Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Aug 26, 2009 09:52 PM

New Yorker looking for quintessential DC Cheap Eats

I'm going to be in DC for a weekend - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city, or nearby outside (particularly north of the city) is fine.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads DC hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are tons of places. The Washingtonian has a list ( Two that come to mind that I can strongly recommend: Julia's Empanadas and Zorba's Cafe.


    1. North of the city = Wheaton, which is ground zero for what you're looking for. There is a metro stop to Wheaton. I would search for Wheaton. There's also a user, Steve, who - while also sampling upper tier fair - is, imo, a great source for cheap eats in the DC area.

      Probably definitely keep a Peruvian chicken place on your list. The hallmark is Pollo Rico (location in Arlington and Wheaton - both metro accessible) - except they serve fries and not yucca.

      Ruan Thai in Wheaton is generally considered one of the best thai places in the whole area.

      Salvadoran runs rampant in the whole area, especially Wheaton. Years ago I loved El Pulgarcito, but I haven't been in a while and no one seems able to report about it. Nevertheless, there have been a good number of recs for other Salvadoran in Wheaton.

      We have a strong Sichuan representation in the area. Probably the place that 1) is somewhat metro accessible and 2) can be affordable by only 1-3 people is Joes Noodle House. Too much to get into here, but search for Joe's on this board and you'll be able to compile a good list to reference - the menu is huge. Most other Sichuan places serve food more family style, so it's best to have a larger group - which then makes it all worthwhile.

      Personally, I'd say to get to Ray's Hellburger to get a burger. You can search for the plethora about it. This will run up to your budget but you're getting your money's worth.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Dennis S

        Sorry, but Wheaton is just too far out of the city for a weekend visitor. Go to Eastern Market for Breakfast (though the line will be long at the Market Lunch - it is a great DC experience). Get a coffee at Peregrine Espresso just down the street from Eastern Market. Go to Ben's Chili Bowl. Find a Salvadoran restaurant and order pupusas.

        1. re: ChewFun

          Really - a 20 minute Metro ride?

          As for Ben's, as has been said ad infinitum by many here, go to see it, then take care of your hunger at Oohs and Aahs. Maybe in that loop stop in at Fla Ave Grill for a soda. I really doubt, though, that I'd come from NYC, which has Harlem, to tour this side of DC.

          1. re: Dennis S

            Agreed. It's a very easy trip to Wheaton and Metro puts you right in the heart of it, including the expanded Irene's Pupuseria "Sky Bar" -- strangley named but a fun spot.

            1. re: repete

              The Sky Bar itself is loud. It can be painfully loud on Friday and Saturday nights late. But Damn good Pupusas Mixtos con Todos and Con Lorocco. Good corn tamales as well. I also love the greasy, crunchy & topped with a sour slaw Honduran Tacos.

      2. Five fried chicken wings, mambo sauce, french fries (salt/pepper/catsup). Any bulletproof Chinese carryout in Northeast. Look for the sign that says something like "Chinese/Pizza/Subs/Fish/Charcuterie."

        Halfsmoke with onions and mustard. Ben's Chili Bowl.

        Horace & Dickies off H Street NE. Four piece croaker sandwich. Enough food for two. Carryout only. $6.

        Market Lunch in Eastern Market. The Brick Sandwich.

        Horace & Dickie's Seafood
        809 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

        Ben's Chili Bowl
        1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

        Eastern Market Grocery
        225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

        5 Replies
        1. re: monkeyrotica

          Listen to Monkey, really.

          Nobody has mentioned Ethiopian food yet.

          1. re: mselectra

            A half-dozen decent Ethiopian places can be found off U Street. Queen Makeda is my favorite, but others prefer Etete.

            I stopped going to Moby Dick when I discovered Kabob Palace. Truckers and cabbies know where to find the best cheap food.

            Two pieces of DC-unique cheap food: Ledo's Pizza and the steak & cheese. In the case of the former, I can only recommend the original Langley Park location, I've found the product by the chain stores to be inedible. Nothing like NY slice or Chicago, but unique to DC. An acquired taste.

            joeh has expounded on the local steak & cheese, distinct from the Philly product. The best version can be found at The Broiler.



            1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            Queen Makeda
            1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            Kabob Palace
            2315 S Eads St, Arlington, VA 22202

            Moby Dick of Georgetown
            1070 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007

            3601 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

          2. re: monkeyrotica

            i believe the signs say lake trout, chinese, subs, the glass is 3 inch thick bullet proof tempered and the windows have bars. lots of choices along georgia ave and 7th street on the way from silver spring to the verizon center
            also I second the Ethiopian but it is an aquired taste and once sent a long islander chow visiting and he hated it even though he has an open foodie mind

            1. re: dining with doc

              Ethiopian is definitely an acquired taste, like organ meats and sous vide. Not to malign the cuisine, but it has been described as "eating baby food with dishrags." But the kitfo is worth the hassle. A rich, spicy take on steak tartare.

              1. re: monkeyrotica

                "eating baby food with dishrags."

                ha! I have to remember that one (even though I love the stuff and esp. kitfo)

          3. In chinatown is eat first as well as the chinatown express. each are authentic hong kong duck house style chinese restaurants that are best described as inexpensive, crummy but great. They will fit your bill. at eat first try the roast duck and pork, clams in black bean sauce, clay pot chicken, dumplings, great lo mein. also check out the authentic dishes on the chinese menu

            1 Reply
            1. re: dining with doc

              moby dick in georgetown is a super cheap eat and not bad persian -

            2. I like the topic of this thread. What places do you like in NYC with your criteria?That might help educate our answers.

              I feel like I post the same answers to all these posts, but here are what I would consider fun places, on the cheap, if I were in NYC.

              Matchbox in Penn Quarter - great mini burgers, snacks, pizza.

              Jaleo and/or Zaytinya. Jose Andres and fantastic spanish and/or greek tapas.

              Amerstdam falafel - Adams Morgan

              Teaism - variious locations - bubble tea, ginger scones, salty oat cookie and a bunch of other good snacks

              Tacklebox - Georgetown - great fish and sides place. I love their mac n cheese and grilled asparagus

              Baked and Wired - my new favorite cupcake place in Gtown

              2 Amys pizza and warm olives, fried risotto balls, other snacks - near the Cathedral

              ACKC for parisian macarons - down on 14th nearish the U St. Corriidor


              Teaism Penn Quarter
              400 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

              480 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004

              713 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              Two Amys
              3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016

              2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

              Baked & Wired
              1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC

              701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              ACKC Cocoa Bar
              1529 14th St NW, Washington, DC

              2 Replies
              1. re: jodik

                Just a couple of examples of NYC places that might fit the bill could be

                DiFara, Saigon Banh Mi, Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, Porchetta

                1. re: FoulShotz

                  If you like Vietnamese, you should go to Eden Center, a Vietnamese shopping center (largest one on the East Coast) that's about a mile from the East Falls Church (Virginia) Metro stop. There are several places there that serve banh mi, a tofu store, several pho places, and several good restaurants. My favorite is Tay Do, but it's far from the only good place there.

                  Eden Center
                  Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA