Welcome to the first post of our new feature, Thrifty District. Inspired by the New York Magazine “Cheap Living” feature, we’ll post ideas designed to help save you money, while still living large. Bad economy + already steep DC prices = OUCH! We’re here to act as your band-aid (ahem, generic-priced bandage, that is…) for otherwise painful prices.
We’ll explore where to get a great yet cheap haircut, how to dress up for less, the best place to find an affordable drink, among many more localized money saving ideas and tips. The first installment though, is how to eat great for less. I’ll do head-to-head (or is it fork-to-fork) comparisons of some of the cities most delicious yet expensive restaurant dishes and suggest you try their cheaper (and equally delectable) brethren.
Congressman: Charlie Palmer Steak – Filet Mignon “European Cut” at $37
Charlie Palmer dishes up a famous slab of USDA Angus Beef, with additional sides to share ranging from $7 to $14. Dessert will set you back an average of $8. Map
Aide: Rays the Steaks – Sunday’s “A Place at the Table” Prix Fixe Menu (3 courses for $35 or less)
Michael Landrum’s flagship “Rays” serves three wonderfully savory courses (including the Filet) for $35 or less depending on the menu you choose. My pick for best steak in the city, it leaves nothing to be desired. With the cashews, sides, and dessert included, you’ll walk away satisfied, with Metro money left over. Map
Congressman: Guarapo – Pollo Apanado at $14
The breaded chicken paired with fried yucca and yellow hunacayna sauce sure is tasty, but you can get it for less. Map
Aide: Crisp & Juicy – Chicken Platter at $5.75
The no-frills (yet Zagat rated every year) Crisp & Juicy Peruvian chicken chain gives you 1/4 a chicken, fried yucca, house salad and a roll for under $6. The delicious and famous sauce is available in hot, mild and garlic, and if you get the large size, can be packed up and taken home to be served with other dishes. (Multiple locations… click the Crisp & Juicy link)
Congressman: Palena – Three Courses for $58
Palena’s main dining room in Cleveland Park allows diners to choose a first course, second and dessert for under $60. Map
Aide: Palena’s Cafe – entrees ala carte for $10 to $18
The savvy diner would instead visit Palena’s cafe, housed in the same building as the main dining room, and get the same dishes at face price. Add in dessert at $9 a pop, you can eat almost the same meal for half the price. Map
Congressman: Co. Co. Sala – Sliders (Beef and Chicken) at $7 each, $21 for three.
Co Co Sala offers one (albeit delicious) mini burger alone on a square dish, with a bit of greens on the side for $7 each. Order a trio and you’ve spent $21. Map
Aide: Matchbox DC – 3.6.9. Mini Burgers at $8 for three.
A metrocurean Five Bites All Star, the Matchbox mini burgers are a steal. Three delicious beef burgers arrive piled high with onion straws, and at $8 for the plate, could serve as anyone’s main dish for the meal. Map
Congressman: TenPenh – Five Spice Chili Tea Rubbed Beef Tenderloin at $29
TenPenh serves up an asian entree of beef tenderloin over kim-chee noodles at almost $30 a plate. Map
Aide: Minh’s Restaurant – Grilled Beef with Thin Noodle at $11.75
Get it for less at Arlington’s humble Vietnamese restaurant, Minh’s. Minh’s regularly ranks in the Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best, as well as Cheap Eats. This grilled beef dish is a steal at only $12. Map
Congressman: Central by Michel Richard – Tartare of Filet Mignon & French Fries at $24
Michel Richard’s everyday cuisine eat place satisfies appetites with a Tartare and fries. Map
Aide: Tallula’s Eat Bar – Steak Tartare ($6)+ Fries w/homemade Ketchup ($4) total $10
Eat Bar’s creative gastropub food is a great night out for any budget. Pair the tartare with the house fries, and you’ve got yourself Central’s meal on a budget. Map
Let it be known that I adore 2841, the service is impeccable, the food is delicious and the setting is gorgeous. But no one can really afford an $18 dessert, let’s be real. Map
Aide: Bistro Bis – Tarte Normande at $9.75
Pastry with warm apples and goats milk ice cream at Bistro Bis will set you back half of what 2941 charges, but still maintaining the french-cooking clout. Map
Although Naan & Beyond is a simple to-go shop, my co-workers swear by the Biryani. Get a generous portion for only $6. (Multiple locations… click the Naan and Beyond link to find out.)
My sushi-snob roommate lives and dies by Sushi-Ko, but as sushi goes, it’s pricier. Map
Wasabi serves up sushi on the traditional sushi conveyor belt, snaking its way around the restaurant. Plates are color coded by price ($2.50 to $5.00) so you are able to watch what you spend, literally. Map
Total Savings? Well, if you substituted each of my Aide suggestions for the Congressman priced dish just once per year, you’d wind up with a savings of $148.50, not too shabby!
Stay tuned to We Love DC for more “Thrifty District” features, coming soon. If you’ve got a suggestion of a theme you want us to “cheap-ify” please let us know in the comments! But for now, happy eating.
(PS – Thanks to all my flickr friends who I asked to submit photos of relevant food/restaurant fronts to the We Love DC pool. I wound up not being able to use them all, but I loved every one! Thanks again!)