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Help me not die of hunger!

I will be living in DC (F St & 21st St) this summer. Although I will have a kitchen, I have zero cooking skills that do not involve following the directions on a microwavable package. I'm pretty savvy with breakfast foods but was wondering what some good bets for a prepared or semi-prepared dinner would be in the neighborhood I'm staying in for those nights that I won't be hanging out with friends. I don't necessarily want to eat out or spend a whole lot of money (like more than $10 for a meal, not including drinks) nor do I want to subsist solely on Chinese food or pizza, so the healthier the better. Also, I'll be working in Crystal City so suggestions of places over there I could stop by and pick something up on my way home would be great too. Thanks!

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  1. The Market Basket in the CC underground has the most wonderful salad & hot food bar i've ever seen. Healthy and delicious; many salads and oriental dishes as well as carved turkey and some other hot offerings. I would definitely stop in there on your way home some nights. Lunch there is a good bet too.
    You are semi-close to the dupont circle farmer's market which is right there at the circle every sunday morning starting at 9. you can pick up lots of good things there including some prepared items. There is also a new Trader Joe's at M and 23rd i think? they have good prepared food selections. And you being so near GWU there has to be some budget friendly options right near the school but i'll leave that to someone more familiar w/ that immediate vicinity.
    Also check out washingtonian.com for good happy hour suggestions; they usually provide lists of places that offer tapas and things and what nights they have them.

    1. In CC - Market Basket can be good - but you pay by weight, so getting fruit and things can add up quickly. I think its overpriced, but that's just me. Good variety though. Urban Thai up on 23rd is quite good and cheap. There is a Harris Teeter in CC on S. Glebe- depending on where your office is it may not be convenient to get to, but they have samples out really frequently, last time I had a couple pieces of fruit, cheese, and bread - ended up being a great snack as I picked up a few things. Good prepped sandwiches and stuff too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MDoodle

        MB is absolutely overpriced. And not great. Skip it. I used to work in Crystal City.

        1. re: xena1441

          Everyone likes something different, and that food bar has really healthy offerings that are always fresh. Yes it's expensive, but most of them are, and Bongoute was asking for suggestions in CC that would yield a good healthy dinner for 10$. Market Basket does that. Maybe trying it once would allow Bongoute to make a personal decision to return or not. As i said, i really like it because it's healthy and fresh.

          1. re: DCDOLL

            Sorry to disagree with you DCDOLL. I just went today for lunch to see how it was, and as I remembered, it was certainly not fresh. Lots of the veggies looked soggy and brown to me.

            I would head over to Urban Thai in restaurant row for lunch. Really affordable and delicious. It is a staple for our lunch party.

      2. Find out if there's a Peruvian chicken outlet near your apartment or work place. You could get several meals out of a whole or half chicken, depending on your appetite. The first night, you could eat the chicken warm and subsequent nights, you could make an entree salad with left-over chicken. Add pre-washed salad greens, nuts, dried/fresh berries, cheese cubes, and you've got a great second meal. No micro-waving. No preservatives. Just variety and the deliciousness of real food.

        Why not include cooking in the set of skills you'll be acquiring this summer? With that in mind, consider buying Mark Bittman's cookbook HOW TO COOK ANYTHING: THE BASICS or HOW TO COOK ANYTHING, a more complete collection of recipes. Bittman's recipes are easy to follow and reliable.

        There are fantastic farmers markets in the city itself. Learn to cook and you'll be spending some fun time cruising those markets. With a name like "Bongoute" I 'd imagine you'd want to have access to all the delicious food the farmer's markets have to offer rather than relying on microwaved or food.

        1. Here's a thread from last summer looking for cheap eats in Foggy Bottom:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411468

          Not mentioned in that thread is Zorba's in Dupont Circle, which was good for a cheap, tasty, relatively-healthy meal when I was an undergrad at GW.

          Less healthy but a better bang for your buck, and convenient to your work in Crystal City, is Kabob Palace on S. Eads, which was also a reliable standby in college for weeks when cash was tight: for ~$7-12, you can get a good kabob, some rice w/ sides (usually some sort of veggie curry), and a salad--or you can tell them you don't want the salad, in which case they'll give you double rice and sides. If you order your food to go, they pile the rice/sides as high as they can go in the container, which results in you getting a lot more food than if you order to eat in (when they just put a ladleful of the sides on your plate); depending on your appetite, going that route could get you 2-3 meals including leftovers for $10. But, again: KP is NOT healthy.

          1. Be sure to check out the restaurants on Restaurant Row in Crystal City on 23rd St. west of Rt. 1. Some good finds there. For lunch, Cafe Pizzaiolo is nice, and probably good budget-wise.

            1. Trader Joe's - 23 or something and Penn?

              just read DCdoll's comment she's right, but going as far as Crystal City is out of my ballpark. Social, Soviet or even Pseudo Safeway would be easier.

              pickin's around there are sparse.

              1. I second the suggestion of Trader Joes. When we renovated our kitchen, it kept us from wasting time and money eating out too much, and from eating fat-laden take out foods. Some things are better than others, which net searches will reveal, but it won't break the bank, and there's a decent choice of things that don't need a lot of prep.

                1. all of the suggestions are good.

                  the best being this is a great time to learn to cook.

                  with all of the lovely items available at the local farmers markets in the summer, it'd be a great way to experiment. Plus, salads don't require cooking. And really, buying a salad for $10 vs opening a bag of pre-washed greens and adding what you like for maybe $2....think of all the money you'll save! Cooking for yourself is a valuable skill - for wallet, cholesterol, and piece of mind in you controlling what you put in your body.

                  However, if you'll have a car, I suggest Wegmans for roast chicken ($5), and if you don't, Chix right off of U Street gets good reviews on here.

                  Also, Whole Paycheck on P Street has a hot bar, salad bar, sushi, etc - pretty much everything. You're not too far from Georgetown, there is a dean and deluca there with prepared foods.