Cheap Eats

 

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This Mexican Restaurant is a Gas - or in a gas station anyway

The tastiest food in town is often served out of a hole in the wall, but in the case of Gaithersburg’s Taco Bar, the mouthwatering Mexican delights come from the side of a gas station.

Taco Bar, located at 10003 Fields road in Gaithersburg just outside of Washingtonian Center, is authentic, fast, cheap and delicious.  While the establishment looks modest compared to the other restaurants at Rio, it rivals in flavor some of the more upscale ones. 

It is rare to find a restaurant that offers as great a value for your money.  While the menu is not huge, the authenticity and variance of delicious options will please anyone who cares to get a true taste of Mexico.  First on the menu are tacos.  Although the price is $2.69 per taco, you get a ton of meat and two tortillas with an order, so essentially you’re getting two tacos and each one for a price only slightly higher than something from Taco Bell’s “fresca” menu.  Of the meat options, the Pastor (grilled pork marinated with pineapple) and the Pollo (grilled and juicy chicken breast) are contenders for tastiest.  The empanadas (of any kind) are a must try, and you can also get burritos for a great price, and the staff doesn’t skimp on size.

While the tacos and burritos are a tasty bargain, they don’t showcase the bar’s true authenticity.  Taco Bar offers true Mexican favorites such as tortas, sope, choriqueso, pozole and sincro.  It is hard to pick which of these to recommend because they are all so very good, however the torta especial is a dish you don’t see on many menus that is deadly delicious.  If you’re trying to eat light or healthy, steer clear of the tortas and the choriqueso. 

Inside the establishment you’ll find a nice selection of wine and beer, and next to the small dining area you’ll find a condiment bar with some essential Mexican condiments – pico de gallo, pickled onions, limes and several zingy salsas.  The staff is very friendly, the food is prepared right in front of you, and there is a great little outdoor dining area that is pleasant to use when the weather is nice. 

All in all, Taco Bar is some of the cheapest and most authentic Mexican food in the area.  If you’re going to Rio or Washingtonian Center and you want to grab lunch, don’t forget that Taco Bar is right next door.

Thai this burrito on for size

Don’t be fooled by its prime location and ritzy appeal; Boloco, the global burrito place in Bethesda, is fun, relaxed and it’s even cheaper than Chipotle.

Located at 4930 Elm Street, Boloco is right in the heart of downtown Bethesda. The exterior and interior look upscale, modern and fancy. While most of its neighbors charge an arm and a leg, Boloco is modestly priced, with their largest burrito (of any kind) being less than seven dollars.

Upon entering the restaurant you will notice the touch screen computers from which you can place your order. The instructions are simple and the computer system is easy to use, but if you’re not a computer person or you’d rather order the old fashion way, there are employees at the register as well. The service is excellent, and when we went, we had an entire meal for free because of some brief confusion that only cost us a mere minute of our time. It is obvious that the employees here care about customer satisfaction. Although lines move very quickly, if you don’t feel like coming into the restaurant to order, you can save ten percent by ordering online, on your smart phone or on Facebook.

The ordering process is different from other burrito places such as Chipotle or Qdoba because at Boloco, you pick a size and a type of Burrito and your meal is made for you while you wait at your table. The sizes are original, small, and mini, and for the same price as an original you can get a mini bundle and try two different kinds of burritos. Customers have the option of getting a burrito bowl instead of a tortilla, and if you don’t like any of the featured burritos, you can create your own with all of the toppings that Boloco has to offer. We got two mini bundles and tried the Buffalo chicken, Bangkok Thai chicken, Cajun with steak and habanero carnitas burritos.

