Cheap Eats 2009: Hong Kong Palace

Great food, low prices, lots of fun

Why go: Its name notwithstanding, this storefront offers fiery Szechuan cooking, and the food’s mouth-numbing afterburn—a sign of the famed ma la peppercorn—is a mark of authenticity.

What to get: House-made dan dan noodles topped with ground pork and crispy scallions and set on fire with chili oil; fish-and-pickled-vegetable soup with cellophane noodles; home-style bacon, an occasional special with thick slabs of pork, salty black beans, and red peppers; Kung Pao chicken, dice-size cubes of meat tossed with Szechuan peppers and peanuts; for dessert, deliciously sweet sesame balls filled with bean paste.

Best for: Diners who are happy when spoons and chopsticks are the only utensils on the table.

Insider tip: On Friday and Saturday nights, large Chinese families flock to the 12 tables, so waits can exceed an hour.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

>> See all 2009 Cheap Eats Restaurants here

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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.