1 $2.75 pepperoni-pizza slice at Pete’s Apizza (1400 Irving St., NW; 202-332-7383). Not too crunchy, not too floppy, not too cheesy—the slices at this New Haven–inspired pizza shop in DC’s Columbia Heights are just right. They tend to fall into the greasiness trap if overloaded with toppings, so we keep it simple with pepperoni. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
2 $5.99 beef and lamb gyro at El Khartoum (1782 Florida Ave., NW; 202-986-5031). A mixture of ground beef and lamb goes into the bulging gyro that may be the only reason to visit this Sudanese/Middle Eastern joint. Peppery shavings from a rotating spit sport a smoky crunch from a toss on the grill. Swaddled in thick pita with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, its juices mingle with tahini, refreshing tzatziki, and—if you’re brave—hot sauce. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
3 $5.99 barbecue-beef sandwich at Howard Delicatessen (2612-A Georgia Ave., NW; 202-332-5747). It doesn’t matter whether you choose white or wheat for this Tennessee-style sandwich ($5.99)—the slow-cooked brisket is so saucy that it renders the bread useless. But the shredded meat, dripping with sweet slather, doesn’t need any accompaniment. Except for maybe the Slurpee-size Ghetto Sweet Iced Tea ($1.75), brewed with a judicious helping of sugar. Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner; weekend hours vary.
4 $5.25 shrimp taco at Taqueria Poblano (2400-B Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, 703-548-8226; 2503-A N. Harrison St., Arlington, 703-237-8250). It might not look substantial, but the Cali-style shrimp taco at these festively shabby hangouts packs a riot of flavor into that flour tortilla. Besides grilled, spiced shrimp, you get tangy marinated onions, avocado-tinted sour cream, and pico de gallo. If that doesn’t fill you up, the chips and jícama spears with darkly roasted salsa will. Alexandria location open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner; Arlington Tuesday through Sunday for lunch, daily for dinner.
5 $5.95 falafel at Max’s Kosher Cafe » (2319 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-949-6297). The only reason to come to Max’s is the falafel. Revelatory in lightness and crunch, they hardly need condiments, but the counterman will bid you to dress them up—we like sauerkraut, pickled onions, chopped salad, tahini, and hot sauce. Open Sunday through Thursday for lunch and dinner, Friday for lunch.
6 $5.99 arepas at La Caraqueña (300 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-533-0076).This restaurant has staked its reputation on the sometimes fried, sometimes griddled corn cakes known in Venezuela as arepas, a grab-and-go snack that is to that country what burgers are to Americans. The menu lists nearly a dozen satisfying varieties, including ham and cheese, shredded beef known as carne mechada ($6.49), and scrambled eggs and onions. They make for deeply satisfying overstuffed sandwiches. But a plain arepa ($1.99) called viuda, or “widow,” is no less wonderful. Open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner.
7 $6.95 burger at Ray’s Hell-Burger (1713 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-841-0001). Michael Landrum’s burger place makes good use of the trimmings left over from his nearby Ray’s the Steaks. We could eat the ten-ounce, chargrilled patties without any adornment, but the blackboard of free toppings is tempting. You can go wild with sherried mushrooms and smoky bleu, but you’ll be just as happy with cheddar, tomato, and onion. Open daily for dinner, Friday through Sunday for lunch.
$7.50 cod sandwich at Eamonn’s (728 King St., Alexandria; 703-299-8384). The filet in the sandwich is the same flaky, beer-battered cod in the fish ’n’ chips at Cathal Armstrong’s Irish-inspired chipper. Here it’s layered with lettuce and the shop’s house-made tartar sauce—we request a spoonful of the curry sauce, too—and tucked into a kaiser roll. Together, the soft roll, crisp-fried fish, and cool crunch of tartar and lettuce make for sublime eating. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
$9.50 paper-style dosa at Saravana Palace (11725 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-218-4182). Two or three eaters could happily share this huge rolled rice crepe, which is spread thinner and made crisper than its dosa cousins. Tear off a leaf of the translucent bread, capturing some of the warm, curried-potato filling, and dunk it in bracing coconut chutney. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Dirt Cheap Eats 2008