9 Best BBQ Joints in Washington, D.C.

9 Best BBQ Joints in Washington, D.C.

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Where to get the best BBQ in the nation’s capital

If you are headed to the Washington, D.C. area for this weekend’s inauguration of President Obama, Richard Wachtel, founder and lead writer of Grilling with Rich, has compiled a list of the nine best BBQ joints in Washington, D.C. that visitors must try no matter what neighborhood they are celebrating in.

See 9 Best BBQ Joints in Washington, D.C. Slideshow

Since our nation’s capital is home to people from every state in the Union, BBQ fans can find the best BBQ our country has to offer, with regional styles from the Carolinas to Texas and everything in between. And it wouldn’t be Washington if each of these places didn’t have their own "platform" to make their BBQ cuisine stand out. Although the levers were already pulled on Election Day, you can still place your vote for some of the East Coast’s best BBQ.

From Pork Barrel BBQ, which was opened by former Senate staffers Brett Thompson and Heath Hall, to Texas Ribs and BBQ, where President Barack Obama recently stopped in to dine on his way back to the White House, these traditional BBQ spots are sure to please those looking for comfort food.

Richard Wachtel is the founder and lead writer of Grilling with Rich, which focuses on grilling and barbecue adventures, recipes, product reviews, and much more! Grilling with Rich is all about learning everything there is to know about every aspect of BBQ and grilling culture throughout the U.S. Richard is a native New Yorker who has lived in the Washington, D.C.-area for the past eight years but has his stomach and heart in BBQ joints throughout the South! Follow Richard Wachtel on Twitter @Grillingwrich and get updates on Facebook.

BBQ Joints: Stories and Secret Recipes from the Barbeque Belt Paperback – March 1, 2008

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The Best Chili Spots

No reasonable discussion of great chili joints can take place without mention of this U Street institution, open since 1958. Try the Bill Cosby's Original Chili Half-Smoke hot dog and the beef-filled house-made chili sauce, a decadent french-fry topping.

Bon Appétit features editor Hugh Garvey was weaned on the chili at the Den, as locals call this 63-year-old no-frills legend. The chili comes with or without beans and in a range of heat—from mild to the scorching J.R. Special.

820 South Ninth Street 217-522-37223. Chili My Soul

No single chili style rules at this mostly take-out spot in the Los Angeles area. In fact, every day a dozen or so chilies from a roster of more than 30 varieties are featured. Each type—from Blanco y Verde (tomatillos, Great Northern beans, chicken) to Gunslinger (ground beef, bacon bits, baby pinto beans)—is numbered. (1 has no heat 10 is blazing!)

4928 Balboa Boulevard 818-981-76854. Slim's Last Chance

Part chili shack, part music venue, this Georgetown-neighborhood hangout serves four chilies (Texas red, brisket and bean, chile verde, and turkey and white bean), with optional white-cheddar grits or jalapeño mac and cheese.

5606 First Avenue South 206-762-79005. Daisy May's BBQ USA

At the best barbecue joint in the Big Apple, chef Adam Perry Lang's chili is thick with braised cubes of beef and served with house-made chipotle sauce, cheddar cheese, onions, sour cream, and a warm tortilla.

623 11th Avenue 212-977-15006. Camp Washington Chili (pictured)

You either love Cincinnati-style chili or you despise it—there is no middle ground. Order this mild, somewhat sweet, fine-ground beef sauce thusly: 3-Way (spaghetti topped with cheese and chili), 4-Way (spaghetti, cheese, chili, and onions or beans), or 5-Way (the works).

3005 Colerain Avenue 513-541-00617. All Star Sandwich Bar

Fiery-hot Texas State Pen Chili (made with brisket and no beans) is a best seller. Cornbread, sour cream, Jack cheese, lime, and cilantro (served on the side) help tame the flames.

1245 Cambridge Street 617-868-30658. Tomasita's

This is one of the best places to try stew-like New Mexican green chili (named after its green Hatch chiles), filled with your choice of pinto beans, posole, beef, chicken, or cheese. A crispy sopaipilla (puffy fry bread) comes on the side.

500 South Guadalupe Street 505-983-57219. Tolbert's Restaurant

From the Chili Queens of San Antonio to the annual cook-offs, no state takes its chili as seriously as Texas. Halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Tolbert's serves a classic bowl of Texas red, bean-free and super-thick with beef chunks.

423 South Main Street 817-421-488810. Big Bad Breakfast

At chef John Currence's new breakfast-and-lunch-only diner-like spot, you can have the house-made chili on a griddle-fried hot dog atop a sweet waffle, in a two-egg omelet, or simply in a bowl.

