The Budget Friendly Dining Guide to Downtown L.A.

Pork longganisa at RiceBar
Pork longganisa at RiceBar  |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

From large food courts to tiny takeout spots, the Downtown Los Angeles food scene is wide-ranging and eclectic. The offerings span generations, from classic local joints to trendy dessert spots. The options are global - you can find everything from Filipino rice bowls to Salvadoran pupusas. The best part is that dining out in Downtown L.A. doesn't have to hurt your wallet. Read on for 11 places where you can get some good grub at budget-friendly prices.

Cafeteria at Clifton's | Instagram by @pinchenachostacos

Clifton's Republic

No trip to Downtown Los Angeles would be complete without a visit to Clifton's. This classic, cafeteria-style restaurant is more than a spot where you can mix-and-match entrees, soups and salads. It's a hyperreal experience, where you can dine in a faux forest environment while gawking at over-the-top decor. After dark, Clifton's turns into a multi-level nightlife hub with bars that are equally themed-out. The Gothic Bar feels like you're inside a church, while the Pacific Seas recalls the heyday of the tiki bar. Clifton's history goes back to the Great Depression, when it was part of a then-burgeoning chain of cafeterias. Eventually, the Broadway location was the only one remaining. It was sold in 2010 and ultimately restored and revived.

House Wonton Soup at China Cafe | Instagram by @twitchylizard

Grand Central Market

The landmark Grand Central Market could keep you fed for your entire trip. The bustling 30,000 square-foot marketplace has been around since 1917, and while you can pick up everything from produce to sweets, it's also ideal if you can't decide what you want to eat. The dining options are eclectic - tacos, pupusas, pizza, falafel, ramen and oysters are just some of the offerings. Grand Central Market is also home to some of Downtown L.A.'s most popular dining spots, like Eggslut and Wexler's Deli. If you want a brew, head over to Golden Road's on-site bar. Prices vary depending on the vendor, but if you're looking for a budget-friendly option, try the cash-only China Cafe.

Photo courtesy of Howlin' Ray's, Facebook

Howlin' Ray's

In Chinatown, new and old restaurants cater to every palate and are easy on the wallet, too. Enjoy dim sum at Ocean Seafood, an extensive selection of soups at Pho Broadway, and tasty banh mi at Golden Lake Eatery. The dining options go beyond pan-Asian fare. Folks line up for hours for the fiery fried chicken at Howlin' Ray's. Over at Burgerlords, the grill is fired for both meat lovers and vegans, while Little Jewel of New Orleans serves po' boys in a market full of Southern snacks and drinks that are hard to find in Los Angeles. Philippe The Original is a local institution that's beloved for its iconic French Dip sandwiches, but also serves a mean classic American breakfast. A Chinatown staple since 1938, Phoenix Bakery is beloved for their strawberry and whipped cream birthday cakes.

KazuNori | Downtown LA

From the team behind Sugarfish, KazuNori is a small bar-style restaurant that focuses on hand rolled sushi. If you want hand rolled items, you have to order and eat at the bar and that can mean standing in line. You'll fill out your menu while you wait. Set Menu options range from 3-Hand Roll (salmon, bay scallop, crab) to the 6-Hand Roll, which adds toro, yellowtail and lobster. Patio dining is available too, but you'll need to order from the takeout entrance and your choices will be for cut sushi.

The Original Pantry Cafe

The Original Pantry Cafe is one of the quintessential L.A. restaurants. It's owned by former mayor Richard Riordan, has a history that goes back to 1924, and is one of the few restaurants in the area that's open 24 hours. It's generally very busy, but it's a must-stop restaurant if you want to see where the locals have been eating for decades. The menu is classic American comfort food, with dinner plates filled with meat and a cake and pie menu. A portion of the breakfast menu is available 24 hours, while some items are only served in the morning. Check the signs to see what's available. Also - and this is very important - bring cash. Yes, The Pantry is that old school.

Pork longganisa at RiceBar in DTLA
Pork longganisa at RiceBar  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie


As the name might indicate, the specialty at RiceBar is rice bowls. Specifically, they serve up rice that's been imported from the Philippines with savory additions that include everything from eggplant and lamb to anchovies and pork belly. If you're more interested in a sandwich, they have snack-sized versions of those too and the avocado pan de sal, which juxtaposes the creaminess of avocado with the crunch of kale and shallots, is a light and refreshing bite. RiceBar is pint-sized and caters mostly to a lunch crowd - even with their recently expanded hours, they close at 7 p.m.

Taste Food Hall - FIGat7th

Located on the lower level of FIGat7th, TASTE Food Hall is not your typical food court. You'll find a mix of nationwide chains like Five Guys, and local favorites like Loteria Grill. If you're craving Korean barbecue, Oleego by Parks BBQ is the way to go. You build your own bowls, starting with a base of salad, rice or noodle and adding proteins like galbi, bulgogi and tofu. Oleego's tasty bowls are budget-friendly and the portions bigger than you might expect at first glance. Also at TASTE is George's Greek Grill, a Downtown L.A. fixture with three locations in the neighborhood. Their menu is large and includes modern takes on Greek dishes at reasonable prices.