Mandalay Restaurant & Café
930 Bonifant St.
Silver Spring/Takoma Park, MD 20910
Neighborhood: Silver Spring/Takoma Park
Cuisines: Vegetarian/Vegan, Burmese
Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 to 2:30 and 5 9:30, Friday and Saturday 11:30 to 2:30 and 5 to 10, Sunday noon to 2:30 and 5 to 9:30.
Nearby Metro Stops: Silver Spring
Price Range: Inexpensive
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Needed
Squash fritters; spring roll salad; ginger salad; fermented tea leaf salad; sliced pork with sour mustard greens; LetThoke Sone, four styles of noodles; stirfry of broad noodles, egg, and shrimp; catfish in red sauce; ShweJi, a Cream of Wheat cake.
Why go: This bustling, family-run restaurant isn’t as embracing and warm a destination as it used to be, but the cooking retains its homespun character. Neither as fiery and bright as Thai nor as layered and spiced as Indian, Burmese food is a blend of the two, and this kitchen manages the feat of turning seeming exotica—sour mustard, gram fritters—into dishes of pure comfort.
What to get: Spring-roll salad, a meal in itself and a fascinating study in textures; crunchy, vividly dressed ginger salad; stir-fry of broad noodles with fried egg, shrimp, and bean sprouts; pork with sour mustard greens; catfish in red sauce.
Best for: Vegetarians and others looking for big flavor without loading up on meat.
Insider tip: Desserts are no longer a sure thing. shweji, a creamy, steamed cake made from Cream of Wheat, remains a bargain at $3 but is less luscious than it used to be, and coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell resembles the kind of finish you find in tourist traps.
>> See all 2010 Cheap Eats restaurants here