February 13, 2013 by toursbybecca
Last week, my favorite issue of Washingtonian arrived in my mailbox – the 100 Best Restaurants issue! I love reading the reviews of what new restaurants are must-tries and which classic locales are still dishing out quality meals decades into their existence. But let’s be real – most of those restaurants are out of my dining price range – and the price range of most visitors! While you might want to splurge on a dinner here or there, it can feel overwhelming to find quality eats at prices that won’t make you lose your lunch.
In the spirit of democratic dining, here are my top ten recommendations for dining on a budget – good food that leaves you with a little extra dough in your pocketbook.
1. BTS: Burger Tap Shake. If you like delicious burgers, crispy fries, craft beer on tap, and boozy milkshakes, this is the place for you. It’s located right across the street from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station or a 15-minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial, so it’s a great midday stop while sightseeing. The six-buck chuck is the star of the menu but I recommend pairing it with onion rings and a local beer – a great meal that comes in well under $20
2. Ben’s Chili Bowl – Ben’s is a DC landmark – it’s been a integral part of the historic U Street neighborhood since 1958 and is included in the exclusive list of restaurants where President Barack Obama has made an appearance. It’s also a great place to have a delicious, history-steeped meal without spending a fortune – the signature chili half-smoke will run you under $6 and keep you full for an afternoon of neighborhood exploring.
3. Radius Pizza – I have a soft spot for Radius Pizza, because I had my very first solo meal there when I first moved to the city. It’s tucked away in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, off the beaten path for most tourists, but it’s well worth a visit. Try to swing by for happy hour, where you can get a huge slice and a pint for $7 or half-price pizzas. All the toppings are locally-sourced and fresh and you can split a full size pizza for less than $20.
4. Surfside – If you’re looking for a taste of summer all year long, Surfside is the perfect stop for you. Their fish-of-the-day tacos are always fresh, bursting with flavor, and come two-at-a-time for under $10. They also have a great kids menu, making this a great family stop.
5. Naan and Beyond – After exploring the White House, it’s worth walking a few blocks to Farragut West for heaping servings of samosas, tandoori chicken, lamb tikka, and more. Be careful if you plan to stop during lunch time – the office dwellers of Farragut are known to line up down the block to get in on the action. Plan to swing by after the lunch crush to take advantage of delicious, authentic Indian food for $15 or less a person.
6. Breadline – Sandwich shops are a DC staple but Breadline goes above and beyond the typical Subway/Potbelly offerings while keeping it’s prices recession-friendly. The daily specials are always tasty and the portion sizes make this the best sandwich value in town. With it’s proximity to the National Mall, this makes a perfect lunch stop while sightseeing.
7. The Diner – All the diner staples (plus beer and wine) at a small-town price and big-city hours. The Diner is one of the rare DC establishments that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serves up everything from breakfast, burgers, and blue plate specials. Bonus points for the late night people watching opportunities!
8. 2 Amys – This traditional Neapolitan Pizzeria is a DC gem – it has great ambiance, fantastic service, and the pizza is beyond delicious. It’s just a couple of blocks over from the National Cathedral, so this makes a perfect spot for a special dinner that isn’t too stuffy or too expensive.
9. Rocklands – If you’re looking for delicious barbeque, go Rocklands or go home. Generous portions, friendly staff, and multiple DC-area locations make this an excellent option for carnivorous visitors. Even though I’m a Texas girl who has never met a slice of beef brisket she didn’t like, the pulled pork at Rocklands is enough to make me (almost) consider converting.
10. Food Trucks – Any day that the weather is relatively good, your absolute best bet for scrumptious dining at budget prices is to sample some of DC’s food truck culture. There’s a food truck for everyone – whether you’re looking for East-meets-West tacos, savory or sweet pies by the slice, lobster rolls, or cupcakes – and the trucks are conveniently located for those out and about on foot. Check out the Food Truck Tracker to find the trucks nearest you!
Did I miss one of your favorite DC-on-a-budget eateries? Are you seeing a dining recommendation for your next visit? Have a great new spot to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments!