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Cheap Eats in San Francisco and Los Angeles

California offers some of the best cuisine in the country. From the high-end foodie destinations to cheap ethnic eats, the Golden State has something for every appetite and budget. Below are some of the most affordable options in two of California's most popular destinations: San Francisco and Los Angeles. San Francisco El Farolito
 2779 Mission St.

Photo Credit: John D.
Almost any burrito in San Francisco's Hispanic neighborhood, the Mission, will be cheap, tasty, and very filling. My favorite is El Farolito, which typically has a line out the door as a testament to its greatness. San Francisco's Mexican food scene is built around burritos, but El Farolito also makes an excellent quesadilla super suiza. Don't forget to add a $0.50 side of chips and a cheap beer to your order. If you're feeling adventurous, look past the familiar pollo and carne asada and try the lengua (beef tongue) or cabeza (beef head meat). Saigon Sandwich 
 560 Larkin St.

Photo Credit: Sindy W.
For a less common but equally delicious ethnic food, head to Little Saigon. This two block stretch of Larkin Street is too small to qualify as a proper neighborhood but is densely packed with authentic Vietnamese food. For less than $4, you can get a great bánh mì from Saigon Sandwich. A bánh mì is a French-style baguette filled with meat (typically chicken or pork), pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, chili peppers, and mayonnaise. Just be ready to take your sandwich to go as this tiny storefront only has two stools inside. Slider's Diner
 1202 Sutter St.

Photo Credit: Kevin Y.
Despite its name, Slider's Diner does not actually sell sliders. They do, however, sell full-size burgers with a side of fries for under $10. Aside from standard add-ons like bacon and mushrooms, Slider's also has an extensive topping bar. Some of the "toppings" belong on a salad bar (garbanzo beans? really?) but more options can't hurt. Plus, if your budget is really tight, you could probably hack together a side salad from the ingredients on the topping bar. If you have a few extra dollars in your wallet, add a milkshake to your order. Giordano Bros. 303 Columbus Ave.

Photo Credit: Giordano Bros
As a native Pittsburgher, I have an unhealthy obsession with the Primanti Brothers' all-in-one sandwich. San Francisco's Giordano Brothers is either a ripoff of, or tribute to, that western Pennsylvania institution. For less than $7, you get a monstrous sandwich. The best part is that you don't need to order any sides, since the fries and coleslaw are part of the sandwich. I recommend the hot capicola with egg. The food is always great, but, if your visit happens to coincide with a Pittsburgh sporting event, you can enjoy a rowdy atmosphere too. Giordano Brothers even features live music a few nights each week. Los Angeles Pollo a La Brasa 764 S. Western Ave.

Photo Credit: Jason B.
Pollo A La Brasa serves the best chicken I've ever tasted in my life. And that's the highest compliment I can pay to a restaurant that specializes in chicken. The menu is simple: Peruvian chicken and a few side dishes. Don't stress about what to order. Pick a quarter or half chicken, their wonderful, fresh french fries, and one other side dish. You'll be given a few tortillas and two wonderful sauces along with your plate. You'll pay less than ten dollars and leave blown away. Polla A La Brasa is the quintessential cheap eat. Quality over all else, a shockingly low price, and the guarantee that you're going to leave happy and full. Griddle Cafe
 7916 W. Sunset Blvd.

Photo Credit: Michael U.
The Griddle Cafe is where LA natives go to eat the meal designed to cure a hangover. It's not so much breakfast, it's not so much lunch, and nowhere near haughty enough to be referred to as brunch. The Griddle serves up gluttonous happiness on a plate, and you're bound to find a fifteen minute waiting line on the street seven days a week. (In fact, I suggest skipping The Griddle Cafe on the weekends because the line will simply be too long). There's nothing pretentious or foreign about The Griddle. It's all about giant portions of perfectly done breakfast foods here. Although they offer a fuller menu with more lunch options, I'd stick to breakfast. It's what they do best. One advantage of The Griddle Cafe is that the portions are large enough so that two people can split one order if they're on a tight budget. But that's not how I'd do it. Here's my suggestion for the perfect Griddle meal: Wake up bright and early around noon with a healthy hangover and make your way over to Hollywood with a friend. Order The Griddle's delicious French press coffee (a real highlight) and a few waters. Now choose two breakfast specialties. I'd suggest The Golden Ticket, Addicted to Noisella, or the Strawberries and Cream Waffle. Add a side order of their delicious hash browns and bacon to have some perfectly salty bites to balance your sweet breakfast dish. You've just consumed a cheap feast for two, and you'll be so full you won't have to worry about spending a dime on dinner. Yuca's / Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
 2056 Hillhurst Ave. / 1650 Hillhurst Ave.

Photo Credit: Ziyan C.
It's impossible to make a best cheap eats list in Los Angeles without mentioning tacos. If Los Angeles had a soul, it'd certainly consist largely of tacos. Yuca's is authentic, Yucatan-style Mexican food prepared in a tiny street-side hut. Their speciality, and the best thing on the menu, is their cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork from the Yucatan Peninsula. Get it in a taco or burrito. You can eat great at Yuca's for six bucks. Fish tacos are a bit of a bourgeoning trend in Los Angeles, and the best of the batch is at Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada. The menu offers three choices: fish tacos for $1.50/each, shrimp tacos for $2.00/each, and drinks for $1.00/each, and it's cash only. Both the fish and shrimp are perfectly fried in light batter and served on warmed tortillas. Most people agree that the shrimp tacos are a bit better, but sometimes I appreciate the stronger taste of the fish. You'll find a great salsa bar with a few options, I suggest the Mad Mango, and some of the best sour cream, or La Crema Magica as they prefer to call it, that you'll ever eat. Soot Bull Jeep
 3136 W. 8th St.

Photo Credit: Steve C.
When most people think of Los Angeles, they think of movie stars, Rodeo drive, or perhaps the beach. I think of Korean barbecue. Maybe it's just because of the huge Korean population, abundance of restaurants, or never-ending sea of Korean characters on buildings and billboards, but more likely it's due to the high position Korean food holds in my power ranking of cuisines. Soot Bull Jeep is Korean barbecue like you'd get it in Korea, or so I'm told, and it's extremely affordable. You grill your meat yourself, and there are a wide variety of choices, including surprisingly good organ meats. If you're at a loss as to what to order, you can't go wrong with marinated beef ribs or spicy pork. You'll get a variety of side dishes, called bonchohn, as is the tradition. I've been here numerous times with friends from Korea, and they always rave about it. I always agree with them. To keep it really cheap, you can order one portion of meat for two people. Also get a soup, I suggest cold noodle, and along with the side dishes you'll be stuffed. Soot Bull Jeep is the real taste of Korea and, in my mind, Los Angeles, too. Where are your favorite cheap eats in SF and LA? Share them in the comments. Today's recommendations are from Fred Perrotta (SF) and Jeremy Cohen (LA) of Tortuga Backpacks , the makers of the ultimate travel backpack . Read more of their recommendations and packing tips on their backpacking travel blog .

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Cheap Eats in San Francisco and Los Angeles + travel