Global Cheap Eats Around D.C.
March 30, 2023 @ 12:00pm
Some of the best casual dining options for global flavors around the city.
D.C. has long been known for its fine dining, a consequence of politicians and diplomats seeking venues for power lunches and fancy dinners. In recent years, however, the fast-casual dining scene in D.C. has grown exponentially, and the city is teeming with options for cheap eats from around the world, allowing us to experience the cultures of other countries without the time and exorbitant cost of travel. Here are some of the diverse casual dining options around the city, including Indian fare at RASA, Israeli dishes from Shouk and Spanish street food by José Andrés.
Venezuelan food at Arepa Zone
Arepas, South American griddled ground corn patties, have a mild, slightly sweet taste making them the ideal vehicle for a variety of fillings. At Arepa Zone, you can choose from dozens of options, including one stuffed with cheese and plantains; one filled with stretchy mozzarella cheese, tomato, basil and avocado; another brimming with black beans; and all different kinds of cheese for the rest. For those not feeling arepas, the restaurant offers other Venezuelan treats, including tequeños — which are small, cheesy bread sticks — corn pancakes called cachapas and empanadas. Various locations. arepazone.com // @arepazone
Salvadoran food at La Casita Pupuseria
Pupusas are available all over D.C., but they don’t get any better than at La Casita. The variety of pupusas offered by this local chain is impressive, with fillings like cheese; refried bean and cheese; cheese and loroco, an edible green flower; vegan cheese; and spinach and mushroom. Be sure to smother your pupusas in house-made curtido, a tart cabbage and carrot slaw, and tomato salsa. Various locations. lacasitapupusas.com // @lacasitapupusas
Spanish food at Pepe Food Truck
José Andrés’ most casual venue, Pepe, is a Spanish sandwich shop that serves bikinis, thin sandwiches that are a popular Catalan street food, along with other Spanish snacks like gazpacho, patatas bravas and salads. The three-cheese bikini is the ultimate comfort food, featuring melted sheep, goat and cow milk cheeses. A cup of cold, silky gazpacho is the perfect accompaniment. Various locations. pepethefoodtruck.com // @pepebyjose
Indian food at RASA
The Indian-inspired bowls at RASA are colorful, flavorful and fragrant — a treat for all your senses. You can create your own, choosing different grains, greens, noodles or rice as a base and a series of proteins, veggies and sauces for toppings. They also offer popular chef-created options that are as charming as their names; Caul Me Maybe includes a bed of lemon turmeric rice crowned with cauliflower, cubes of cucumber, sauteed spinach and masala-spiced beets drizzled with a bold peanut sesame sauce. Aloo Need is Love is a bright concoction of rice, spicy sweet potato tikki, pink spheres of pickled radish, charred eggplant and a duo of sauces: one coconut and one tamarind. Enjoy any of the bowls with a cold mango lassi. Vegan dishes, as well as items with nuts and gluten, are helpfully marked on the menu. Various locations. rasa.co // @rasa
Korean food at Seoul Spice
For a Korean fast-casual option, look no further than Seoul Spice, which now has six locations around the DMV. Dining at Seoul Spice involves first choosing one of four options for the base of the meal: bibimbap, or rice; gimbap, where seaweed and rice are rolled into a burrito; japchae, chewy sweet potato noodles; and sangchu, kale. From there, select Korean-style proteins and veggies including kimchi, bean sprouts and pickled radishes, and finally, sauces like Korean hot sauce and aioli-infused sriracha go on top. Don’t skip the optional toppings like sesame oil, avocado, crispy garlic and fire powder (for the brave only). Various locations. seoulspice.com // @seoulspice
Israeli food at Shouk
The plant-based Mediterranean food at Shouk is addictively good, and their menu has so many options, you can come back time and time again to try something new. Notable recommendations include the shawarma, where grill-seared oyster mushrooms are stuffed into a pillowy pita along with crunchy green cabbage, cucumber, arugula and loads of creamy tahina. It’s meaty, fresh and delicious. Other highlights are the za’atar cauliflower bowl, where chickpeas, roasted red peppers, hummus and vivid lemony zhug are spooned over hunks of za’atar-roasted cauliflower and heaps of a lentil-infused rice. Sides such as red lentil soup, spicy fries and extra hummus should not be overlooked. Various locations. shouk.com // @shoukfood
Hawaiian meets Mexican food at Tiki Taco
Tiki Taco serves tacos, poke and salads, but the tacos are the star at this Dupont Circle venue. The crispy sesame tofu taco is a local favorite, featuring cubes of crispy fried tofu topped with shredded green papaya, aromatic toasted coconut and a sweet chili sauce. The chickpea taco is just as good — the chickpeas are doused in a rich, creamy sauce and crowned with a crunchy slaw. Avocado and queso fresco are optional toppings, and don’t forget about sides like corn and flour chips served with black bean corn salsa. 2010 P St. NW, DC; tikitacodc.com // @tikitacodc