Great Food for the Budget
- Written byHeather David
At this small gem, tucked in a Van Nuys strip mall, the Areliz family has been serving locals fresh baked goods and traditional Mexican fare for decades. Walk in, and immediately your senses are piqued by the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked pan dulce or Mexican sweet bread.
The hot dishes are out of this world. The machaca con huevos is a rich mixture of pork, peppers, onions and eggs wrapped in a burrito or hollowed-out roll. Save room for popular handmade tamales. At $1.50 each, diners often take ‘em to go.
A must-try is the massive concha, named for its conch-shell shape. The consistency of this treat is similar to that of brioche, but it’s topped with a crunchy sugar crust of vanilla or chocolate. Another goodie is the cuerno. This horn-shaped bread may look plain, but you’ll be blown away by its light, sugary goodness. Every pastry is less than a dollar, so when it comes to taste testing, you can really have at it.6817 Woodman Ave, Van Nuys, 818-782-6873
Hidden in a Studio City mini-mall filled with discount stores like Marshall’s is newcomer Ramen Jinya. Like traditional Japanese ramen houses, the choices here are simple: pick your broth, noodles and toppings. The flavors, however, are more complex. The most popular is the tonkotsu, a pork-based stock that simmers for nearly 10 hours.
Ramen Jinya is famous for its shio tonkotsu ramen, a labor-intensive brew that’s limited to just 20 bowls a day. The reason is that the shio or salt flavor is left to cook with the tonkotsu for an additional six hours. The steamy concoction includes wheat noodles, slices of roasted pork, spinach, bamboo and fried onions.
Once the basics are down, try different soups ranging from miso, chicken and even vegetarian. You can eat here several times a week and never have the same thing twice. All for less than $10 a bowl.11239 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 818-980-3977
There’s a reason Amir’s Falafel has thrived at its small Studio City location for more than 20 years, serving Mediterranean fare to throngs of hard-core fans. The falafel is excellent. The eatery has perfected the art of deep-frying balls of ground garbanzo beans and spices. The outside crunch of these savory treats gives way to a moist and distinctly flavorful center. Falafel, by the way, is included on most meal plates or as an entrée—stuffed in a pita along with a nearly addictive sesame seed-based tahini sauce.
Behind the counter you’ll lay eyes on a monolith of marinating meat. Don’t resist. The spinning tower of shawarma—of both turkey and lamb—cooks for hours on the rotisserie but somehow maintains the moistness. It’s sliced to order and served with pita, creamy hummus, fresh carrot salad and the bulgur-based tabouleh. Every dish at Amir’s is devourable for less than $12.11711 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 818-509-8641
The food is only part of the charm.