10 Best Cheap Eats in Washington D.C. on a Budget
Best Places to Eat in Washington D.C. on a Budget
As a perennial deal-seeker, whenever I’m traveling I make it a fun game to find the best places to grab a bite to eat without breaking the bank. As I’ll be headed to Washington, D.C. for a work conference, what better opportunity to figure out where the best places to eat in D.C. on a budget are?
Here’s what I found to be the top 10 best cheap eats in Washington, D.C.:
A Baked Joint
If you’re like me and prefer something quick and simple for breakfast, check out A Baked Joint. The Mount Vernon Triangle bakery and cafe’s most popular menu item is the biscuit sammie, which is stacked with your choice of meat or goat cheese, chives, egg, and cheddar.
In the mood for something a little more substantial? The NC Country Ham features two thick slices of NC ham, two organic eggs, cheddar cheese and mayo on a bolillo roll.
Located in D.C.’s historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, Market Lunch seems to be the go-to place for breakfast. When it comes to pancakes, you have your choice of the signature blueberry buckwheat, chocolate chip, or buttermilk pancakes. You can get either a short stack of two pancakes, or a full stack, which is made of three pancakes.
Other popular breakfast dishes include the French toast, and if you’re in the mood for something savory, go for the grits. It’s a busy spot, particularly on the weekends, so expect to wait.
Have a hankering for a traditional breakfast? Ari’s has what you need. I’m curious to try the stack of pancakes, which are slathered in butter and syrup and come in a stack of two or four. You can also order the brioche French Toast, or avocado toast sprinkled with sesame seeds, all for under $10.
Ari’s Diner | 2003 Fenwick St. NE Washington, DC 20002 | Tel. (202) 290-1827 | http://www.arisdiner.com/
If you’re in the mood for some casual fare, look no further than the Amsterdam falafelshop. This local favorite is something that’s definitely on my must-try list. The much-talked-about falafel sandwich is loaded with either three or five falafel balls.
You can load your falafel-stuffed pita with over 20 unlimited toppings and sauces such as pickled beets, Turkish salad, and fried eggplant. Another item to indulge in is the twice-fried frieten (aka fries), which comes with your choice of dipping sauces.
Amsterdam Falafelshop | Various locations in the D.C. area | https://www.falafelshop.com/
Bub and Pop’s
If you’re in the mood for hot or cold sandwiches, Bub and Pop’s offers a great selection at a cheap price.
Even though the prices are affordable, this cheap eatery does not skimp on quality.
It’s a great place to go when you’re on the go, but want something hearty and delicious.
It’s an Italian-style eatery with large portions and a great array of sandwich options to choose from. Whether you’re vegetarian or a meat-eater, you’ll find a sandwich that speaks to you. For me, the sandwich that caught my eye was Pop’s Beef Brisket. The sandwich has slow braised beef, apple-horseradish cream, 5-Year-Aged Gouda, and Veal Jus.
The average price for a half sandwich (which is jam packed with deliciousness) is about ten dollars, which makes for a budget-friendly option and is easily accessible since it’s in the heart of DC.
Bub and Pop’s | 1815 M Street NW. Washington DC, 20036 | https://bubandpops.com/
The lunch counter-turned sit-down restaurant in the Penn Quarter is offers more than just tacos. Opened by restaurateur Victor Albisu, You’ll find nachos topped with shrimp and calamari (The Dark Knight), crispy crab tostadas, and breakfast served all day.
If you’re in the mood for tacos, you’ll find these traditional Mexican favorites served with a twist: al pastor with a bit of pineapple thrown in the mix, and carnitas toppled with a nopales relish. If you love a unique libation, Taco Bamba also features specialty cocktails such as the wood-fired pineapple margarita. All this delectable food for an affordable price.
Taco Bamba | 777 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 289-7377
Chicken + Whiskey
If you’re checking out the historical sights at the National Mall, swing by Chicken + Whiskey. It offers rotisserie chicken with a South American flourish. Delicious and affordable, the rotisserie chicken is brined for over 12 hours, then slow-cooked over a bed of wood charcoal.
Dining during lunch? Depending on how hungry you are, the ¼ chicken with two sides should satiate your hunger. Notable sides include the green plantain chips; and peperonata criolla, which is a colorful, spicy mix of fresh bell peppers, jalapenos, and seasonal vegetables. If you’re hankering for a sandwich, a signature dish is the borracho wrap is made up of pulled rotisserie chicken mixed with arroz chaufa.
Whiskey lovers won’t be disappointed. Chicken + Whiskey boasts over 99 whiskeys, including a selection of bourbons, ryes, international and American. There’s also limited release pours that aren’t offered on their menu.
Located near the hotel where I’m staying is Keren Restaurant, which boasts delicious yet affordable Ethopian food. The servings are generous, so you might want to go with a few friends and share a platter or two of ful. Opt for the Keren special and expect to find a heaping platter of veggies and meat. My friends and I plan on checking it out, but with an expected wait.
Keren Cafe and Restaurant | 1780 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 265-5764
Hank’s Oyster Bar
With five locations in the D.C. area to choose from, Hank’s Oyster Bar is the go-to for seafood lovers. Delight in New England classics like lobster rolls, and of course, oysters on the half shell. If you’re dining with a companion, you can order a meat ‘n’ two plate, which features your choice of meat and two sides.
To save some dough, consider ordering a few of the budget-friendly small plates. You can also order a couple of sides to share. Signature sides include the provencal green beans, which are cooked with kalamata olives, capers and tomatoes; and buttermilk onion rings.
Hank’s Oyster Bar | Various locations in the D.C. area | https://hanksoysterbar.com/
Old Ebbitt Grill
Established in 1856, the Old Ebbitt Grill is DC’s oldest bar and grill. While it has relocated several times and have gone over several iterations, I’m curious to visit this tavern decked out with a Victorian-style flourish.
For the budget-minded, you might want to order a sandwich such as Walter’s Favorite — layers of pastrami and Muenster wedged in between slices of pumpernickel — and the cornmeal-crusted Chesapeake Bay catfish.
During the Oyster Happy Hour, can also enjoy anything from the raw bar for half off. Happy Hour is every day from 3 – 6 p.m. There’s also a late-night happy hour every day from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.)
I love me a doughnut. Consider the benefits for the budget-minded: You can split up a few to share, and partly because even the high-end ones are still under 10 bucks. If you want basic, you head over to the local mom and pop donut shop. But if you want unique, you might want to check out District Doughnut.
While the menu changes with the seasons, you can expect to find key-lime pie doughnut, which is filled with key lime curd and topped with lime-graham streusel; and the brown butter doughnut, made with vanilla bean dough with a brown butter drizzle.
District Doughnut | Various locations in the D.C. area | https://www.districtdoughnut.com
Washington DC has a ton of great food options, but here are just some of the best cheap eats in the city. I hope you take advantage of this list of the best cheap eats in Washington, D.C. Remember: You certainly don’t have to sacrifice yummy food experiences to stay under your travel budget. I know I won’t be. And when you’re ready to move on to another city, check out our affordable dining guides for NYC, New Orleans, and Myrtle Beach!