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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.



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.



Watch Pride parade from one of these bars, restaurants

Plenty of viewing options along route with drink, food specials



Nama Ko will celebrate Pride with three bottomless drinks for brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and an extended happy hour from 3-7 p.m. 

The Capital Pride Parade steps off from 14th and T streets, N.W. at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 10. The parade tradition honors the city’s LGBTQ history and acknowledges the evolution of the LGBTQ neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., as the parade winds through the 14th Street, Logan Circle, and Dupont Circle neighborhoods. One of the best ways to watch: Settle down at one of the many bars and restaurants that line the route. From start to finish, check out a few select options below.

Nama Ko

Situated just north of the parade kickoff, Nama Ko (which recently replaced Tico, from the same owners), will be celebrating Pride this year with three cocktail options for bottomless brunch (during the parade weekend and all month long), and an extended happy hour from 3-7 p.m. The featured drink is a Lychee Saketini made with Tito’s Vodka, Nigori sake, and lychee purée; the drinks will be offered to-go for $10. Nama Ko will also offer two soft-serve flavors to go: miso honey truffle with chocolate & caramel sauces, and a black sesame soft serve topped with date syrup, cherries, and candied walnuts. To the delight of marchers, the many windows that face 14th Street will be painted a vibrant rainbow, as Tico did each year as well.
Mi Vida

Now one of three Mi Vida locations and part of the gay-owned Knead Restaurant Group, this colorful Mexican restaurant on 14th will have a special Pride cocktail, “Plus One,” which includes Tito’s Vodka, Chinola Passion Fruit, Aperol, Vanilla, Lime, Bubbles ($16). A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project. Guests who are coming to watch the parade can take their cocktail on the patio to get a front-row seat to the parade festivities.


This upscale Parisian-style bistro graced with one Michelin star will join the party by opening up its bar area overlooking 14th Street for the parade.

Le Dip

To honor pride, Le Diplomate is highlighting Republic Restoratives spirits. Republic Restoratives, an LGBTQ-owned distillery located in Northeast, is a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights in D.C. Le Diplomate will honor Republic in two cocktails June 9-11: the Romarin, using Civic Vodka, and the Tonic Trope, which will feature Assembly Gin. Le Diplomate has patio seating right on 14th Street and on Q Street.
Jane Jane

This throwback gay-owned cocktail lair with a patio on 14th Street is hosting a month-long Pride fundraiser in support of the ACLU Drag Defense Fund, During the month of June, the popular bar will donate 10 percent of sales from its Pride cocktail menu, and 50 percent of all T-shirt sales to the Drag Defense Fund. The bar will set up a stand for drinks outside during the parade, and will open up inside for the remainder of the evening.
Otherwise on 14th Street, check out patios at spots like Gypsy Kitchen, Garden District, Ted’s Bulletin, Aslin Beer Company, Chicken + Whiskey, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and more.
The parade route leaves 14th Street and turns west on Rhode Island Avenue. Two hotels right on the route are hosting Pride parties.
Viceroy Washington DC

The Capital Pride partner event Crack of Noon PRIDE Parade Brunch event is taking place at the Viceroy’s Dovetail restaurant. Pregame for the parade with an all-you-can-eat brunch plus bubbly. Diners have the chance to meet the celebrated Pride Parade grand marshals, Pride 2023 Honorees, and other surprise special guests. Diners must be 21+. Brunch runs 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for $60-$75.
Darcy Hotel

Just a block west, The Darcy Hotel will host a Pride event on the Gerrard Street Patio, complete with a DJ plus food and drink specials. The hotel is offering two specialty cocktails for the entire month of June: The No28 cocktail ($6.28) in honor of National Pride Day (6/28), and The Darcy Pride cocktail, with peach vodka and passionfruit.

