These restaurants come from our 2017 Cheap Eats list, our guide to inexpensive ethnic dining in the region.
3207 Grace St.
Little has changed since this taco business went from a farmers-market stand to a full-fledged vegetarian taqueria—except, of course, its airy surroundings and sparkling Lambrusco on tap. The kitchen still makes toothsome corn tortillas, griddled to order and stuffed with winning local/seasoning combinations such as asparagus, spring garlic, preserved lemon, and chèvre. Make a meal with velvety black beans or brown rice tossed in herb pesto. We especially love the place on weekends, when you can add fried or soft-scrambled Maryland eggs.
Also good: Mushroom-and-feta tacos; kale-and-potato tacos.
10151 New Hampshire Ave.
This is one of the few bargain restaurants where vested servers use table-crumbers on white cloths. The sophistication also applies to the kitchen, which highlights Northern Indian fare and a few Indo-Chinese specialties, such as a standout paneer hot-and-sour soup. It’s operated by the same owner as vegetarian Woodlands in Langley Park, so it’s no wonder you’ll want to gravitate to the vegetables here, too. A thali tray is our favorite way to graze on spiced okra and eggplant bhartha, and the creamy dal that accompanies the mix is superior to versions you’ll find elsewhere.
Also good: Lamb vindaloo; shrimp jalfrezi with peppers and onions.
191 Somervelle St., Alexandria
It’s easy to get distracted by the curry-colored walls, chandeliers
and neon lights, and images of Indian and British celebrities (wait, is that Kate Winslet?). But when the food arrives, there’s plenty to keep your focus on the table. Goan fish curry with silky bass or vinegar-tinged chicken vindaloo are richly spiced and not too greasy. Meanwhile, lamb biryani comes with a bit of flair: The dish is served in a copper pot with a layer of naan sealing the top. A server carves it open tableside, releasing the aromatics from the rice and meat within.
Also good: Dahi poori, lentil puffs stuffed with yogurt, tamarind, and chickpeas; malai kofta, a creamy onion curry with cheese-and-vegetable dumplings.
1505 Columbia Pike, Arlington
It’s hard to conceive of vegetarian dulet—typically an offal-heavy dish of ground beef, liver, and tripe—let alone a delicious one. Leave it to this crowd-pleasing bakery/butcher/restaurant to deliver on both the classic and tofu renditions, seasoned with caramelized onion and ginger (ditto for the traditional and veggie versions of beef-tartare-like kitfo, with herbed cheese). Dama’s big appeal is the freedom to dabble—whether at breakfast or the lunchtime buffet, or on the all-day menu of vegetables, tibs, and stews. Chef/co-owner Almaz Dama crafts the lovely European-inspired cakes and pastries, that, like the rest of the lineup, include speciaties for vegans.
Also good: Vegetable combo platter; Dama special lamb tibs.