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A bite on a budget

You don’t have to break the bank to get a good meal in D.C.

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Ben's Chili Bowl, gay news, Washington Blade
Ben's Chili Bowl, gay news, Washington Blade

Half Smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Not every meal out in D.C. has to be pricey. There are many reasonably priced restaurants that serve good food and plenty of fine dining restaurants that have specials. Here are just some of the “cheap eats” available in the District right now.

If you’re looking for an eatery that offers a variety of cheap entrees, check out Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U St., N.W.) where you can get the restaurant’s signature half smokes for a mere $5.70 or Ben’s quarter pound beef chili cheeseburger for $5.80. If you aren’t in the mood for Ben’s, try Good Stuff Eatery (303 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.) where you can have a variety of salads, sandwiches and burgers for under $10. You can also dine at Oohhs and Aahhs (1005 U St., N.W.), which has consistently won the Cheap Eats Award and the Best Macaroni and Cheese Award from Washingtonian magazine.

Two of my personal favorites are Stoney’s Bar and Grill (1433 P St., N.W.) where you can get the delicious (but not necessarily nutritious) fried egg-topped “One-Eyed Burger” for just $10.95. Or, you can venture up to Adams Morgan and grab some comfort food, like the grilled cheese, for as little as $7 at The Diner (2453 18th St., N.W.).

Happy hour menus are not just drinks anymore. Lots of District restaurants are offering happy hour food specials to accompany the drinks. Urbana (2121 P St., N.W.) not only offers $4 Peroni and $6 Absolut mixed drinks, but also $8 pizzas and a dozen raw shore oysters for $12. Happy hour is available from 4-7 p.m.

NoPA Kitchen + Bar (800 F St., N.W.) offers 20 percent off all wines by the glass and signature cocktails like the Salty Dog with High West Vodka and the 800 F & Tonic with Bluecoat gin between 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In the Latin Lounge at Zengo (781 7th St., N.W.) from 5-8 p.m. on weekdays, patrons can enjoy $5 beverages and a variety of small plates priced between $5-8, like the Papaya Salad and the Thai Chicken empanada.

If you’re looking for a cheap or all-inclusive brunch, the options are endless in the District and brunch is a great way to start any weekend. Twist, in the Carlyle Suites Hotel (1731 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.) offers an unlimited buffet, including an omelet bar and bottomless mimosas for just $30 per person.

If you’re planning on spending a day at the Vida Pool this summer, you can save some money to put toward that membership by brunching at Local 16 (1602 U St., N.W.). They offer patrons one entrée and unlimited mimosas for $16.

El Centro D.F. (1819 14th St., N.W.) serves an all-you-can-eat Mexican brunch on weekends from 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for $35 per person. You can enjoy an endless selection of items from the brunch menu such as shrimp ceviche, Picadillo empanadas, and Mexican French Toast.

Banana Café’s (500 8th St., S.E.) tapas menu offers a range of Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican fare starting at just $3.75 and the piano bar still hosts one of the city’s liveliest happy hours.

Thaitanic II (3462 14th St., N.W.) has a delicious menu of appetizers under $10, including chicken satay and fresh mussels and dinner entrees start at just $10.95.

The Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) offers an elegant brunch including seven rotating Indian dishes for just $20.95 per person.

On Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30-2:30, Zaytinya (701 9th St., N.W.) serves a brunch of various mezzes reflecting the diversity of classical and contemporary Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine. Each is priced between $7.50-$8.50.

The 90-seat Izakaya Daikaya (705 6th St., N.W.) just introduced a brunch of small plates highlighting classics with a Japanese twist. Featured dishes include chicken and waffles with red bean taiyaka and wasabi butter maple syrup and “lox and onigiri.” Prices range from $8-12.

If you’re looking for a lunch deal, there are plenty available. Bryan Voltaggio’s new standout restaurant Range (5335 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) offers a three-course lunch menu for $30. The lunch includes delicious dishes like the kale Caesar salad, the hanging tender and dessert.

RIS (2275 L St., N.W.) offers a “power hour” lunch for $15 at the bar from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Art and Soul (415 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) offers a $25 power hour lunch and Graffiato (707 6th St., N.W.) also offers a $20 bar lunch.

701 Restaurant (701 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) offers a $15 lunch special at the bar from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekdays. Dishes available include gnocchi with spring vegetables, the rapini sandwich and the 701 burger.

If you’re headed out to the theater and want to enjoy a meal before the show, there are several options available. Posto (1515 14th St., N.W.), adjacent to Studio Theatre, offers a three-course pre-theater menu from opening to 6:30 p.m. priced at just $29.

