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Aug 11, 2007 05:10 PM

Cheap ethnic food in the DC area?

Hi everyone. I'm a recent transplant from NY and I'm trying to find out where the best cheap ethnic deliciousness can be had. I'm in the district but don't mind traveling a bit. Just would love to know where I can get unusual, authentic, and cheap, be it Cambodian, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Uzbeki, or what have you. In other words, where do I go to find Baltimore/Washington's Sainted Arepa Lady??

Many thanks, fellow hounds.

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  1. For AMAZING Peruvian chicken head to El Pollo Ricco. There is a location in VA and MD. This is seriously the best cheap eats in the will become addicted quickly.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa

      Seconded. I am incredibly addicted to this place. A meal will put you back about $4.10 Try mixing the sauces!

      1. re: thefallinggirl

        They don't call it "Crack Chicken" for nothing! :)

      2. re: Elyssa

        "Crack Chicken"? where can I get it in Arlington?

        1. re: alkapal

          EPR is on Kenmore near Clarendon. Go there first, then expand from there.

          El Pollo Rico
          932 N Kenmore St, Arlington, VA 22201

          1. re: Dennis S

            are there different types of crack chicken? which one is best?

            1. re: alkapal

              They only serve one type of chicken at El Pollo Ricco I believe. It's a very limited menu. It usually comes with steak fries and possibly coleslaw or something like that although its been awhile since I've been. It also somes with a tangy mayo cause and a spicy green sauce. They are small containers though so get extras.

              The last time I went we got a whole chicken I believe (cut into pieces of course) with all the sides and it couldn't have cost more then $12.

              I should mention that that whole chicken was shared just between me and my friend. We ate the whole thing our self...and fought over the last piece. :)

              1. re: alkapal

                Same basic recipe, which is mainly garlic, italian seasoning and cumin (salt and pepper, too). However, of course, each place tastes a bit different and they also serve at times different side options, such as yucca, slaw, rice and beans, etc. The mustard and chile sauces differ slightly as well. Generally, no one has ever claimed - to my knowledge - that any one place had it all together. One place will have great sides but not quite the best chicken, etc.

                1. re: Dennis S

                  OK, time for a posting of the crack chicken recipe clone. Here. Now. ((Isn't that the "crack" theme?)

                  1. re: alkapal

                    A FFX County food inspector helped the community out a few years ago and basically posted the recipe Edy's uses. I tried it at home and got close enough to count. I didn't do rotisserie and I think that was my only gap.

                    I'm pretty sure that health inspection is now removed from the county's site.

                  2. re: Dennis S

                    El Pollo Ricco I think also serves theirs with steak fries as well as options of the others. It's not really about the sides me! lol

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      The focus is on the chicken, but man I so prefer well done yucca over fries. As much as don't like it otherwise, the Guapo's "express" in Herndon does the best fried yucca I've ever had.

            2. re: Elyssa

              I finally decided to try El Pollo Rico for lunch today. Chicken was great. French fries were great. For some reason, perhaps the location, reputation for busy, and skimpy parking (people were doing all sorts of crazy things waiting for a space in the lot - I parked at a meter on Fairfax Drive tha had 35 minutes still on it) I had it in mind that it was strictly a takeout place. I was pleasantly surprised that they had tables, and plenty of 'em. It was about 1:30 when I was there and it wasn't very crowded.

              I'll be back.

              1. re: MikeR

                The one I went to in Wheaton I believe is more or less take out only correct? I think there are like 4-5 tables but everyone is standing over you waiting for their very own delicious crack chicken so it's better to take out.

                I think I've been to the VA location (can't remember if it was El Pollo Ricco or another place) but there were tons of seating and lots of families. Is this were you were MikeR? Like a counter where you order and then a big room with tables?

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Yes, that's a reasonable description - order at the counter, take it to a table, and it's quite a large room. There's an auto parts store or something like that next door, and it's on Kenmore street, just a parking lot away from the corner of Fairfax Drive.

                  1. re: MikeR

                    Would you guys happen to know the time of day when this place is at its absolute busiest (on a weekday, I mean)? I've lived in Arlington for over a year now and am ashamed to say I've never been to this place. But I loathe lines and have to drive to get there, which makes me a bit leery of the parking situation. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

                    1. re: DonaldGately

                      Even if the parking is full, there is always a lot of turnover here; I've never had to wait for a parking spot more than briefly.

                      In some case, a line is a very good thing. If you are at a Thai food festival with a lot of Thai people, you want to stand on the longest line. A line at El Pollo Rice means that people have been waiting for the chicken. That's a good thing! If you see a line, you are in luck. The line moves quickly. But even when there is no line, the chicken is still pretty darn great anyway.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Yep - there's really only one decision customers make (quarter, half or whole) and so it goes very quickly.

