24 Inexpensive Tasting Menus to Try Now

Dine at some of Washington’s best restaurants for $50 or less.

You don’t need to wait for a pricey special-occasion dinner to try chef Eric Ziebold’s exciting cooking at CityZen. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Multi-course menus can be more of an event than a meal, especially when you’re saving
up for the likes of a $3,000 José’s Table.
But you don’t have to wait until restaurant week to sample three or more courses from
some of Washington’s top chefs. Plenty of restaurants offer regular tasting menus
at $50 and below. Granted, you may be dining in the bar area, or at an earlier hour
than usual—but we’ve often found it’s not where or what time you’re eating, but what
and who you’re with.

Dinner (Regular Hours)

Al Dente

Roberto Donna, once the master of the over-the-top laboratorio at Galileo, offers toned-down tastings
fit for his more casual Fox Hall eatery (unless, of course, you’re one of “Roberto’s
”). Two menus offer multiple courses
per person or in a family-style lineup.

Price: $35 per person for a four-course menu;
$40 for a chef’s-choice family-style menu (children under 12 eat for $15).

Go: Sunday through Thursday 4 to 10, Friday and Saturday 4 to 11.


You can dine on the cheap during both lunch and dinner at this swanky Penn Quarter
Italian spot. Daytime brings a three-course “business lunch” deal, while dinner offers
more of a tasting-menu experience with a four-course lineup of vegetarian dishes such
as slow-roasted stuffed eggplant and risotto with chanterelles.

Price: $27 for the three-course lunch;
$48 for the four-course vegetarian menu

Go: Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10:30, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11.


You don’t necessarily have to save one of Washington’s go-to special-occasion spots
for an anniversary. Belly up to the bar for a more casual evening with chef
Eric Ziebold’s three-course sampling, which is similarly elegant, with dishes like sea trout tournedos
and monkfish bourguignon.

Price: $50 for a three-course menu

Go: Tuesday through Thursday 6 to 9:30, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 9:30.


Though it’s not highly promoted by the restaurant, food and wine editor
Todd Kliman likes dropping by chef
Tom Power’s Shaw restaurant for the under-the-radar three-course special at the bar. The menu
includes seafood, meat, and pasta options.

Price: $30 for a three-course menu

Go: Anytime during regular hours.


Todd and
Ellen Gray celebrate the 14th anniversary of their downtown restaurant with a special four-course
menu through late September. Summery options include cucumber-green tomato gazpacho
and barbecued salmon.

Price: $40 for the four-course menu

Go: Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30, Sunday 5:30
to 9. Available through September 21 (excluding restaurant week).


Mike Isabella is a fan of tasting menus—each of his three restaurants offers one—but you’ll find
the gentlest pricing at his new sandwich spot/supper club. Daytime chicken Parms give
way to two tasting menus: a modern-leaning lineup with dishes such as dry-aged duck
over beet panzanella, and a Sunday family-style feast of Italian-American classics,
which starts August 11.

Price: $40 per person for the tasting menu and family-style Sunday gravy menu

Go: Wednesday and Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11. Sunday gravy: 5 to 10.

Little Serow

Chances are you’ve heard of
Johnny Monis’s northern Thai spot below his nationally renowned Komi.
Prices at the latter have climbed to $135 per person before drinks, tax, and tip,
so it feels like a steal to get the chef’s expert-level cooking for less than half
the price.

Price: $45 for a seven-course family-style meal, with menus changing weekly

Go: A line often forms before the restaurant opens for a seat at this walk-in-only spot.
Open Tuesday through Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30.

Maketto Residency

Erik Bruner-Yang’s Toki Underground is one of our favorite Cheap Eats spots—just check out the current issue—and his Southeast
Asian pop-up at Hanoi House isn’t much pricier.

Price: $30 for the six-course family-style dinner

Go: Monday through Saturday starting at 5.


Perhaps prices are lower in Baltimore—even at the Four Seasons!—because Pabu’s “satori”
tasting is one of the most diverse tasting menus for the cost, and it’s offered nightly
during dinner. Courses hit all areas of the menu, from robata meats to raw fish.

Price: $49.88 per person for the six-course menu

Go: Tuesday through Thursday 6 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30.


Georgetown’s classic fine-dining spot gets into the relaxed summer spirit with a limited-run
seasonal special. You’ll have more choice than at many places; guests pick four courses
from the regular dinner menu.

Price: $50 for your choice of two starters (including soups, salads, and pastas), an entrée,
and dessert from the regular menu

Go: Fill out this form for
the deal Monday through Friday until September 13.

Thai X-ing

A communal Thai feast emerges from
Taw Vigsittaboot’s Shaw townhouse kitchen, which is made even better by the fact it’s a) affordable,
and b) one of the few BYO places in town, meaning you won’t hike up the tab with booze.
Grab friends and a few bottles of wine for a fun night.