The food at Boloco is tasty, yet not outstanding. There are lots of flavors to choose from and having so many different cuisine options wrapped up into little burritos was new and exciting. The rice and proteins (especially carnitas) were somewhat bland, but it could be the case that Boloco relies on their toppings to provide the main flavors in their burritos, and pre-seasoned base elements could clash with the more exotic choices. Also, don’t expect the “Boloco rice” to be anything special – it’s just plain white rice. In terms of the main menu items, there is a lot of variety. Burrito variations span from the Far East to the American Midwest, offering exotic choices like Teriyaki and Tikka Masala and also traditional American choices like the classic BLT. Our favorite was the Buffalo chicken, but the Bangkok Thai was a close second pick. The portion sizes are fair, but not stuffing, and every menu choice is easy to take on the go.

In one word, Boloco is fun. It is not often that you get the chance to put the ingredients of a Thai salad or an Indian dinner into a burrito. The service is excellent, the pricing is great and the atmosphere is upscale, and these elements make Boloco worth going to. Next time you’re thinking about burritos, consider Boloco as a great alternative to choices like Chipotle, Qdoba and Baja Fresh.

Fresh and inexpensive, Nagoya is great


In the mood for some raw fish?  Nagoya Sushi, located in King Farm Village Center in Rockville, has some of the best sushi and sashimi in town.  Whether you love sushi or you just eat California rolls on occasion, you should definitely give Nagoya a chance to impress you.

There is something at Nagoya for anyone who likes Japanese food, regardless of whether they’re sushi eaters.  The restaurant offers many popular Japanese dishes such as miso soup, teriyaki, tempura, udon noodles and several bento box variations, however it would be a shame not to be adventurous and take full advantage of the richness of Nagoya’s menu.  Customers are given a laminated booklet with entrees, sushi combinations and other typical assortments, as well as a pencil and a checklist with all of the individual sushi roll options.  On this list, one will find rolls containing squid, octopus, eel, tuna, yellowtail, salmon and even sea urchin.  Although this may be overwhelming to some palates, rest assured – the fish is very fresh.  The sushi menu offers quite a few types of sashimi (raw fish on rice) and nigiri (raw fish wrapped in seaweed).  It also features several specialty rolls that incorporate many ingredients and cost a bit more.

Nagoya can be expensive if you choose to order more than one of the specialty rolls or order several appetizers, but there are lunch and dinner options that offer variety, great flavor and a full stomach at a low cost.  We ordered the maki roll combo – which comes with miso soup, Japanese salad with peanut ginger dressing, a six piece California roll, a six piece spicy tuna roll, and a six piece spicy salmon roll and it cost $11.50.  Another way to keep both your stomach and your wallet happy is to design your own sushi experience by picking affordably priced options on the sushi checklist.  While the average six piece roll is priced around four or five dollars, the nigiri sushi is only two, and if you happen to be there on a Monday evening, there is a one dollar nigiri sushi happy hour special. 

Service at Nagoya is great.  Our waitress was polite, attentive and very patient.  She suffered through our many inquiries and even gave us tips on the proper way to hold chop sticks.  The men behind the sushi bar were fun to watch, the atmosphere was professional, and the establishment was pristine.  Because this is one of the best restaurants in King Farm, it stays pretty busy, yet even during peak hours and a full house, our food came out in a jiffy. 

Nagoya is a solid choice for sushi, and for the price, it is one of the best sushi restaurants around.  If you’re looking to introduce someone to sushi or Japanese cuisine, Nagoya wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

No Hibachi For You!


Hibachi and teppanyaki style Japanese cuisine can be quite expensive.  While restaurants like Benihana and Sakura fall in the mid to high price range, Quickfire, in Gaithersburg Square offers affordable fast-food style hibachi and it tastes great. 

At many hibachi or teppanyaki style restaurants (very similar styles of Japanese cuisine) customers pay for the experience of watching their food being prepared right in front of them in a fancy and impressive manner.  Quickfire offers the same food, but no dazzling experience.  While customers are free to watch the preparation of their meals, the chefs employ no theatrics, and the feeling you get watching them is no different than the feeling you get watching a Quizno’s sub being prepared.

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