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Eating near DC Convention Center on a student budget


My girlfriend and I are heading up to DC for a conference next weekend and are looking for recommendations on where to eat around the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We would appreciate both lunch and dinner suggestions and any type of cuisine is fine! As we are on a student budget, we're specifically looking for lunch places that run below $10 and dinners below $16 per person. Less is always better, but at the same time if a few more dollars could get us a noticeably better experience, we might be able to splurge! Thanks in advance!

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  1. Try searching for the Penn Quarter neighborhood for ideas. There's lots and lots of places, many have happy hour deals that could be great for you (PS7, for example). 7th street, south of the Convention Center, has a lot of good places for lunch. There's a Five Guys burgers at H and 8th. Matchbox, also on H, is really popular for beer, miniburgers, and pizza and might be what you're looking for (I don't quite get the appeal, myself, but it's fun).

    You might also do well to get out of that neighborhood and up towards U Street, it's an easy short Metro ride and then you can get great Ethiopian food which is amazingly inexpensive, plus there's lots of other good places for a budget up there.

    You'll get plenty of other suggestions, but that's a starting point.

    1. Chinatown Express would probably be a good cheap lunch for you. It is in Chinatown so a few blocks walking downtown, their menu is on menupages DC.

      Also Nando's Peri Peri for chicken would be a good cheap option in Chinatown too, with spicy good chicken.

      A bit further there is a greek deli on 14th and K that is good, and there is a German Deli on 13th and H that is really good for lunch, but I forget the name. That would be a walk in the other direction.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ktmoomau

        Nando's is a great rec.

        Don't know the greek on 14th &K; where is it compared to DC Coast?

        Also, the "Cowboy plates" at Capitol Q in Chinatown are good value.

        Not that close, but if you're strolling toward the White House, the "half" pasta at Old Ebbitt's Express is always a great deal for lunch. In the National Press food court, there's a good $6.99 half tandoori chicken special with naan at Naan & Beyond.

        1. re: ktmoomau

          KT, 13th and H - you're thinking of Cafe Mozart

          1. re: hill food

            That's it. And the Greek place is Port of Piraus (sp?) it's a chain I think, but has good stuff at not too bad prices, used to be near my old office, I liked their falafel.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              I was never crazy about Piraeus, except their Avegelemono soup and they carry H+H bagels

        2. I am a big fan of the Saints Paradise Cafeteria. Nice people, delicious soul/Southern food that is within your budget and located close to the convention center. The fried chicken, pork chops, greens, sweet potatoes, and most desserts are top notch. I don't care for the ribs. They taste as if they were cooked in a crockpot with bbq sauce. They serve breakfast, lunch, & dinner.

          Here is a writeup from the Post:


          I hope you enjoy your visit to DC.

          2 Replies
          1. re: OldSchool

            Mayur Kabob Place at 1108 K NW (very close to convention center). Lunch buffet is 7.50.
            Momiji Sushi on H street in Chinatown has good lunch special prices.
            Second, third, fourth Nando's.
            Kanlaya is a decent Thai place in Penn Quarter with very reasonable lunch prices.
            If you are willing to metro, which is easy and cheap, check out both the U Street Corridor (get out at African American Civil War Memorial exit and walk east to 9th for Ethiopian, or west along U for just about everything else.
            If you wal west as far at 14th (not a long walk, very interesting), turn south on 14th. A few blocks south is the unassuming Bar Pilar, which has terrific small plates of excellent quality. Very casual.
            Rice, near Bar Pilar, is a lively place for Thai fusion.
            If you metro to Cleveland Park, you have a lot of choices. At the metro is Palena. It is an upscale, high-priced experience, except in the cafe. Beware that the cafe gets slammed. Walk downhil from the Cleveland Park metro. Dino has great dinner specials. Spices is very reasonable, very casual. Nam Viet is reliable for Vietnamese. Quite reasonable. Bardeo, a sister bar to restaurant Ardeo next door, has nice small plates in a very nice setting. Vace has excellent pizza (no dining in - get a slice and eat on the street like everyone else).

            1. re: dcandohio

              Second Mayur. Love this place. Lots of good food - including veggies - on the lunch platter.

          2. If you want to stay near the Convention Ctr, then Vegetate would fit the bill. It's good, affordable, and about 3 blocks away. The grilled cheese is fantastic!

