Dine at these affordable yet worthwhile places to eat in Washington, DC.
Co-founded by Rio Grande Valley native Ana-Maria Jaramillo and DC native Gus May, La Tejana dishes out authentic Tex-Mex breakfast tacos. What began as a small pop-up venture from an apartment stoop evolved into a thriving business with a loyal following, and for good reason. The menu is simple – homemade flour tortillas with fresh fillings including cheesy scrambled eggs, house-cured chorizo and fried potatoes, complemented by charred tomato and cilantro crema salsa. And did we mention you can snag one taco for $4.50 or make it six for $24?
From Chef Michael Rafidi of award-winning Albi, Yellow offers a taste of the Levant with a diverse menu of baked goods, mezze, wood-fired pita sandwiches and specialty drinks. The upscale cafe blends French techniques with Middle Eastern flavors in sweet and savory pastries and features a thoughtfully curated coffee program.
The Red Hen
It’s no surprise that this cozy neighborhood abode lives on this list. A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decor and a menu filled with Italian favorites make it well worth the hype. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such as mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor grilled octopus or pan-roasted halibut.
Karma Modern Indian
Time for tandoori at the upscale Karma Modern Indian, an ambitious, contemporary take on Indian classics. Lobster masala is adorned with a halo of beet poriyal and lamb roganjosh stars tender lamb bathed in a chili-ginger-tomato sauce. Fear not, Karma dishes out classics like chicken tikka and butter chicken for the Indian cuisine traditionalist.
You’ll find some of the best pizza in the nation’s capital just around the corner from Union Market at Stellina Pizzeria, where DC dining veterans Antonio Matarazzo and Matteo Venini have brought to life “neo-Neapolitan” pies in a fast-casual setting. Stellina’s menu also pays homage to coastal Italian street food (such as fried seafood served in paper cones, also known as a “cuoppo”), while almost every item on the menu is under $20. You’ll want to make sure Stellina – which is named after Matarazzo’s daughter and means “little star” in Italian – is the star of your next trip to bustling Union Market.
Marvel at the retro décor and then dig in. Ellē offers up delicious baked goods at the start of the day, sandwiches and quiches for lunch and a full dinner carte in the evenings. Daily bread specials are featured and the eatery’s baguettes and sourdough are rich with flavor. While the menu rotates, standout items have included an uni grilled cheese (raclette, caramelized onion, fermented chili powder, brioche) and miso charred squash.
This casual neighborhood restaurant in the heart of Adams Morgan brings the vibrant flavors of Afghanistan to one of DC’s most diverse neighborhoods. The Popal family left their home country in the early 1980s, yet have operated primarily French-focused eateries before returning to their roots with this labor of love. Whether for lunch, dinner or brunch on the weekends, treat your taste buds to veggie dishes – described on the menu as Afghanistan’s “best-kept secret” – as well as tantalizing lamb chop kebabs and traditional dumplings.
If DC had a culinary Mount Rushmore, José Andrés would certainly be on it, so it’s fitting that the acclaimed chef is featured here more than once. China Chilcano, situated in Penn Quarter, serves up a delightful rendition on Peruvian food, which also features flavors from China and Japan. Relish in the combination and Andrés’ mash-up skills, and you’ll leave without completely emptying your wallet.
The wife-and-husband duo of Sarah Thompson and Henji Cheung brought Queen’s English to life in Columbia Heights. Cantonese cuisine meets up with inventive cocktails and natural wines to create an unforgettable dining experience. Take a voyage through flavors with dishes like the Drunken Duck Noodle served with hot chili, sour cabbage, corn, tofu and scallion or the Crispy Whole Red Snapper featuring chili sauce and crab butter.
Residents Café & Bar
The name of the Dupont Circle eatery recognizes the owners, who immigrated to the U.S. and are now proud residents of this country and city. Expect unmatched ambiance full of lush greenery and laid-back vibes, whether savoring a cocktail, or anything on the food menu, which bounces around Europe and the Mediterranean with dishes like steak tartare, miniature gyros and mushroom risotto.
