13. Porto’s Bakery & Cafe – Ham Croquette ($0.90): Raul and Rosa Porto debuted this Glendale destination in 1974, and the Porto family still draws a line that wraps around stanchions, resembling an amusement park, to their Brand Boulevard flagship. The family sells all sorts of savory Cuban snacks, including Potato Balls, Chorizo Pie, and Pork Tamales, but I’m all for Ham Croquettes, lightly breaded, deep fried fingers crafted from minced ham and molten Swiss cheese.
14. Rika’s Empanadas – Empanadas ($1.79 – $1.99): The Rico family has run this Argentinean restaurant in a Glendora strip mall, in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains and not far from Route 66, since 2011. Their bizarre logo features a feminine empanada with long lashes, lipstick red lips, red bow and high heels. Luckily, their baked Argentinean empanadas are far more enticing and come in various shapes, all with supple dough. Fillings could include Spicy Beef with onions, hard-boiled eggs, olives and jalapenos; the rich, sticky combo of Bacon & Prunes; Eggplant with tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, basil, black olives and Parmesan, cradled with chewy overlapping layers of dough; and Fatay (Arabian Empanada), which is lahmajune meets empanada in triangular form.
15. Sakae Sushi – Sushi ($0.75 – $0.90): This takeout sushi joint in Gardena has been open for over 51 years. They sell boxes that hold 7 – 36 pieces, cash only, from a bamboo-framed window. Sit on green couch, with a spread of magazines like People, as if you’re awaiting the dentist, but find far less painful results. Options include Nori-Maki: shitake mushroom, spinach, kampyo, oboro, egg, and seaweed; Ebi: shrimp cooked with sweet vinegar marinade; Saba: pickled Atlantic mackerel; and Tamago-maki: shitake mushroom, egg, spinach, kampyo and oboro topped with sweet egg. Yes, they sell sushi by the piece, which is a steal.
16. Samosa House East – Samosas ($1.50): This Culver City institution from owner Vibha Bhojak has been going strong since 1979. The newer branch across from SONY Studios features bright orange walls painted with decorative Indian designs. The signature Samosas are triangular packets filled with mild mashed potato and peas, stained yellow with olive oil instead of ghee. Samosas sport thin, crispy coats that are lightly blistered in boiling oil. The triangles come with tangy, sesame-sprinkled tamarind chutney and bright green mint chutney.
17. Tip Top Sandwiches – Pate Chaud ($1.15): The famed Little Saigon banh mi emporium opened a second branch in the San Gabriel Valley to start 2010, in the former Rosemead home of New Century Auto Mall. Owner Loc Lee pretty much duplicated the look and menu of their jam-packed Garden Grove concept. An incubator near the register houses savory pate chaud. Chicken and pork pastries are both good, with flaky crusts. In case that’s not enough value, buy 6 pate chaud and #7 is free.