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New to D.C.!!! Where do I start? D.C. Staples

Hi all. I just moved into N.W. D.C. about two months ago and am trying to get a handle on places to go because there is so much it's overwhelming. I don't go out for to eat very often because of a limited budget, so when I do eat out I want it to be worthwhile. I am hoping to get a list of some of the D.C. hallmarks if you will. What I've tried so far:

Ben's Chili Bowl, Florida Avenue Grill, Oceanaire Seafood Room (someone else picked up the tab) and Amersterdam Falafel Shop along with a few others

I'm going to Hank's Oyster Bar tomorrow night, but was hoping for some more recommendations on places to try that fit into this price range (minus Oceanaire, which was incredible by the way). Other places I want to try are Horace and Dickies and some Salvadorean restaurant I saw on Drivers, Drive-Ins and Dives near Union Station I believe. Would love to know what people think are the most go-tos in D.C., I'm open to all kinds of food, ethnic, veggie, etc...and anything on U st, Adams Morgan or Columbia Heights is even better because they're within walking distance. Thanks all!

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

Oceanaire Seafood Room
1201 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Florida Avenue Grill
1100 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

Hank's Oyster Bar
1026 King St Ste 1, Alexandria, VA 22314

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  1. I think the blueberry pancakes or blueberry buckwheat pancakes at Market Lunch at the Eastern Market are worth a try, or if you aren't there for breakfast a crabcake.
    A Litteri's is worth checking out.
    Cava has good greek tapas and I think is very reasonable.

    Oohs and Aahs has good cheap soul food. Not any ambiance to speak of, but good food.
    Pete's New Haven for a slice of pizza they also have good salads.
    Rice for Thai food, or Thai X-ing.

    There are some great cheap eats in the burbs if you are willing to travel?

    A Litteri
    517 Morse St NE, Washington, DC

    Market Lunch
    225 7th St SE Ste 12, Washington, DC 20003

    1. I think the Salvadorean place you mentioned is across from Eastern Market on 7th St. SE.

      Speaking of Eastern Market, I think one of the best cheap eats in the city is the hot half smoke in natural casing that you can get at the meat market inside the Eastern Market. It is the best $2.00 snack in town. You put on your own condiments and eat it standing up. It is beyond delicious.

      In Adams Morgan, I like So's Your Mom sandwich shop. I really like their breakfast sandwiches especially. Again, no seating (except the bench out front, which works in nice weather.)

      In Columbia Heights, check out Pho Viet, a great little family run Vietnamese place on 14th St., a few blocks north of the Target. Good pho and bun - and really nice people who run it. Also in Columbia Heights is Pete's Apizza, which ktmoomau mentioned. Very good pizza by the slice (or whole).

      Another great pizza-by-the-slice place is Vace in Cleveland Park (near the zoo). It is a great little neighborhood Italian deli that sells pizza, homemade pastas to cook at home, etc. Again, nowhere to sit.

      Oohs and Aahs is very good for soul food, but it was more expensive than I expected. However, the portions are huge. You can easily make two meals out of it. If you do that, I'd consider it cheap.

      Welcome to DC!

      1 Reply
      1. re: woodleyparkhound

        Ooh, i have to second the Vace recommendation. While it's a deli/grocery store and not an eatery per se, their pizza was surprisingly delicious. Grabbed a random slice of pepperoni while shopping for cold cuts and condiments recently, and it smacked me in the face with true nYC flavor. Pete's a'Pizza is also great in a totally different way.

      2. I have been here for almost 9 months, and my go to places are La Mexicana Bakery and Taqueria (other than La Fondita, only place for good mexican), Matchbox, and Amsterdam Falafel (still haven't been to Maoz). Ray's Hell Burger has probably been the best burger I've found in DC, Breadline and Sundevich for sandwiches, Bombay Club for Indian and I stay away from Chinese.

        Bombay Club
        815 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006

        Ray's Hell Burger
        1713 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209

        Amsterdam Falafelshop
        2425 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

        La Mexicana
        13016 Middlebrook Rd, Germantown, MD 20874

        3 Replies
        1. re: mdpilam

          Second on La Mexicana, Matchbox and Ray's.

