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Aug 16, 2008 10:17 AM

First visit to DC -

I will be in DC for five days in mid-September. The first 2.5 days I'm on my own so low budget and hole-in-the-wall recs are appreciated. The second 2.5 days I'm on the company dime so my budget is much higher :-) .

I'll be staying near Capital Hill at first, then Dupont Circle, but I'll go anywhere as long as I can get there from the metro.

I'm looking for:
Budget under $15 - Mexican, Central American, Indonesian, Korean, Deli, Southern/Soul, American (how good is Ben's Chili Bowl???)...anything really except Chinese (I'm spoiled from LA!)

Fine dining $30-50 - Seafood, steak, French, Italian, anything regional.

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  1. Here's some resources:

    Cactus Cantina & 2 Amys Pizza are side by side and both good options. If you have the time and up for an adventure you could explore Eden Center: I always enjoy Teaism in Dupont Circle but also in Penn Quarter.

    1. you're in luck as most places on the Hill are fairly budget friendly. Asian is scant and the only Hill sushi leans towards Korean sushi (which I like but some don't) except that lunchy place by the Post Office on Penn - I always blank on the name, in the 600 block. looks stupid but decent eel with a sushi chef on staff. (and yes, avoid most Chinese in DC - I love it, but after CA, nothing has ever really lived up (not a strong point).

      Korean proper is hard to find in DC itself, in the Dupont area on, what 18 and S? is Mandu and I've heard good about Yee Hwa on 21 below K (all NW)

      for Indonesian, a small (for me) geo shift would be Malaysia Kopitiem on M near 19 - looks like a dump. looking forward to my next visit. tried last week but was too late in the evening.

      You're from LA? Ben's beats the pants off of Pink's in WEHO. although IMHO that's not hard. granted you won't be standing in line with plastered former soap stars, but we have lots of former elected officials who do act out on occasion..

      FIne dining - too many choices these days. it's the dumpy dive treats that are the scarce commodity.

      if you're really craving good Asian it's sad but as 42d points out, the 'burbs are where you need to head. and for Latin American up into Maryland.

      there are exceptions.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        Alright, now I'll HAVE to try Ben's! Pink's is okay, but it's gotten way too popular for it's own good.

        1. re: caje

          No, you don't have try Ben's. You can get the same thing at a number of hotdog carts around town. Not really worth the trip. In the same nabe is Oohs and Aahs, a true hole-in-the-wall soul food joint. The grilled shrimp is a revelation. But you will top out on your budget. The lemon pepper wings are also wonderful and a bit cheaper. Get the greens and rice with gravy .

          1. re: Steve

            Ben's is sort of obvious. but not a mistake. My only caution for the hot dog carts are about the ones by the Mall that offer a variety of things. Limited menu - Limited risk.

            f'rinstance anyone ever tried the pizza/dog/t-shirt wagon by the Ag. Dep't Metro entrance? why oh why do I keep thinking... (I'll shut up now).

            I think soul food and East Coast recommendations are prob. the most valuable for someone in from CA.

            sorry caje, in the District most Latino and Asian food will disappoint. there are exceptions, but with a limited schedule...

      2. You're coming in from L.A. and you have Korean on your list?!? :-)

        At any rate, be sure to nab some Ethiopian while you're in town. Others can be more helpful with specific places (I had a fantastic meal at Queen Makeda), but that's a strength that'd be a shame to miss.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Dmnkly

          I was born and raised in LA but have lived in Denver for the last few years. I heard about the bulgogi cart at 14th and L so I thought there might be a Korean community in DC. Denver actually has a sizable Ethiopian community and I have tried it but wasn't wowed.

          1. re: caje

            Almost all of the Korean restaurants in the DC area are in the (not very accessible with public transportation) suburbs. Annandale has the largest concentration.

            Vietnamese is a bit more accessible. Again, most of the restaurants are in the suburbs, but you can get to many of them via public transportation. If you have time, the aforementioned Eden Center is about a mile from the East Falls Church metro stop.

            If you're a red meat eater, you might want to try Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington (Metro accessible - search for info).

            1. re: caje

              "Denver actually has a sizable Ethiopian community and I have tried it but wasn't wowed."

              Neither was I until I had it in DC, though I can't compare it to Denver. I CAN say that after having a good deal of Ethiopian in Chicago, my first try in DC was like having it for the first time -- I finally got it. In any case, it's worth considering.

          2. One suggestion is to score a ticket for a Nats game, which will be no problem in September, and cruise the food places. Ben's Chili Bowl and few other local holes in the wall are represented. It will also be a good "local" experience for a first-timer.

            You might also consider a stroll through Eastern Market for some quality grazing. Not far from Capitol Hill.

            You can grab an issue of Washingtonian Magazine's annual Cheap Eats listing, and it may also be on line. You'll find that a lot of good and inexpensive ethnic places are generally in the suburbs....

            1. This isn't anything exotic, but if you're hungry while wandering around Capitol Hill on a Saturday, I recommend the crepe cart at Eastern Market. He has a tomato-basil-mozzarella crepe for $6 that I'm addicted to.