            1. Don't miss Full Kee at 6th & H for shrimp dumpling soup and some barbequed pork. Cheap cheap.

              Also, many restaurants are extending restaurant week through next week so check out the RW website to see who is still doing it in the area. If you're willing to switch dinner with lunch, you can get great three course meals for $20 and then just go easy on dinner. I ate at PS7 twice last week for lunch since I was at a meeting next door and was pretty happy with it.

              Another place I like in the area is Mehak Indian Restaurant. 817 7th St NW. Nothing fancy but the food is good and reasonably priced at dinner. Getting a few apps and sharing an entree will help to keep the price down too. Lunch is probably cheaper.

              Fados on 7th has reasonably good fish and chips and beer on tap. Won't break the bank. Have fun.

              1. There are a number of affordable eats if you head over to Chinatown/Penn Quarter. I recommend Matchbox, California Tortilla, Ella's, Clyde's, Five Guys, Capitol Q, and Jaleo (probably more then your budget, but its tapas so you can share).

                Also you should check out PS7's bar menu and Happy Hour specials. Great food for a very affordable price. Plus you get to try one of the best restaurants in town. If you are able to spend more like $35/meal PS7 will be extending their Restaurant Week menu until next weekend, so that would be a nice splurge.

                You are also near the metro, so let us know if you are willing to go outside of the area for some good eats.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Elyssa

                  Please, Elyssa, you can't get out of Clyde's, Ella's, Matchbox or PS7's for less than $10 when you add tax. Put on a tip and you are way over.

                  1. re: Jacey

                    The poster asked for lunch AND dinner recommendations. You can certainly spend $16 on an entree at the above mentioned places. Maybe they'll have to go to Five Guys, Chop't or Cal Tort for lunch. But they can certainly go elsewhere for a decent dinner.

                    They also mentioned they were willing to spend a few extra dollars...meaning if they could bump up their minimum entree $10 or so, they will be fine as well. Other above posters seem to agree with me on a number of these recommendations.

                    Do you have any recommendations in that area of town or just criticism?

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      wow, chill out. I already gave my recommendations. We are all entitled to our own opinions, Elyssa.

                      1. re: Jacey

                        Nope, sorry Jacey, but I'm calling you out, first, you haven't given any recommendations, and second you can't chastise Elyssa about being entitled to opinions after blasting hers.

                        To the OP, I'm currently on the hunt for a good breakfast place myself. Haven't found anything decent in your area yet, but if you go out to Clarendon, my money's on the Silver Dollar. It beat Founding Farmers (a CH darling) hands down for half the price.

                        1. re: mjhals

                          simmer down folks...

                          breakfast is a hard call in DC esp. in that area oddly - but then again everything works wrong around here sometimes.

                          not too far for some Sysco schlock is the Hyatt's cafe at 10 and H NW, bit further there's the morphed Waffle House/Lincoln Diner across from Ford's theater. neither are particularly recommended, but available.

                          what is that cafe that (is or was) on the East side of the center?

                          personally I'd take dumpling soup from Full Kee at 2 AM (or whenever) back to the room and heat it up in the room's coffee maker for breakfast.

                          1. re: hill food

                            OMG! That is brilliant! Why haven't I ever thought of doing something like that?

                            I know, late post, but I am from out of town and just doing a bit of research for my upcoming visit.

                            1. re: hill food

                              God Lincoln's is awful. The only place I eat breakfast in the neighborhood is pretty much Busboys.

                    2. re: Elyssa

                      I'm late to the party on this, but my own opinion is stay away from Clyde's. It's a soulless chain and the food is typical mediocre stuff you could get anywhere in the country. (Ditto La Tasca. It's not quite as soulless or typical, but it's still a chain, and the food is not worth what you'll pay and just isn't very good.)

                      La Tasca
                      722 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    3. Thanks for the replies so far, they are greatly appreciated! To answer Elyssa's question, while we are more confined to that area for lunch, for dinner we'd definitely be able to get on the Metro and out of the area for dinner.

                      I was remiss in my first post to mention that any suggestions for a good place to grab breakfast would definitely leave me indebted.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Reibesch

                        also remember that many deals and specials at many of these restaurants are only available during the week -- not on the weekend, when you'll be there. good luck!

                        1. re: Reibesch

                          I would say if you're willing to travel a little that Ethiopian food would be a great idea for you -- it's very DC and very inexpensive. Take the green or yellow line to the U Street station. I'm pretty sure someone above gave more details -- I'm just reiterating. There are lots of threads about Ethiopian on this board, if you search. Just be sure to go to one of the recommended places around 9th and U, people are usually unhappy when they try it in other neighborhoods. Before or after dinner you'll have no problem finding a place for drinks or dessert in the same U St area.