Rasika (633 D St., N.W.) has a three-course pre-theater menu available until 6:30 p.m. This menu features entrees such as the chicken makhani and the lamb nihari.

Both Azur and 701 Restaurant have great deals on pre-theater meals as well.

Some other great events and cheap eats available this summer include Street Food Fridays at Del Campo (777 I St., N.W.). Chef Abisu will be offering one or more South American Street Food favorites for takeout from the patio for $18.

At Pearl Dive Oyster Palace (1612 14th St., N.W.), Monday is “oyster mania” from 4 p.m. to close. All hot oyster appetizers are $6 and raw oysters on the half shell are half-price.

Ripple (3417 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) offers the grilled cheese bar. Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and her team make made-to-order grilled cheese for $7.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to venture out of the city limits, Jaleo Bethesda has Monday Night Flights, a series of wine tastings, for $25 per person. Volt in Frederick, Md., also has a brand new a la carte patio menu.

There are so many great options available all around Washington with plates starting around $6 and some unlimited meals for just $35. Great food at a great price is a reality in the District.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Shawn Hunt

    July 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

    The writer forgot to mention any of the places to eat in either the Senate or House office buildings. The best is the South Side Buffet in the Dirksen Senate offfice building. A lunch buffet is only 16 bucks and no tax. I have often start eating at 11:30AM when it opens and don’t stop eating until 1:00PM. The food is excellent.

    And you often get to see famous people. I once dropped a cherry tomato on Senator Lamar Alexander’s shoe. (By accident of course)

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Dining

Jane Jane brings throwback joy to busy 14th Street

Cocktail bar characterized by warm Southern hospitality

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(Photo courtesy of Deney Lam)

There is no standing at Jane Jane, the new classic cocktail bar in the heart of 14th Street. Its 850 square feet is for sitting and savoring, drinking in the relaxed retro vibe and the thoughtful craft cocktails. 

At the foot of the mixed-use Liz development where Whitman-Walker is the major tenant, Jane Jane’s creative use of a shoebox-sized space brings throwback joy to a busy thoroughfare. 

In the pre-COVID days of 2019, Whitman-Walker approached the Jane Jane owners, hospitality veterans Jean Paul (JP) Sabatier, Ralph Brabham and Drew Porterfield, all gay men, to make good use of the vacant parcel, and ensure it would be run by LGBTQ entrepreneurs. “It required some gymnastics because of the layout,” says Brabham, “but we came up with this cozy classic cocktail concept.” 

The hangout spot is an effort by the trio to “celebrate hospitality. We want everyone who walks into the space to feel like friends of ours we are having over for drinks or a bite. Its a cocktail party in our home,” he says. They felt connected to the idea of a tiny bar—a space where they would want to have a drink.

Named for Brabham’s mother, Jane Jane is as alluring and lively as it is intimate, each detail in the experience characterized by warm Southern hospitality—right from the bowl of spiced nuts that swiftly appear at each table at the beginning of service.

Sabatier, who has held stints at D.C. institutions like Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Maydan, and Compass Rose, oversees the bar and cocktail program, organized by spirit. (For their part, Brabham and Porterfield, romantic partners, also act as co-owners of Beau Thai and BKK Cookshop; Porterfield is also the current Curator and Director of Long View Gallery in Shaw.)

Sabatier has presented classic cocktails with a few noteworthy nods to current zeitgeist, as imagined by his lengthy experience behind the bar. The booklet-like menu includes a broad selection of familiar favorites like a Negroni, Manhattan, martini, but also features Sabatier’s handpicked favorite classics like the Boulevardier (a whiskey Negroni), Last Word (gin married to herbaceous green chartreuse) and Air Mail (rum, honey and cava). Drinks fall in the $13-$16 range; a “Golden Hour” runs daily until 7 p.m. featuring beer and wine specials and a punch of the day. 

Sabatier’s creative juices flow on the first page through cocktails like the vividly named Tears at an Orgy, with brandy, orange and maraschino, as well as the best-selling, highly Instagrammable Crop Top, a gin cocktail with a red-wine floater—and a name that matches the look of the bi-color drink. “It’s fun, delicious, and speaks to the space,” says Sabatier. He notes that their vodka of choice comes from Civic, a local, women- and LGBTQ-owned distillery.

Sabatier, a classically trained chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate, also oversees the small selection of bar bites (the space has no kitchen, part of the required “gymnastics” to make it functional.)

Beyond the complimentary vessel of rosemary-flecked mixed nuts, other bar snacks run from pickled vegetables to a Southern-style Pimento cheese dip and an onion dip creamy enough to make your grandmother blush. The “Jane’s Caviar” dish is a spread of trout roe and crème fraiche and comes with a towering mound of shatteringly crisp chips. A weekend brunch is in the works, which will serve goodies from local bakeries.