          La Mexicana
          13016 Middlebrook Rd, Germantown, MD 20874

          1. re: mdpilam

            Chiming in to second La Mexicana, and also take this opportunity to thank mdpilam for writing about it an bringing it to my attention - amazing carnitas, and an incredible torta ahogada

            La Mexicana Bakery and Tacqueria
            2907 Arlington Dr, Alexandria, VA 22306

          2. And I love Nam Viet in Clarendon, haven't been to the Cleaveland Park location.
            Dino has some good deals and is good.
            Palena Cafe has some great food, and can be very reasonable depending on what you order.

            Nam Viet Restaurant
            3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

            1. Thanks all for some great options...I look forward to trying them out. ktmoomau I am willing to travel; I drive to Manassas for work 5 days a week via 66, so anything along there is easier. I have ventured up to Maryland at times. Went to Parkway Deli and Restaurant in Silver Spring. Had the Ruben sandwich there with eggplant fries, both of which were awesome, but over priced for a smaller sized sandwich.

              Probably no need for a review, but Hank's Oyster Bar was awesome. Had the crab cake as an appetizer, overpriced, but delicious ($12 for one medium sized crab cake and cole slaw). Then the fried oyster dinner, which was incredible and very reasonably priced. Came with 7-8 oysters, good cole slaw, and a mound of delicious fries ($18). Had a Rouge Dead Guy Ale which is a personal favorite as well. My gf had the lobster roll, which was also good, but I think if you go to Hank's you should get oysters. My friend got the lobster bisque which he said was mediocre. He has got the fried oyster dinner and loved it.

              Interested in any other mexican/hispanic reviews from places in adam's morgan/columbia heights. There are a million places in the area. I'll look in to the places mdpilan posted about and can't wait to check out So's Your Mom woodleyparkhound. Thanks again guys.

              Hank's Oyster Bar
              1026 King St Ste 1, Alexandria, VA 22314

              So's Your Mom
              1831 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009

              Parkway Deli & Restaurant
              8317 Grubb Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

              14 Replies
              1. re: hotdogdigest

                And just saw the Mexican in D.C. thread right below this one, so I'll weed my way through that.

                1. re: hotdogdigest

                  Super Tacos and Bakery on Columbia Rd. I just found them a few weeks ago via yelp and loved the tacos (try the gringo chicken, or the cochinita pibil). Authentic, fast, plentiful servings and very reasonable prices. It's a hole in the wall for sure, with about ten bar stools for dining in, but get their food to go and you'll have a lovely Mexican dinner at home.

                2. re: hotdogdigest

                  So happy about the traveling.

                  Off Spout Run is a great deli, Italian Store called wait for it... The Italian Store. Awesome subs and prepared foods. Really a great place on you way home to stop for some take out. I will be visiting them tomorrow to pick up dinner for Mom and I for our bus ride up to NYC, a Napoli sub and a Milano, mmmmmm, although a meatball sub sounds awesome, too messy for bus eating. I live about a mile away and the wait in the car is excruciating once you know how good it is. In that same shopping center is a BGR Joint which has good burgers too. There is also the Lebanese Tavern Market which also has great prepared food, and a few tables inside you can eat at.

                  In Falls Church La Carenquena is really good. (Rt 7 Exit towards Falls Church)

                  In Ballston/Clarendon (Glebe Rd exit on 66) Pupatella has awesome cheap neapolitan pizza, Thai Square has good thai food so does Bangkok 54, search the threads for recommendations, from the regular menu I really like the pork knuckle stew, crispy squid (or duck) and country style curry at Thai Square. Liberty Tavern is great for great neighborhood food, I just love it, comforting, but well executed. Screwtop Wine Bar may be one of the coziest places on a cold winter night, their sandwiches and lasagna are excellent, as are simple things, like salad dressing. Lyon Hall has some good stuff too. Ray's to Third is worth checking out too. I also really love Bayou Bakery in Courthouse.

                  District Taco and Taqueria El Charrito Camiante (TECC) have great tacos. Although there is probably just as good out in Manassas area, I just don't know where.

