Washington, D.C. is not cheap. But it is full of delicious food. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorites foods at our favorite prices. We broke this down by dollar amount. It’s not an all encompassing cheap food guide, but more of a conversation starter of where to get the best bang for your buck. Let us know what we’re missing in the comments. We’re hungry.
This is my favorite bakery in town (in this case town includes Silver Spring). Not only is everything they make delicious, but it’s also incredibly inexpensive. I pass by them every morning and have a hard time resisting their donuts which are–wait for it–.75 cents! They have these huge, sweet, satisfying donuts for breakfast which you can enjoy for less than a dollar. (Which in turn always leads me to think, “damn, for that price i might as well get two!”) The donuts come in flavors like glazed, cake, frosted, and chocolate frosted, but my favorite are the seasonal ones. The pumpkin donut is to die for, with a dense, pumpkin flavor, hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, and a sweet sugar glaze. The apple cider donut is equally as epic, dusted in sugar and tasting like fall. And even those seasonal ones are just— you guessed it—.75 cents. -Priya Konings
Here’s the thing: I love oysters. Here’s the other thing: I hate paying $20 for a half dozen (increasingly common, sadly). A handful of places around DC offer oyster specials, sure, but is there really anywhere else you want to be for raw shellfish than at Derek Brown’s seafood and cocktails joint, Eat the Rich? Of course not. Tuesday through Friday from 5:00 – 7:00 (and again Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 pm – close), EtR has a “Locals Only” happy hour, with discounted local beers and wines, cocktails made with local booze, and (best of all) local Rappahannock oysters for $1 a piece. Best dollar you’ll spend. -Logan Hollers
Cleveland Park’s Vace is fantastic for making Italian food, re-heating Italian food and pizza. Real pizza. Pizza that you can’t make at home unless your home has a pizza oven. Locals know it and keep their staff very busy, ordering full pizzas to go at under market prices. If you’re just passing by, get a slice of any slice available. For $2.25 you can get a slice of pepperoni or mushroom or cheese or white pizza with onions or white pizza with spinach. Lots of ors and no ands in that last sentence because I have never been in Vace when all five options were available. They’re a popular place that makes food to order. Every neighborhood needs a Vace. -Brandon Wetherbee
It shouldn’t be hard to find. There are no exotic ingredients or industrial gear or 24-hour braises required. It’s pretty much avocado, cilantro, garlic, and lime. It’s only guacamole. And yet good, cheap guacamole is near impossible to find in this city. Sure, you can find the good stuff in restaurants, but it’s coming with head-scratching price tag and served on mystery lettuce. (Can I pay extra to not bare witness to the ceremonial avocado crushing?) Or you can get it for cheap (eghck), but it’s going to be whipped to near soup or off-color or too heavy on the cilantro, and after that first out-of-the-bag chip, you’re basically convincing yourself not to let the whole thing go to waste.
Thankfully, there’s one – I SAID ONE – exception: Mama Chuy. In general, if you live in Columbia Heights, Shaw, or Petworth, this place should be a weekly destination. Say hi to Joe and get the chorizo tacos. But let’s talk about the guacamole. Color? Bright green, baby. Texture? A little chunky, a little smooth, always fresh made. Flavor? Just zesty enough. The cherry on top? A little cojita sprinkle. It’s perfect. It’s literally perfect. It’s also only $3.50. And the chips are thick, freshly fried, and served in excess of how many you need. (Save them for later; they’re too good to toss.) Again: $3.50! Can’t it always be this simple? -Phil Runco
Still prepared on-site, still fresh, still delicious, and still less than $5. Bonus tip: the dessert ones are just as tasty. Not even fucking around. Try the apple one, and thank me later. -Jonny Grave
As BYT’s vegetarian food writer, I am always scoping out vegetarian cheap eats are the city. One of my go-to spots is Ben’s Chili Bowl. For $5 I can choose from a hearty, meaty tasting veggie dog, served with onions and relish and ketchup on a bun, cheese fries which is a huge mound of crispy fries doused in loads or melted cheese, or veggie chili, a bold, spicy chili made with beans, green peppers, tomatoes, and onions. So basically you and all of your friends can order something different and leave without spending more than $5 each (pre-tax, once tax kicks in you’re in the $5 range). -Priya Konings
So I think ful, a stew (ish) made of chickpeas, cumin, and vegetable oil, is supposed to be a breakfast food. But when something this savory and filling starts at just $5, you eat it at any and all times of the day. Keren’s ful, garnished with parsley, garlic, diced red onions, jalapenos, and a dollop of yogurt (texture and temperature contrast #ftw), easily makes two meals. Add two hard-boiled eggs and you’re still under $6. Or, take a page out of my buddy Jake’s book, and toss on a bunch of sardines (his personal favorite) – still under $6. A small french bread loaf comes standard, but you can swap it out for injera no problem. Also helps that the owners and waitstaff here are some of the best and kindest in D.C. -Logan Hollers
Noodles and dumplings made right in the front window, the same way they’ve done it for years. $7 and some change gets you a heaping plate of pan-fried noodles in a spicy house-made soy-based sauce, or a cavernous bowl of noodles with broth (also house-made) and meat. The spicy pepper paste they serve on the side is not to be fucked with. Cures hangovers, colds, breakups, regret, and career second-guessing. -Jonny Grave
Pho Viet may not be the fanciest place to get pho in D.C., but it is without a doubt the best pho I’ve had within city limits. I know, I know, everyone and there mother claims that the best pho is way out in the suburbs, and I’m sure they’re right, but sometimes I don’t want to rent a Zipcar just to get some of that delicious broth-y goodness. Sometimes I just want to hop right on the Metro and be there. 99% of the pho on their menu is available for the low low price of $8.25 and they have a vegetarian pho (which is supposedly pretty good!) for those of you who don’t do the meat thing. If you’re feeling particularly flush with cash, spring for the salted lemonade (which is $3.95). It’s an experience. -Kaylee Dugan
I love not living in Glover Park anymore. It’s so nice to have a Metro a mere 10 minutes from my house, but what I do miss are that neighborhoods insane delivery options. Since it’s nestled between AU and Georgetown, I could basically order whatever I wanted without ridiculous charges or wait times. While that usually meant I ended spent a fair amount of cash on Chinese food, in my heart of hearts there was nothing I loved more than Wisey’s Chicken Madness sub. Packed with grilled chicken, sweet peppers, onions, garlic cayenne, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and of course, bacon, it is a sight to behold and a little bit of a behemoth to eat. Best of all, it will only run you a cool $8. Throw in a bag of chips ($.83) and a can of soda ($1.00) and you’ve got yourself a nice meal for $9.83. -Kaylee Dugan
One of my favorite burgers in D.C. Just over $10, and you get a burger piled high with bacon, cheese, onion rings, and barbecue sauce, and the “village” fries (blanched, then deep fried, then covered in herbs and salt). Make sure you try the Old Bay mayo. -Jonny Grave