Affordable meals for the frugal foodie

Two+Tacos+de+Pescado+%28%242.59+each%29+at+Ensenada%E2%80%99s+Surf+N+Turf+Grill+in+Lawndale%2C+Calif.+on+May+8%2C+2021.+Two+fried+or+grilled+swai+fish+tacos+served+on+a+palm-sized+corn+tortilla+with+cabbage%2C+pico+de+gallo%2C+crema+and+salsa.+%28Walter+Jay+Jr.+%2F+Warrior+Life%29+Photo+credit%3A+Walter+Jay

Two Tacos de Pescado ($2.59 each) at Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill in Lawndale, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Two fried or grilled swai fish tacos served on a palm-sized corn tortilla with cabbage, pico de gallo, crema and salsa. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life) Photo credit: Walter Jay

If you are ballin’ on a budget, want to change things up and are tired of hitting the drive-thru and making instant noodles. Here are the five of the best foodie meals in the South Bay for $5, $8, $10, $12 and $15

$5 Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill – Rating: 9.6/10

2 Tacos de Pescado ($2.59 each) – Two fried or grilled swai fish tacos served on a palm-sized corn tortilla with cabbage, pico de gallo, crema and salsa. This taco is an explosion of contrasting flavors and textures. The crunchy fish fillet and cabbage juxtapose the supple tortilla, juicy pico de gallo, luscious crema and rich, spicy salsa. These are the best fish tacos in the county. An added plus, you snack on unlimited roasted Guero chile peppers, fresh-sliced radishes, paper-thin marinated onions and serranos sliced on the bias while you wait.

BONUS: If you want a little more bang for your buck during the week they have specials on Mondays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but be prepared to wait in line during the lunch rush.

Monday Special: 3 Tacos de Papa (fried, hard-shell potato taco) + Soft Drink $4.99

Tuesday Special: $1.59 for Asada, Carnitas, Barbacoa, Pollo or Al Pastor Tacos.

Wednesday Special: $1.99 Battered Fish Taco.

Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill

4749 Artesia Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260

(310) 793-9073

http://www.ensenadasurfnturf.com

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Nikutama Udon ($10.50) at Marugame Udon in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Made-to-order udon noodles served with sweet and savory beef, a perfectly cooked Onsen egg and BK sauce, a more concentrated house-made dashi sauce. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life)
Nikutama Udon ($10.50) at Marugame Udon in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Made-to-order udon noodles served with sweet and savory beef, a perfectly cooked Onsen egg and BK sauce, a more concentrated house-made dashi sauce. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life) Photo credit: Walter Jay

$8 Marugame Udon (Sawtelle) – Rating 9.6/10

Kake Udon is made-to-order udon noodles served with a signature house-made Kake soup, of dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Add a perfectly cooked Onsen egg, some fresh cut scallions and a pile of crunchy tempura bits and have a full meal for under $7, or if you’re extra hungry get a large bowl for under $8. There isn’t a better bowl of udon noodles outside of Kagawa Prefecture in Japan. This is a must-try bowl of delicious goodness.

BONUS: Marugame has several delicious, made-to-order bowls of udon that range in price from $5.50 to $12. Here are some of my favorites.

Nikutama Udon is made-to-order udon noodles served with sweet and savory beef, a perfectly cooked Onsen egg and BK sauce, a more concentrated house-made dashi sauce.

This dish can be served cold upon request for those hot summer months. ($10.50 Regular / $12.00 Large)

Kitsune Udon is made-to-order udon noodles served with a signature house-made Kake soup of dashi, mirin and soy sauce and topped with Aburaage, a sweet fried tofu ($7.50 Regular / $8.25 Large).

Mentai Kamatama Udon is made-to-order udon noodles directly from the Kama (pot), served with mentai cod roe, a perfectly cooked Onsen egg, and dashi soy sauce ($7.50 Regular / $8.25 Large).

Marugame Udon

2029 Sawetelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

(424) 317-2222

https://www.marugameudon.com

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The "Best Ever" Banana Pancakes ($10) at The Pan in Gardena, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Three buttermilk pancakes filled with a banana-cinnamon puree and topped with bananas, walnuts, whipped butter and powdered sugar. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life)
The "Best Ever" Banana Pancakes ($10) at The Pan in Gardena, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Three buttermilk pancakes filled with a banana-cinnamon puree and topped with bananas, walnuts, whipped butter and powdered sugar. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life) Photo credit: Walter Jay

$10 The Pan (Gardena) – Rating 9.1/10

The “Best Ever” Banana Pancakes

If you love breakfast for lunch or dinner, try the Pan’s all-day breakfast. Their three buttermilk pancakes filled with a banana cinnamon puree and topped with bananas, walnuts, whipped butter and powdered sugar is the perfect meal to satisfy anyone who loves sleeping in, but hates missing breakfast.