America's tastiest ribs

Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish, Washington, D.C.: A broken-down bus that’s only open Friday through Sunday is serving some of the country’s best ribs. These ribs are about as simple as it gets, with a well-developed bark, a perfect smoke ring, and no frills. This is working man’s barbecue, served in big, hearty portions. (Photo: Yelp/ Fail C)

There are few things in life more delicious and satisfying than a plate of barbecue. And more often than not, the centerpiece of that plate is a rack of ribs. A glistening, smoky, slow-cooked rib, whether pork or beef, has the potential to be one of the most groan-inducingly good foods in existence, especially when enjoyed with a cold, easy-drinking beer. But who makes the best ribs in America? And what exactly makes a perfect rib?

We reached out to some of the country's most renowned food writers and critics, and assembled a list not only of their favorites, but of ribs that are renowned far and wide for their smoky perfection. The only criterion that we provided these panelists was that their picks needed to be bone-in ribs best eaten with your hands and a pile of napkins. So while we're certainly fans of Italian-style braised short ribs (famed critic Gael Greene told us that her favorite ribs are the ones at New York City's Il Buco Alimentari), those didn't meet our criteria for this list. Renowned food writer and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance John T. Edge, The Washington Post's Tim Carman, GQ's Alan Richman, the Los Angeles Times' Jonathan Gold, and Esquire's John Mariani all submitted some of their favorites. A couple of panelists also gave us their answer to the question, "What makes the perfect rib?"

So what does make for a perfect rib, according to some of the country's leading experts? Tenderness, sauce-to-meat ratio, smokiness, and good charring.

Tim Carman told us, "For me, barbecue spareribs should not fall off the bone like those ubiquitous braised short ribs you find on every chef-driven menu. Your teeth should be engaged in the eating process with spareribs, forced to lock onto the smoky flesh and gently pull it from the bone. The spareribs should also not arrive at your table smothered in tangy/sweet/spicy sauce. I want to taste the meat and smoke and whatever layer of seasonings the pitmaster has applied to the ribs. Sauces can hide defects in seasoning and smoking."

And John Mariani said, "For me a great rib is never oversmoked, pink under the skin, with good charring on the outside. The sauce is down my list of virtues, preferring a dry rub to do most of the work. The meat may come off the bone easily but not 'fall off,' and there should be some definite chewiness to the meat."

We wholeheartedly agree, so with those parameters in mind, we set off to find the country's 20 best ribs, building on 2011's list and ranking them according to local renown, critical appraisal, and adherence to the criteria set forth by our panel of experts. A word of warning before reading on: You'll be hungry by the time you make your way to number one. And if your favorite place isn't on the list, we also agree with what Alan Richman told us: "In fact, they're all great."

1) Oklahoma Joe's, Kansas City, Kan.

In a city renowned for its pork ribs, the ones at Oklahoma Joe's are simply the best, and were on more than one of our panelists' lists. Boasting a deeply burnished shade of red thanks to a rub heavy with paprika, cumin, brown sugar, and chili powder, these ribs also happen to be picture-postcard-perfect to look at, and you'll most likely find yourself snapping a photo of them before you even take that first bite. And once you do, you'll learn what the fuss has been about. Moist, juicy, smoky, tender — all those adjectives you thought you knew the definition of will only conjure one image in your mind from here on out: Oklahoma Joe's pork ribs. They're the best you'll ever have.

"I dote on the beef ribs at Smoke," Edge told us. "These show great smoke penetration, and the meat has a kind of roundness, a beefiness that recalls the best dry-aged steakhouse stuff." The rest of the country tends to agree. Chef Tim Byres opened this restaurant inside the city's Belmont Hotel in 2009, and while it's not a barbecue joint, per se, even though there are several smoked meats on the menu, his fine-dining approach to the cuisine elevates it above the pack. The giant "big rib" is slow-smoked over oak and hickory until it develops a beautiful crust and is tender but not falling apart. It's served with a chimichurri sauce that provides an extra kick, but it's wholly unnecessary.

3) The Salt Lick, Driftwood, Texas

Both the beef and pork ribs from this Texas institution, Alan Richman's favorite, are good enough to bring you to tears. There's just something about the meat, the smoke, and the shady, tree-filled setting that combine for a transcendental barbecue experience. These ribs are mopped as they smoke on a giant central pit, and the pork ones emerge tender and pull clean from the bone without falling off it, right in that sweet spot. The beef ribs (go for double-cut if you're feeling especially macho), which are the stuff of dreams even without a drop of sauce, will have you strategizing your return visit even before you leave. Don't forget to bring a long a six-pack they'll put it on ice for you. Now that's hospitality.

