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Must-Try Cheap Eats Around DC

By Olga Boikess
August 13, 2013

Eating well cheaply has near universal appeal. Whether you’re back from a vacation and need to count your pennies, you’re saving for a splurge or you simply like the adventure of finding good food deals, here are some delicious options to explore. 

  • Photo by: Samer Farha

    Fried Chicken

    This indulgence is in a fast-food class by itself this season. Dedicated fry shops from top-flight talents like GBD, or Golden Brown Delicious, below DuPont Circle and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken Downtown have given it cred. Meanwhile, the spicy Korean version, found at trendy Mandu in Mt. Vernon Square and at Bonchon Chicken outlets in Northern Virginia and Rockville, make it hot stuff in both senses of the word.

  • Photo by: pillpusher from Flickr

    Roasted Chicken

    South American chicken roasters, with their succulent birds, spicy dipping sauces and cheap prices have long been a quick take-home dinner for hungry commuters. El Pollo Rico, Crisp and Juicy and Chicken on the Run outlets earn top Zagat ratings. Some of those tempting smelling birds never make it out of the parking lot.

  • Fish 

    The fried fish sandwich is Washington, DC’s iconic fast food, and few do it better, or cheaper, than long-running Horace & Dickey’s in what has become the trendy Atlas District N.E. neighborhood. Fishnet in College Park grills uber-fresh fish for a Mediterranean take on the genre (pictured).

  • Photo by: compassionoverkilling

    Lunch Buffet

    It’s no secret that all-you-can-eat spreads can offer terrific bang for the buck, as well as an inexpensive introduction to an unfamiliar cuisine. Check out Curry Mantra, Woo Mi Gardens and Woodlands locations for intriguing tastes of Indian and Korean cuisines.


  • Noodles

    If microwaved noodles have been synonymous with cheap eats since your college days, it’s time to upgrade your taste buds. Full Key’s Hong Kong-style noodle soups, Pho 75’s meals-in-a bowl, Nooshi’s roster of Asian noodle dishes and ramen at the new Daikaya in Chinatown will do the trick.

  • Sandwiches

    Sure, sandwiches are a default cheap meal, but that doesn’t mean they need to be mediocre or boring. Not when talents like celebrity chefs Brain Voltaggio (Lunchbox) and Mike isabella (G Sandwich) invent them. What's more, World Bank fave Breadline bakes crunchy rolls daily for its internationally inspired choices (pictured), while Taylor Gourmet produces filling heros that impressed President Obama and that are a deal.

  • Sushi

    Although gas station sushi is often a joking matter, the supermarket version can sometimes be taken seriously. Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom, affiliated with high-end Kaz Sushi Bistro, uses state of the art equipment to roll maki. Other pocketbook-friendly, low-key sushi spots to check out include Potomac’s Kotobuki and Yo! Sushi, the conveyor belt Japanese restaurant in Union Station.

  • Photo by: Jody Brady


    When some of DC’s top chefs turn their talents to inexpensive Mexican street food, like tacos, everyone wins. Recent examples include chef Victor Albisu’s new Arlington spot Taco Bamba, chef Ann Cashion’s relocated Taqueria Nacional off 14th Street N.W. and chef Diana Davila-Boldin’s efforts at El Cucho in Columbia Heights.


Places Mentioned


Korean • Mount Vernon Square

Food23 Decor16 Service20 Cost$28
El Pollo Rico

Mexican • Arlington

Food26 Decor10 Service19 Cost$12
El Pollo Rico

Peruvian • Wheaton-Glenmont

Food26 Decor10 Service19 Cost$12
El Pollo Rico Chicken

Chicken • Gaithersburg

Food26 Decor10 Service19 Cost$12
El Pollo Rico

American • Woodbridge

Food26 Decor10 Service19 Cost$12
Crisp & Juicy

Chicken • Montgomery Village

Food24 Decor10 Service17 Cost$13
Crisp & Juicy

Chicken • Tenleytown

Food24 Decor10 Service17 Cost$13
Chicken on the Run

Chicken • Bethesda

Food24 Decor11 Service19 Cost$14
Horace & Dickie's Seafood

Seafood • Atlas District/H Street Corridor

Food22 Decor6 Service20 Cost$12

Seafood • College Park

Food24 Decor16 Service20 Cost$17
Curry Mantra

Indian • Fairfax

Food23 Decor20 Service22 Cost$27
Woomi Garden

Korean • Wheaton-Glenmont

Food20 Decor15 Service19 Cost$27
Woodlands Restaurants

Indian • Langley Park

Food24 Decor15 Service20 Cost$20

Asian • White House/World Bank

Food21 Decor15 Service17 Cost$21
Pho 75

Vietnamese • West Falls Church

Food24 Decor8 Service16 Cost$13
Pho 75

Vietnamese • Rockville

Food24 Decor8 Service16 Cost$13
Pho 75

Vietnamese • Arlington

Food24 Decor8 Service16 Cost$13

Japanese • Palisades

Food25 Decor10 Service18 Cost$27
Taylor Gourmet

Sandwich Shop • Mount Vernon Square

Food22 Decor16 Service17 Cost$14
Taylor Gourmet

Sandwich Shop • Atlas District/H Street Corridor

Food22 Decor16 Service17 Cost$14
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