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Visiting DC, Any must-try street food/ cheap eats to reccomend?

trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 07:26 AM

Hello my fellow CH,
I will be flying into DC for the weekend. is there any good street food/ cheap eat places that I must visit during my time there? find local public fare to sample is my thing whenever i get into a different city.
Thanks for all suggestions/replies.

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  1. d
    dckw RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 07:36 AM

    In my book, Ben's Chili Bowl is your best bet for cheap eats in DC. It's a DC institution and it serves great half smokes. Plus, it puts you right in the heart of U Street, one of my favorite areas in DC. You should head over to Solly's U Street Tavern for a few beers to whet your appetite for that half smoke!

    1 Reply
    1. re: dckw
      Steve RE: dckw Feb 13, 2008 06:43 PM

      I've said it before,and I'll say it again, although I like Ben's Chili Bowl, it's a crime to eat there when in the same neighborhood there are three shining examples of what Chowhound is all about nearby.
      Oohs and Aahs is a tiny Soul Food spot with four or so stools in front of a kitchen. Also a few tables upstairs. Get the grilled shrimp, greens, and rice with gravy. Or the Lemon pepper wings.
      Then there is Thai X-ing, an impossibly tiny, one-table basement restaurant with red curry salmon that is a sensation. Also excellent is the tofu soup and pad kana. This is a few blocks east of the metro station at tenth and U, so yuo might want a car for this one.
      On ninth street, below U is Queen Makeda, a family run Ethiopian restaurant with several fine choices such as the red lentils, the shiro, green beans, and yebeg alicha.

    2. p
      PollyG RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 07:39 AM

      If you will have a car and don't usually have access to great Vietnamese food, the Eden Center (http://www.edencenter.com/) is a fairly short drive from downtown and an amazing experience. You'll find a ton of reviews of various restaurants/carryouts in the Eden Center on this board. My family's current favorite is Viet Bistro, followed by hot fried tofu from Thanh Son Tofu. Just ask them to give you a dollar of each kind (plain, lemongrass, mushroom). Add a bubble drink from Thanh Son or one of the other nearby shops, and you're in business.

      9 Replies
      1. re: PollyG
        xena1441 RE: PollyG Feb 12, 2008 08:26 AM

        I second Eden Center.

        I highly recommend pho from this area as well. My favorite place is Pho 75 in Rosslyn which is metro accessible. Def a cheap eat as it is around $6 and very filling.

        1. re: xena1441
          Geeyore RE: xena1441 Feb 13, 2008 10:35 AM

          I third Eden :)

          DC does't really have "street food" but we have (esp. over in northern VA) a huge variety of ethnic eateries.

          You can take the Metrorail Orange Line from downtown DC to East Falls Church, and there are always a few cabs at the station (it's a mile walk straight south on Roosevelt Blvd. if you prefer). You'll be out in the 'burbs and this is perfectly safe territory for walking around.

          The resto selections at Eden are a bit overwhelming, but my wife (who's VN) prefers Huong Viet, several doors down to the left if you are looking at Huong Que and Three Sisters (famous Eden restos but IMHO not the best). HV is my fave. The "bubble tea" and pastries place is just immediately to the left of Huong Que/Three Sisters, with Huong Viet a few more doors down (left) from there.

          Another favorite is in the very front of the "Saigon South" mall section, almost all the way to the main street in front of Eden (which is Wilson Blvd.). Just head for that main street and as you get to the end of the mall look right for the entrance to Saigon South. When you see that, you're there, because the resto I have in mind is exactly at that entrance and you can see the steamer tables all loaded with food through its front windows. This is a place where you look at the prepared foods, point, and buy what you want. I don't know the names but there is a very traditional beef and hardboiled eggs dish which I love, usually several shrimp dishes, vegetables resembling kim chee, a mixed vegetable and tofu dish which is always outstanding, etc. This is really hardcore Mekong Delta stuff, and saying it's "authentic" would be insulting. It's the real thing, transported to Virginia. The multiple variants of "little fishies steeped in nuoc mam (fish sauce)" is proof that this is simply the unadorned and unvarnished South Vietnamese daily soul food. You might need some help and if you're lucky there'll be a younger girl who can translate for you... sort of. You will not find this food anywhere else except possibly Little Saigon in L.A.