4) Home Team BBQ, Charleston, S.C.

Home Team Barbecue has been around for less than 10 years, but that wasn't enough to stop it from being named "the most life-changing BBQ ribs" in America by Esquire last year. Pitmaster Aaron Siegel starts with a sweet and spicy rub that's used on just about everything they smoke, and the ribs go down for five to six hours. When they emerge, they're covered in a deeply caramelized bark and are moist and tender. It's just about impossible to get through a rack of these without groaning for joy at least a few times.

5) Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas

Aaron Franklin must be some kind of sorcerer. What started as a trailer in 2009 quickly became one of the most revered spots in all of 'cuedom, and loyalists and pilgrims all line up outside the newish building's front door for hours on end, every day. No visit is complete without sampling some of the impossibly tender ribs, which are peppery and with a well-caramelized bark. You have your choice of slathering on three sauces (espresso-based, vinegar-based, or a sweeter variety), but as is usually the case with barbecue this good, none is necessary.

6) Archibald's, Northport, Ala.

"I love the pork ribs at Archibald's," John T. Edge told us. "They have a great char, come slathered in an orange-hued vinegary sauce, and require — as great pork ribs do — a tug of the incisors to loosen meat from bone." The restaurant has been run by the Archibald family since it opened in 1962, and today it's run by George Archibald Jr. who sticks with the same recipe his father used. Ribs are smoked low and slow over hickory wood, and served out of a little shack. Grab a rack and a cup of sauce, snag a picnic table, and enter barbecue nirvana.

7) City Market, Luling, Texas

City Market is one of Texas' great barbecue joints and a true claim to fame for the city of Luling you'd be hard-pressed to find better brisket, and the ribs are simply out of this world. It's a comfortable, air-conditioned restaurant (a nice change of pace from some of the state's more rustic establishments), and while the sauce is some of the best you'll ever have, it's completely unnecessary on these beautifully smoky ribs that really let the meat speak for itself.

8) Pappy's Smokehouse, St. Louis

It might be Memphis-style barbecue in St. Louis, but Pappy's makes the best ribs in a city that's renowned for them. The lines form early to get into this hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and it closes as soon as the barbecue runs out. These ribs are smoked over apple or cherry wood, and have a kick of black pepper and rosemary. It might be a bit of a madhouse, but just close your eyes and take a bite, and you'll be in your happy place in no time.

9) Phillips BBQ, Los Angeles

Featuring the best ribs in Los Angeles, according to Jonathan Gold, this small restaurant and its newer second and third locations serve "the tastiest barbecued ribs south of Oakland," according to the LA Times critic. These ribs are spicy, peppery, and require a bit of tug to get them off the bone, and the smokiness and work-of-genius flavor combination has attracted legions of fans. If you decide to make a pilgrimage, go to the original, a tiny, greasy takeout window. It's about as authentic a barbecue experience as you'll ever get.

10) Hill Country, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The pork ribs at Hill Country, with locations in New York and Washington, pay homage to — where else? — Texas' Hill Country, and are peppery, tender but don't fall off the bone, and delicately scented with wood smoke. You'll eat more than a few before you even realize that they don't have any sauce on them, because it's completely unnecessary. If there's room left in your stomach, order some of the perfectly smoked prime rib and thank us later.

11) Alamo BBQ, Richmond, Va.

Another suggestion from Carman, Alamo specializes in Texas-style barbecue, as the name implies. Its brisket is the stuff of legend, but the ribs are also world-class. They're smoky, mopped with a stellar but not overpowering barbecue sauce, and are so good that you might just end up ordering a second rack.

12) Rendezvous, Memphis, Tenn.

Charles Vergo's Rendezvous is consistently ranked among the best barbecue joints in the country, and you do not want to miss out on their ribs. What makes these ribs so good is the rub, or as they call it, "the seasoning" (word is that it's not called a rub because it's not rubbed in). The baby back ribs are cooked hot and fast, which might seem against-the-grain, but the proof is in the pudding: the technique works.

13) Corky's, Memphis, Tenn.

