Bethesda brunch and cheap eats
This is my first post. I just moved to Bethesda from NYC and am eager to explore the food scene around here. I was really big into the restaurant scene there (even did some freelancing for Time Out NY) but now I'm clueless! Right now, fresh out of grad school, money is tight, so I'm looking for those hidden gems that won't break the bank. So far, downtown Bethesda seems to be largely chain-y and overpriced, but I know there are good places waiting to be discovered on side streets and in Rockville Strip Malls. What are your favorites?
Also where can we do brunch besides the Original Pancake House? I'm game to go anywhere in DC but also want to know of some places within an easy walk or drive. (We do have a car.)
For breakfast: Tastee Diner is still the real deal of a diner that's been around since the '30s. Also check out Parkway Deli on Grubb Rd in Silver Spring (~10 min drive)...it may not transport you back in NYC, but it's one of the few decent delis in the area and also has a good breakfast/brunch. The seating area is in the rear, behind the carryout and deli counter.
As far as restaurants, you're pretty much right about downtown Bethesda....high rents = tough for small cheap places to survive. However, if you stay away from the newer areas down near Barnes & Noble, and more to the areas north of Old Georgetown Rd you will find a few interesting/reasonable options. Haandi is a decent Indian place (not the best in the area, but acceptable, and it's right there). Olazzo is pretty good Italian, and Mia's Pizzas was good the one time I went there.
Luckily, with a car, you've got a lot more options within a 10-15 minute drive; I'd check out Joe's Noodle House in Rockville, Hollywood East in Wheaton (both very good, authentic Chinese), and a wealth of places in downtown Silver Spring - another Olazzo, Nicaro, several Ethiopian restaurants, Mandalay (Burmese) and Thai Derm. The Cuban place across from Mi Rancho is also supposed to be good.
I agree Tastee Diner is a good option for cheap eats. I also like Chicken on the Run (although feel free to decide which peruvian chicken place is your favorite).
Some of the chain-y places in downtown Bethesda aren't bad, such as Raku (and Cafe Deluxe for brunch), although I wouldn't call them grad school cheap. There's Daruma/Ren's for ramen and Mia's is good "artisanal" pizza but neither is that cheap. If you want a cheap big slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza, try Corner Slice.
Some people have reported North China is good/authentic Chinese, but I haven't been. I hear the sandwiches at Spring Mill bakery are pretty good too, and while I like their baked goods I haven't tried the sandwiches.
If you like sushi, there's Tako Grill and Matuba. I usually go with Tako Grill, but I know people who swear by Matuba (and Matuba has an all you can eat rotary buffet on the weekends I think).
My favorite "side street" restaurant is probably Guardado's which is mostly tapas.
I have had good brunch at Louisiana Kitchen. Good New Orleans style food.
Louisiana Kitchen & Bayou Bar
4907 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD
Lots of good choices....on Cordell alone there's Passage to India, Mia's, and Faryab (excellent Afghan). Haandi on Fairmont is also very good and reliable Indian--and they have a very good lunch buffet. In Silver Spring, Ghar-e-Kabab on Wayne Ave. is a terrific little Indian/Nepali place. If you like Thai, Wheaton has two great Thai choices--Nava Thai and Ruan Thai.
Two of my favorite cheap eats in Bethesda are Rice Paddie's Grill for fast/casual Vietnamese and Moby Dick for fast/causal Persian. Organic To Go is amazing for salads and very good for calzones/pizzas. I second Ollazo, Raku, Mia's, Corner Slice, Tastee Diner. Also there is a great crepe stand across from the B&N in Bethesda (I love the triple chocolate.) While Burger (BGR) Joint is expensive for burgers, it is still a meal under $20 and IMO good value for the quality/quantity. Norky's on Old Georgetown Rd for Peruvian chicken/takeout.
A good wine shop is hard to find in Bethesda because of the ridiculous Montgomery County liquor laws, but just down Wisconsin in DC--a few blocks south of Western Ave.--you can get some excellent wines at Paul's. I've found their prices to competitive and they have tastings every Friday night.