Lunch in downtown DC typically conjures up one of two images: politicians and K Street lobbyists meeting for power lunches at old-school steakhouses or office drones lining up for uninspired sandwiches to take back to their desks. While sad desk lunches are sometimes inevitable, if you have a free hour there are surefire ways to get a great meal at an upscale restaurant—without the expense account. So, how do you get a lobbyist lunch on an intern budget?
Del Campo, Chef Victor Albisu’s Latin American-inspired steakhouse in Chinatown, has been making a name for itself with a menu full of savory steak and high-end wines. At the bar or on the patio from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., you can get any of their sandwiches and a glass of wine or beer for $12. We’re partial to the chivito—the national dish of Uruguay—which is piled high with ham, grilled rib eye, olives, provolone, and a fried egg. Or go for the chori-pan, featuring house-made chorizo, pulled pork, and a sweet pickle salsa.
Take a seat at the bar at Bibiana, and $17 gets you a glass of the house red or white (or a house-made soda, if you have work to do after lunch), a bowl of pasta, and a scoop of the sorbet of the day. We loved the linguini with spicy ndjua sausage, and the burnt wheat cavatelli with spicy sausage and kale.
Woodward Table is the latest white tablecloth joint from Chef Jeffrey Buben, who also owns fine-dining standbys Vidalia and Bistro Bis. But we’d rather go to sister restaurant Woodward take-out food, where soups, salads, and sandwiches are crafted with the same care as the seared rare tuna and pan roasted salmon next door. All of the sandwiches clock in at under $12.50. The duck reuben is the best interpretation of the deli classic we’ve ever had. Add chips and a fresh-squeezed lemonade and you are sitting pretty.