If you want to know where the best lunch spots are in Santa Monica, just ask a high school student. Like Josh Fried, who makes it his mission to find the fastest, most affordable and scrumptious ways to spend his school lunch breaks.
Nong Lá Vietnamese Cafe
On a street littered with ramen shops and under-the-radar sushi counters, a little Vietnamese storefront stands out. Located in what used to be a clothing store, this small Vietnamese cafe is serving up modernized versions of classic Vietnamese recipes at cheap prices. The space is really cool and open, with reclaimed wood tables and floor to ceiling windows, with a small patio out front for nice days. The main draw on the menu is the pho ($7-$10), which is a light lemongrass broth with barely cooked meat, that comes out steaming hot and cooks while you eat it. On my recent visit I had the Pork Belly Bahn Mi ($6.25). This is a sandwich common on the streets of Hanoi. Made with French bread, house pickled vegetables and a spread of house garlic mayo and finished with succulent pork belly, the sandwich is delicious, sweet salty, chewy, crunchy all at once. Pair that sandwich with traditional Vietnamese coffee ($3.00 and served with condensed milk) and you have a great meal for just over $10!
Tip: If you want to get in and out in less than 15 minutes, sit at the counter. You will get your food within minutes of ordering
Nong Lá Vietnamese Café is located at: 2055 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Open: 11:30 AM to 10 PM, for lunch and dinner
Hole In the Wall Burger Joint
To me nothing is better than a thick and juicy burger. Hole In the Wall delivers just that with natural ingredients at a great value. The setting is pretty much as advertised: bare concrete walls with little color, but it’s also what gives the place its charm. The burgers are build-your-own, so you can chose from a nice variety of toppings to suit your taste buds. The best thing about the burgers is the buns. You can go old school, or you can try one of their special pretzel buns. It adds a chewy sweet and salty twist to the classic burger. The burger with sweet potato fries and a drink will run you around $15 dollars, which is a little steep for a burger but I think this one is worth it. And it’s cash only.
Tip: PRETZEL BUN, get it
Hole in the Wall Burger Joint is located at: 2200 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Open: 11 AM to 10 PM for lunch and dinner
Seoul Sausage Co.
The gourmet hot dog trend is skyrocketing in Los Angeles, and this is one interesting spin on the American classic: Korean barbeque sausages. It might seem like a weird concept at first but you need to taste it to understand. Seoul Sausage Co’s menu is small, but packed with creativity and items such as the flaming ball ($3), a rice ball stuffed with kimchi and sriracha, served with a habanero laced aioli. The combinations surprisingly work, like their really cool take on an Italian arancini (risotto ball). The sausages aren’t bad, either. The spicy pork with apple is something to behold. It takes a classic sausage and turns it into something amazing. The cool apple nicely compliments the spicy pork.
Tip: Service is really quick but get there early as a line is bound to form.
Seoul Sausage Company is located at: 11313 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Open: 12 pm to 9 pm for lunch and dinner
Located near Bergamot station, Tiato rests in a sleepy entertainment industry building. But don’t let the surroundings fool you, this place is slinging some bold food. The space is really cool with a huge open courtyard and exposed wood inside. The food here is creative and takes on standard Asian comfort food. The ordering process is simple: You order at a counter and wait for your food on the courtyard. You can’t go wrong with any of the menu items but the best thing on the menu is the banh mi sliders ($12), tender pork with jalapeno aioli and pickled vegetables on brioche. It’s a delicious take on the classic sandwich.
Tip: On a nice day nothing beats a seat in the courtyard.
Tiato is located at: 2700 Colorado Ave #190, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Open 8:30- 5PM for breakfast and lunch