Cheap Eats 2009: Bangkok 54

Great food, low prices, lots of fun

Why go: With its low lighting and silk pillows, this Thai restaurant looks more like a Penn Quarter lounge than a place for a $6.95 lunch special. More important, the kitchen doesn’t dumb down the flavor or curb the fire.

What to get: The chili-flecked ground-chicken salad called larb gai; curry puffs with buttery, braided crusts that call to mind empanadas; fried firecracker shrimp served in a martini glass; roti-wrapped duck rolls with hoisin; crispy whole fish—large enough to share—with young ginger and shiitakes; fried, lacquered duck with sliced chilies; seared tofu with chili-basil sauce; pad Thai with shrimp; mango-ginger margarita (most of the other cocktails drift into Hawaiian Punch territory).

Best for: A budget date; a night out with scene-conscious friends.

Insider tip: The takeout operation is efficient, and much of the menu travels well.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

>> See all 2009 Cheap Eats restaurants here 

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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.