In a city known for its barbecue, Corky's has found its way to the top of the heap thanks to its ribs. Its website describes the lengthy process that its ribs go through to reach the eater: "Born of a unique combination of place, history, and just plain knowing what great ribs and barbecue are supposed to taste like, Corky's unrivaled ribs and authentic, hand-pulled barbecue are meaty, succulent, and falling-off-the-bone-tender. Corky's barbecue is made with old-fashioned Southern tradition — slow-cooked in pits with hickory chips and charcoal, hand-pulled to select only the best, and basted in our special blend of Corky's sauces." If that doesn't make you hungry, we don't know what will.

14) Mr. P's Ribs and Fish, Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post's Tim Carman suggested we add Mr. P's to our list, and public opinion clearly agrees that it deserves a spot, even though it's just a broken-down bus that's only open Friday through Sunday. Yes, an old converted bus is serving some of the country's best ribs. These ribs are about as simple as it gets, with a well-developed bark, a perfect smoke ring, and no frills. This is working man's barbecue, served in big, hearty portions.

15) Bludso's, Compton, Calif.

A favorite of the LA Times' Jonathan Gold, this Compton, Calif., restaurant specializes in Texas-style ribs from a recipe handed down by owner Kevin Bludso's great-great-grandfather. The recipes are a well-guarded secret, but the end result is world-class: smoky, sweet, and requiring a little tug to get at. The smoky smell will lure you in from blocks away.

16) Twin Anchors, Chicago

Once a favorite hangout of Frank Sinatra, this Chicago institution opened in 1932 in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood as a Prohibition-era tavern. The ribs are slow-cooked for five hours, finished on the grill, and served to tender perfection. If you find yourself there on a weekend with a wait more than an hour, though, make sure to heed the establishment's golden rule: No dancing.

17) Off the Bone, Dallas

An unassuming spot located on an unassuming street just outside of Dallas, Off the Bone was named the best barbecue in the city by D Magazine in 2010. Thepecan-smoked ribs served out of this converted gas station might be considered gourmet by most standards, but that doesn't mean they're not down-home and delicious, especially when you catch a glimpse of them being mopped with sauce by the pitmaster in the back.

18) Roper's Ribs, St. Louis

Family-owned since 1976, Roper's St. Louis and baby back ribs are meaty, smoky, and coated in a hearty sweet and spicy sauce that doesn't overpower the meat. It's a tiny, smoky place, so be prepared to take your order to go you'll be amply rewarded with ribs that are also considered to be among America's best, and Travel + Leisure agrees.

19) Bogart's Smokehouse, St. Louis

A relative newcomer, Bogart's is helmed by the former pitmaster from a St. Louis institution, Pappy's. The sides here are spectacular, but make sure not to fill up on them because their ribs are the main event. They're sticky and caramelized due to a special treatment that they get after being removed from the grill: they're hit with a blowtorch, a genius move if we ever saw one.

20) Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que — Llano, Texas

This supremely peppery pork rib breaks a trademark rule of barbecue — it's finished over direct heat — but it's just about impossible not to fall in love with Cooper's ribs. That finishing touch gives it a great char, and you're also allowed to choose your own rack, right off the grill. The folks at Details Magazine also agree that this is one of the country's finest.

1. Roots 657 Cafe and Local Market

Out in Loudon County, certified Master Chef Rich Rosendale owns a family-friendly market and cafe that serves barbecue by the pound and sandwiches stuffed with brisket, turkey, and pulled pork. Rosendale doesn’t adhere to a regional style. Instead, he applies a hyper-local ethos, sourcing meat and even wood from producers nearby. He says barbecue at Roots 657 is smoked for a minimum of 18 hours at lower temperatures than conventional barbecue.

Smoked pork from Roots 657 Roots 657 [official]

"There's literally nothing at this place that isn't delicious (try the bbq!) and the atmosphere is great. It's always packed, so have a friend hold down a table while you order." - FourSquare user Lauren Swisher

"The Little Five Points favorite serves up Texas-style faves like pulled pork and Flintstones-sized ribs. The sides are equally tasty, especially the mac and cheese, tater tots, and Brunswick stew." - FourSquare user AFAR Media

The 30 Best BBQ Restaurants In America, According To Open Table

America has a serious love affair with barbecue. It's an adoration so profound, the people were unable to leave it in the South from whence it came. You no longer have to live in Alabama or make a trip to Texas to eat great ribs, brisket, or awesome BBQ sides. These days, you can get great barbecue in the center of Manhattan or a pulled pork sandwich worthy of a food coma in the Golden City.

A look at Open Table's 2014 30 Best BBQ Restaurants Diners' Choice Awards is proof of that -- only a few restaurants on the list are actually located in the South. There are restaurants from both coasts, and a good amount hail from Chicago of all places. Fear not, this doesn't mean that the South isn't still top when it comes to barbecue. A more likely explanation would be that great Southern barbecue doesn't exist at places that take Open Table reservations.