                          For breakfast, I don't know really, but Azi's Cafe is pretty nearby. You might like to check out Big Bear Cafe (maybe too far) and Teaism (maybe also too far) is always recommended. And those places that Kt and Hillfood discuss above (Piraeus....) have breakfast, I believe.

                          1. re: mselectra

                            I 2nd the idea for Ethiopian on U St. You can also head to Heritage in Dupont Circle for Indian cuisine. They have happy hour specials and a special menu of street food where most items are around $3-$5.

                        2. Also, especially if Mayur was rec'd - what about the Bulgogi cart around 14th and L. I saw it once but after I ate already (probably at Mayur), but the handful of times I went back I didn't see it. I sort of saw on the board that it may be usually a block or two away from 14th and L.

                          Any info would help me and hopefully the OP.

                          1. El Rinconcito at 11th and M. Try pupusas, excellent seafood soup, or whole fried fish for $12. So good.

                            Taylor gourmet just opened at City Vista (5th and K). Although they're sandwhiches (yuck) they're 'gourmet' with Italian ingredients like mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, etc.

                            Rinconcito Cafe
                            1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001

                            1. Lunch: Head over to 5th and K for Busboys and Poets, Taylor Gourmet, or south down to 7th for Chopped, Potbelly, or down to 6th for Urfa (good and huge falafel sandwiches) or Chinatown Express. There is also a Subway on Massachusetts if you're really desperate. Five Guys is an option also, as has been mentioned, as is ZPizza, which opened up by H and 8th also.

                              Dinner: In order of goodness (IMHO) - PS7's lounge menu - get there before 5:30, The Passenger - small but awesome menu and it's *right there*, back to Urfa for the platters, Thai Chili in the Verizon Center, Vapianos

                              These are all very close, and I guarantee you can stick with your budget. I'm not sure if you woul/could at Matchbox, and they are always insanely busy, or I'd recommend it. I never go there except to order take-out.

                              It's not really *that* close, but if you can get to Carmine's for lunch on 7th and E St, you can split a meatball sub between two people at a nice place with sit-down service for less than $15 total, with drinks. It's huge and it's really great.

                              About the Passenger - it's a craft cocktail bar, so the cocktails are $9-12. Beers are not cheap either. If you're just there for the food, nobody will care if you're ordering drinks or not as long as you sit at a table and not at the bar.

                              ETA: Important addition! Chinatown Coffee (between 4th and 5th on H - great coffee shop) has a food truck listing right on the door telling you who is going to be there on which day - the line forms up right to the left/west of the door. This is a *great* option.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Raids

                                Just an FYI I think you are two years late to this party.

                                  1. re: Raids

                                    Guilty as charged! But I was just today looking at places to eat around the convention center, and this old discussion was very helpful for me ... And in case anyone stood in my shoes two years hence, I wanted them to know that Clyde's got a thumbs-down from me ... (fyi I finally settled on Cafe Mozart and had a nice Kassler Rippchen plate there. Yum!)

                                    Cafe Mozart
                                    1331 H St NW Ste A, Washington, DC 20005

                                    1. re: Raids

                                      haha. I'm just realizing that now as well. I blame Groggie too :-)

                                      Good recommendations though, Raids.

                                1. Does everybody understand the original post was made 26 months ago? I'm guessing that the conference they were to stend is long gone.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: skipper

                                    Your post bemoaning our lack of reading comprehension is delightfully ironic! In addition to Groggie, this is my neighborhood, so I'm always happy to hear about new recommendations.

                                    Also, does Corduroy have a lounge/bar? Anyone know? And has anyone ever been to Saints Paradise Cafeteria?

                                    1. re: Raids

                                      YES YES YES on Corduroy. Not only do they have a bar upstairs, it's rarely crowded, and there's a 3-courses-for-$30 menu available all the time. Maybe not student budget, per se, but an absolute steal for Tom Powers' food. And Pichan, the bartender, is a gem.

                                      1. re: DanielK

                                        Oooh, that's fantastic to know, thank you!

                                    2. re: skipper

                                      Yes, I think we do all get that. I believe this has officially degenerated into a more general conversation about good, not-too-expensive places to eat around the convention center ... :)

                                      1. re: Groggie

                                        I am enjoying all of the updates! All of the recommendations were extremely helpful the first time around, and I have found myself around the convention center quite a few times since then. Now I have a few more places to check out. Thanks!