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January 2006: Joe’s Noodle House

Look past the grubby strip mall exterior, the Pepto-pink walls, and the harsh lighting—this is some of the best Szechuan cooking in the area. Asian and Western families crowd the tables, passing around plates of long beans and heaps of dumplings, while p

2006 100 VERY BEST RESTAURANTS

THE SCENE. Look past the grubby strip mall exterior, the Pepto-pink walls, and the harsh lighting—this is some of the best Szechuan cooking in the area. Asian and Western families crowd the tables, passing around plates of long beans and heaps of dumplings, while plenty of solo diners find satisfaction in a bowl of noodle soup.

what you'll love. How far your cash carries you—very few entrées cost more than $10. The menu satisfies adventure-seeking chowhounds, tamer palates, and vegetarians. And the chili-pepper aprons worn by servers are the first clue that the kitchen doesn't scrimp on the heat.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Atmospheric it isn't. And while service is fast, it can feel rushed and gruff.

BEST DISHES. Pork dumplings; vinegary-sweet cucumber salad; whole steamed fish, head and all (don't miss the cheeks), with scallions and ginger or cabbage and chilies; pork kidneys with minced garlic.