                  Passage to India in Bethesda has really good Indian, they also own Spice Xing in Rockville. Freddy's Lobster and Clams in Bethesda is good too. MoCo is really the place to go for Chinese food. Although there is an A&J in Annandale. And Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church.

                  Korean in Annandale is awesome, there are so many different choices depending on what you want search the board for Korean.

                  And search the board for Peruvian Chicken there are big debates on who is best. You might also check out Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide and the DonRockwell dining guide for the areas you are in most often.

                  The Eden center is a must-go place for Vietnamese.

                  Thai Square
                  3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                  Italian Store
                  3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

                  Spice Xing
                  100-B Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD 20850

                  Passage to India
                  4931 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

                  The Liberty Tavern
                  3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

                  Bangkok 54 Restaurant and Bar
                  2919 S Columbus St, Arlington, VA 22206

                  El Charrito
                  2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

                  Peking Gourmet Inn
                  6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

                  Screwtop Wine Bar
                  1025 N Fillmore St, Clarendon - Courthouse, VA 22201

                  5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203

                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    I agree with pretty much 100% of kt's recs. One that I would add, that I believe rivals or exceeds Italian Store is a place called "The Deli". Do not confuse this with "A Deli" in Worldgate. But there is one in Herndon, one in Fairfax and I believe they opened a third location. I can't seem to find the info online.

                    Italian Store
                    3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      What do people think about Taylor's Gourmet on 5th and K for sandwiches? Friend reccommended it too me and being from Philly I feel like I have to take a look. The sandwich that I judge an Italian deli on is a personal creation: baked eggplant, hot sopresatta, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, lettuce, oil and vinegar. Looking forward to trying one at Taylor's Gourmet.

                      Thanks so much for all the recs kt and dennis. I'll be sure to post reviews as I check these places out. Happy turkey day to all!

                      1. re: hotdogdigest

                        Taylor is very good - absolutely check it out!

                        1. re: hotdogdigest

                          Honestly I don't get the hype over Taylor Gourmet -but to each his own

                          1. re: agarnett100

                            I agree. I think Taylor is, at best, half a step above Subway. Granted, I actually like Subway, but I also don't go out of my way to convince people to eat there.

                            1. re: Garlic Guy

                              WOW!!! That is the most ridiculous comment I have read on Chowhound to date. Comparing Subway and TG is not any where near fair, even if you are conceding TG is a little better.

                              At Taylor’s, how many grilled or fried chicken breasts, sliced meats, and condiments do you think come directly out of a plastic bag cryovac sealed at some mysterious location and time?

                              My guess is that you're pissed at them for not serving mustard or mayo?

                              1. re: gregb

                                Nope; I don't use mustard or mayo, and I'm not pissed at them at all. I think their sandwiches are fine and have no ill-will against them whatsoever. I just don't get why some people think the place is so special. Again, it's fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

                                1. re: Garlic Guy

                                  You could put just butter or any one condiment on the bread from Taylor G. and it pummels any complete sandwich from Subway on their best day. To say they are close to comprable is asinine. Disliking the amount of hype they get is one thing...

                                  1. re: James6

                                    Comparing TG to subway is like comparing rays hells burgers to a big Mac at Mcdonalds. Apples and oranges. No comparison

                        2. re: Dennis S

                          mmmm...have to disagree. If you are talking The Deli on Jermantown Road in the kmart shopping center...while I like it, I think Italian Store is better.

                      2. re: hotdogdigest

                        "I drive to Manassas for work 5 days a week via 66, so anything along there is easier."

                        Ah, why didn't you say so before....

                        A whole world opens up in this area of No Va. If you are looking to spend only 'hot dog' money, that means you will have to limit yourself considerably, but just $10 worth of food can bring you some terrific meals.

                        Eden Center is a mile off 66. I would check out Nha Trang and their bowl of noodles "with shrimp paste in the shape of worms," is how it's listed on the menu. Also the cold Chengdu noodles at Hong Kong Palace, the Nam Khao (rice ball salad) at Bangkok Golden, the Daing Na Bangus (marinated milkfish) at Fairfax Inn - but they serve only until 6pm. In Merrifield, go for the ginger salad at Myanmar, with a bowl of rice it's a simple yet great meal for about $5. If you are willing to do takeout, then the veggie enchilada at La Union market on Lee Hwy in Arlington is great.

