Cheap Eats 2008: Mandalay Restaurant & Café

Why go: Burmese food echoes the complex spices of India and the tangy heat of Thailand. The Myint family manages to make the new and unfamiliar reassuring, taking a home-style approach in the front of the house—courtesy of brothers Joe and Aung—and in the kitchen, which turns bold flavors into hearty dishes.

What to get: Crisp, deep-fried fritters of Asian squash; a salad of shredded ginger, yellow peas, and carrots (with or without the addition of fish sauce); an earthier salad featuring fermented tea leaves; sliced pork with sour mustard greens; LetThoke Sone, which combines four styles of noodles; and ShweJi, a cake of Cream of Wheat, coconut, and milk—as marvelous a dessert as you’ll find anywhere for three bucks.

Best for: Vegetarians. The menu amounts to a mix-and-match of protein and sauce, and there’s no drop-off at all in swapping tofu for pork or chicken in any of these dishes; in fact, in many instances, the lighter versions are superior.

Insider tip: To guarantee heat and pungency, request that a dish be prepared “College Park style”—a nod to the restaurant’s previous location.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

See all Cheap Eats 2008 restaurants 

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 Logan Circle.