This time every year I am left to reflect on all the delectable dishes and toothsome treats I shoved down my gullet. For such things, 2014 was surely a banner year - full of fetching food from Pasadena to Atwater to Downtown to WeHo to Santa Monica to Calabasas and everywhere in between. While it's never an easy task inventorying the true annual best frugal bites, with the following I've given it the old college try. In my mind, these are LA's 14 primo foodstuffs under $14 in 2014. (Say that three times fast! Or don't.)
(((As in past years, to qualify, a dish must cost $14 or less before tax and doesn't have to be brand new this year, rather be the first time I consumed it.)))
14. (TIE) Kouign Amann at Bread Lounge and Pistachio Croissant at L'amande - When you discover all the blood, sweat and tears, and above all, time, put in by both Downtown's Bread Lounge and Beverly Hills' L'amande it is no surprise their pastries transcend the local competition. They both partake in painstakingly arduous classical pastry-making techniques that produce top-notch results. For example, ONE decadently delightful Pistachio Croissant from L'amande takes 72 hours to make! That's like the length of "Interstellar." This includes up to four resting periods for the dough, pre-baking, alone. Bread Lounge doesn't slouch with their signature Kouign Amann either. Just taste the buttery-sugary-flaky nirvana and you'll know what I'm talking about.
13. The Salad at Bru's Counter - Problem with most salads? Well, they taste like... well, salads. Which is a bummer and a half. Oddly enough, that is not the case whatsoever for the precociously titled, "The Salad" from Bru's Counter, the new Century City fast casual cousin of the ever-popular Bru's Wiffle. Flavorful, ferly and filling, this is certainly no layman's bowl of greens. With a base of Scarborough Farms butter lettuce, the salad is topped with crispy brussels sprouts, dates, a growing young man's portion of avocado, sesame seeds, goat cheese and either their wood-fire grilled chicken or crispy fried chicken (hint: get the fried chicken, you fool!) with a healthy-ish fresh lemon juice-olive oil dressing. This is a dude's salad - for dudes and dudettes.
12. Babaganoush at Creation Grill - There are more family-run babaganoush joints in this town than hookers on a good night at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons bar. Which means... there's a lot. However, very few said joints actually serve a quality version of the eggplant dip. Santa Monica's Creation Grill certainly does. Their secret? They grill fresh eggplant every morning before whipping up the dip with the other usuals (onions, olive oil, seasonings). The result is a vibrant, yet not overwhelming, eggplant-ness that perfectly serves as wingman to some pita or chicken kabob. And, while not the sole reason, the 'noush constantly packs the Ocean Park location and should continue to do so at the future planned locations dotted around the Southland (under the name, Crimson Mediterranean Cookhouse).
11. Papa's Breakfast Burrito at Tacos Villa Corona - I'm not going to pretend this Atwater hole in the wall (almost literally) breakfast burrito haven is some hidden gem. Hell, Bourdain went there on national TV a few years back. But I had never indulged personally until recently and I think I can confidently say two things: one, it's really hard to take pictures of piping hot breakfast burritos sitting in your car, especially when you're super hungry and two, this is the best breakfast deal in Los Angeles. The mammoth burrito -- packed to the gills with flavor-bomb potatoes, neatly scrambled eggs, cheese, onion, cilantro and salsa -- costs... THREE GREENBACKS. $3. In 2014.