                        Hong Kong Palace
                        6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

                        Nha Trang
                        6757 Wilson Blvd Ste 7, Falls Church, VA 22044

                        Fairfax Inn Restaurant
                        2946 Sleepy Hollow Rd, Falls Church, VA 22044

                      3. U Street, my neighborhood:
                        Try Fast Gourmet (14th and V) and get the Cuban sandwich. To die for.
                        I recommend both Madjet and Etete for Ethiopian. Veggie combo and one meat, you're set. I always make sure to bring visitors for Ethiopian, it's incredible here.
                        DC Noodles - if you're stuck eating around U, it's a cheapish option ($12 for noodles, but they're tasty and copious. Thai flavors mostly.)
                        Great Wall - Szechuan, get the ma po tofu and the dan dan noodles. Avoid Americanized dishes, stick with the ma la items.

                        In Adams Morgan:
                        Old City Cafe for felafel - all you can eat toppings. I like the vibe better than Amsterdam Felafel.
                        AM Wine Shoppe - fancey sammiches, and ridiculously amazing donuts on Saturday only.
                        Muzette - surprisingly authentic Korean, in a karaoke place. Pricey, as Korean tends to be.
                        Some people really like Super Tacos on Columbia Road...worth a try.

                        Columbia Heights: I agree on Pho Viet and Pete's Apizza.

                        1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                        Old City Cafe
                        1773 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        Pete's Apizza
                        , Washington, DC 20001

                        U Street Cafe
                        1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hamster

                          The Salvadoran place in Eastern Market that you were asking about is called Tortilla Cafe. I have been there a few times and it is a consistent place and a lot of people drop in and get take out.

                          1. re: daves_32

                            This weekend I went to both Tortilla Cafe and So's Your Mom. Tortilla Cafe first. My first pupusa ever was very good, though I would only recommend it to people who like corn tortillas. I got the pupusa platter which was two pork and cheese pupusas and two sides. The sides were refried beans and yucca. The refried beans were standard, but the yucca was delicious. Good crisp exterior with a nice sized chunkyness that had good flavor, but wasn't overly starchy. My gf got the veggie quesadilla, which she really liked, especially the guacamole that came with it. She appreciated that it wasn't a standard veggie quesadilla with just black beans and cheese, but had scallions and rice as well with just more vegetables than most place put in theirs. Overall it was a good experience, and I will definitely revisit when I go back to the Eastern Market, which I will be doing for holiday gifts. Pupusa platter was $6.50 and the veggie quesadilla was around $4.50. Place gets pretty crowded, so seating can be tough. The ladies working were incredibly nice.

                            Just went to So's Your Mom this morning with my roommate. Cool place, I need to go back to try the sandwiches. I had a sausage, egg and cheese on a plain bagel. It was good, better than average, but not mind blowing or worth an extended trip for. Easy for me because it's a 5 minute walk from where I live. My roommate got an everything bagel with lox. He said it was good, but it was overpriced at a little over $6, especially because there wasn't a lot of lox on it. Mine was reasonably priced at $4.60. No seating at So's Your Mom which maybe a downside for some, but was fine with me.

                            I'll keep on working my way through people's recommendation, thanks all.

                        2. La Mexicana is the BEST Mexican you'll have in the area...no joke. I honestly wonder why Washingtonian hasn't picked up on this place for their "Cheap Eats?"

                          1. I also recommend Vace. Their cannoli are good - freshly filled, which is really the only way they should be eaten.

                            1. Late to thread but here are DC joints that are a part of the cities fabric - even if the food is mediocre at some of them are in the guidebooks. They are still our joints.

                              The Tune Inn on Capitol Hill - Burgers greasy and bloody even after the fire.

                              Clyde’s in Georgetown - get ousters and something that seems Pub Fare-ish

                              Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th near the White House - lots of tourists but you should go there every 2 years to remind yourself that tourist suck. Order as if you are at Clyde’s. (Little secret – their breakfast rocks - epitome of the DC power breakfasts of the past and almost no tourists. So you tourists should come by to see what the pre-Tea-party good old days were like.)

