Cheap Eats 2015: Nainai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar

Where we go for our favorite hand-made noodles.
Cheap Eats 2015: Nainai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar
Pai gow, a noodle bowl at NaiNai’s, is tossed with chili oil and ground pork. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Looks like a chain, yes, but it’s the antithesis of prefab. Here’s how you can tell: Pluck one of the noodles from your bowl with your chopsticks. See the way one end is thinner than the other? That’s a good thing, evidence of the imperfect hand of the maker, as opposed to the uniform stamp of a machine. We like them any which way, particularly when they’re tossed in a rich peanut-sesame sauce along with crunchy batons of cucumber and carrot. Or doused in a zesty stew of ground pork, bean sprouts, and mustard greens; hit with smoky chili oil; and blitzed with ground peanuts. The dumplings are good, not great, and the smaller plates can be hit-or-miss (a braise of short ribs and sweet potatoes is one of the surest of sure things). That just tells you to build around the noodle bowls. There’s Tsingtao, but even better, you can knock back a couple of beers from local breweries DC Brau and Port City.

Cuisine: Chinese

Where you can get it: 1200 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring; 301-585-6678

Also good: Pork-and-cabbage dumplings; shrimp-scallop-and-water-chestnut dumplings; spicy pickled bamboo shoots.

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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.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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