Food

The Best Cheap Restaurants In Silver Spring

The Best Cheap Restaurants In Silver Spring
Shrimp moilee at Jewel of India. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

From our list of the 100 best cheap restaurants around DC, here are the five best budget-friendly restaurants in Silver Spring:

Jewel of India

It’s prettier than most suburban curry houses, with a stylish bar and a colorful, low-lit dining room. It’s prettier, too, on the plate—but that doesn’t mean much if the kitchen can’t keep pace with the atmospherics. This one, overseen by the folks behind the vegetarian stalwart Woodlands, can. The menu aims to balance traditional tastes and street foods, classical approaches and more contemporary ones, and has no demonstrable weak spots. It does have a clear strength, and that’s in its vegetable curries, carried off with a finesse (and lack of oil) not often found elsewhere. Seafood, too, is handled with care, notably a preparation of shrimp moilee in which prawns are matched up to a creamy, coconut-rich gravy loaded with crunchy mustard seeds and dark, fragrant curry leaves.

Kabob n’ Karahi

Karahi is one of the culinary thrills of Pakistani cuisine: Tender chunks of meat glistening with chili oil and tossed with slivers of ginger and garlic are stir-fried in an iron wok and brought to the table still sizzling. And the fiery versions at this counter-service spot—especially the lamb, bone-in chicken, goat, and kofta (ground beef) karahis—are everything they should be. Scoop them up with a wedge of warm, blistered naan or embellish a forkful with a bit of basmati. Spice-rubbed kebabs cooked over an open flame—go for lamb chops or bone-in chicken—are less mouth-numbing but still wonderful. Besides the regular menu, a roster of daily specials is worth checking out—especially the kofta curry on Wednesdays.

NaiNai’s Noodle & Dumpling Bar

This zippy noodle parlor takes a pan-Asian approach to bao, those pillowy steamed buns that keep popping up all over town. Beyond the usual pork-belly and duck fillings (both done with flair), there are rave-worthy takes such as seared teriyaki Spam with mango salsa. The kitchen is even better with noodles. The Streets of Taipei bowl brings together hand-rolled strands with five-spice beef brisket, mustard greens, crispy garlic, and bok choy in a spicy beef broth. And pai gow—a tangle of noodles, ground pork, sprouts, and scallions tossed with soy sauce and chili oil—is lovely.

Olazzo

Flickering candles, dark wood, and vintage photos give these dining rooms a Mulberry Street vibe. The lineup of red-sauce plates fits the theme. This is the place to rediscover retro classics—a robust lasagna, linguine with sausage and melty peppers, or eggplant and veal Parmesans that are lightly sauced and dotted with cheese. Fried calamari have just the right crunch, and arancini are nearly the size of a bocce ball. To keep the tab especially low, check out weekday specials such as half-price wine on Monday and $6 martinis on Tuesday.

Samantha’s

Lomo saltado, that mash-up of seared steak, French fries, peppers, and onions with a side of rice, is typically made with chewy, cheap cuts of beef. This cheerful pan-Latin eatery memorably elevates the dish with tenderloin tips and an abundance of savory, gravy-like sauce (great for dunking those fries). Another clean-your-plate dish: a seafood stew with lobster, shrimp, mussels, and clams in a briny, lightly creamy broth. Like most entrées, it’s big enough to share. And many starters, such as cheese-oozing pupusas paired with vinegary slaw, are generous enough to pass as mains.

This article appears in our May 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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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.

Anna Spiegel
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.