Where to Find the Best Cheap Eats in Washington, D.C.
One of America’s best nicknames is The Melting Pot. The nation’s capital is a great example of many cultures coming together to form a community—and the cuisine is just as excellent. Entrees in this city can cost $30+ in a mid-range restaurant, which adds up fast. So don’t bust your budget next time you visit Washington, D.C.! Cheap eats in Washington, D.C. are the best way to taste what America is all about.
We scouted out the best cheap eats D.C. has to offer as well as tips for saving on culinary experiences you can’t miss. Whether you’re traveling with kids or embarking on a solo foodie tour of Washington, D.C.’s famous food, there’s something delicious waiting for you. Ready to feast your way through the yummiest cheap eats Washington, D.C. dishes out? Check out our list of the best cheap food in D.C.!
Famous food in Washington, D.C.
What kind of food is Washington, D.C. famous for? Washington, D.C. is famous for all kinds of food, but especially half-smokes. These grab-and-go meals are similar to hot dogs, but spicier and nuanced in flavor. The District is also known for international flavors and really good burgers. Sample it all, from the diner grub to the Mexican infusions.
1213 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009
Founded in 1958 when much of D.C. was racially segregated, Ben’s Chili Bowl was a gathering place for anyone who wanted a hearty meal. Today it’s one of the must-eat places in Washington, D.C., as seen on “Man vs. Food.” Barack Obama also ate here just days before his inauguration…no big deal. Old-school half-smokes and veggie dogs are available, too, as part of Ben and Virginia Ali’s growing legacy.
401 7th St., NW, Washington, DC, 20004
Humanitarian chef José Andrés makes award-winning food affordable and fun at Oyamel. The vegetable-forward eatery has been featured on “No Reservations” and “Unique Eats”! Many of the menu items are under $10, and the atmosphere suits a getaway with friends or a nice meal out with the whole family.
Various locations in D.C.
With three locations in D.C. and Arlington, Good Stuff is easy to find. Featured on “Top Chef” and “Unique Eats,” this casual restaurant serves up locally sourced burgers and salads under $8. Want to eat like a first family? Order the Prez Obama Burger and the turkey Michelle Melt.
Various locations in D.C.
When you’re looking for cheap eats in D.C., check out this staple. Here you can top your tacos off the “American Way” (with lettuce, pico, and cheese), the “Mexican Way” (with cilantro and onion), the “Jefe Way” (with lettuce, pico, veggies, cheese, and sour cream), or the “Breakfast Way” (with scrambled eggs and potatoes). Go on, pick your poison! Best part of all, each taco starts at just $3.29. Other affordable options include burritos, huevos rancheros, nachos borrachos, and more.
1100 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009
Florida Avenue Grill has had a home in D.C. since 1944. The neighborhood’s favorite diner has held on to its humble roots and continues to serve all-day breakfast and “soulfully cooked-home style dinners.” You’ll find classic Southern dishes, including Salisbury steak, smothered fried pork chops, and salmon cakes for under $10. For a hardy meal, go for Miss Bertha’s breakfast special. Come in for a bite to eat and you just may hear tales from the locals about the past.
Kid-friendly cheap eats in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., you don’t have to give up atmosphere and flavor for a kid-friendly dining experience. In fact, many of the city’s most iconic restaurants welcome all ages. Here are some particularly fun places to eat in D.C. on a budget.
5037 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20008
Ping pong, patio, and pizza. Can you think of a better combination for you and the youngsters? Play games between delicious slices and stay late for live music (some is geared toward adults). The build-your-own pizza menu will please your choosiest eaters, and vegans won’t go away hungry either!
1712 I St. NW, Washington, DC, 20006
Have the kids ever asked for waffles for lunch? This time say yes. Located just a few blocks from the White House, Wicked Waffle serves sweet and savory waffles for breakfast through late lunch. From the classic grilled cheese waffle to waffle tiramisu, you won’t find any basic bread here. Everything on the menu is under $10, so get ready to stuff your face with unique cheap eats in Washington, D.C.!
1064 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20007
Can’t decide whether to spend the evening bowling or dining on gourmet bistro fare? Have both—plus a couple games of bocce ball and some family time around the fire pit. Pinstripes isn’t just a kid-friendly place to eat—it’s an experience. Order the flatbreads and eat family style to save more.
Washington, D.C. cheap eats to go
This city never slows down. However, even if you’ve packed your itinerary to the brim with museum tours and sightseeing, don’t skip meals. Many cheap eats in Washington, D.C. cater to people who need to eat and run.
Various locations in D.C.
Sometimes only an empanada will do, and Julia’s has been perfecting their recipes since 1993. Every empanada is $5, including vegan and vegetarian options. You can get your hands on classic Bolivian-style salteñas and Chilean empanadas, too. Buen provecho.
1612 20th St NW, Washington, DC, 20009
Dine in or take out, Zorba’s fresh Greek cuisine is delicious either way. Entrees here are sized to share, which is great for saving money. The sandwiches are all $10 or less and perfect for a picnic and people-watching in Dupont Circle. Allergy information is clearly marked on Zorba’s menu to make ordering easy.
2341 18th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20009
Jumbo Slice is true to its name and then some. Every $8 piece of pie easily dwarfs two personal pan pizzas at conventional restaurants. Of course, they’re big enough to share, but devouring these cheese-laden monstrosities comes with mouth-watering bragging rights.
1724 L St. NW, Washington, DC, 20036
Finally, a place where you can snag some healthy food without breaking the bank! At this joint, they call their cuisine naturally fast food, and the majority of the items are under $10. If you’re vegan, gluten-free, wheat-free, or vegetarian, you’ll find plenty of options that suit your dietary needs and preferences. Between choices like the Caribbean plantain curry hot box and the truffled portobello and halloumi sandwich, you and your wallet will walk out smiling.
517 Morse St. NE, Washington, DC, 20002
Step into the Italian grocery store, A. Litteri, and you’ll feel like you’ve transported yourself to Europe. In addition to finding some of the finest Italian wine this side of the pond, you’ll discover an authentic Italian deli inside, where they serve up homemade bratwurst and Italian sausage. They serve delectable and affordable sandwiches, which your choice of meat, cheese, and toppings. With choices like capicola, mortadella, and prosciuttini, it’s better to add of them to save yourself the decision making.
Affordable foodie activities in Washington, D.C.
- Take the foods of Eastern Market tour to get to know the history and taste the many flavors of Washington, D.C.’s oldest open-air market. Children 7 and younger join the tour free with a paid adult.
- Experience Georgetown’s most exclusive restaurants with a guided Georgetown food tour. You’ll save on the dishes and drinks that make this neighborhood a culinary destination.
- Learn about Washington’s African roots on a Little Ethiopia food tour throughout U Street and the Shaw.
Now that you know where to eat cheap in Washington, D.C., you’ve got to find things to do between meals, right? Check out exciting Washington, D.C. attractions and plan an unforgettable trip to the U.S. capital! Better yet, take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the region’s most famous monuments with your very own tour guide. Join the Discover DC – Memorial Sightseeing Bus Tour and get the inside scoop.
Want to focus on more health-conscious cooking while you’re in town? Read our guide to Washington D.C.’s best healthy restaurants.
Header image: Via ArinaEdemskaya/Shutterstock.com