From there, the parade turns north on 17th Street for one block, and back west on P Street.
DC Vegan

At the corner of 17th and P Streets, this vegan deli-restaurant-bar is hosting its annual Vegan Pride party again with a special menu, and extended 12 p.m.-12 a.m. service. The bar will serve sausages, sandwiches, loaded nachos, Pride cupcakes, and other street-friendly eaters. DC Vegan will open up not only its subterranean bar, but also an auxiliary bar in its parklet patio, serving beer, wine, and liquor right on P Street.

The parade finishes its route curving around Dupont Circle and ends at 21st Street, N.W. Bars and restaurants with patios there include Pizzeria Paradiso, Sura Thai, and Emissary.

And if the parade crowds are too daunting, watch the parade on the giant screen at Pride on the Pier at the Wharf. The festivities include drag shows, DJs, VIP sections, and the parade on the big screen. Admission to the pier is free; the party runs from 2-9 p.m. culminating in a fireworks display. Visit for more information.

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Annie’s celebrates 75th anniversary

Local institution a place of community and acceptance for LGBTQ patrons



The local community celebrated Annie’s last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

George Katinas, a child of immigrants, opened Paramount Steakhouse in 1948 on the corner of 17th and Church streets, N.W. (where JR.’s is currently located). Three-quarters of a century later, the restaurant has changed its name and location, received accolades from the city and James Beard, and was deservedly feted last weekend. His son Paul now owns the restaurant, and runs Annie’s today with his daughter Georgia Katinas.

George ran the restaurant with his sisters, but it was a singular sister Annie who coaxed the restaurant into its status as a place of community and acceptance for the growing LGBTQ population in Dupont Circle. Katinas renamed the restaurant for her. When there were desperately few areas of safety, Annie’s stood out, and does still today.

Last Saturday, Annie’s pulled out all the stops for an all-day party under a brilliantly sunny sky. The clouds parted for the celebration, bringing together government officials, longtime customers, and families with new fans. A rainbow balloon arch perched across the 17th Street sidewalk.

Drag artists Kimberly Di’Nitta, Victoria Di’Nitta, Jayzeer Shantey, Genocide Abrasax and Candi H. Fuentes performed, Miss Gay Arlington greeted fans, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang several renditions a capela for the crowd – including “Happy Birthday” over an enormous cake with sparkler candles (Annie’s has been a longtime supporter of the Gay Men’s Chorus).

“Taking a moment to sing happy birthday with Potomac Fever Group of Gay Men’s Chorus, this moment was so emotional,” said Georgia.

Anne’s set up a swag tent, selling collectible pint glasses featuring caricatures of the Annie’s family, like George and Annie herself. There was also a raffle, carnival snacks, and sidewalk games like a pie walk and martini race.

Vincent Slatt of Rainbow History Project was there to take it all in. Armed with a microphone, he interviewed partygoers to talk about why Annie’s was meaningful to them on the occasion of the anniversary.

In 2019, the James Beard Foundation announced that Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, won the America’s Classic award for the Mid-Atlantic region (Ben’s Chili Bowl has also won this award). These awards are given “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community,” according to the James Beard website.

“Annie’s became home, and was there when there weren’t too many other opportunities or places to go,” says owner Paul Katinas (George’s son) in a previous interview. Annie’s also developed a strong relationship with the Washington Blade after the newspaper was founded in 1969.

After the outdoor festivities closed at 6 p.m., the party moved inside to Annie’s upper level for an appropriately festive afterparty.

Georgia notes that the anniversary “gave us a moment to reflect and think about how much has changed in 75 years, yet how much we’ve kept Annie’s the same. It’s a reason to celebrate and reflect. We’re so grateful for the support of our regulars.”

As for the next 25 years? Georgia says that the restaurant industry will be affected by the new tipped-wage law, but is adamant that Annie’s will remain.

“We will preserve what we have, honor our past, while making new memories.”

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Delectable debuts on the D.C. dining scene

Jose Andres triumphs, Mi Vida expands, and more



The Square (1850 K St.) is D.C.’s newest food market.