Rob Sonderman (of Federalist Pig fame) has brought his creativity to fried chicken with Honeymoon Chicken. The Petworth establishment looks like a diner, with its yellow booths and classic counter. Choose from crave-worthy chicken combos including wings, bites or paired with waffles – "honeymoon style" drenches your selection in signature hot honey. The rolls are topped with honey butter and sea salt and must be consumed to be believed.
What is a sfoglina, you ask? In Italy, it’s a pasta-making matriarch who practices her delicious craft using only traditional techniques. In DC, Sfoglina is Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s pasta-first outposts in Downtown and Upper Northwest. Just like at its sister locations, including Fiola and Georgetown’s Fiola Mare, homey Italian vibes abound. Dig in to a rotating cast of seasonal takes or classic dishes that will transport you to Rome, including thick tangles of tonnarelli noodles served with sheep’s Pecorino, black pepper and walnuts. Insider tip: the ‘G’ is silent.
See Indian cuisine in a new light at this dynamic restaurant in the H Street Corridor. Masterminded by Dante Datta and Chef Suresh Sundas of Rasika, Daru offers innovative dishes like tandor-grilled chicken kebabs with blue cheese and Nariyal lamb shank with saffron, chili and coconut. Whether you sit inside or out, this headline-grabbing eatery provides positive vibes and incredible dishes.
You’ve never had a Mexican food experience like the one at Oyamel — and José Andrés wouldn’t have it any other way. The adventurous eater may want to try the innovatively tasty grasshopper tacos, but there’s much more to this Penn Quarter hot spot. Journey south with the locale’s unforgettable guacamole, several creative margarita concoctions and yes, there are plenty of other taco options to choose from. ¡Salud!
DC's ramen scene gets a new kid on the block with this pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar in Petworth. Be dazzled by Menya Hosaki's open kitchen, which serves only ramen except for the karaage dished out with yuzu mayo. House-made noodles team up with nuanced broths to create bowls that will bowl your tastebuds over, including the signature bowl with tonkotsu, chicken chintan and dashi. There's also vegan ramen that will knock you off your feet.
Former RAMMY Chef of the Year Cathal Armstrong and his wife, Meshelle, have brought their talents to The Wharf with Kaliwa, which specializes in Filipino, Thai and Korean cuisines. The lively 185-seat restaurant pairs waterfront views with eclectic Asian cooking; the menu is segmented by cuisine, so make sure you experience the tantalizing flavors that each country offers.
Maketto effortlessly combines a cafe, a fashionable retail outlet and a restaurant into one of the most unique locales in the District. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s kitchen churns out Cambodian and Taiwanese-style dishes that linger in your memory, especially the fried chicken and bread, one of the most talked-about meals in a city filled with buzzworthy dishes. A trip to Maketto will result in not only an outstanding dining experience, but also some cool new shoes and a great cup of coffee.
Situated across three floors downtown, Chef Kristen Essig's Creole-serving Dauphine's will take you to New Orleans in the heart of DC. Bread and Poirier's cane butter starts you off perfectly. Make sure oysters Dauphine is on your agenda and the duck jambalaya is also a must. Save room for the baked Alaska or beignets for dessert.
The flavors of India and China mix in Malaysian cuisine, a fact evident when you make your way to Makan in Columbia Heights. The restaurant offers brunch and dinner and even sports its own pantry filled with pickles, mustard greens, sweet chili sauce and numerous other spices. The dinner menu is an international adventure unto itself, featuring classics like curry noodle soup as well as innovative dishes like pineapple curry and a Malaysian take on fried chicken.
Opened in 1967, this quaint locale across from President Lincoln’s Cottage is known for its spectacular fried chicken. The family-friendly hangout in Petworth provides a cozy atmosphere and loads up the menu with Southern flavor. In addition to the chicken, there’s blackened catfish, crabcake sandwiches, classic sides like mac and cheese and collard greens and much more.