Joe’s Noodle House

Look past the grubby stripmall exterior--this is some of the best Szechuan cooking in the area.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

The message here is clear: Chilies rule. The little red peppers are all over this dirt-cheap Szechuan favorite–hanging behind the counter where you place your order, decorating the aprons worn by the waitstaff who deliver your food, and all over the menu, where a single pepper alerts diners that a dish is "hot and spicy" and a chili with a star signifies that it's "numbing."

Dim lighting and spartan surroundings matter less once the food arrives. Noodle soups, rich with bitter greens and beef or pork and blazing with a slick of red-chili oil, are feasts for one. You'll see families, many of them Chinese, passing larger plates of Szechuan string beans, eggplant with garlic, and flash-fried squid, scattered with garlic and more chilies. A whole steamed tilapia is terrific smothered in chilies and cabbage and just as good with a milder covering of scallions and ginger. The $12.50 price tag makes it feel like stealing.

There are plenty of foils for the heat–tender dumplings that hold minced pork, vegetable buns, warm chive pockets and scallion crepes, and crisp, cool salads of bamboo shoots and cucumber.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.