This year is already turning out to be a dynamic one for dining and nightlife. The effects of the pandemic, inflation, and the supply chain are still being felt, but there is a sense of optimism with a host of new openings for the first half of the year. And this season, of course, is often defined by cherry blossoms. Peak bloom is predicted for March 22-25, and festival activities begin on March 18. Enjoy all the pink, and read on for some dining highlights for the first few months of 2023.


Jose Andres triumphantly returned to the Old Post Office building in a coup for the celebrity restaurateur. The building, which is now a Waldorf Astoria hotel, most recently housed a hotel run by the organization of a disgraced former president. Andres had his eyes on the space for two decades and was set to open a restaurant there, but refused because of the new owner. Bazaar, which opened in February, serves sophisticated Spanish cuisine. It has locations in Los Angeles and Miami, plating specialty dishes like Iberico ham with caviar.

Uncaged Mimosas

It’s all flowers and bubbles at Uncaged Mimosas in Truxton Circle, which opened in February. Here, brunch is served every day of the week. Chef Damian Brown pours 20-plus kinds of mimosas, with flights available, plus frozen daiquiris. Neon signs, fake flowers and vines, and lots of color gives it a permanent party vibe. Brunch dishes include chicken and waffles, salmon and grits, and red velvet pancakes.


Ambar, one of the only all-you-can-eat dinner restaurants in the region, is opening its second spot in D.C. proper and third in the area. The new two-story restaurant, which opened March 6, sits in Shaw across from Dacha. Owner Ivan Iricanin brings in dishes from across the Balkans, like hearty country slow-cooked dishes from the interior, to seafood specialties from the Mediterranean. There are more than 60 bottles of wine from the Balkans, plus fruit-infused rakia, the popular Balkan spirit. Ambar offers unlimited prix-fixe brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, with optional drink pairings at brunch and dinner.

Owl Room

The U Street Corridor welcomes this new nightlife destination in the former Marvin space on March 10. Run by Marvin owner Eric Hilton and others, Owl Room has transformed the spot into more of a music and concert venue, with a dance floor and stage that will feature live music and DJ sets. The upstairs has a more relaxed patio for cocktails.

Mi Vida

Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design continues to expand its Mexican hit restaurant, Mi Vida, with a new outpost set to open in April in Penn Quarter. This will be the largest Mi Vida to date, boasting a huge 10,000-square-foot space. Design flourishes include the iconic tree of life that has been showcased at all three locations, as well as a new custom rope art installation by Mexican artisans.


On the southern end of Adams Morgan, Alfresco is a new “American tap and grill” restaurant from the owners of Lauriol Plaza, located just down 18th Street. The 300-plus seat restaurant is set to open in April. Its menu is a distinct departure from Lauriol’s Mexican food; this one serves sandwiches, pizza, pasta, salads, and steaks. True to its name, there is a central courtyard with a retractable pergola roof, as well as two other outdoor patio seating spaces.

Van Leeuwen

New York import Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and its super premium brand of dessert is opening three shops in the next few months: Union Market (418 Morse St. NE), Adams Morgan (2421 18th St. NW), and Georgetown (3245 Prospect St. NW). Founded in 2008 as a New York City ice cream truck, Van Leeuwen is known for both traditional and vegan ice creams. Unique flavors include mac ’n cheese and honeycomb. These are its first shops in D.C., though there are more than 20 across the country.

The Square

The Square (1850 K St.) will be D.C.’s newest food market, opening later this year. The Square is slated to open in 2023 within International Square, and will feature a collection of more than 15 artisanal food vendors, a full-service restaurant and bar, an expansive bar in the central atrium, and outdoor dining seating, plus retail. Richie Brandenburg and Rubén García co-founded The Square, both well-established chefs, bring globally inspired food to the expansive food hall.


While not falling into the food sphere, the opening of Bunker has upended nightlife destinations for the LGBTQ community in D.C. Kinetic Productions owners Zach Renovatés and Jesus Quispe debuted the subterranean spot in late February, bringing in local and national DJs, dancers, drag queens, and entertainment. The bar/club is open Thursday-Sunday, playing different music genres each night.

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