Price: $30 to $50 per person, depending on which menu and night you choose

Go: Tuesday through Sunday.

Dinner (Pre-Theater)


The early menu lasts later than most of its kind at Frederik de Pue’s nautically themed
seafood spot. You can even indulge your boardwalk cravings with crispy calamari, fish
and chips, and a cotton candy bowl for dessert.

Price: $35 for the three-course menu

Go: Daily 5 to 7.


Entrées generally run $30 and up at
Fabio Trabocchi’s elegant Italian, so the $38 prix-fixe feels like a steal. Seasonal plates include
burrata with roasted tomatoes and basil and fish of the day with rosemary zabaglione.

Price: $38 for a three-course menu

Go: Monday to Thursday 5:30 to 6:30, in the lounge area only.

Oval Room

Eat a light lunch, then head to this stately dining room by the White House just after
work for the pre-theater lineup. The seasonal dishes vary, with options like soft-shell
crab with pickled watermelon and ricotta ravioli.

Price: $39 for the three-course pre-theater menu

Go: Daily 5:30 to 6:30.


Given how hard it can be to snag a prime-time reservation at Rasika Penn Quarter or
West End, it may make sense to dine early with the pre-theater menu for both ease
and cost. Note that the “grand menu
tasting is available for $58 if you’re in the mood to semi-splurge during regular

Price: $35 for three-course pre-theater menu

Go: Monday through Saturday for dinner until 6:30.


The pre-theater menu at
Ashok Bajaj’s downtown dining room isn’t just for early birds; head over any time on Sunday evening
and dine on dishes like beef carpaccio with black garlic and burrata agnolotti for
barely over $30.

Price: $32 per person for the three-course menu

Go: Monday through Saturday, open until 6:45. Sunday all evening.


gran degustazione at this Obama-approved white tablecloth Italian will run up to $95, but you can beat
the system two ways: Order à-la-carte dishes from the tasting menus—Tosca is one of
the few restaurants that allows this—or go early. You can still order the standout
carrot pappardelle with rabbit ragu either way.

Price: $38 for a three-course menu

Go: Monday through Saturday 5:30 to 6:30.


The Source

Wolfgang Puck’s Newseum restaurant already mixes high-end and casual with its sidewalk-level
izakaya and formal restaurant. Get the best of both worlds with the set lunch menu, which
includes perks such as a glass of wine with your meal and discounted museum entry.

Price: $45 for a three-course menu

Go: Monday through Friday 11:30 to 3:30.


Not only does
Jeffrey Buben’s Southern spot boast one of the best happy hour deals in town—$7 Manhattans! Crawfish
hushpuppies!—it also provides an inexpensive white-tablecloth lunch with dishes like
fried green tomatoes and rabbit pot pie.

Price: $19.90 for the three-course menu

Go: Monday through Friday 11:30 to 2:30.


The parade of Mediterranean small plates at Zaytinya can already feel a bit like a
tasting menu, but at lunch you can pick your choice of four hot and cold mezze for
a more structured experience.

Price: $25 for four small plates from a coursed menu

Go: Daily 11:30 to 2:30.


Ashby Inn

Though it’s not super-expensive, it’ll feel like a special occasion driving out to
Virginia wine country for brunch at the Ashby Inn. Old-world charm meets an ambitious
menu with dishes such as crab-stuffed squash blossoms with pickled yuzu and bacon-caramel
fried chicken and waffles.

Price: $45 for a three-course brunch menu

Go: Sunday noon to 2.

L’Auberge Chez François

Sunday “luncheon” can be quite the Francophile affair at Jacques Haeringer’s classic
Great Falls restaurant. You can also get a set four-course meal on weekdays, but why not relax over six on the weekend?

Price: $38 to $50 for a six-course menu,
depending on the price of the entrée

Go: Sunday noon to 3.


Post up on Table’s pretty deck for the new five-course “degustation” Sunday brunch
(launching August 18th). Dishes include savory smoked salmon waffles, Boursin-and-prosciutto
mille-feuille, and caramelized-pear crepes with goat cheese. Make a day of it and
tack on bottomless mimosas.

Price: $35 for the five-course menu; $48 with bottomless mimosas.

Go: Sunday 11 to 2.


Bryan Voltaggio’s dinner tasting runs $95—before wine and Frederick-area accommodations should you
wish to avoid driving back to Washington—so we love heading out to the airy restaurant
for the generously priced brunch (with plenty of time to walk off mimosas after).
Crossover between the two menus means you won’t be denied that calamari Bolognese just for dining in the daytime.

Price: $35 for a three-course menu.

Go: Saturday and Sunday 11:30 to 2.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.