Washington D.C. on a Bit of a Budget
Guide by Rebecca Grenham
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Washington D.C. on a Bit of a Budget
By Rebecca Grenham
Washington, D.C. is not a cheap town. Rent is high, public transportation is pricey, and eating out is a luxury often left to the lawyers and lobbyists. However, as D.C.'s many broke grad students can tell you, the city does have some excellent, affordable restaurants – along with somewhat expensive places that are well worth the price. Here's a former grad student's guide to dining in D.C.
Heat da Spot Café: Situated in a bustling part of town, Heat da Spot is a small cafe that’s great for breakfast and brunch. The family-run restaurant serves both American and Ethiopian dishes. The Ethiopian breakfast platter of spicy scrambled eggs made with onion, pepper, and tomato makes for a delicious meal, and it comes with a lentil samosa.
Ambar. Ambar’s best known for its Balkan experience menu, where you pay a flat fee to order an unlimited number of small plates for two hours. Its take on lamb lasagna, made with eggplant and tomato and topped with a creamy bechamel, is a standout. Other great small plates include the rainbow trout, which is grilled and covered in a lemony aioli, and the “pepper croquette,” a red bell pepper stuffed with beef, rice, and beans. Whatever you do, make sure you stay the full two hours and get your money’s worth!
Maketto. Possibly my favorite on this list, Maketto is part retail store, part cafe, part bar and part restaurant serving food inspired by Taiwanese and Cambodian traditions. The large menu offers excellent value for a delicious meal. If you’re not that hungry, get some small plates like the fluffy pork bao. The crispy gruyere dumplings are worth a try: they also come with a beef sauce that’s mixed with Thai basil and chili, adding some spice to the cheesy dish. If you want something more filling go for the fried chicken seasoned with chili and honey (plus, the dish is big enough for two).
Bob’s Shanghai 66. Though not technically in D.C., this restaurant is so good it’s well worth the trek out to Rockville, Maryland. Big hits are the dan dan beef noodles, dumplings, and wonton noodle soups. My personal favorite is the fried tofu. Crispy and covered in chili, the dish is so flavorful that even tofu haters will love it.
Taqueria Habanero. If you’re craving Mexican food while in town, Taqueria Habanero is your best option. The taco menu includes U.S.-Mexican classics like carnitas and lengua, along with octopus, grasshopper, and a cactus option. My favorite is the al pastor. If you’re really hungry go for the huarache: the thick tortilla and refried beans will fill you up quickly.
Unconventional Diner. One of D.C.’s most popular brunch spots (a feat in a town where brunch is a hobby), Unconventional Diner is also a great place for dinner. The cornbread muffins come with a tasty habanero butter that’s sweetened with honey, while the Moroccan taquitos are stuffed with shredded chicken and served with a slightly spicy harissa salsa. For mains, try the Peking duck confit: it’s crispy duck leg with sesame seeds, served with a housemade hoisin sauce. It also comes with a side of fluffy bao that sweeten up this very savory dish.
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