Cheap Eats 2008: A&J Restaurant

Why go: Northern-Chinese dim sum feels like comfort food at these busy cafes, where diners dig into thousand-layer pancakes, deep bowls of noodles, and even fried chicken alongside pots of jasmine tea.

What to get: A cooling bean-curd-skin-and-soybean salad with finely chopped mustard greens; a salad of chili-splashed shredded bean curd with cilantro and peanuts; shao bing, shavings of pork in a flaky sesame biscuit; skinny noodles with shredded cucumbers, bean sprouts, and piquant ground pork; smoked on-the-bone chicken; spiced boiled peanuts.

Best for: A many-plated meal that feels indulgent but is ultracheap.

Insider tip: Dim sum might call to mind a parade of dumplings, but the bready stuff here—the pancakes, pastries, and biscuits—is much better than the leaden potstickers and steamed, noodle-wrapped pork buns. No credit cards.

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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 Logan Circle.