Selecting the best cheap eats in the Washington area is not a process designed to create a permanent hierarchy of bargain restaurants, an impervious list that’s impossible to crack from year to year. It’s more akin to picking an annual all-star team, based on my dining experiences in the past 12 months. Here are my all-star selections for 2017:


The regular cheeseburger at Melt Gourmet Cheeseburgers. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

10. Melt Gourmet Cheeseburgers (525 E. Market St., Leesburg, Va. 703-443-2105. meltgourmetcheeseburgers.com). Half-pound burgers formed from a custom blend of aged Angus beef cuts. House-made buns. These are a rare thing: destination hamburgers.


Yellow rice noodle soup with pork and shrimp at Nha Trang. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

9. Nha Trang (6757 Wilson Blvd., Saigon East building, Falls Church, Va. 703-534-1657). The Vietnamese restaurant has assumed new ownership since Nguyen Lee unexpectedly, and sadly, passed in 2013, just weeks after my review. The owners are carrying on Lee’s traditions well — and have even given the space a much-needed facelift.


The veg kotthu paratha at Chettinadu Indian Cuisine. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

8. Chettinadu Indian Cuisine (15124 N. Frederick Rd., Rockville, Md. 301-251-8991. chettinadurocks.com). In yet another faceless strip center on the Route 355 corridor, this mango-and-eggplant-colored dining room takes you on an extraordinary journey to Chettinad, a region in Tamil Nadu that has developed its own cuisine, distinct from all others in South India.


Tacos de Canasta at Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana. (Deb Lindsey /For The Washington Post)

7. Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana (3714 14th St. NW. 202-803-2114. mezcalerodc.com). The second project from siblings Alfredo and Jessica Solis is more expansive than their El Sol Restaurante: It’s a fully realized vision of their chef-driven Mexican fare.


A family-style platter at Bete Ethiopian Cuisine. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

6. Bete Ethio­pian Cuisine (811 Roeder Road, Silver Spring, Md. 301-588-2225. beteethiopia.com). In a region awash with good Ethio­pian restaurants, Bete continues to impress with its concise, well-executed menu, full of lusty dishes best eaten on the leafy patio out back.


The chopped pork sandwich with potato salad and Brussels sprouts at Federalist Pig. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

5. Federalist Pig (1654 Columbia Rd. NW. 202-827-4400. federalistpig.com). There may be better barbecue around, but no place serves up Federalist Pig’s inventive range of smoked meats in such a funky, distinctive space.


Yellow curry egg noodles with chicken at Baan Thai. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

4. Baan Thai (1326 14th St. NW. 202-588-5889. baanthaidc.com). Washington’s craving for authenticity gave chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong all the permission she needed to explore the cooking of her native Thailand. The city is the better for P’Boom’s craft-conscious dishes.


Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles at Northwest Chinese Food. (Farrah Skeiky/For The Washington Post)

3. Northwest Chinese Food (7313 Baltimore Ave., College Park, Md. 240-714-4473). This college-town storefront specializes in the dishes of Liaoning province, a region that rivals Sichuan for its aggressive flavors. The place is a full-frontal assault on your senses.


The prosciutto pizza at Menomale. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

2. Menomale (2711 12th St. NE. 202-248-3946. menomale.us). When it comes down to it, chef and co-owner Ettore Rusciano is really an artisan bread maker, who happens to bake some of the finest Italian pizza anywhere.


Owner Janet Yu at Hollywood East Cafe. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

1. Hollywood East Cafe (11160 Veirs Mill Rd., Silver Spring, Md. 240-290-9988. hollywoodeastcafe.com). The more you know about dim sum, the more you will marvel at this Wheaton operation, which continues to invest in the staff and ingredients necessary to produce its dizzying array of handmade delicacies.


On a dim sum cart at Hollywood East Cafe: Clockwise from top left: pork-shrimp vermicelli dumplings, shu mai, har gau and crystal dumplings. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)