Without further ado, here are the best BBQ restaurants in America (which accept reservations on Open Table).

7 New Barbecue Joints to Try Around DC—With Outdoor Seating and Takeout

There are lots of new restaurants and pop-ups for all your smoked meat (and veggie) needs, and all offer carryout and/or outdoor seating.

442 Maple Ave. E., Vienna
Chef Jon Krinn recently built an entire kitchen in his upscale restaurant’s parking lot, complete with a cabinet smoker, Argentinian rotisserie, and grill. It’s turning out classic ribs and brisket as well as specials like family-style suckling pigs. A yakitori menu is on the way.

Federalist Pig Hyattsville
5504 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville
Stellar Adams Morgan ‘cue carryout Federalist Pig plans to open its second location, in Hyattsville, this spring. In the meatime, pitmaster Rob Sonderman is helming a new mobile barbecue trailer in the joint’s parking lot. A custom-built, wood-burning J&R Smoker turns out specials such as pork-belly burnt ends and sandwiches, all to go. Also popping up: Fedwich, a barbecue-sandwich operation housed at Dupont Circle’s Kramerbooks.

Money Muscle BBQ
8630 Fenton St., Plaza 5, Silver Spring
The folks behind All Set in Silver Spring are behind this food truck, which roams Montgomery and Prince George’s counties (orders can also be made for pickup in Silver Spring, or delivery). The regional menu is a nod to chef Edward Reavis’ native Emporia, Virginia—a small southern town near the North Carolina border. Look for NC-inspired pulled pork, Texas brisket, smoked wings, and more.

Mountain Song Barbecue
109 S. St. Asaph St,. Alexandria
At this Neighborhood Restaurant Group newcomer, which is popping up at Old Town’s Columbia Firehouse, pitmaster Matt Deaton prepares slow-smoked meats using Virginia-oak-and-hickory-fired pits. It runs Friday through Sunday during the fall, and the team is scouting a separate brick-and-mortar location.

Ruthie’s All Day
3411 S. Fifth St., South Arlington
Chef Matt Hill, the former culinary director of the Liberty Tavern Group, branched out with this family-friendly, modern ‘cue restaurant in a historic chocolate factory with a roomy patio. True to name, you can start the day here with counter-service coffee and breakfast sandwiches before moving onto all-day, full-service dining. The “meat and three” tradition gets an update with proteins like bacon-wrapped trout or smoked duck—all from a wood-fired Argentinian grill.

Smokecraft Modern Barbecue
1051 N. Highland St., Arlington
Seasoned pitmasters get creative at their new Clarendon spot. In addition to competition-winning pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, and Wagyu brisket, you’ll find smoked crabcakes and fire-kissed spaghetti squash on the patio. They’ve also launched a ghost kitchen, Etta Faye’s Chicken Shack, inspired by chef William Burke’s grandmother.

Wild Tiger BBQ
1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington
There’s nothing traditional about “ramen-rubbed” barbecue—and that’s the point. Moon Rabbit chef Kevin Tien and Bun’d Up owner Scott Chung play to their Vietnamese and Korean roots at this Pentagon Row pop-up, which is slated to run through May. Think meats rubbed with Shin-style ramen spice, sides such as kimchee pimiento cheese, and bao slathered in Szechuan honey butter.

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Eastside Big Tom

Located in Washington’s capital, Olympia, Eastside Big Tom delights customers with its all-American cuisine. Established in 1969, this burger joint procures the freshest ingredients available for its quality burgers. Must-try burgers include the eponymous Big Tom with double meat, double cheese, GOOP — the restaurant’s famous sauce — pickle, onion, lettuce, and tomato, or the Holy Cow with spicy chipotle mayo, jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Complementary side dishes, including fries, tater tots, and onion rings served with choice of sauce are also available.

Fat Smitty burger | © Jessica Rossi/Flickr

Fat Smitty’s

Family-owned and operated, Fat Smitty’s is a Discovery Bay institution serving mouthwatering burgers to hungry diners. An eclectic place, the exterior of this burger joint features several quirky, large statues, including a burger, an ice cream cone, and a Pepsi bottle. The interior is just as wacky with dollar bills adorning the walls and ceiling — they are periodically removed and donated to charity. For the truly ravenous, the house specialty, Fat Smitty burger, with two patties, three slices of bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and sauce is a great option. Be sure to have cash on hand as they don’t accept card.