                        1. re: Dennis S

                          Thanks, guys. I actually decided to finally just go — took a late lunch and just drove over from work. There was a parking spot just opening up when I got there, and the line wasn't too long. I probably spent ten minutes total inside.

                          The verdict? I kind of don't see the big deal. I mean, yeah, the chicken is juicy and moist, and the skin has a decent flavor, but I wouldn't rave about it to people I know. I'll definitely go back if I'm famished late at night or in the late afternoon or other times not during peak hours, as I think it's good, reasonably priced fast food, but as far as the superlatives this place seems to get, I just can't quite see why. (Apologies in advance if you love this place!)

                          1. re: DonaldGately

                            FWIW, I love the chicken, but I rarely go to EPR anymore b/c of the uninspiring sides. Gotta have yucca and a good portion of it, with a good spicy green sauce - bare minimum. The fries just don't cut it.

                            1. re: DonaldGately

                              At least you gave it a try.

                              Sorry, rotisserie chicken, he's just not that into you.

                              1. re: DonaldGately

                                Well, it's a pretty straightforward way to cook chicken. Nothing fancy, but a good version of what it is. Juicy and moist is good. Maybe you'd prefer good southern fried chicken (Flavors in Arlington), or Chengdou kung pao chicken (Hong Kong Palace at 7 Corners)?

                                Based just on the chicken, I find that El Pollo Rico is more consistent in the juicy and tender category than the rest of the similar places. Sometimes I'll get an exceptional piece of chicken at Super Pollo (multiple locations) but I also get more dry ones. One of these times I should try taking it back to the counter and asking for a piece from a bird that's more recently off the grill. Some people rate these places if the chicken is good-to-excellent but they have more choice of sides than El Pollo Rico's French fries (which I think are excellent) and so-so cole slaw. I've never had yuca that impressed me anywhere but at a now gone place that had chicken that I didn't like enough to go for the yuca.

                                As far as the El Pollo Rico hype here, well, on-line forums are just like that. You'll see the same question about hype asked about Ray's and Five Guys burgers, or 2 Amy's and just about any other pizza. Group dynamics tends to produce a "most often recommended" that's pretty consistent whether it's really best or not.

                                1. re: DonaldGately

                                  donald, i agree that the chicken is just fine, but not anything that i would rave over.

                                  steve, i love your line! ""Sorry, rotisserie chicken, he's just not that into you.""

                  2. Nothing is terribly cheap around here, but you want it, we got it. (excpet NY pizza and Texas BBQ, according to some Chowhunds). Vietnamese sandwiches (Bahn Le) are cheap, tasty, and filling, and there are lots of Latin American (Peruvian, I think, nostly) chicken places that are worth exploring. If there's one thing we have more of than most cities, it's Ethiopian. It used to be cheap, but they discovered that Americans like their food too.

                    1. First, search for any of Steve's posts. He's posted some magnificent lists plenty of times.

                      Second, do know that there's a higher tax on food in the District - used to be about 10% but I'm not sure what it is now. Rents are also higher, of course.

                      A couple of quick hits:
                      - Tacos at:
                      - El Charrito Caminante - Arlington
                      - Pepito's in Adams Morgan and Gaithersburg
                      - A number of taco trucks scattered through the area

                      - Eden Center for Vietnamese

                      - Dogs at Vienna Inn in Vienna

                      - Salvadoran, such as El Pulgarcito in Wheaton, and Aclacatl in Arlington

                      - Certain Thai, such as Ruan Thai in Wheaton and Thai Square in Arlington

                      - Kabobs at places like Kabob Palace in Crystal City (many kabob places will give you tons of food for $10 where you'd prefer half of that for $5 - all in all counts as cheap).

                      - Joe's Noodle House - Rockville (except you can't stop at ordering 1 or 2 things).

                      - Really any of the peruvian chicken joints - EPR (rec from Elyssa) is sort of the grandaddy in the area.

                      1. Ah, a newbie who doesn't know the *gasp* sacriledge that is crossing the Potomac!!. Stand to the right, but don't be jaded by those hard core Washingtonians who wouldn't dream of crossing into Md. or taking a bridge to Va.!!! ;-)
                        There is fantastic ethnic food in Va. In Falls Church you have the Eden Center aka: Little Vietnam. A bit further out is Annandale aka: Little Korea.
                        Of course DC corners the market for Ethiopian.


                        1. You will find a lot of cheap ethnic foods if you look around. Check out treads on this board and also tyler cowen's website.

                          If I had to recommend 3, I'd do the following:
                          Viet Gol
                          TECC (an abbreviation but I never can remember the name. Mexican taquria in Arlington on Wash. blvd.)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Soup

                            I second A&J in Rockville... Northern style Chinese dim sum (but not carts--you order off of a menu). Fast, cheap and delicious!