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Best affordable food in D.C.?

I'm going to D.C. this weekend and am looking for places to eat well on a budget. We are adventurous eaters and are looking for something ethnic or unique to the D.C. area. Any suggestions? We will be staying near George Washington U, but are willing to travel anywhere in the District, especially if it's convenient to the Metro!

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  1. Don't miss one of our excellent Ethiopian places. I like Etete best, but lots of people also like Ethiopic.

    Ben's Chili Bowl is a local landmark. The food is mediocre, but God knows it's cheap - it's a piece of DC history. Etete and Ben's are both near the U St. Metro Station.

    For a better DC half smoke than Ben's, go to the Eastern Market and check out the hot half smoke in natural casing, at the meat store about half way down the center of the market. You put condiments on yourself and eat standing up. Delicious - and $2.

    Also dirt cheap and good is Amsterdam Falafel - about 15 mins. walk from the Woodley Park Metro.

    A couple of blocks from the Wheaton Metro station are two of my favorite places: Ruan Thai and Ren's Ramen. Both are excellent and reasonable.

    1. With tax and tip, you'll end up spending $8 for that "cheap" halfsmoke at Ben's. Eastern Market is a much better deal. If the weather's nice, Greek Deli or Breadline for sandwiches. Get yourself a coffee at Swing's near the White House. They've been roasting their own beans since 1916.

      1. I like the noodles and dumplings at Chinatown Express. It's a greasy hole-in-the-wall, but you can get dinner for about $8 there.

        1. Many discussions on the board, here's one:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8277...

          10 Replies
          1. re: hamster

            That's a good post, and it really depends on what "affordable" means to you. Amsterdam Falafel is easily the best cheap ethnic eat in the city IMO.

            1. re: mdpilam

              Thanks for all of the suggestions! I will report back on where we end up going - Amsterdam Falafel is calling my name, and we will definitely be trying to go for Ethiopian.

              I guess by "affordable," I mean less than $15 for dinner or $10 for breakfast/lunch. The cheaper, the better, though, as long as it's good eatin'.

              Does anyone know of any good places to grab breakfast/lunch that are within a short walking distance of the Mall?

              1. re: eclaire

                I would check out Breadline or G Street Foods for good cheap eats close to the Mall.

                1. re: bluedukie03

                  Breadline and G St. Foods are great places but are only open M-F. If you will be around for Fri. lunch, Breadline has a pulled pork sandwich with slaw as their Fri. special. Ordered on ciabatta, it's the best sandwich in town, IMHO.

                  Teaism is just north of the National Gallery/Archives Metro station and is good for breakfast or lunch and open on weekends. Don't miss their salty oat cookie.

                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    Teaism has been my go-to on previous trips to DC. I love their hand roll bento!

                    I'll be at the Mall on Sunday, unfortunately. Does anyone know if any food trucks park around there? Are any of them worth trying?

                    1. re: eclaire

                      No and no.

                      1. re: eclaire

                        You should go to Paul Bakery at the Archives metro, excellent pastries and pretty good sandwiches.

                        1. re: eclaire

                          If the weather's nice and you don't mind eating al fresco, Maine Avenue Fish Market has some nice deals on oysters on the half shell and fried seafood. I can recommend Jimmy's Grill. Good fried croaker & whiting. They also have suprisingly tasty cakes (they do big business on Mother's Day and Valentines Day). A short walk from the Smithsonian Castle down L'Enfant Promenade. You can also take in what's left of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. They're open every day of the year except Xmas.

                    2. re: eclaire

                      You might want to check out Mitsitam Cafe in the Museum of the American Indian. It's not your ordinary museum cafeteria fare. They serve traditional native Indian cuisine, so it's definitely unique and it's surprisingly good.

                      1. re: Guy Incognito

                        More expensive than good.

                2. It's getting very hard to eat in DC for that little money, and there is very little worth going out of your way for. Fast Gourmet is a sandwich shop in a gas station at 14th and W run by a couple of Uruguayan brothers that makes a fantastic chivito - on of the best eats in the city. Their corn empanadas are also killer. You could split the sandiech (it's big) and get a couple of empanadas for an entire meal. Another great sandwich is their cubano. This is really top notch food.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Steve

                    This sounds amazing. I spent some time studying (and eating) in Argentina and Uruguay and would love to make it over there. Any idea if they are open on Sundays?

                    1. re: eclaire

                      You'll have to call them to be sure, but I think so:

                      http://www.fast-gourmet.com/index.htm

                      1. re: Steve

                        ah, i love chowhound for tips like THIS, thanks Steve!!

                    2. re: Steve

                      I second the rec for Fast Gourmet - love the place. The chivito and cubano are both excellent - the cubano is several dollars cheaper. It's an easy walk from the U St. Metro.

                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                        How about ShopHouse which is Chipotle's Asian inspired fare. Affordable, ethnic and only in DC.

                        1. re: shake N baik

                          Weak pre-cooked Asian fast food.

                          1. re: Steve

                            haha...can't argue too much with that statement but they use quality ingredients and you can easily get in and out for under 10 bucks for lunch.

                    3. If you're willing to go to the suburbs, Mandalay in Silver Spring has good Burmese food. It's sort of a cross between Indian and Thai. It's a table service restaurant, but not fancy. Main courses run $10-15. I recommend getting something with the coconut cream sauce, "Ohnno Hin" style.
                      Mandalay is a 10 min walk from the Silver Spring Metro stop.
                      http://mandalayrestaurantcafe.com/

                      1. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! We ended up switching to a hotel near the Capitol Building, which made site-seeing easier, but put us a little farther away from some of the places we had been considering.

                        Here's what we ended up trying:

                        Chinatown Express - We had the leek+pork steamed dumplings, duck noodle soup, and combination lo mein. Surprisingly, the lo mein was our favorite. The homemade noodles were really good and the sauce was tasty. I thought the dumplings had a decent flavor but were a little too doughy. The duck noodle soup was a good deal at $6.95.

                        Bagels & Baguettes - The sesame bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese, and steak, egg, cheese on a garlic bagel were both delicious, as was the apple turnover that we shared. My latte was good, although the milk wasn't very frothy.

                        Jimmy's Grill - We sat by the water and enjoyed a fried seafood feast at the Maine Ave Fish Market. As a native Baltimorean, I thought the crabcakes were good and loved how fresh the seafood tasted. We got a combination platter so that we could try a little of everything. The big oysters and scallops were great and not too greasy. The half tea half lemonade and strawberry lemonade were a good deal, though a bit too sweet for my taste.

                        NY Pizza - We got back to the hotel after 10:00 on Sunday night, broke down and ordered delivery pizza rather than venturing back out into the rain. The front desk suggested NY Pizza, so we got a large - half Jamaica, half Manhattan. It was alright. The Jamaica side was definitely missing some ingredients, but the shrimp were decent. I like my pizza with lots of toppings, and the Manhattan had plenty of spinach, garlic and artichokes. Not terrible, but certainly not the best pizza I've ever had.

                        Teaism - The tea cured salmon and cilantro scrambled eggs with naan were great as was the handroll bento, as usual. And I think the chocolate salty oat cookies might be a new obsession of mine.

                        We can't wait to go back and try some more of your suggestions. Thanks again!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: eclaire

                          The sweet tea is definitely a southern thing and an acquired taste. When eating soul food, I always get unsweetened tea if I don't feel like having an insulin attack.

                        2. Any suggestions for good local stuff between Thomas Circle and Whitehouse? in town for a class and will be walking that route for a few days. Closest metro was McPherson Square, Ethiopean would be excellent, also love chewy seafood. Cheap is good, might splurge at least one night.