The retro-style interior recalls both California and the South, with only 32 seats inside and a 14-seat patio. Cozy booths done up in a hunter green as warm and inviting as a cool aunt are slung below walnut-wood walls and bar. Bright patterned tiles run the length of the floor; the back wall has playful cocktail wallpaper. A charming needlepoint by the restrooms kindly requests of guests, “please don’t do coke in the bathroom.”

The owners note that while Jane Jane is not explicitly a gay bar, its location in a traditionally gay-welcoming institution means that it has LGBTQ in its bones.

“Supporting LGBTQ people, businesses, and causes has been in Jane Jane’s ownership’s DNA at every establishment at which they have been involved,” they say, having supported local LGBTQ+ organizations like Casa Ruby, Victory Fund, SMYAL and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. 

Porterfield says that they were surprised that, given the locale, people assumed Jane Jane was a gay bar. “It’s not a gay or straight bar, just a fantastic cocktail bar that welcomes anyone to hang out with us,” he says. 

Nevertheless, the owners have taken into consideration the significance of being in the Liz development, as both gay men and as part of the hospitality industry. “It highlights the lack of representation as gay owners in this bar and restaurant world,” says Porterfield. They note the lack of women, LGBTQ and BIPOC representation. 

“It’s very special to us that we opened in this space,” says Porterfield, “so we want to show that we have opened a place that is all about inclusivity.”

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Dining

Seven new restaurants to try this fall

D.C. restaurant scene thriving again after rough year

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Le Diplomate, dining, food, French cuisine, gay news, Washington Blade
If you like Le Diplomate, you’ll love new concept Bread Alley in Union Market offering, you guessed it, Le Dip’s famous breads. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The fall dining scene is as hot as ever. Here are some of the top tickets to look out for:

RAMMYs: Sept. 19 marks the annual D.C.-area restaurant industry awards, the RAMMYs. Many of the categories this year are unique to the challenges restaurants faced in 2020. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the awards “created timely categories that speak to all the ways the region’s uniquely met those challenges,” according to the RAMMYs. Such categories include “most innovative to-go packaging”, “outstanding COVID-safe redesign,” and “most impressive pivot to provision or market.” 

Jane Jane (1705 14th St. NW): 

Highly anticipated retro-chic cocktail bar Jane Jane quietly opened after more than two years in the making. Co-owned by gay men Drew Porterfield, his partner Ralph Brabham, and friend JP Sabatier, Jane Jane’s mid-century-style throwback offers classic cocktails and upgraded bar snacks. It’s located in the new Liz development on 14th Street.

Thirsty Crow (3400 11th St. NW):

Part sports bar, part cocktail bar, Thirsty Crow opened just last week in Columbia Heights. It sits in the subterranean level of Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning Makan, serving cocktails and bites inspired by Malaysian flavors, like its sister restaurant on the ground level. Chef James Wozniuk of Makan is overseeing the menu of snacks like shrimp chips and larger plates like spicy fried chicken with sambal.

No Goodbyes (1770 Euclid St. NW):

The Line Hotel previously played host to a suite of restaurants: A Rake’s Progress, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoke English. When these restaurants left this Adams Morgan hotel, the spaces sat mostly vacant until No Goodbyes slid into the ground floor. An all-day dining place that “taps the farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers in DC’s own backyard,” according to its website, the menu sits squarely on a Chesapeake Bay foundation. Mid-Atlantic dishes, from fish to fowl, play large on the menu.

Bread Alley (1250 5th St NE):

The intoxicating tower of carbs that greets diners when they walk into buzzy Le Diplomate is getting its very own dedicated space, aptly named Bread Alley. A tiny location in the Union Market area, the shop just launched selling only the three types of bread that arrive complimentary at the start of any Le Dip meal: thick-crusted classic baguette, multigrain boules, and cranberry-walnut boules. It will eventually also sell pastries, jams, butter, honey, and other accouterments. Bakers begin their craft at 3:30 a.m. and offer their wares starting at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or sold out, whichever arrives earlier.

Bistro Du Jour (99 District Square SW) 

Bistro Du Jour will be gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s third waterfront venue at the Wharf. A café in the Parisian style, it will lean heavily on croissants and cappuccinos during the day, moving to Champagne and larger savory dishes by night. The bistro will sell current partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery’s fresh baked goods and pastries, and will showcase traditional fare like coq au vin, French onion soup, steak frites, and foie gras for lunch and dinner. The bistro will display an extensive bubbly section, as well as a chic espresso bar and an outdoor patio. Brunch is in the works.

