Cheap Eats 2008: Saravana Palace

Why go: After some ups and downs, this all-vegetarian southern-Indian dining room has found its groove again with lovely breads and terrific rice dishes.

What to get: Idli, steamed rice cakes paired with stewed-vegetable sambar and chutneys; papri chat, a tangy salad of potatoes and chickpeas drizzled with tamarind and yogurt; regular or paper-style dosas, India’s version of crepes, filled with masala-style potatoes and onions and served with green-chili-stoked coconut chutney; a gram-flour crepe topped with ginger and chilies; chili-and-onion-topped uttapam, a pancakelike bread made from rice and lentils; wonderfully fragrant coconut rice; tart lemon rice.

Best for: A quick buffet lunch (watch for waiters coming around with fresh dosas); a leisurely vegetarian feast.

Insider tip: Dals, vegetable stews, and curries have lacked oomph lately.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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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 Logan Circle.