          Finally, just immediately across the little mall street from above is a standalone building (once a tire store) with a few good places. I hear Viet Bistro is good but haven't tried it yet. Circle around the front of the building and you'll see Banh Mi So Moc (Bah Mi Number One). It's a newer place but they have an excellent banh mi selection and helpful signage inside. I think it's 5 for $10 but not sure.

          In contrast to Banh Mi So Moc's light, airy, crunchy and crusty bread (which IMO is very close to Saigonese banh mi), there's another place called La Cantina which has the same prices, variety, selection, and quality, but a slightly more substantive and chewy bread, with an excellent crust. If you're standing at the door to Banh Mi So Moc, look straight across the big parking lot to the Eden "clock tower". La Cantina has a glass storefront directly on the sidewalk and just a bit to the right of the clock tower. Both places are excellent, I have no real preference.

          I could go on but I think you'll get some good tips by Googling for Tyler Cowans Ethnic Dining Guide. It's self explanatory.

          1. re: Geeyore
            hamster RE: Geeyore Feb 13, 2008 10:42 AM

            Geeyore, is it really a one mile walk? I looked it up on googlemaps and it said it was 4 miles? I may be confused about the address, but have you ever actually done the walk and confirmed it's a mile?

            1. re: hamster
              Lori D RE: hamster Feb 13, 2008 12:54 PM

              I've done the walk. It is indeed about one mile. As long as the weather cooperates, it's not bad at all.

              1. re: hamster
                Geeyore RE: hamster Feb 14, 2008 10:42 AM

                Yep, Falls Church East Metrorail to Eden is one mile on the button. I've walked it many times as a commuter.

                1. re: Geeyore
                  hamster RE: Geeyore Feb 14, 2008 12:05 PM

                  Thanks for your post. I figured out what my mistake was. The Eden Center website recommends you get off at West Falls Church, which is indeed much farther away than East Falls Church!

              2. re: Geeyore
                hill food RE: Geeyore Feb 13, 2008 10:54 AM

                I'm so parochial I almost never leave the District except to go to National, but I may need to make an afternoon of this.


                1. re: hill food
                  dcandohio RE: hill food Feb 13, 2008 05:00 PM

                  It's a very easy walk unless the weather is bad. We carried groceries back to the metro - so do it!

                2. re: Geeyore
                  Geeyore RE: Geeyore Nov 24, 2008 05:18 AM


                  Huong Viet remains a top choice.
                  Hai Duong also should be on the list (it's inside Saigon South)
                  The place mentioned in my long post above with the steamer tables is replaced by a similar place which is inside Saigon South and directly across the hallway from Hai Duong. Wish I could recall the name.

                  Ownerships and cooks change often at Eden Center, hence so does the food.

            2. hill food RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 08:30 AM

              sadly there's not a huge variety of actual street food mostly hot dog carts, but DC is trying to change that:


              1 Reply
              1. re: hill food
                dinwiddie RE: hill food Feb 12, 2008 10:05 AM

                You should try some of the Ethiopian restaurants along the U Street Corridor. Relatively inexpensive, filling and different. DC is known for the wide range of ethnic foods available, and Ethiopian is one of my favorites.

              2. b
                BookGuy RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 10:31 AM

                I recommend El Pollo Rico which has two branches, one in Wheaton on Ennalls Avenue about two blocks up Viers Mill from the Wheaton Metro, and one in Clarendon, on North Kenmore Street about two short blocks from the Virginia Square Metro. The Virginia Square branch is closer from downtown and you can come out of the station turn left toward Fairfax Drive, right on Fairfax to Kenmore. You can actually smell the Peruvian chicken when you get close and it is reasonably priced.

                1. scotcheroo RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 12:42 PM

                  If you get there early - try blueberry buckwheat pancakes at Market Lunch in Eastern Market... If you get there after 11, get the crab cake sandwich with slaw and a birch beer...

                  Ahhhh bliss.

                  1. monkeyrotica RE: trymonlam Feb 12, 2008 03:35 PM

                    On the cheap:

                    -the G Man sandwich at Mangialardo's near Potomac Avenue
                    -the roast beef/turkey/ham sandwich at Hodge's
                    -the fish sandwich at Horace & Dickies
                    -the reuben at Deli City is about as good as you can get outside NYC

                    All can be had for between $5-10 and will easily tide you over until dinner.

                    1. b
                      beltwaybump RE: trymonlam Feb 13, 2008 07:37 PM

                      Martin's Tavern in Georgetown isn't Metro-able but worth a cab ride. It is an institution in the city and the Hot Brown is legendary. I love the Welsh Rarebit. Old-fashioned menu and so are the prices. http://www.martins-tavern.com/menu/di...