The Pan

16601 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90247

(310) 329-7266

https://www.thepan1.com

Vegan Ramen ($11) + Seasoned Egg ($1) at Ramen Yamadaya in Torrance, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Made from a house-made miso broth, spinach noodles and topped with bamboo shoots, scallions, red cabbage, spinach, a shiitake mushroom, corn, a tomato wedge and kikurage mushrooms. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life)
Vegan Ramen ($11) + Seasoned Egg ($1) at Ramen Yamadaya in Torrance, Calif. on May 8, 2021. Made from a house-made miso broth, spinach noodles and topped with bamboo shoots, scallions, red cabbage, spinach, a shiitake mushroom, corn, a tomato wedge and kikurage mushrooms. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life) Photo credit: Walter Jay

$12 Ramen Yamadaya (Torrance) – Rating 9.9/10

Vegan Ramen ($11) + Seasoned Egg or Tofu ($1). Are you thinking vegan ramen, really? Yes, vegan ramen. Ramen Yamadaya’s meat-packed, porky, unctuous iterations of ramen are always a delicious option, but this bowl of vegan ramen is made from a house-made miso broth, spinach noodles and topped with bamboo shoots, scallions, red cabbage, spinach, a shiitake mushroom, corn, a tomato wedge and kikurage mushrooms is just as good, if not a little better. And a seasoned egg or tofu to this delicious bowl and it will come in a nickel over $12. Vegan or carnivore, if you haven’t had this bowl of ramen you are missing out on one of the best bowls of ramen between Tokyo and LA.

Ramen Yamadaya

3116 W 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504

(310) 380-5555

https://www.ramen-yamadaya.com

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(From left to right): Chocolate Cream Puff ($1.50), Loco Moco ($10) and Portuguese Sausage Musubi ($3) at Back Home in Lahaina in Carson, Calif. on May 8, 2021. The Cream Puff is an airy pastry filled with chocolate filling and whipped cream. The loco moco is two never frozen, house-ground third-pound hamburger patties with two eggs over-easy, a side of macaroni salad, on a bed of freshly steamed rice, all covered in a velvety demi-glace. And the Portuguese Sausage Musubi is three pieces of spicy Portuguese-link sausage sushi. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life)
(From left to right): Chocolate Cream Puff ($1.50), Loco Moco ($10) and Portuguese Sausage Musubi ($3) at Back Home in Lahaina in Carson, Calif. on May 8, 2021. The Cream Puff is an airy pastry filled with chocolate filling and whipped cream. The loco moco is two never frozen, house-ground third-pound hamburger patties with two eggs over-easy, a side of macaroni salad, on a bed of freshly steamed rice, all covered in a velvety demi-glace. And the Portuguese Sausage Musubi is three pieces of spicy Portuguese-link sausage sushi. (Walter Jay Jr. / Warrior Life) Photo credit: Walter Jay

$15 Back Home in Lahaina – 90/100

The loco moco at Back Home in Lahaina is one of the best-kept secrets in the South Bay. If you want to turn this massive Hawaiian specialty into a three-course feast for under $15, first start with a Portuguese Sausage Musubi ($3), you can’t go wrong. Essentially it’s three pieces of spicy Portuguese-link sausage sushi. Then order the loco moco. Two never frozen, house-ground third-pound hamburger patties with two eggs your way (over-easy is my choice), a side of the best macaroni salad you ever had, on a bed of freshly steamed rice and then covered in a deep-brown velvety demi-glace. When it arrives, ask for a to-go box right away. You’re going to need it to save half of this beast for the best next day. End this three-course feast with a pineapple or guava-filled cream puff for $1.50 (Total = $14.50). This is hands down the best loco moco ever, period. Better than the Rainbow Drive-In, or any of the other famous loco moco spots in Honolulu, Hawaii. This meal puts the ‘comfort,’ in comfort food.

Bonus: If you’re craving a slightly lighter, equally delicious seafood option for $15, this is one of my other absolute favorites from Back Home in Lahaina.

Grilled Salmon with Vegetable Fried Rice: Salmon fillet seasoned with lemon pepper, served on a bed of vegetable fried rice with your choice of two sides from macaroni salad, ramen cabbage salad, or wontons ($13.99). Add a pineapple or guava-filled cream puff for $1.50.

Back Home in Lahaina

519 E. Carson St, Carson, CA 90745

(310) 835-4014

http://www.backhomeinlahaina.com

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