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

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. 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

      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. 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

        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

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                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

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

                2. re: Geeyore


                  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. 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

                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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

                          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

                            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

                              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

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

                                1. re: hill food

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

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