By Vincent Nezzer, freelance travel writer and owner of lifeofnezz.com.
Living in Washington DC comes with plenty of perks. As the nation’s capital, DC is home to several historic landmarks, world-renowned museums, and nationally acclaimed restaurants. We’ve already covered 10 of the best michelin-ranked restaurants in the DC area, but we also know that fine dining can get expensive. If you’re looking for a spot that you can frequent without breaking the bank, look no further. These are 10 of the best affordable restaurants in Washington DC.
- Falafel Inc.
- Keren Restaurant & Coffee Shop
- Cucina Al Volo
- Los Hermanos
- Poke Papa
- Taqueria Habañero
- The Federalist Pig
- Mi Cuba Cafe
Falafel Inc. is consistently listed as one of the best budget-friendly restaurants in the DC area. For just $3, visitors can dine on a massive falafel sandwich that should only be lifted with two hands. Falafel Inc. also has a noteworthy mission. Every time a customer spends $10, the restaurant makes a donation to the World Food Programme’s Share the Meal campaign. Each donation feeds a refugee for one day.
Address: 1210 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Washington DC is home to the largest population of Ethiopian Americans in the entire nation. As such, the DC area is also home to several delicious, Ethiopian restaurants. For authentic and affordable Ethiopian dishes, stop by the Keren Restaurant and Coffee Shop. We recommend ordering the ful. This flavorful blend of beans, eggs, and vegetables is best eaten with plenty of bread. Oh, and everything on their menu is also less than $10.
Address: 17px80 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009
If you like chicken, you’ll love Farmbird. For less than $10 (plus tax), visitors can get an antibiotic-free, humanely-raised chicken breast or thigh on a bed of basmati rice plus a side of your choice. Unlike other quick-service restaurants, Farmbird’s chicken is brined in several herbs and spices and roasted in a high-temperature oven. The thighs are even pan seared for extra crispiness.
Address: 625 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
The next destination on our list started as a humble food cart in Union Market. The food cart is still alive and well, but Cucina al Volo has expanded into a sit-down restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Both locations offer sizable servings of hand-made pasta with sauces that range from lamb ragu to spinach and ricotta. Prices are between $10 to $20, and portion sizes are generous.
Address: 90 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009
One of the best Dominican eateries in DC is a counter-service restaurant in Columbia Heights. When you visit, be sure to order the tostones (a.k.a. fried green plantains). These bite-sized snacks are a Dominican specialty that pairs well with pulled pork (pernil), fried chicken (chicharrones de pollo), and pretty much everything else on the menu. Most entrees cost less than $10.
Address: 1428 Park Rd NW, Washington, DC 20010
If you’ve never tried poke, you’re not alone. This traditional Hawaiian dish is often described as “raw fish salad,” and it’s rapidly gaining popularity among the health food community. The newly opened Poke Papa offers a variety of poke dishes for $12 apiece—a moderate price considering the cost of fresh seafood. That said, visitors can choose from ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, octopus, and more. You can also choose from several pre-selected poke bowls.
Address: 806 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Located near Capitol Hill, Ambar offers reasonably priced Balkan dishes and authentic Serbian decor. For less than $20, patrons can dine on veal soup, stuffed sour cabbage, or Balkan kababs. However, the best bang for your buck is known as the Balkan Experience. This $49 special comes with unlimited dishes and unlimited drinks. Just remember to wear your stretchy pants.
Address: 523 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Taqueria Habañero is a Mexican taco shop in Columbia Heights that specializes in traditional street foods like tacos, quesadillas, and tortas (open-faced sandwiches). However, unlike many street vendors, Taqueria Habañero crafts its own shells, tortillas, and salsas from scratch. While the enchiladas and huaraches are quite good, the tacos are the main event. Fillings include, carnitas (pork), lengua (tongue), shrimp, mushrooms, and even cactus. Each taco will cost you two or three dollars and can be ordered in any combination.
Address: 3710 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
For affordable BBQ in the DC area, look no further than the Federalist Pig. This local favorite is known for smoking its own meats in house. For just $9, you can get a half pound of pulled pork, fried pickles, and a slice of Texas Toast. Just remember to get there early. The smoking process takes hours, so when they run out of a particular meat, they’re out for good. The cashier keeps track of the depleted meats on a large piece of butcher paper next to the register.
Address: 1654 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009
Last, but not certainly not least, is Mi Cuba Cafe. This colorful restaurant is also located in Columbia Heights. Everything on their massive menu is less than $20, and several entrees are less than $5, including the empanadas and stuffed potatoes. If you’re a fan of Cuban cuisine, you’re probably wondering about their Cubano. Fear not. The crust is crispy, the meats are salty, and the mustard is tangy.
Address: 1424 Park Rd NW, Washington, DC 20010
There are many more excellent establishments in Washington DC, but only ten could make the cut. In order to make it onto the list, the restaurant must have entrees for fewer than $20 and be located in the Washington DC area. Furthermore, the selected eateries were listed from highest to lowest average Yelp score. Finally, check out this customized Google Map with driving directions to every location on the list.