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Amsterdam Falafel’s namesake order.
Amsterdam Falafel

16 Excellent, Affordable Dining Options in the D.C. Area

Tacos, hefty sandwiches, and hot pots for a fraction of what it costs to eat elsewhere

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Amsterdam Falafel’s namesake order.
| Amsterdam Falafel

D.C.’s is an expensive city to live in, and expense account-driven restaurants and tasting menu-only establishments that dot the local landscape certainly don’t help. Fortunately, D.C. is also home to lots of budget-friendly options covering all kinds of cuisines.

This list looks beyond pricey Michelin spots and review-laden heavy hitters. It’s a roundup of trusted eateries — serving everything from spicy hot pots to tacos and reliable happy hour specials that cost less than a Starbucks latte — that satisfy without draining the wallet. Here are 16 cheap bets in and around the District.

Don’t see a personal favorite on the list? Post in the comments or shoot us an email (dc@eater.com).

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Quarry House Tavern

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This is one of Silver Spring’s oldest bars, and it keeps prices low to inflation-proof levels. The bar focuses on Maryland craft beer. Find Baltimore’s Peabody Heights pints of Old Oriole Park for $2.95 at happy hour. Bar snacks like tots, nachos, and friend onion rings are all under $5. Best of all, the live music and vintage, dive bar vibes are free to enjoy.

Pupuseria La Familiar (Multiple locations)

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This Salvadoran pupuseria has three locations (College Park, Wheaton, and New Carrollton), and is one of the region’s cheapest options for masa stuffed with cheese and other ingredients. There are traditional pupusas, like revuelta, as well as offbeat options like a ham and cheese pupusa. The spot also has a huge menu of other affordable options, from soups to grilled platters.

Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

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The owners of El Sol also have an agave-fueled bar that sells regional dishes from different corners of Mexico, including huitlacoche, esquites, tacos, and ceviches ranging from $9 to $13.50 for lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, happy hour-priced tequila and mezcal margaritas won’t run you more than a few bucks. There’s a location in Alexandria as well.

Amsterdam Falafelshop (Multiple locations)

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This homegrown chain of meat-free, fast-casual restaurants serves fried falafel dressed with nearly two dozen toppings, plus French fries. The L’Enfant Plaza location is temporarily closed, but the AdMo location turns out stuffed falafel sandwiches and bowls from 11:30 a.m. to late seven days a week.

A. Litteri

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In addition to offering the best Italian wine selection outside of Italy, this iconic Northeast market/deli serves delicious (and affordable) subs and hot sandwiches like chicken parm that range from $5.99 to $9.55. A. Litteri also serves lasagna, pasta, and soups.

Julia's Empanadas (Multiple locations)

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This global bakery specializes in baked hand pies ($6 each) served throughout the day. Favorites include a Jamaican-style, curried beef-filled offering, the stewed chicken-packed saltena, and a vegetarian option.

The Well Dressed Burrito

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Despite its hidden placement behind a nondescript metal door in an alleyway, the decades-old Well Dressed Burrito does a ton of business. Assorted variations of the namesake dish at this Dupont Circle grab-and-go standby start at $7 a pop.

Chef Geoff's (Multiple locations)

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For a reliable happy hour in a bistro-like setting, Chef Geoff’s has happy hour specials that can’t be beat. Enormous mugs of beer go for $10 and wines are priced at $7 a glass. The food menu is also discounted, including a wide ranging burger menu for $5 and pizza and tacos for $4. Happy hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. A second location is adjacent to American University.

Wiseguy NY Pizza (Multiple locations)

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When nothing but a big, two-handed slice of New York-style pizza will do, consider this local pizzeria. There’s also impressive garlic knots and a menu of cauliflower crust pies for gluten-free folks.

Chinatown Express

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Customers and passersby often stop to look at the noodles and dumplings being made by hand at this long-standing Chinatown spot. The steamed buns, dumplings, and fresh noodle soups are the move here.

Steamed pork buns.
Steamed pork buns are a favorite at Chinatown Express.
Chinatown Express

This Arlington standby serves among the region’s best pho. What Pho75 may lack in atmosphere and service it more than makes up for in generous bowls of steaming rice noodle soup, with flavorful broth and fresh toppings.

Piping hot pho from Pho 75.
Pho 75

Bayou Bakery

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Pastry chef-turned-restaurateur David Guas has been serving cooked-to-order beignets for almost a decade at his Arlington restaurant and cafe, and the price is a very reasonable $3.75 for an order of three sugar-dusted, New Orleans-style fritters. This bake shop also serves solid, affordable sandwiches and breakfasts, like the $9 avocado Benedict.  

Mala Tang

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The late-night destination for bubbling Asian hot pot also offers a subscribe-and-save “Hot Pot Club” incentive for repeat customers.

Open Crumb

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For one of the best chicken sandwiches around, head to historic Anacostia to try chef Peter Opare’s best seller. The wallet-pleasing $6 order is even cheaper than those fried chicken chains. The takeout restaurant also offers West African staples like Ghanaian peanut soup and goat stew.

Banh Mi DC Sandwich

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The traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at this cherished Falls Church eatery are equal parts affordable and fantastic. The extensive sandwich menu averages about $6.95 each.

