Sharing meals is where deals are struck, laughs are shared and ideas are born. When you need a place to meet for business or pleasure, but are pressed for money and time, refer to this list for an extensive array of lunch choices under $20, proving that cheap can be chic if you look beyond the obvious. Bon appétit.
Pitfire Artisan Pizza
5211 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Since 1997, this L.A.-based restaurant company has been “producing rustic, fire-singed pizzas and handcrafted cuisine from simple, fresh ingredients.” North Hollywood is the flagship location that has served the neighborhood well before it came to be known as the NoHo Arts District. Today, business people, dancers and other creative types gather on the expansive outdoor patio to discuss vastly varied agendas over high-quality, bank account-friendly fare. A few favorites include the chicken and mushroom cavatappi, merguez sausage pizza and seasonal items such as the farmer’s market platter.
514 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Has your cubicle farm left you and your co-workers uninspired? Venture out to the vibrancy that is Mo-Chica to reinvigorate your collective creative juices. This downtown L.A. restaurant by Chef Ricardo Zarate serves up “modern interpretations on traditional Peruvian comfort food” that is chock full of exciting flavors. Check out the lunch special that includes two sides, rice and dessert for just $15. You can’t go wrong with the arroz con pollo, hamburgesa or lomo saltado. If the boss is buying a round of drinks, Deysi Alvarez shakes up an exotic cocktail menu with irresistible names intent on striking a chord, such as the “Papa Don’t Preach” or the “Tea-Nage Dream.”
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Olive & Thyme
4013 Riverside Dr
Toluca Lake, CA 91505
This quaint, family-owned gourmet cafe is the perfect place to meet over a cup of Intelligentsia coffee or one of their delicious sandwiches or salads. Standouts include the Panini-pressed grilled cheese and braised short rib sandwich. The naturally-lit seating area is a pleasant place to chill as you catch up with friends over your lunch break. The café serves double duty as a gourmet marketplace with a nicely-purveyed selection of fine food and other irresistible gifts.
801 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
The main dining room of this Southern Italian eatery features an impressive 360-degree central bar topped with a sculptural chandelier; it’s the first thing you notice when you enter the front door. After admiring it for a bit, request to be seated in the lush garden patio, which is a welcome escape from the surrounding skyscrapers. Chef Sascha Lyon utilizes honest, fresh ingredients that contribute to the unfussy tastiness of his food. Satiate famished clients with pumpkin ravioli, truffled mushroom and spicy smoked speck pizza. Or, be strategic and come between 3 and 7 p.m., when a selection of small plates and alcoholic beverages are $6 or less. A free-flowing supply of ricotta bruschetta and crispy polenta croquettes are sure to seal the deal.
61 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
When in need of a casual place to meet with fellow bacon, beer and big screen aficionados, look no further than Slater’s 50/50. Located in Old Pasadena, this establishment is known for its larger-than-life burgers, comfort food and more than 100 rotating craft/local beers on tap. The inviting, expansive space is an ideal place to watch the game and take on the signature “50/50 Burger” (made with 50 percent ground beef and 50 percent ground bacon). The sweet potato fries with pumpkin dipping sauce and “PB & Jeallousy” burger is also recommended. Folks with dietary restrictions have options like the “Eat Your Veggies Burger,” a selection of salads, and some gluten-free offerings. Thanks to Cicerone Certification, all bartenders and servers have proven expertise in selecting, pairing and serving beer, so this is an ideal place to discover your new favorite brew. Although your gut may bust, your wallet will stay nicely intact.
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Joy Bitonio has the phrase “Joie de Vivre” tattooed on her shoulder, a reminder to enjoy life every single day. She has a voracious appetite for fun, adventure, food, good cocktails and works out like a madwoman to keep it all together. Her fitness articles can be found on examiner.com. Follow her on Twitter.