The corner of Beethoven and Venice Blvd. in Mar Vista is a lunchtime dream, with four eclectic cheap-eats restaurants dotting its corners, but a remarkably slim lunchtime audience. That means most of the following restaurants are easily accessed and get you in and out quickly with reliably delicious food. Though if you do want to dine in, it's hard to beat the tough-guy decor at one of the below. Follow us as we take a look at four convenient and dependable cheap eats spots for Mexican, Indian, and Thai on the western border of Mar Vista.
Saby's is a Mexican cafe now leaning in a healthier direction, which will probably drive any lard-lovers crazy with its cleaner tastes and scant traces of oil. Recently owner Mario Curiel, a chef over at Nikki's, retooled the kitchen to concentrate on cooking only from-scratch with fresh product that he keeps in a front display, and slowly the neighborhood has begun filing in at lunchtime, not long before Venice High discharges and floods into the small space for burgers in the early afternoon. Saby's gets points for making its own tortillas, a great, non-greasy take on mulitas, and for slinging a good breakfast under five bucks. Sticking to the expected Mexican menu items, they load tacos and tortas up with mountains of grilled meat and bright avocado, while also manning a juice bar that blends tall fresh fruit smoothies for under four bucks. Cheap and easy on the arteries, Saby's is a reliable, convenient spot for those in the neighborhood, though probably not a destination in itself for taco hounds. Still, we all have those days when we want more Mexican but our waistlines beg to differ, a perfect time to try what Curiel and crew are preparing.
Saby's 12900 Venice Blvd. Mar Vista. 310-313-3867.
It probably goes without saying that Thai Taste isn't a Jitlada or Ruen Pair, you won't find any pig's blood or fried morning glory on the menu, but more of a generic selection of Thai eats with a few Chinese dishes. But the restaurant has been here over for sixteen years, serving dependable entrees and starters in a moody room of traditional art and shrines that feels date-friendly, atmospheric, tidy, and not overwrought with decor. The long menu offers the usual crab cream cheese wontons and mee krob along with Chinese shu mai, vegetables, and chow mein and Japanese gyoza, while a selection of soups like the seafood-filled "wild ocean" has become a favorite. Seafood is in fact, a specialty, while silver noodle salad and duck fried rice fare better than the barbecue. But the real steal here comes at lunchtime when the special is $6.95 for a short selection of entrees with rice and an egg roll, all coming in fresh and hot to stay or go.
Thai Taste, 12824 Venice Blvd. Mar Vista. 310-915-0123.
In addition to serving a wide menu of Indian staples, Hurry Curry is also a market packed with British and Indian products. You can find your spotted dick by Heinz, your Marmite, and your Cadbury's, while also finding nag champa incense and henna hair dye. At its counter, Hurry Curry lays out a selection of about eight curries that are more dynamic in flavor than they are in appearance. Each day typically finds terrific goat and chicken curries, while the fish and yogurt pakora curries are among our favorites, especially teamed with a strawberry lassi. But the standout here is the tandoori chicken. Crisp and slightly blackened on the sides, the bright red chicken on its best days is juicy (especially when you demand a leg) and flavorful, and even when dry inside still manages to be pretty good. Best of all, the tandoori chicken priced ridiculously low at $4.49 for a quarter chicken with rice and salad. Want the whole chicken? That only sets you back $11 and provides more than a few meals.
Hurry Curry, 12825 Venice Blvd. Mar Vista. 310-398-2948.
Everyone should at least enter El Charro, if only for the charm of the place. The restaurant used to be better food-wise, with a killer breakfast of machaca and eggs served right at the bar-like counter, but things have fallen off slightly in the past few years, with seemingly everything you order being hauled out of some container of pre-cooked ingredients or another. But back to the vibe. Covered in photos of revolution-era Mexico, the walls speak volumes and make it one of the tougher restaurants around with all of its bullet bandoliered chingones staring you down over your burrito. Next door is nightclub La Potranca, also a must-see for its walls completely covered in vintage nude pin-ups. Both are better to look at these days than to patronize with regularity, though El Charro does offer an alternative to the healthy Mexican eats across the street if you need to get your lard on.
El Charro, 12819 Venice Blvd. Mar Vista. 310-391-1885.