Cheap Eats 2010: Hong Kong Palace

100 places that offer great food at low prices.

Why go: This strip-mall gem turns out dishes that sparkle and zing, thanks to sprinklings of the ma la peppercorn. The authentic Szechuan offerings—the restaurant’s name is from a previous tenant—share menu space with better-than-average American favorites such as Kung Pao chicken.

What to get: Chengdu Zhong’s Spring Dumpling, filled with pork and served in a pool of chili oil; cold cucumber with cilantro; dan dan noodles with ground pork, spinach, and chili oil; fish-and-pickled-vegetable soup with cellophane noodles; a special of thick bacon with black beans and red peppers; Kung Pao chicken; fried chicken cubes crunchy with peanuts, fried peppers stuffed with sesame-seed paste, and ma la peppercorns; a dessert of sesame balls with bean paste.

Best for: Diners overwhelmed by long Chinese menus. Here the decision making is manageable.

Insider tip: Ask a server to translate the specials posted in Mandarin on the walls. Weekends mean long waits at dinner as local Chinese families settle in for a meal.

>> See all 2010 Cheap Eats restaurants here.

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.