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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/21/2009

Free and Cheap D.C.: Four Meals for Lower Prices

By Julia Beizer

Eager interns, broke twenty-somethings, over-stretched parents: no matter who you are these days, you're probably in search of a dining deal. Our Best Bets lists for Cheap Eats and Takeout can point you in the right direction. To give you some more ideas, I've broken some of these lists down into four meal-time categories. (And no, I don't mean fourthmeal.)

As anyone who works inside all day can tell you: bringing your lunch may be cheaper, but purchasing your lunch out of the office also means buying yourself some time outside the cubicle walls. Greek Deli and Catering, located on an office-heavy stretch of 19th Street, is so popular with the midday crowd that there's often a line out the door. But for sandwiches and platters between $6 and $9, it's worth the wait. On the Hill on weekdays, Taqueria Nacionale offers incredible tacos for a steal before 3 p.m. Nearby, Good Stuff Eatery serves delicious burgers, big milkshakes and herb-dusted fries.

Date Night
Taking a cute guy or gal out for dinner in this town can be a drain on one's wallet, but there are a few places that offer a touch of romance with entrees under $15. One of my favorites in this category is Rice in Logan Circle. The tiny dining room doesn't take reservations (which, admittedly, is a bummer), but it's dimly lit and moody, with a bunch of noodle dishes between $14 and $16. Himalayan Heritage is another great date spot -- especially if you like spice. Entrees at the Adams Morgan Nepalese restaurant hover in the $11 to $14 range. In Old Town, Fontaine Caffe and Creperie serves sweet and savory crepes in charming bistro-like setting. Split one of the under-$10 sweet crepes for dessert.

Late Night
After a long night of partying, sometimes only jumbo slice will do. (Not judging; it's just a fact.) Amsterdam Falafel is a close second with the 18th Street barfly crowd -- and to my mind, it's a much better alternative. Aside from the potential pitfall of adding too many spicy toppings to your pita, you really can't go wrong with one of the restaurant's signature dish, loaded with hummus and veggies. El Tamarindo is another Adams Morgan spot that's popular with the late-night crowd. It serves burritos, tacos and quesadillas until 5 a.m. on weekends. The Nando's Peri-Peri locations aren't open quite as late, but the pair offers spicy chicken with an array of sauces and sides to bar-goers in Penn Quarter and Dupont.

Long Night (At the Office)
No one should have to stay late at the office in summer, but knowing the D.C. overachiever type, it could happen. Even if you don't live or work anywhere near The Italian Store, you should make a trip by after work. The sandwiches are good; the pizzas are better. On 14th Street, Great Wall is a Guru-fave for takeout Chinese. We suggest you give some of the spicy ma la dishes a go. Scoot into Earl's before 8 p.m. on weeknights and introduce yourself to some of the most decadent sandwiches around. The house-roasted meats are great, but it's the grilled sourdough that make sandwiches like the Turkey Cranberry sing.

Got any favorites to add to these categories? Let us know below.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | May 21, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Free and Cheap, Restaurants  
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Taqueria Nacionale is not really a good deal. Individual tacos are up to 2$ and are not a very large portion. (This irks me to no end having been to authentic restaurants where tacos are typically served in orders of 3 or 5 and are much more affordable.) I would say its necessary to order at least 3 individual tacos plus rice on the side for an average meal size. The rice is delicious, though, and a great deal - 1.50 gets you a good sized portion.

Posted by: iseedc | May 21, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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