I visited LA for the first time in my life last weekend. I was working nonstop, so my favorite new-place activity was limited to Santa Monica and a little bit in Culver City, HOWEVER:
With the exception of a beachside joint in Santa Monica called Cha Cha Chicken that serves Caribbean food cooked by people from Caribbea, as it were (a formula for success, regardless of style/ethnicity,) the quality of my meals had a consistent and clear inverse linear relationship to their costs.
Cha Cha Chicken excluded, because it was the best food at 10 bucks a pop.
Best: $1 tacos at a truck (Ruben's Tacos)
Second Best: $2 tacos at a shack (Cinco de Mayo)
Third: $3 tacos at a beachside stand (no idea what it is called, but it is on the Santa Monica Pier, and open at 10 am)
Fourth: $11 Burger at Father's Office. A damn fine burger, but the chorizo, beef cheek, beef tongue, chicken, and brisket tacos at the aforementioned were all better. Recommend this though, as I think it may in fact be the best burger in Santa Monica.
Fifth: $12 omeletized sandwich sorta thing at a nearly tofu organic crappery style joint. I am told that my companions had excellent food. I did not. It was decidedly average.
Fifth (tie: ) Decidedly average $12 sandwich called a Bacon Bomb at Dogtown Coffee. It was OK and should have been fifth on merit, but given the name I am letting disappointment with What Could Have Been rule the day.
Worst: $16 Evil Thai Princess salad at some stupid joint near Dogtown Coffee. Something with that many bits of red pepper and a name and description suggesting fiery danger and exotic potentiality should not taste like a bad muffaletta (to put that in perspective, I think a great muffaletta tastes like ass.)
Also got to see sunset from the rooftop bar of the Shangri-La Hotel, which was nice.