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Cheap middle eastern in DC

I always see threads about great middle eastern food in places I don't recognize (read suburbs). Does anyone have a good go-to place in DC for falafel, shwarma, shishtauok? And I've been to that Zatinya (sp?) restaurant - that is not true middle eastern food - it is way too fancy and portions are super small.


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  1. Old City of Jerusalem Cafe in Adams Morgan is excellent. I eat there at least once a week. It's up columbia about 1/2 a block from 18th. They have all the things you mentioned and a fantastic salad bar.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gatorfoodie

      I agree on Old City. It's the best.
      There is also Fresh Med in Cleveland Park. I think it's quite good.
      I have not enjoyed Quick Pita on multiple visits, and prefer George's for middle eastern in Georgetown.

    2. Quick Pita in Georgetown! It's just north of M on Potomac, west of Wisconsin.

      1. Zaytinya is a tapas place (small plates), where they recommend you order 3-4 dishes per person. Definitely on the upscale end.

        There was a good shwarma cart on 14th St. between F and G last fall, but I haven't frequented that area for lunch in some time. Not sure if it's still there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: humblegourmand

          I haven't seen it in months. One of my go-to lunch places

        2. Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan is my absolute favorite. They also have the best frites!!

          1. Buy a map, rent a car and drive to Tyson's Corner. Shamshiry is the equal of the best in Tehran. There are specific reasons why it has survived for almost twenty years without an English speaking clientel: the food. Much of what is served IS the equal of what you will find in Tehran. For whatever reason the owners chose not to locate in D. C. (where I was born). As I found my way to the suburbs perhaps so should you, at least for dinner...

            7 Replies
            1. re: Joe H

              Shamshiry is indeed wonderful, but with a somewhat limited menu specializing mostly in chelo kabob. They don't have falafel, shwarma, etc. http://www.shamshiry.com/

              If you do come to the Tyson's Corner area, very close by in Falls Church, is Lebanese Butcher. Amazing Middle Eastern food, dirt cheap prices, and very authentic. Not a lot of ambiance though...

              Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant
              109 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22046

              8607 Westwood Center Dr, Vienna, VA 22182

              1. re: FoodieGrrl

                I love Amsterdam Falafel, but pass it up now for Jerusalem Cafe. The salad bar at Jerusalem is not as vibrant looking, but fresh nonetheless, and their menu offers a lot more than just falafel. Not to mention the restaurant is more spacious.

                Maybe this year I'll finally hit Shamshiry, during Persian/Iranian New Year to see what they have to offer, and pass up the lukewarm Kebab Bazaar buffet.

                1. re: Minger

                  Can you go back for seconds (or thirds, fourths) at the salad bar? It's my favorite part of these types places. I've only been to Amsterdam once--very late night--and I vaguely recall one of the employees yelling at someone about going up there.

                  1. re: Jacey

                    I believe it's one trip only to the salad bar at both places.

                2. re: FoodieGrrl

                  A couple of months ago, several people here who loved the food decided to write off Lebanese Butcher because of the "butcher shop odor." I haven't been there since I saw these comments (not the reason why I haven't been there) but I don't recall an odor.

                  Is it still a problem? Was it ever a problem?

                  1. re: MikeR

                    I was just there a couple of nights ago and didn't notice any odor. Of course, that might be due to the fact that I was so immersed in my food. When we popped into the actual shop next door, there was a slight odor, but not something that was really that bad or even very noticeable. Perhaps it depends on what is coming from the slaughterhouse that day?

                    1. re: MikeR

                      I was there for lunch about a month ago and sat at the table by the "door" to the butcher shop. I could definitely smell it, although growing up on a beef farm that kind of thing doesn't really bother me I have smelled much worse more often. I think if you sat at a table further away you would be fine though it was very strong.

                3. there was a fairly decent, mostly lunch and early dinner mostly takeout joint on 20th near M NW. good falafel.

                  1. Lebanese Taverna near the zoo.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: lstineba

                      Give Al Khartoum a try at the southern border of Adams Morgan on Florida Ave. and 18th street. Good Middle Eastern/North African food for super cheap. Counter service, though they will deliver the food to your table after you order it. I had good ful there and hummus.

                      Gets overlooked because it's not in the heart of Adams Morgan, but it has a much bigger selection than Amsterdam and Old City and is cheaper than both.

                      1. re: JoshInDC

                        what about mama ayeshas? I know some people who swear by it

                        PS: check my response to you on the Great Wall thread!

                        1. re: JoshInDC

                          Where exactly is this? What places are next to it?

                          Also, there's Afghan Grill in Woodley Park. Not super cheap but reasonable from what I'm told (and very good).

                          1. re: Jacey

                            Mama Ayesha's is a good choice too. More atmosphere, not as cheap as El Khartoum. Mama Ayeshas is relatively inexpensive. It's on Calvert Road in Adams Morgan, over the Ellington Bridge heading to Adams Morgan from the metro.
                            Jeserf...You have the right person about Denmark. I miss the herring and smorrebrod! Send me an email or msg via my blog so we can be in touch.

                            1. re: JoshInDC

                              Mama's has been around forever. Before she passed away, Mama herself used to be sitting in her restaurant all the time.
                              And speaking of cheap: You can buy a $50 coupon for $25 at this site: http://www.halfoffdeals.com/show-deal...
                              (This appears to be legit, as there was an ad on the radio by the restaurant referring to it).

                              1. re: JoshInDC

                                Why did I read this at 7:30am?


                                Totally OT but thankfully, thai box and riz raz were do-able for 6 months and multiple return visits. That's a town full of people in need of taste buds! I'll email you

                        2. Skewers will fill your tummy and not empty your wallet. P between 16th & 17th in eastern dupont. Lebanese and very authentic and attentive service. It's just plain good. Try the mint tea...it comes out w/ the mint leaves in it which is very refreshing.

                          1. For grabbing a lunch try 24-7 at U & 14th. I like their falafel and if you order the platter the hot veggie sides are usually really good.