Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)

$

Ben's Chili Bowl
"Order the chili half-smoke with fries, the regulars' favorite."—Amanda McClements, food writer and author of Metrocurean.com. Located on eponymously named Ben Ali Way, a Washington institution not to be missed for diner-counter atmosphere serving half-smokes (a D.C. invention), milkshakes, and chili fries; Bill Cosby stops by whenever he's in town. 1213 U St., NW; tel. +1 202 667 0909. www.benschilibowl.com

Bread Line
Offers creative lunchtime sandwiches in a stylish, no-fuss atmosphere near the White House; long lines move quickly, so know what you want before you reach the front; selections change seasonally; closes at 3:30 p.m. 1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; tel. +1 202 822 8900.

$$

Etete
"Doro wat (stewed chicken) and dulet (spiced, minced tripe) served on sour flat bread (injera) pair perfectly with Ethiopian honey wine."—Adam Bailey, food blogger, DCist.com. D.C. has America's largest population of Ethiopians, who've brought their food traditions with them; casual atmosphere; DJ night Thursday. 1942 9th St., NW; tel. + 1 202 232 7600. www.eteterestaurant.com

Jaleo
Chef/founder Jose Andres has appeared on PBS; near the National Gallery and Verizon Center; specializes in Spanish small plates (tapas), red wines and paella. 480 7th St., NW; tel. +1 202 628 7949. www.jaleo.com

Old Ebbitt Grill
Established in 1856, the favorite of former presidents; Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, dined here; American-style, casual dining; near White House and museums; on Monday through Thursday, from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. all plates of oysters are half price. 675 15th St., NW; tel. +1 202 347 4800. www.ebbitt.com

Tony Cheng's Seafood Restaurant
The dining institution in Chinatown; go upstairs for dim sum; entrée plates served on the ground floor; known for Cantonese roast duck (before ordering, see it for yourself in the case at the back) and Chinese cuisine classics such as Szechuan crispy beef. 621 H St., NW; tel. +1 202 371 8669.

$$$

Kinkead's
"A terrific wine list; best seating is in the bar—witty bartender and great plates of oysters."—Todd Kliman, Washingtonian food critic. Raw bar and lobster, and lauded for its seafood specialties; American style brasserie. 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; tel. +1 202 296 7700. www.kinkead.com

Restaurant Eve
"Award-winning cooking; ever-changing menu; some of Washington's best service."—Adam Bailey. Converted historic warehouse setting in Old Town Alexandria. 110 S Pitt St., Alexandria, VA; tel. +1 703 706 0450. www.restauranteve.com

Cashion's Eat Place
"A great neighborhood vibe; don't miss the New Orleans-style gumbo."—Amanda McClements. Seasonal menu changes daily; unfussy, unpretentious presentation and atmosphere; sample menu includes rabbit terrine and grilled lamb; many organic offerings. 1819 Columbia Rd., NW; tel. +1 202 797 1819. www.cashionseatplace.com

Poste Modern Brasserie
"Not pretentious; I like the chicken; a great steak tartare served on a brioche bun; and homemade yeast doughnuts."—Todd Kliman. Upscale, American brasserie; patio dining, complete with herb garden that produces spices for use in the kitchen. 555 8th St., NW; tel. +1 202 783 6060. www.postebrasserie.com

Sushi-Ko
"A seat in front of chef Koji Terano is one of the hottest in town. Order the 'omakase' menu for the full experience."—Amanda McClements. Washington's first sushi bar still serves the city's best in raw fish; near the National Cathedral. 2309 Wisconsin Ave., NW; tel. +1 202 333 4187. www.sushikorestaurants.com

$$$$

1789
"Worth donning a jacket and tie; mixes French cooking and American ingredients so masterfully that you'll think it's channeling the Marquis de Lafayette and General Washington all at once."—Adam Bailey. Relaxed country inn décor in a Federal townhouse in Georgetown. 1226 36th St., NW; tel. +1 202 965 1789. www.1789restaurant.com

The Palm
For dining on steak and two-pound lobsters among lobbyists, lawyers, and politicos, head to this institution. A good bet for spotting Washington celebrities. 1225 19th St., NW; tel. +1 202 293 9091. www.thepalm.com

Citronelle
"One of the most inventive chefs in the entire country; I love the dessert called Breakfast, cinnamon- scented duck with a port wine sauce, and wild mushroom soup."—Todd Kliman. Award-winning chef Michel Richard; sumptuous, stylish surrounds. 3000 M St., NW; tel. +1 202 625 2150. www.citronelledc.com

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