Banh Mi Bi
Banh Mi sandwiches are affordable and filling at Banh Mi DC.
Banh Mi DC Sandwich

Nighthawk Brewery & Pizza

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Noted chef Johnny Spero put together a Midwest tavern-style pizza menu that also plays favorites to some Italian subs and sandwiches that start at $18 for pies and $14 for burgers and sandwiches. The deal is sweetened at happy hour. A New York-style slice and full-pour beer (from Aslin Beer Company) is just $8. Happy runs Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Quarry House Tavern

This is one of Silver Spring’s oldest bars, and it keeps prices low to inflation-proof levels. The bar focuses on Maryland craft beer. Find Baltimore’s Peabody Heights pints of Old Oriole Park for $2.95 at happy hour. Bar snacks like tots, nachos, and friend onion rings are all under $5. Best of all, the live music and vintage, dive bar vibes are free to enjoy.

Pupuseria La Familiar (Multiple locations)

This Salvadoran pupuseria has three locations (College Park, Wheaton, and New Carrollton), and is one of the region’s cheapest options for masa stuffed with cheese and other ingredients. There are traditional pupusas, like revuelta, as well as offbeat options like a ham and cheese pupusa. The spot also has a huge menu of other affordable options, from soups to grilled platters.

Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

The owners of El Sol also have an agave-fueled bar that sells regional dishes from different corners of Mexico, including huitlacoche, esquites, tacos, and ceviches ranging from $9 to $13.50 for lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, happy hour-priced tequila and mezcal margaritas won’t run you more than a few bucks. There’s a location in Alexandria as well.

Amsterdam Falafelshop (Multiple locations)

This homegrown chain of meat-free, fast-casual restaurants serves fried falafel dressed with nearly two dozen toppings, plus French fries. The L’Enfant Plaza location is temporarily closed, but the AdMo location turns out stuffed falafel sandwiches and bowls from 11:30 a.m. to late seven days a week.

A. Litteri

In addition to offering the best Italian wine selection outside of Italy, this iconic Northeast market/deli serves delicious (and affordable) subs and hot sandwiches like chicken parm that range from $5.99 to $9.55. A. Litteri also serves lasagna, pasta, and soups.

Julia's Empanadas (Multiple locations)

This global bakery specializes in baked hand pies ($6 each) served throughout the day. Favorites include a Jamaican-style, curried beef-filled offering, the stewed chicken-packed saltena, and a vegetarian option.

The Well Dressed Burrito

Despite its hidden placement behind a nondescript metal door in an alleyway, the decades-old Well Dressed Burrito does a ton of business. Assorted variations of the namesake dish at this Dupont Circle grab-and-go standby start at $7 a pop.

Chef Geoff's (Multiple locations)

For a reliable happy hour in a bistro-like setting, Chef Geoff’s has happy hour specials that can’t be beat. Enormous mugs of beer go for $10 and wines are priced at $7 a glass. The food menu is also discounted, including a wide ranging burger menu for $5 and pizza and tacos for $4. Happy hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. A second location is adjacent to American University.

Wiseguy NY Pizza (Multiple locations)

When nothing but a big, two-handed slice of New York-style pizza will do, consider this local pizzeria. There’s also impressive garlic knots and a menu of cauliflower crust pies for gluten-free folks.

Chinatown Express

Steamed pork buns.
Steamed pork buns are a favorite at Chinatown Express.
Chinatown Express

Customers and passersby often stop to look at the noodles and dumplings being made by hand at this long-standing Chinatown spot. The steamed buns, dumplings, and fresh noodle soups are the move here.

Steamed pork buns.
Steamed pork buns are a favorite at Chinatown Express.
Chinatown Express

Pho 75

Piping hot pho from Pho 75.
Pho 75

This Arlington standby serves among the region’s best pho. What Pho75 may lack in atmosphere and service it more than makes up for in generous bowls of steaming rice noodle soup, with flavorful broth and fresh toppings.

Piping hot pho from Pho 75.
Pho 75

Bayou Bakery

Pastry chef-turned-restaurateur David Guas has been serving cooked-to-order beignets for almost a decade at his Arlington restaurant and cafe, and the price is a very reasonable $3.75 for an order of three sugar-dusted, New Orleans-style fritters. This bake shop also serves solid, affordable sandwiches and breakfasts, like the $9 avocado Benedict.  

Mala Tang

The late-night destination for bubbling Asian hot pot also offers a subscribe-and-save “Hot Pot Club” incentive for repeat customers.

Open Crumb

For one of the best chicken sandwiches around, head to historic Anacostia to try chef Peter Opare’s best seller. The wallet-pleasing $6 order is even cheaper than those fried chicken chains. The takeout restaurant also offers West African staples like Ghanaian peanut soup and goat stew.

Banh Mi DC Sandwich

Banh Mi Bi
Banh Mi sandwiches are affordable and filling at Banh Mi DC.
Banh Mi DC Sandwich

The traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at this cherished Falls Church eatery are equal parts affordable and fantastic. The extensive sandwich menu averages about $6.95 each.

Banh Mi Bi
Banh Mi sandwiches are affordable and filling at Banh Mi DC.
Banh Mi DC Sandwich

Related Maps

Nighthawk Brewery & Pizza

Noted chef Johnny Spero put together a Midwest tavern-style pizza menu that also plays favorites to some Italian subs and sandwiches that start at $18 for pies and $14 for burgers and sandwiches. The deal is sweetened at happy hour. A New York-style slice and full-pour beer (from Aslin Beer Company) is just $8. Happy runs Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Related Maps