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Striking It Rich

Our third annual hunt for delicious deals nets rare delicacies, unusual treats and more.

August 08, 2007|Susan LaTempa | Times Staff Writer

UNLESS you're hanging out with conspicuously consuming celebutantes, you may have noticed a new mood in the air these days. It seems as if more and more Angelenos are talking about enjoying life without ruining it for the next generation, and when it comes to food and wine, they're focusing on real quality instead of being distracted by glitzy hype.

Many chefs and restaurateurs are in a deliver-the-goods mode lately too, and it's a point of pride in many quarters to offer good value. So our annual hunt for delicious dining deals has been particularly rewarding this year. It was easy to go deep. Food section writers researched tips, checked out old favorites and followed their own well-used noses from North Hollywood to Artesia, from Harbor City to Costa Mesa, looking for the best dishes, meals and specials at the best prices.

We came up with 25 incredible bargains -- and not only cheap eats, though we found plenty of those, such as a mouth-watering $1.29 cabeza taco and a delectable $7.95 Indian lunch buffet. But there are also wonderful luxuries worth every penny you pay for them, including a cold, creamy hand-made ice cream bar studded with toasted almonds for the same three bucks you might pay for a cone at a chain ice cream store. Or a pair of happy-hour Kobe sliders with house-made chips for only $8.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, August 14, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page News Desk 2 inches; 78 words Type of Material: Correction
Cheeseburgers: In the article "Striking It Rich" in Wednesday's Food section, wrong prices were given for the prime cheeseburger that is served at both Taylor's Steakhouse locations. The article said the burger was $7.95 at lunch and $11.95 at dinner at the La Cañada Flintridge location, and implied that it cost $9.95 for lunch in Koreatown. The correct lunch price at both locations is $9.50. The dinner price is $11.50 in La Cañada Flintridge and $12.95 in Koreatown.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, August 15, 2007 Home Edition Food Part Page Features Desk 2 inches; 78 words Type of Material: Correction
Cheeseburger: In the July 25 article "Striking It Rich," wrong prices were given for the prime cheeseburger that is served at both Taylor's Steakhouse locations. The article said the burger was $7.95 at lunch and $11.95 at dinner at the La Cañada Flintridge location, and implied that it cost $9.95 for lunch in Koreatown. The correct lunch price at both locations is $9.50. The dinner price is $11.50 in La Cañada Flintridge and $12.95 at the Koreatown location.

Some of the best deals show up at lunchtime or are available only on certain days of the week. Check out the three-course Sunday supper under the olive trees at a popular West Hollywood restaurant for -- brace yourself -- $15. Or the Fridays-only New Orleans blue crabs and crawfish just off the plane and boiled with Creole spices for $4.99 a pound.

Whether you're looking for pan-fried dumplings or jerk chicken, a seven-course chef's tasting menu or a great happy hour, we have a deal for you.

1. Jamón serrano sandwich at La Española Meats, $4.95. Food lovers have long flocked to Harbor City's La Española Meats for imported Spanish foodstuffs and house-made chorizos and hams. Now there's one more reason to shop there -- at lunch they've started serving a sandwich. But what a sandwich. They take a small baguette, drizzle it with Spanish olive oil and then layer it with La Española's domestic jamón serrano, some dried chorizo, roasted piquillo red peppers and a couple of slices of Manchego cheese, and then bake it until the cheese melts and the crust crisps. With a cup full of olives cured in a tomato sauce, that's $4.95. Eat it out back on a picnic table under an arbor shaded with bougainvillea. La Española Meats, 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City; (310) 539-0455.

2. Roasted chicken with beans and rice or fries, tortillas and garlic sauce at Pollo a la Brasa, $5. For anyone who's gotten blasé about rotisserie chicken, the wood-fire roasted chickens from this Peruvian outpost will change your tune. The burnished skin and juicy meat are intensely flavorful, though this shouldn't stop you from splashing the awesome garlic sauce onto the bird, as well as onto the beans and rice and tortilla that come with the special. You can spot the place from the pile of lumber buttressing the back wall of the building -- and from the lines outside. Pollo a la Brasa, 764 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 382-4090; 16527 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena; (310) 715-2494; and 2100 W. Whittier Blvd., Montebello; (323) 727-1965.

3. Nostalgia breakfast at Chips, $4.50. With its gorgeous aqua towers holding the letters of its name like giant playing cards way above the roof line, this Googie landmark coffee shop is worth visiting just for the late-'50s, early-'60s architectural glamour -- but dining's a delightful throwback too. Fluffy scrambled eggs (or two eggs, any style), creamy grits (or fruit) and toast (or a muffin) are served by super-pro waitresses who adroitly manage many customers, sliding in and out of English and Spanish with ease. They're happy to bring some fresh salsa and refill your coffee cup. Chips, 11908 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne; (310) 679-2947.

4. Frites deals at Fraîche, $13 and $22. At Fraîche, the new Culver City Mediterranean, Jason Travi turns out a steak frites that would do a top Paris bistro proud at a very affordable $22. The steak is the flavorful -- and very fashionable -- flatiron cut, and it comes with a heap of golden, hand-cut fries. You can also get moules frites, the classic mussels steamed in white wine and garlic served with a raft of bread for dipping into the juices, for $13. Add a glass of wine, and it's dinner in a swell restaurant for a price hovering around $20. Fraîche, 9411 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 839-6800; www.fraicherestaurantla.com.

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