Fresh Burger Café

Established in 2012, Fresh Burger Café serves up mouth-watering burgers and other delights in a renovated century-old house. Diners can build their own burger, which includes a choice of a locally sourced beef patty, veggie patty, chicken in one of two ways, or wild Alaskan salmon plus myriad of toppings, or they can choose a signature burger. Full of international flavors, one highlight is the mon ami burger, which is a beef patty topped with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted garlic aioli.

22 Best Cheap Eats in Washington, D.C.

Gone are the days when Washington was thought of as nothing but a steakhouse-and-lobbyist-lunching kind of town. Instead, track down delicious and fairly cheap fare from around the globe — including Peruvian chicken, Vietnamese pho, Ethiopian stews and all-American pancakes. So when the rent is too damn high, here’s where you can grab lunch or dinner for around $10.

Related To:

Photo By: Becca Rea-Holloway

Penne alla Vodka Slice at Wise Guy Pizza

Washington may be a quick train ride from New York, but it doesn&rsquot mean the New York pizza abounds. For the next best thing, dive into Wise Guy. Sure, you could go traditional with the supreme or margherita, but why not indulge with some carb-on-carb love and order a slice loaded up with creamy, tomato-y pasta? Slices from the 20-inch pies cost a very reasonable $2.99-$3.99, making this filling lunch very pennywise.

Tikka Chance on Me at Rasa

The handcrafted blue door, the rainbow-colored strings zigzagging above that recall a Renwick Gallery exhibit and bright pillows stuffed into hanging swings are your first clue that this is no ordinary fast-casual joint. Located in the shadow of Nationals Park, this homegrown business invites hungry masses to either go the DIY route or try one of the signature options, like the one loaded up with chicken tikka, tomato-garlic sauce and mint-cilantro chutney, among other things, for $9.32.

Chopped Pork Sandwich at Sloppy Mama's BBQ

There are several well-worn food laments for Washingtonians &mdashno spots for good bagels, New York pizza, etc. But when it comes to barbecue, one taste of Sloppy Mama&rsquos chopped pork sandwich will banish all Texas yearnings. It&rsquos smoky, savory, sweet and satisfying. Order it on a bun at the Union Market stall for $10, and maybe add a side of baked beans for $3 more, or go for a &ldquomeat and two&rdquo platter for $15.

Amsterdam Falafelshop

What started years ago as a single shop in Adams Morgan quickly became a D.C. institution when locals discovered they could satisfy after-bar hunger with golden-fried falafel balls in pita with unlimited (and free!) toppings that include baba ganoush, Turkish salad and house-pickled beets. The Amsterdam-inspired shop now has three locations around town, plus outposts in Boston and Texas. In D.C., a small pita (three falafel balls) goes for $7.50, and a large (five falafel balls) is priced at $8.75. Don&rsquot even consider skipping the twice-fried frieten, which run $3.95 for small and $4.95 for large.

Shrimp Tacos at Taqueria Habanero

Once upon a time, finding a great taco in the DMV meant driving to Hyattsville just northeast of D.C. and trying your luck with the many wonderful Mexican spots there. Nowadays, there are wonderful versions that don&rsquot require a car, including this taqueria up 14th Street Northwest that serves excellent housemade tortillas filled with perfectly plump and juicy shrimp topped with tomato, onion, cilantro and a wedge of avocado. Priced at $3 each, they can be mixed and matched, ideally with the equally excellent al pastor and mushroom tacos.

Pancakes at Ari's Diner

Truth be told, it&rsquos not easy to choose one cheap eat at this Ivy City diner, since almost everything on the menu comes in under $15. Try the $11 burger served with fries, the $6 avocado toast or the $11 plate of two eggs with hash browns, breakfast meat and toast, and you&rsquoll be happy. But it&rsquos the stack of fluffy, buttery pancakes &mdash $8 for four, $5 for two &mdash that&rsquos the stuff of diner dreams. Be prepared to share because once everyone else at the table gets a taste, you won&rsquot be able to keep them to yourself.

Pho at Pho 75

You could drive yourself crazy trying to find the area&rsquos perfect bowl of pho, but the lines at this longtime Arlington favorite are an easy way to tell that the cash-only old-timer still holds sway. It&rsquos tempting to stick with what you know and opt for something like brisket or paper-thin slices of rare steak for your steaming bowl of broth and noodles, but the addition of tripe and tendon undoubtedly adds richness to the broth &mdash even if you have no intention of eating tripe or tendon. The hefty regular-sized bowl costs $7.95, but you might as well go for the large for a dollar more and take some home. And don&rsquot worry, those lines go super fast. With only one thing on the menu, these expert pho slingers know what they&rsquore doing.

