Why go: Joe is long gone, and noodles, curiously, have never been the place’s strong suit. But the more than 200 dishes in the mostly Szechuan repertoire pulse with heat and flavor, drawing families and chili-heads to this linchpin in the new Chinatown of northern Rockville.
What to get: Seasonal specials such as a recent knockout of asparagus slivers stir-fried with garlic and ginger; sweet, slightly spicy pickled-cucumber salad; a hash of pork, bean curd, and leek stems in black-bean sauce; robust noodle soup with radish and pork; wontons in red sauce; sautéed Chinese mustard greens; cold sesame noodles made with sesame paste and oil; steamed whole fish with sour cabbage and chilis.
Best for: Those looking for the hottest food around; the menu categorizes dishes as “hot and spicy,” “extra spicy,” or “numbing.”
Insider tip: If you’re not Asian, it may take some convincing—or repeat visits—for owner Audrey Jan (behind the counter) to believe you can take the heat.
See all Cheap Eats 2008 restaurants