Restaurants & Bars | January 6, 2023 7:40 am

A Local’s Guide to the Best Cheap Eats in Every DC Ward 

From iconic DC institutions to modern fried chicken purveyors

Row of townhouses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
From Ward 1 to Ward 8, here's where to score the best food under $10.
Grace Cary via Getty

When it comes to food, cheap does not mean unworthy or anything pejorative. A few years ago, The Washington Post ceased using “cheap” to describe food under a certain price point, and while that absolutely makes sense, people still look for cheap food so today, in our guide to affordable eats throughout D.C., we’re using the word “cheap.” 

In this context, cheap is under $10. The following eight options all come in under $10, before tax and gratuity. From beloved institutions to mom-and-pop restaurant expansions, it’s possible to eat well (and indeed cheaply) in every ward in D.C. 

Ward 1: Original Chili Half Smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl

Price: $7.69

We’re starting with the most iconic dish in D.C. Since 1958, locals and tourists alike have flocked to Ben’s, specifically to their U Street location. The Original Chili Half Smoke is a perfect sandwich/hot dog (that’s a debate for another time). You can order one at any of their locations (U St., H St., DCA, Nats Park), but it just tastes better eaten inside the flagship location.

Ward 2: The No-Meat Sun City from Call Your Mother

Price: $7

Just a few years ago, Call Your Mother was one standalone location in Park View — now there are seven, and there’s still a line most every weekend morning. The Ward 2 location in Georgetown is a bright pink house, and the menu options are what you want in a bagel shop. We’re going with the kinda-classic bodega-style egg and cheese sandwich.

Ward 3: Slice of pizza from Vace Italian Delicatessen

Price: $2.50

One of D.C.’s best pizza shops is one of its oldest, and one of its most affordable. While a jumbo slice is great for a specific time (as late as possible) and place (on the street, waiting for a car, after staying out too late), the pizza at Vace is great any time. Just order whatever is currently available. You cannot go wrong. I’ve had the pepperoni, mushroom, cheese, white pizza with onions, and white pizza with spinach, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. They also travel and re-heat really well.

Ward 4: Donut from Donut Run

Price: $3 to $3.50

That pink box is a siren song to children throughout Takoma. It’s a blessing and a curse. Yes, the vegan donuts are the best in the city, but how often can you feed your kid donuts before you become a bad parent? Whatever, these donuts rule. It’s worth the short wait (yes, the line can be long, but it doesn’t ever take that long to get service; you can’t really customize donuts).

Ward 5: The Runaway Burger from The Runaway

Price: $8, Mondays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

This is a Monday-only cheap eat. The folks behind D.C.’s best burger/bar/punk venue Slash Run opened a new spot in Brookland earlier this year. The Runaways-inspired spot has the same burger night special as Slash Run, which means Monday is the time to go.

Ward 6: Western Omelette at Pete’s Diner

Price: $9.75

There are not enough diners in Washington, D.C. proper. This is a proper diner in Washington, D.C., and extremely close to the Capitol — so close you’re likely to run into a member of Congress, or at least a staffer. Whether that’s a good thing is entirely up to you. Go for the American breakfast classics, stay for the Korean bulgogi.

Ward 7: Fried chicken and coleslaw from Roaming Rooster

Price: $9.49

There are five Roaming Rooster locations throughout D.C., as well as four in the suburbs and one a few hours from D.C. They’ve nailed the right way to do fried chicken, so we’re recommending their newest D.C. location in the Skyland Town Center. It’s not their newest spot overall even though it opened in February 2022. Since then, they’ve opened up multiple locations in Virginia and Maryland. We told you they nailed the right way to do fried chicken.

Ward 8: Pupusas from Las Placitas

Price: $2.75

When locals think of D.C. food, pupusas are high on the list. There are fantastic options in most every ward, especially 4 and 1, but the pupusas from Las Placitas have been a great option on Capitol Hill for 32 years.