Peruvian Chicken at El Pollo Rico

Like Pho 75 just down the road, this Arlington mainstay sticks to one thing, and does it amazingly well. After braving the stiff competition for a parking spot out front, your reward is envelopment in the most-comforting aromas of juicy chicken and spices from the moment you push through the door. Spits of whole chickens pirouette over orange embers to your left while efficient and friendly folks take your order. A quarter chicken with two sides and two sauces sells for $7.27, and your slim choices for sides are cole slaw, rice and steak fries. No matter &mdash you&rsquore here for the chicken, and the lack of choices means it&rsquos the perfect spot to avoid hunger tantrums.

Pop's Beef Brisket Sandwich at Bub & Pop's

This subterranean sandwich shop &mdash run by a chef and his parents &mdash easily won the heart of locals with its mom-and-pop feel and gargantuan sandwiches. Among the roster of satisfying options is the signature beef brisket, a torpedo-sized umami bomb that would satisfy the hunger of a sumo wrestler stranded on a desert island. The slow-braised brisket slathered with apple-horseradish cream, aged gouda and veal jus sells for $10 a half or $18 for a whole sub, and you shouldn&rsquot need much convincing to spring for the fried egg on top for $1 more.

Creamy Kale and Potato Tacos at Chaia

We can all thank Chaia for coining the term "farm-to-taco," thanks to its farmers' market origins. Now nestled into a Georgetown storefront with expansions on the horizon, Chaia makes it easier than ever to get your fix of roasted potatoes and sauteed kale tucked into a tortilla with a poblano crema, pepperjack and pickled onions. They cost $4 each and are quite filling, but it's fun to add a butternut squash or smoky collards taco to mix and match.

Passion Flakie at Buttercream Bakeshop

It&rsquos tough to choose a favorite confection at this Shaw bakery and temple to towering Funfetti cakes, glittery unicorn bars and piled-high slices of pie. But pastry chef and owner Tiffany MacIsaac has abundant skills, including flakies. The sugared croissant dough shaped like a giant muffin ($3.85) contains its own magic: a creamy fluff that falls somewhere between a mousse and pudding in flavors that change with the seasons. You might find strawberry, Biscoff, matcha or lemon, but the passion fruit and butterscotch varieties are heavenly marvels.

Vegetable Sampler at Letena Ethiopian

Sure, you could save a few pennies by ordering one vegetable dish for $11.50 rather than opting for the veggie sampler for $17.50 at Letena, but you get so much with the sampler that you might as well bring a friend and split the cost. An order comes with a choice of any four vegetarian dishes, plus two side salads. Try the mushroom dulet cooked with red onion, garlic and jalapeño smoked cabbage with carrots, potatoes with caramelized onion and kik, a rich stew of yellow split peas simmered with onion, garlic and ginger. The Letena salad &mdash which blends lightly steamed broccoli with avocado &mdash will make you rethink these two ubiquitous green veggies altogether.

Sid Vicious Taco at Taco Bamba

Not all tacos need to evoke a legit Mexican street stall. Take the Sid Vicious, named for the notorious Sex Pistols bassist, which tastes more like what would happen if a plate of fish and chips went on vacation in Baja. You'll find the tortilla filled with crispy cod, malt vinegar salsa macha, mint tomatillo slaw and tartar sauce under the "taco nuestros" section of the new Chinatown Taco Bamba for $4.50 apiece. If you're at the Falls Church location, try the Black Pearl taco, a longtime favorite stuffed with fried grouper, spicy slaw and black aioli.

Classic Fried Chicken Biscuit at Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

Unfortunately, both the Union Market and Bladensburg locations of D.C.&rsquos favorite biscuit shop have shuttered. But never fear: These biscuit-preneurs wouldn&rsquot dream of leaving you hanging. While they wait for an undisclosed new shop to open later this year, they have a Navy Yard pop-up inside Ice Cream Jubilee, offering decadent stacks of fried chicken thigh, Benton&rsquos bacon, honey and hot sauce on a fluffy biscuit ($10). No matter where these chickens land, we know you&rsquoll follow.

