By No Vacation Required, on May 28, 2013

D.C. cheap eats

Three cheers for tasty food at bargain prices – especially when traveling. As foodies who also like to eat on the move, our favorite kind of meal is one that’s well priced and brag-worthy. Who doesn’t like that kind of combo. While we recently established that free activities are essential in Washington D.C., below we feature some of our top picks for cheap eats that support the fast pace of a visit to D.C. Arranged, of course, by type.


It’s burger time. Often we find that our top DC-area hotel picks land us across the river in Arlington or Crystal City. Crystal City is home to Good Stuff Eatery, a burger joint by local celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn.

We’ve had many items off the menu and have yet to be disappointed. Since we try to be largely vegetarian, we both love the ‘shroom burger. It’s portabella mushroom stuffed with cheese, coated in breadcrumbs, and flash-fried. Don’t leave without getting your hands on a basket of village fries (topped with rosemary, thyme, and sea salt) and be sure to load up on your choice of dipping sauces. We love the Old Bay and chipotle mayo. I went overboard with the Sriracha mayo once, so proceed with caution.

There’s a Good Stuff Eatery over by the Capitol that we also like to visit. Speaking of that area…


Spike also has a pizza place, We, The Pizza. We’ve been there a few times because it is near the Capitol where we find ourselves doing advocacy work during many of our visits to D.C. Don’t let the (almost certain) long line deter you. The variety of slices to choose from pays off, as well as a surprise menu entry, homemade sodas. Yum. We whole-heartedly recommend the white slice (topped with a variety of cheeses, salt, garlic, and parsley) and the Very, Very Sour-y Cherry soda. 

Viewfinder Tip: Get the combo deal of two slices and a soda for $10.

During our last visit, a friend gave us the 4-1-1 on a deal that includes two slices and a soda for $10. Not shabby for lunch with the Hill’s power politicians (or their staff, at least). And hey, even Oprah’s former chef, Art Smith, hangs here when in D.C. We bumped into him and he was kind enough to point us toward his favorite slices.


Well this is actually a Mexican/Salvadoran hybrid place that we scoped out during our most recent visit. It’s called Tortilla Cafe, and it’s the real deal. Nothing fancy – just great food. We each ordered a burrito platter with choice of filling served with mini salads and rice. The best part? We didn’t spend over $7 each.


Our visits to DC are never complete without at least a couple wanders around Dupont Circle. In addition to being a LGBT haven, it’s just a cool neighborhood. It’s here that we stumbled upon Chipotle’s new sister, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. It’s to Asian what Chipotle is to Mexican. Delicious, healthy, and flavorful.

Shophouse’s bowl

The creation of ShopHouse was inspired by the namesake colonial buildings in Southeast Asia. In these buildings, families live up top and run restaurants on the ground floor. Like Chipotle, Shophouse is a counter-service restaurant. You pick the base of your bowl (rice or salad) and then continue down the line requesting that your bowl be loaded with items from a nice selection of meats, tofu, veggies, curries, garnishes, and crispy toppings.

Snack Time

One of us loves macarons, the other, not so much. After we hit Paul Cafe and Bakery in DC, we both then loved macarons. 

Paul's pistachio macaron

No visit to DC should pass without a visit to Paul for a pistachio macaron and a hot chocolate. Since we always use Paul as a place for an on-the-go snack, we’ve not tried any of the meal items. Having seen them on neighboring tables many times though, we can safely recommend the croque monsieur, which always looks delicious.

What are your tips for cheap eats in DC?