News & Politics

Dirt Cheap Eats 2007

Dear Washingtonian: My friends and I love good food but don’t have much money to spend. Where should we go?—The Twentysomething Gourmet

It’s a question we get asked all the time—and one we love trying to answer as we scour the area each year in search of great dining values. At each of the 65 restaurants on this list, you’ll find a meal for under $15 a person—at many places for even less.

The options are wide-ranging. There’s the Oxon Hill bakery/cafe owned by a pastry-chef alum of the legendary restaurant Jean-Louis. And the Northern Virginia offshoots of a Korean fried-chicken chain that turn out supremely moist, crisply battered birds. Think it’s impossible to get a good fish taco around here? Not anymore. Taqueria Nacionale—the Capitol Hill lunch spot opened earlier this year by James Beard Award–winning chef Ann Cashion—offers a worthy version for $2.50. Get a freshly pressed watermelon juice to go with it.

For lunchtime alternatives to the “fast-casual” chains, noontime deals include a $7.95 feast at Saravana Palace (ranked 21st on this year’s 100 Best Restaurants list) and a Vietnamese cafe with some of the best pho and noodle bowls around.

Or maybe it’s 2 am and you’re hungry for something besides pizza. We’ve turned up a Chinatown hangout beloved by Penn Quarter chefs for postshift dining and a cozy Moroccan kitchen that turns out terrific bastilla—an eggy chicken pie that makes for great communal eating.

Like the trendy Indian-fusion restaurant Rasika but can’t afford to visit as often as you’d like? Masala Country in Centreville doesn’t stint on the spice, and its 36 dosas are full of imagination. Horace & Dickies isn’t as fancy as Hank’s Oyster Bar, but it’s got some of the best fried fish in town. So try these places. You’ll be richer for it in every sense of the word.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.