Cheap Eats 2008: Ruan Thai

Why go: The cooking is as electric as the dull-colored walls and gray storefront aren’t, with a brightness and pungency often absent in more hiply decorated Thai spots.

What to get: Warm, pillowy scallion dumplings; a starter known as “yum watercress,” a giant fritter of shrimp and fried watercress; pad Thai; whole fish (often sea bass) deep-fried to a golden turn; duck in red curry, the crisp-skinned meat redolent of star anise; lightly salty sticky rice with ripe mango—the best in the area.

Best for: Anyone in need of a palate wake-up.

Insider tip: For group dining, it’s best to limit yourself to just a few of the big, sharable entrées, such as the crispy fish or duck, and load up on appetizers—the strength of the menu—while saving room for dessert.

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.