                      1. Dennis S RE: trymonlam Feb 15, 2008 05:49 AM

                        I'll toss out:
                        - Amsterdam Falafel on 18th in Adams Morgan
                        - Tacqueria Distrito
                        - Pepito's (also in AM, also Mexican)
                        - Grabbing something at the wharf (if open) can be cheap and a neat experience
                        - If you're touring cap hill, stop by Tune Inn for a beer and maybe some wings. The food isn't the draw, but the place sure is - especially if you're there in the afternoon as Congressional offices start letting out.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Dennis S
                          hill food RE: Dennis S Feb 15, 2008 08:32 AM

                          I love the Tune Inn it's been there since the 40's or 50's I believe (according to one waitress) I beg to differ on the food - sinful cheese fries and scrapple sandwiches. really bad for you, but so good.

                          1. re: Dennis S
                            FatGuyinaLittleCoat RE: Dennis S Feb 15, 2008 09:05 PM

                            also some of the best cheez sticks (when they're heated all the way through) i've ever had at a 'resturant'-- and god forbid you're a yankee fan (keep it to yourself if you go there)

                            1. re: Dennis S
                              MakingSense RE: Dennis S Feb 15, 2008 09:10 PM

                              I love their burgers. And the plain old BLT.
                              The Tune Inn will fix you a diner-style breakfast any time of day that they're open. That's almost impossible to find any more in yuppified DC.
                              I've seen everybody from local winos to Robert Redford in the Tunes. A DC classic.

                              1. re: MakingSense
                                hill food RE: MakingSense Feb 15, 2008 09:54 PM

                                and to echo MS, it's unfortunately one of the last decent dives in the 'hood.

                                1. re: hill food
                                  MakingSense RE: hill food Feb 16, 2008 07:05 AM

                                  Overheard recently at Horace and Dickie's on H Street, NE: Twenty-something woman: "Is your fish grilled?"
                                  Counter help, without skipping a beat, "No, it's fried."

                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                    monkeyrotica RE: MakingSense Feb 17, 2008 07:09 AM

                                    Was the twenty-something woman so tiny that she couldn't see the FOUR FRIALATORS DIRECTLY BEHIND THE COUNTER?

                                    Next time I go to H&D I'm going to ask, "Can you poach my fish in a white wine sauce with shallots, mushrooms, and garlic?"

                                    1. re: monkeyrotica
                                      MakingSense RE: monkeyrotica Feb 17, 2008 07:59 AM

                                      Maybe not too far-fetched. The Argonaut just changed its menu to include all sorts of frou-frou foods with a heavy emphasis on organic and local. Lots of new craft beers. Specialty menus. Really good stuff at great prices but...
                                      It's a bar!!! Goat cheese? On H Street? There goes the neighborhood!

                                      1. re: MakingSense
                                        monkeyrotica RE: MakingSense Feb 18, 2008 05:21 AM

                                        I think Rustico has a good model: high-end craft beers AND $2 PBRs. $5 for a BIG serving of properly cooked fries, but more expensive, chichi dishes so they can pay the rent.

                                        Hopefully, there will still be room for chinese-chicken-subs-pizza joints behind three feet of plexiglass.

                                        1. re: monkeyrotica
                                          hill food RE: monkeyrotica Feb 18, 2008 01:32 PM

                                          even though the food usu. lacks, there is a need and interest in that price-point. and God knows I've indulged in the past.

                                          I refer to it as Bullet-Proof food.

                              2. re: Dennis S
                                fishie RE: Dennis S Nov 24, 2008 11:34 AM

                                Totally agree with pepitos, but it is not called that any more. I think it is called super taco. For the op it is across the street from safeway on columbia road in adams morgan. The taco truck on the corner of 16th and columbia isn;t bad, but pepitos is better,

                              3. s
                                Soup RE: trymonlam Feb 17, 2008 07:24 AM

                                Try the baptist church near Eye and 7th for lunch. Really solid soul food, nice folks. Hodges is also within walking distance as well. Half smoke at the cart on the corner of eye and 7th is also excellent.

                                1. d
                                  dining with doc RE: trymonlam Nov 24, 2008 11:03 AM

                                  eat first or chinatown express in chinatown (H street between 7th and 6th street) for cheap great hong kong style chinese

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