only.
15. Ninong’s Café (Granada Hills)
This Filipino eatery has filled a void most people didn’t know they even had until they tried ube for the first time. The purple yam is often used in desserts – you’ll find ube cupcakes, smoothies, and even cookie butter – but the distinctly purple pancakes are their showpiece. They also offer a Filipino pancake flight with ube, mango, and buko (coconut) pandan (tropical plant). The menu is sprinkled with familiar dishes and Filipino ingredients so it’s an easy and affordable way to try something new without veering too far from your comfort zone.
16. Beeps Diner (Van Nuys)
Diner food is typically two things: inexpensive and tasty and Beeps fits the bill. Their extensive menu features American diner mainstays but there’s also a whole Mexican menu so you can rest assured you’re bound to find a few items that fit your budget and fulfill your cravings. One of their most popular dishes is the chili cheese fries (natch)- just picture the most monstrous plate you can imagine and now double the cheese and that’s what you can expect. Also, the breakfast burrito is another dish that’ll keep you full all day and keep some cash in your wallet.
[RELATED: The 13 Best Diners In Los Angeles]
17. Sadaf’s (Encino)
There are several Persian restaurants sprinkled throughout Ventura Boulevard but Sadaf’s is among the best with an authentic and accessible menu. The crispy rice (tahdig) has the perfect crunch to it and you can pair it with their koobideh sandwich with seasoned and grilled chicken.
18. Johnny Pacific (Canoga Park)
If you’ve ever visited the Farmer’s Market at the Northridge Mall then you’ve probably tried JP’s fried empanadas. Their Argentine-inspired dishes include chimichurri and steak or chicken with fries but if you’re really pinching pennies order a couple empanadas or the lunch combo and you’re good.
— Johnny Pacific (@JohnnyPacific) January 19, 2015
19. Bamboo (Sherman Oaks)
Bamboo has been a Ventura Blvd. staple for decades, with the Zagat seal of approval, serving up Chinese classics like wonton soup and kung pao chicken. Their lunch menu includes mushu chicken, beef fried rice and aloha fried rice so you can get a more authentic meal for about the same price as some other Chinese fast food joints.
20. Les Sisters (Chatsworth)
Soul food in the SFV? You better believe it and they’ve been doing it for 30 years. Their lunch menu includes catfish and hush puppies, fried chicken, po’boys, and filé gumbo with sides (fixin’) including candied yams, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, and Cajun fries. Save room and money for dessert because their pies are worth it.
What’s your favorite cheap eat in the Valley? Let us know in the comments below!