Chef Seng Luangrath’s Columbia Heights eatery often takes the spotlight from its more modest sibling, Bangkok Golden. We can see why: The cooking tends to be hotter and brighter, the dining room is spiffier, and the bar serves creative drinks that go well beyond staple Asian beers—split a liter carafe of luad, a blend of Malbec, sherry, and citrus. Adventurers should heed the call of the “jungle menu,” an exhilarating array of dishes that run super-fiery (shredded green papaya with dried shrimp), exotic (minced-alligator larb), or both, such as an addictive chilledpho salad with unfiltered fish sauce and crispy pig ears. Though such a trip is doable in the Cheap Eats budget, beware going overboard—pricier proteins such as local blue catfish, and cocktails, can add up.
Also good: Crispy-coconut-rice salad with steamed pig’s ears; shrimp-and-mushroom-stuffed chicken wings; duck larb; sour-tamarind soup; ceviche-style shrimp; grilled pork neck.