                              Ben's on U St. - Chili Half smoke and a shake.

                              A sandwich from a Marvelous Market location.

                              Crusty bread from Firehook.

                              Carlyle in Shirlington (used to be Carlyle Grand) for a third date with a little hottie who lives in No.VA. Frankly, you should probably check out a couple of the Great American Restaurant joints in the ‘burbs food is actually pretty good service staff tend toward attractive and the patrons will keep you living in the city for years to come.

                              Virtually any Korean joint in Annandale. (Honey Pig is a safe bet.)

                              Virtually any Vietnamese joint in Arlington or Fairfax. (Four Sisters for sit down and Banh Mi DC Sandwich for grab and go both in Calls Church.)

                              Abner’s Crab House in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland - Steamed crabs and Budweiser pitchers.

                              Market lunch – weekend breakfast are too crowded go for lunch and get a fried seafood “something”

                              Ledo’s pizza – now in College Park (not the franchises) so you will know why people say that DC has terrible pizza. PG County folks love this stuff though.

                              Millies and Al’s in in Adams Morgan – bad pizza – Natty Bo! And drunk chicks . . . .

                              Anything by Jose Andres . . . . or Michel Richard - Small plate or two an a small caraffe sangria from Jaleo - sit at the bar and order an app and a beer from Citronelle if you want to try the place out and keep to a budget.

                              Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill – Young staffers looking to score. . . . food isn't very good get the Jose's dip

                              Lebanese Taverna – any location for mezze

                              Momma Ayesha’s - Adams Morgan

                              Café Milano – for hot Euro-trash and Redskinettes it tight little dresses . . . .

                              OI know more will come to mind on my drive home.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: drewpbalzac

                                The one or two things on this list that are good cost quite a bit more than Ben's Chili Bowl. The rest are just mediocre PLUS more expensive than the OP is looking for.

                              2. I'm surprised so few posters mentioned Ethiopian. DC is known for its Ethiopian food and Etete in the U street neighborhood is great, but my current favorite is Ethiopic on H Street in the Atlas District.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: piafoodie

                                  You are correct Ethiopian food is a huge part of DC and has been for many years

                                  1. You can also park and walk around Bethesda sometime. Bethesda is wall to wall doctors from the Naval Hospital, NIH, etc, and they have a nice little food & art gallery district to match. A lot of little European, Latin, Indian & Asian restaurants within walking distance of each other. For American food, there is a microbrewery, Morton's, McCormick & Schmick, Black's & Houston's.

                                    1. If you are in the Vienna area Rose Kabob - Persian kabob house.

                                      1. As it appears you live in my neighborhood, here are some of my favorites nearby:

                                        Cashions Eat Place. A great place to have in the neighborhood. I've gone there for my wedding, in a wedding dress, and in torn jeans with my dog on the patio, and had a wonderful experience every time.

                                        Grill from Ipanema. Great caipairinhas, wonderful seafood paella, great service from the elderly Brazilian waiters.

                                        A&M Wine Shop. I love So's Your Mom, but if you want a sandwich and not a bagel, go here.

                                        Bourbon/Black Squirrel. If you want a great burger and a great beer/cocktail and a neighborhood refuge from the people who come to Adams Morgan to get drunk and obnoxious without breaking the bank, these places are great.

                                        Etete. The best Ethiopian in DC, IMHO.

                                        The Gibson. Cheating, because this is a speakeasy, not a restaurant, but this is my favorite place to meet my wife for a date, or take out of town visitors.

                                        Bar Pilar/Cafe St. Ex. Great casual night out or happy hour destinations, as well as brunch.

                                        Tabard Inn. Very romantic brunch, great place to put hipster guests up in town - funky and out of the way, very cozy.

                                        Pizza Paradiso (Dupont location): The beer is almost better than the pizza, and the pizza is very good.

                                        1. Eastern Market is a definite must. Awesome vibe.

                                          1. Now that this thread has been revived, there are two places in Adams Morgan that are new and have a buzz. I haven't been to either, but they are both on my list: Mintwood and Sakuraramen. You might want to check these out. Would love a recent report of places you have tried since the last time you posted on this thread, hotdogdigest.