Pizza at Vace Italian Deli

This isn't Neapolitan pizza or New York-style pizza or even Romanesque pizza. The thin-crust pies coming out of the kitchen at Vace are more like pizza della nonna, an Italian grandmother's rustic round topped with a flavor-packed housemade pizza sauce capped by whole milk mozzarella. It definitely isn't beholden to any DOC pizza-making canon -- it's just dang delicious, and cheap to boot. An entire 14-inch cheese pizza will set you back only $9.50, while a 16-incher goes for $11. You can also buy it by the slice for $2.50, or try the $6 Italian cold cut sub. Stock up for a rainy day with the freezer full of sauces and take-home meals like lasagna that are great to have on hand for dinner emergencies.

Savory Oatmeal at A Baked Joint

Where is it written that breakfast must be sweet, or even that oatmeal requires doctoring with maple and baking spices? A Baked Joint, owned by the team behind Baked & Wired, provides compelling evidence that steel-cut oats loaded with smoked ham, kale, caramelized onions and pecorino, all topped with a beautifully poached egg, is every bit as satisfying &mdash and filling. Served only till 11 a.m., the hearty $8.75 bowl will easily take you through lunch, whether you&rsquore tromping around the museums or just sitting through interminable meetings at the office.

Chili Half-Smoke at Meats & Foods

The half-smoke is one of the few creations that can really be tied to DC. Made famous by Ben&rsquos Chili Bowl just down the street, the food has now spawned an artisanal version at Meats & Foods, a tiny storefront that makes and grills up its own sausages. This half-smoke tastes smoky, as the name suggests, but also earthy, sweet and spiced. The $6.50 dog comes on a potato roll with the traditional fixin&rsquos of mustard and onions, plus chili for $1 more. While you&rsquore here, try the chilito, a toasty tortilla filled with meat chili, for another $3.50.

Cauliflower Pita at Shouk

Shouk shook up the idea of eating a plant-based meal &mdash at least in DC, where there weren&rsquot many vegan options for a long time. Leaning on Israeli and Middle Eastern culinary traditions, these flavor-packed and satisfying pitas and bowls are well-assembled and totally satisfying ($9.75). The cauliflower version features the cruciferous veg tucked into a pita with tomato, scallion, tahina and parsley. Save room for the shockingly vegan choco-cardamom cookie.

Bogan Burger at Lucky Buns

As the opening chef for Duke&rsquos Grocery, which is known for its killer burger, Food Network Star alum Alex McCoy knows a thing or two about making a great version of the all-American classic. Now the owner and chef of the burger joint Lucky Buns in Adams Morgan, McCoy serves up $10 single-patty burgers like the Bogan Burger, a decadent stack of Creekstone beef, gouda, bacon XO jam, pickles and arugula, along with a few other flavor boosters.

Dim Sum at Da Hong Pao

D.C. dwellers had long lamented that a dim sum craving used to necessitate a trip out to Falls Church or up to Wheaton &mdash that is, until this spot opened on 14th Street NW (1409 14th St NW) offering aromatic carts of dumplings, roast duck ($8.45), beef chow fun ($8.45) and pork buns ($4.25). Aside from the reliable plates of shrimp-stuffed eggplant ($4.75), sticky rice with sausage and heaping servings of Chinese broccoli ($7.45), one of the best parts is that the silver carts roll through the dining room from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, rather than just on weekends. Prices range between $4.25 and $9.45 and, of course, the best way to keep this cost-effective is to go with friends who like to share.

Pork and Cheese Pupusas at Pupuseria Susana

As with many pupuserias scattered throughout the city, this Columbia Heights shop ( 3801 14th St NW ) barely has room for a table and a counter with a few seats. There&rsquos no menu, and only four or so varieties of the filled masa cakes&mdashpork and cheese spinach and cheese jalapeno and cheese and just plain cheese. But honestly, it really doesn&rsquot matter what&rsquos inside when you know they&rsquore being hand-formed and griddled to order, as these are. They come with the traditional cabbage slaw referred to as cortido for about $2 apiece, but the best way to give them a punch of flavor is to load up on the spicy pickled veggies near the register.

Grilled Pork Sandwich at Banh Mi DC Sandwich

Is there any such thing as a bad banh mi? The Vietnamese sandwich is a pretty alluring blend of crunchy, sweet-pickled veggies, cilantro and some kind of pork. To make an outstanding banh mi, like the ones found at this Falls Church market ( 3103 Graham Rd, Falls Church, Virginia ), the difference is in the details. Here, you can tell the bread is made on-site the moment you open the door and the warm, yeasty aroma hits you. Choose from 20 or so sandwich varieties that cost around $4 each (buy five and get the sixth one free), including the #2 topped with tender slices of grilled pork and jalapenos.

Watch the video: Why Texans Call This The Best BBQ Spot In Dallas. Legendary Eats (August 2022).