SUCCOTASH Prime (915 F St., NW)

After a yearlong hiatus, SUCCOTASH Prime recently reopened at the end of August. SUCCOTASH Prime, also run by gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, is an updated version of the restaurant, still with Chef Edward Lee at the helm. The refreshed SUCCOTASH opened as a southern steakhouse with an Asian twist, featuring smoked steaks, fried oysters, collard greens, ham, and kimchi side dish. Live music is also planned.

Via Roma (4531 Telfair Blvd #110, Camp Springs, Md.)

Via Roma is a restaurant where you can enjoy the pies, you just can’t call it “pizza.” Just opened a few weeks ago, the restaurant serves pinsas, a pizza-like dish using dough made from a heady mixture of wheat, soy, and rice flours, and then proofed for more than a day. The spot calls itself the first Pinsa-certified restaurant in Maryland, and aims to reflect the laid-back, Mediterranean atmosphere of Naples (the owner also runs an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified restaurant in Maryland). Beyond Pinsa, it also serves Maryland crab tater tots, panini, pasta, salad, and Aperol spritzes.

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Dining

D.C. Restaurant Week returns

Celebrating a revitalized dining scene after COVID closures

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A sample of what’s available from The DC Restaurant Group, which owns spots like Shaw’s Tavern and 801 Restaurant. Entrees include lobster and grits and salmon over succotash. (Photo courtesy DC Restaurant Group)

After being confined to a to-go program for the last two iterations, Washington, D.C.’s Restaurant Week is back this summer to celebrate the revitalized dining scene in the city. Summer Restaurant Week 2021, run by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), is scheduled to kick off Monday, Aug. 9, and last through Sunday, Aug. 15. 

The signature summer dining event returns to a one-week promotion this year, though restaurants have the option of extending their promotions. Diners can enjoy three-course menus at a range of indoor/outdoor comfort levels at more than 200 restaurants, ranging from fast-casual eateries to fine-dining destinations. In addition, the to-go family-style options that were introduced last year are not gone, however, as many restaurants will also offer this off-premise option. Of course, many spots plan to include a cocktail pairing as well.

Dinner is the main event for participating restaurants, with the classic three-course dinner priced at $35 per person. Several restaurants with higher overall price points are also offering an elevated $55 dinner with exclusive items. Three-course lunches run $22, and weekend brunch is also $22. 

Finally, many restaurants will also offer “RW-To-Go” dinner meals, available at two price points: $60 or $120 for two people and $100 or $200 for four people.

These RW-To-Go dinner meal packages are available for takeout or delivery, and diners can order RW-To-Go either directly from the participating restaurant or check their delivery app for the offer.

D.C. restaurants remain open at 100 percent capacity, but Mayor Bowser last week reinstated mask mandates for indoor spaces.  

New restaurants participating in Summer Restaurant Week include Angolo, ANXO, Flower Child, Le Sel, GATSBY, Glover Park Grill, Gypsy Kitchen, and Truluck’s in D.C.; and Spice Kraft Indian Bistro in Virginia.

“This year’s Summer Restaurant Week is not only providing diners with great options at great prices for dining out, but is also the first time all restaurants across our region are able to accommodate diners at full capacity both indoors and outdoors,” says Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. “Being fully open is a step toward recovery for the industry and also toward a return to our dynamic local restaurants in their spaces which help to elevate the dining experience.”

RAMW is the regional association representing restaurants and the foodservice industry in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. RAWM also runs the RAMMYs, the awards for the food and beverage industry. 

Restaurant operators themselves reinforced how important the promotion is to them. “Restaurant Week is an opportunity for us to showcase our resilience and commitment to serving our staff and community,” says Salwa Laaraichi of Station 4

For Eric Heidenberger, a partner at The DC Restaurant Group, which owns spots like Shaw’s Tavern and 801 Restaurant, the past year has been a challenge. But RAMW, he says, “has been very supportive to the D.C. restaurant community and a key a resource in helping us navigate the challenges of the pandemic. We’re excited to participate in the first “normal” restaurant week in almost a year and a half. Restaurant week is a great opportunity for us reach new diners and showcase new dishes to our regular/repeat customers.”

All of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s locations are participating in Restaurant Week. Co-owners Jason Berry said that he hopes that Restaurant Week “offers a way for diners to begin dipping their toe by taking advantage of these well-priced promotions. Restaurant Week brings a much-needed lift to August revenue and is especially meaningful this year as so many restaurants have been hurting these last 16 months.” 

As for what’s going to be offered at his restaurants, which include Gatsby, The Grill, Mi Casa, Mi Vida, and Succotash, most of which debuted just this year, “each of our restaurants takes a unique approach to offering seasonal additions, fun new items and crowd pleasers so that all guests have something for them during Restaurant Week.”

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