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The Dish: tortilla soup

The Location: Cactus Cantina, 3300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, (202) 686-7222

The Price: $3.95

The Skinny: Though they may get a little soggy after a while—think of a bowl of cereal after the milk takes over—the chips that top this soup provide a crunchy counterpoint to the broth below. Work your way through, and the broth offers a pleasant flavor, abetted by shreds of Monterey Jack. But really, the just-under-four-dollar dish is best thought of as an inexpensive ticket to a vegetable garden. The veggies (which include cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots) are the soup’s real stars; they frequently come in portions large enough to make you wish your soup spoon was a little bigger. Against this backdrop, another ingredient—a chunk of bona fide corn on the cob—fits in just fine, though it does present a choice to diners. While some people cut the kernels off and let them mingle in the soup, manager Jaime Sanchez says, “most people just pick up the corn and eat it.”