Washington D.C. | Dining on Any Budget

 · TV Food Maps · Jumbo Slice Pizza · Founding Farmers · Jaleo · 


I have had a lot of fun traveling to Washington D.C. this year, witnessing the growth of warmth and cherry blossoms awakening in Spring. Such a lovely place, rich with history and infused with a soft calmness as you wander between historical monuments. The city fills you with a sense of pride and patriotism, along with reminder of the past that challenged us in defining then redefining ourselves. I could spend hours picking apart the various monuments and historical sites, divulging on how I connect and am moved by them individually, but I will leave that distinct pleasure to your interpretation. All I will provide is my strongest recommendation to breath in fully the sites you see when you visit, because everyone’s life has somehow been impacted by the great men and women that are honored there.

Instead, I would like to take you on a journey in the name of sustenance. When I travel, it is always a priority to find new and interesting foods, drinks and dining experiences. One of my secret weapons is an ingenious app called TV Food Maps, in which restaurants are identified and labeled on a map because they have appeared on television. I recommend this route instead of Googling, because the app displays everything from dives to five-star establishments, instead of just showing primarily promoted restaurants. The places I find through TV Food Maps are diverse and always exciting, because they were promoted by television shows that make a living in discovering the food we can’t live without.

Below, I share the most memorable dining adventures I have had while visiting Washington D.C. Ranging from $-$$$, there is a wonderful meal to be had on any budget. I hope you enjoy!


1. Jumbo Slice Pizza – $

Yes, it’s exactly what you think. Featured on Travel Channel‘s Food Wars, this dive establishes a very strong front for it’s cause. It is set up as standing-room only with bar tops along the walls, and then few spots for outdoor seating. I ordered a fresh slice and sat outside, enjoying a delightful view of the surroundings shops and strolling/jogging inhabitants. While the pizza was nothing more than your average New York style thin slice, the sheer size of the item made this dinner memorable. I started off with a fork and knife (no judgment unless you’ve tried it), and then eventually was able to make my New Yorker fold to take on the rest. A unique meal for a mere few dollars is enough to make anyone’s wallet happy, this place is definitely great bang for your buck.



2. Founding Farmers – $$

Winter was still in it’s full force on my first trip to D.C., and I spent the majority of my time shivering. My sister and I were walking away from the National World War II Memorial (stunning, don’t miss it), when she broke down and called a cab to take us to lunch. We didn’t however have any idea of where to go, and when the driver suggested McDonald’s I knew we needed to figure something out fast. I pulled up TV Food Maps and quickly located Founding Farmers, located just three blocks away from The White House. Having been featured on Food Network‘s Best Thing I Ever Ate AND Meat and Potatoes, this place seemed like a sure win.

We walked in and the restaurant was absolutely packed with people, accompanied with a long waiting list to match. It was very much set up with a farm-to-table sort of feel, which was family friendly and also distinctive to its brand and menu. We weren’t in a hurry, so we put our names on the list and then went to stand by the bar. Thankfully our hovering proved beneficial, because two seats were soon vacated for our taking. We sat down and were happily served warm cocktails, really the only option after coming into the restaurant half frozen. We ordered from a special St. Patrick’s Day menu some sort of Irish coffee and a hot apple toddy, which both were masterfully created and served up to perfection. The specialty cocktail menu here is definitely not something you want to pass up.


For our lunch, we went for more popularly ordered items (travel hack #348: always ask your waiter what the favorite menu items are). I ordered the classic chicken and waffles, and my sister ambitiously took on the Farmhouse Platter, including baby cheeseburgers, a chili dog, pork ribs, potato salad and homemade chips. I’ve never been more proud. When our food arrived (as pictured below), we suddenly understood the reasons for the big crowds. Every single item was deliciously made, and it was a perfect dose of soul food to provide a break from a long day. This is definitely a spot I will make it back to, and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone, especially if you are able to make a reservation or wait for a bit!



3. Jaleo – $$$

Lastly, I bring you to the most unique dining experience of them all. This restaurant was featured on Food Network‘s Best Thing I Ever Ate and Rachel Ray – $40 a Day, along with Travel Channel‘s Bizarre Foods America! Jaleo is a Spanish word meaning revelry, fun and bustle. With bold colors and unique interior, the decor is the first thing you notice that sets this place apart. The vibe is very carefree and polished, featuring colorful and interesting design aspects that are quite honestly hard to describe. Check out there website for a few images!

We sat down to enjoy dinner, and started by ordering a porrón of Clara. Now let me be honest, we truly didn’t really know what we were getting into here. Because of the pricing of the item, we figured that we were just ordering a pitcher of one of their signature beverages. The waiter I believe picked up on this though, and explained that a porrón (pictured below) is a traditional glass wine pitcher mostly found in regions of Spain. The reason behind it’s unique shape is so that the beverage stored inside will have minimal contact with the air, while still being ready for use. It is poured directly into the mouth without any need for contact, so that it can be shared between a group of people. Brilliant, right? So, being the children we are, we set out to see who could drink pulling the porrón furthest from their face without spilling… The outcome I will not include (100% because I did not win). A very fun and yummy start to our dinner, I would definitely recommend including it in your meal, because it also serves as pre-dinner entertainment!


Another aspect I really loved about this place was that all the menu options were made to share. Rather than providing large portions however, the items would come in a size between an amuse bouche (bite-sized hors d’oeuvre) and appetizer, allowing a few bites for each one at the table. The intention is to provide the opportunity to experience many unique items from their menu, and create your own sort of tasting if you will. This type of meal experience is so much fun, because everyone explores the menu to create a meal together.

We started out with the codorniz con salsa de romero y alioli de miel (grilled quail with rosemary sauce and honey aioli), which ended up being my absolute favorite. The quail was tender and so rich, accompanied by decadent flavors that really complimented the taste. I would’ve gotten another order if I could have!

Next we got a quesos plate (pictured below) – including caña de cabra (semi-sweet goat’s milk cheese), rey silo rojo (spicy cow’s milk cheese with pimentón) and idiazábal (smoked, nutty-flavored sheep’s milk cheese). Each cheese was very distinctive, and I honestly would have a really tough time choosing my favorite! One feature I particularly enjoyed was that each cheese included an additive, like a piece of raisin walnut bread with fig jam or a house-made quince paste, that really set it apart from cheese plates elsewhere.

Finally, the croquetas de pollo (traditional chicken fritters) were delivered to our table. One of the most recommended items, these come presented in a glass laced up shoe (pictured below). Yea, you heard that right. We took our first bites, and my sister immediately claimed that it tasted like Thanksgiving in her mouth, which from her is a compliment that should be held at highest esteem. Perfectly crispy and warm, the chicken fritters were soft and creamy on the inside, definitely the most savory part of our dinner.


Overall it was a fun and collaborative way to dine, and ended that trip to Washington D.C. very nicely! I also stopped by the restroom on the way out, and was greeted by adoring fans (pictured below), just to give you a glimpse into the quirky design aspects of the restaurant. I would definitely give Jaleo a try if you’re looking for something new in your next dining experience.


Overall I had very different experiences at all of these places, and think they all have something new to bring to the table (literally) at any price point! Mmmm I can’t wait to see what else it out there – speaking of, what restaurants have you experienced in D.C.? What made them different or more delectable than the next? I know I’ll never try it all, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make an attempt! 😉
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