New York has countless hero shops, Montreal is famed for its bagels and smoked meat, but DC? Not your typical deli town. As with many of our culinary ways, our deli scene is notable more for its diversity than its depth. That means you’ll find a wealth of possibilities from all over the globe. Here, our favorite places for a sandwich or quick bite.
Ethiopian: Habesha Market and Carry-Out
1919 Ninth St., NW
On the shelves: The popular Shaw stop sells wheel-size rounds of injera—including spongy breads made with Ethiopian teff—plus coffee, kolo (roasted barley snacks), a kaleidoscope of lentils and spice blends, and Ethiopian CDs and newspapers.
Best takeout: Snacks such as crispy sambusa pastries and generous platters of homestyle cooking—awaze tibs (tender beef or lamb with jalapeños in ruddy berbere sauce) or a vegetarian combo that could feed a family.
Italian: The Italian Store
5837 Washington Blvd., Arlington; 3123 Lee Hwy., Arlington
At the counter: Subs—order ahead to get yours freshly made—laden with prosciutto, mortadella, and coppa. Also, sleeper-hit New York–style pizza and cannoli.
In the market: Old-country imports such as pungent Taleggio cheese and syrupy aged balsamic, plus fresh pastas and frozen sauces and Parms.
Polish: Polka Deli
13438 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring
At the counter: A huge variety—fresh and frozen pierogi, deli meats (including 15 styles of kielbasa), blintzes, and baked goods such as paczi (stuffed doughnuts).
Best takeout: Made-to-order sandwiches including a kielbasa Reuben; pan-fried potato-and-cheese pierogi with caramelized onions; and pork schnitzel.
Vietnamese: Nhu Lan
6763 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church
At the counter: The same delicious bánh mì that have kept patrons coming back to this tiny Eden Center shop since 1986. Warm baguette is slathered with “special butter” (similar to mayo) and pâté and stuffed with bright vegetables, cilantro, and layers of meats.
Best takeout: It’s hard to go wrong with the $6 sandwiches—we like the combination deli meats or barbecue pork. Try five and get the sixth free.
Mexican: La Union Grocery and Deli
4308 Lee Hwy., Arlington
At the counter: The off-the-beaten-path Cherrydale market sells fresh meats—vacio steaks for fajitas, Mexican and Salvadoran-style chorizo—and housemade tamales, empanadas, and salsas.
Best takeout: Homey platters of enchiladas Mexicanas smothered in salsa roja with rice, beans, and avocado salad; carne asada tacos; and pork-and-cheese pupusas.
Persian: Yekta Market
1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville
On the shelves: An array of spiced nuts, hard-to-find fruits (sour plums, Persian lemons), and rices. Hit the chilled section for yogurts, dips, and herby housemade hot sauce.
Best takeout: We skip the kebabs and go for sandwiches filled with Persian mortadella. Get a panir a sabzi—a pile of fresh herbs with feta and walnuts—on the side.
Indian: Pan-Am Fresh Super Market
3320 Brown St., NW
At the counter: This Mount Pleasant corner store looks like any city bodega, stocked with candy and toilet paper—except for the handwritten sign advertising Indian food. Owner and Bangladesh native “Jaba” Dowhera Vanu loves cooking, so she started making tasty platters in the small kitchen.
Best takeout: The menu is half deli sandwiches and half (what you’re here for) “Kamala Harris Indian food” platters. All, including ultra-creamy butter chicken and fragrant biryani, come with dal, salad, and raita. Items can take time to prepare, so best to call ahead.
Filipino: Philippine Oriental Market & Deli
3610 Lee Hwy., Arlington
At the counter: Doting chef/owner Evelyn Bunoan has catered to homesick expats at her cozy carryout since 1978 with stews, noodles, and baked goods. There’s also a collection of Pinoy pantry items, plus a fridge stocked with housemade carryout meals.
Best takeout: Heaping platters from the hot bar—think pancit noodles, crispy lumpia, and lechon. It’s best to get there early, as the buffet closes at 2:30 pm and items often sell out.
2927 Columbia Pike, Arlington
On the shelves: The grocery attached to Bangkok 54 restaurant is a one-stop shop for home cooks, with pantry staples (noodles, fish sauces); herbs and produce; and specialties such as housemade chili-shrimp paste.
Best takeout: Intensely fragrant Thai boat noodle soups, simmered for 24 hours—we like the beef or duck—at the adjoining cafe.
Swiss: Swiss Bakery and Market Cafe
5224 Port Royal Rd., Springfield
On the shelves: Just-baked breads including challah-like zopfand baguette suisse. Wooden rows hold jams, schnapps, Swiss wines, and fixings for raclette and fondue.
Best takeout: Breakfast sandwiches on brötchen rolls with eggs, raclette, and ham; berner rösti (potato pancakes); and the grilled smoked-pork-loin sandwich with sauerkraut and Emmenthaler.
Pan-Asian: Rice Market
1608 14th St., NW
On the shelves: The artful market below the modern Thai restaurant Rice has everything for your next dinner party: curry leaves and lemongrass, yes, but also rice cookers, ceramic plates, and floral arrangements.
Best takeout: Made-to-order sushi rolls such as yellowtail-asparagus and spicy tuna, plus sashimi plates.
German: Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
2150 N. Culpeper St., Arlington
On the shelves: As its name suggests, this is a prime stop for strudels, Berliner doughnuts, and pumpernickel. But also mustards, wursts, and beers.
Best takeout: The German cold-cut sandwich and a bratwurst on a brötchen roll with sauerkraut and mustard.
This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Washingtonian.