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? Here are our top picks all over the city.

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.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

U Street

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.

Oyamel

Penn Quarter

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.

Good Stuff Eatery

Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Crystal City

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.

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.

Comet Ping Pong

Chevy Chase

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!

Wicked Waffle

Downtown

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.!

Pinstripes

Georgetown

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.

Julia’s Empanadas

Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Takoma

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.

Zorba’s Café

Dupont Circle

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.

Jumbo Slice

Adams Morgan

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.

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! Want to focus on more health-conscious cooking? Read our guide to Washington D.C.’s best healthy restaurants.

Header image: Via ArinaEdemskaya/Shutterstock.com