Virginia’s Top 5 Cheap Eats

by Jamie Liu

Virginia's Top 5 Cheap Eats: Figure 1
A bowl of pho at Pho 75.

During discussions of the high cost of eating out in DC, people compare it to cities like New York and San Francisco where the cost of living is even higher. And often DC does not fare well in these comparisons.

But in reality it’s not a fair comparison. In DC, competition for diners is not as intense as other cities, and it’s basic knowledge that competition drives down prices. In a recent survey by the NPD Group, DC didn’t even rank in the top 10 of cities with the highest number of restaurants per capita. With less intense competition for diners compared to other cities, there is less pressure for DC restaurants to have similarly low prices.

Another reason DC lags behind on cheap eats is that international restaurants and communities, which are typically a major source of inexpensive food options, are in the suburbs. New York, San Francisco and LA have much more sprawl — 468, 231, and 503 square miles, respectively — compared to DC’s paltry 68 square miles — making for many more restaurants from which to draw comparison.

Fortunately we’ve got you covered for the DC suburbs. Last week, UrbanTurf listed our top five cheap eat destinations in DC. This week, we’ll be looking at the nearby suburbs of Virginia, and next week, we’ll tackle Maryland. The five choices, in alphabetical order, represent some of the best value at eateries where entrees average $15 or less. (For the purposes of our short list, we excluded alcohol costs, as depending on where you go and who you’re with, these can add up quickly.)

We realize that limiting our list to just five spots opens up the possibility that we left your favorite spot off. So, let us know your suggestions for other great cheap eats across the Potomac.

A&J — 4316 Markham Street, Annandale, VA (map)

As you venture out into the suburbs, restaurant options become more international and more inexpensive. The northern Chinese and Taiwanese “small eats” at A&J are particularly popular for people looking to assemble a meal with a lot of variety. However, these “small eats” are much larger than tapas servings, and average around $5 for hearty bowls of noodles and noodle soups, meat-stuffed buns, and dumplings.

Virginia's Top 5 Cheap Eats: Figure 2
The fish and chips at Eamonn’s.

Banh Mi Sandwich DC — 3103 Graham Road, Falls Church, VA

Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) are a study in contrasts — fatty meats accented with pickled vegetables and refreshing cucumbers, tucked inside crisp crusted ficelles. Banh Mi Sandwich DC is one of the more favored banh mi shops in the area for its slightly caramelized ficelles, but it faces heavy competition from the numerous options in nearby Eden Center. Along with the most traditional “combination” of ham, head cheese, and pate, they have 21 other options all for less than $4 each. Want to stock up? Buy five, and get one of equal or lesser value free.

Eamonn’s — 728 King Street, Alexandria, VA (map)

Fish n’ chips have been the go to takeaway food in the United Kingdom and Ireland for decades because the dish is inexpensive but filling. Irish chef Cathal Armstrong decided that it was an idea worth replicating in Alexandria and Arlington. A large portion of freshly fried cod and other seafood at Eamonn’s runs between $7-8.50, and a single order of chips costs $3. If you’re not a fan of seafood, head to the Arlington location, which features a menu of burgers and a variety of traditional chippie food for $10 or less.

El Pollo Rico — 932 Kenmore Street, Arlington, VA (map)

Simple menus are one way that restaurants keep food prices low. El Pollo Rico’s main business is selling Peruvian rotisserie chicken. Loaded with flavorful spices, and broiled over charcoal, El Pollo Rico is known as the destination for these moist birds, that sell for $9 for half a chicken. Tack on a variety of sides like fries, and coleslaw for a few bucks more. If the lines are too long at El Pollo Rico, you can head to Crisp & Juicy where a half chicken with two sides costs you $10.

Virginia's Top 5 Cheap Eats: Figure 3
A full table at A&J. Courtesy of Foodspotting.

Pho 75 — 1721 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (map)

Pho has become very popular as a cheap meal in the DC area, and one establishment stands out from its competition. Pho 75, the local, cash-only chain with locations in Maryland and Virginia, is known for having the best broth in the region. A regular size bowl of pho with any variety of beef cuts is $6.75, while a larger bowl will run you a dollar more.

Honorable Mention

Pupatella — 5104 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (map)

Some argue that Pupatella serves the best Neapolitan pizza in the area, even better than the much-lauded 2Amys. This little restaurant, that used to be a cart near the Ballston Metro, sells pizzas that average $11 a pie. And for those who aren’t pizza lovers, paninis are $8 or less.

Jamie R. Liu is a freelance writer, food nerd, and former DCist food and drink editor. She has contributed to Eater, Washington City Paper, the Express, and AskMen.com.

See other articles related to: virginia cheap eats, neighborhood eats

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/virginias_top_5_cheap_eats/7197

1 Comment

  1. Eponymous said at 5:35 pm on Thursday June 13, 2013:
    I haven't tried all of these, but Hong Kong Palace near 7 Corners is on my personal list of best cheap eats in NoVA - great Sichuan food.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »