Cheap Eats 2010: Mandalay Restaurant & Café

100 places that offer great food at low prices.

Why go: This bustling, family-run restaurant isn’t as embracing and warm a destination as it used to be, but the cooking retains its homespun character. Neither as fiery and bright as Thai nor as layered and spiced as Indian, Burmese food is a blend of the two, and this kitchen manages the feat of turning seeming exotica—sour mustard, gram fritters—into dishes of pure comfort.

What to get: Spring-roll salad, a meal in itself and a fascinating study in textures; crunchy, vividly dressed ginger salad; stir-fry of broad noodles with fried egg, shrimp, and bean sprouts; pork with sour mustard greens; catfish in red sauce.

Best for: Vegetarians and others looking for big flavor without loading up on meat.

Insider tip: Desserts are no longer a sure thing. shweji, a creamy, steamed cake made from Cream of Wheat, remains a bargain at $3 but is less luscious than it used to be, and coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell resembles the kind of finish you find in tourist traps.

>> See all 2010 Cheap Eats restaurants here

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.