These are our favorite Chinese restaurants that are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—whether you’re celebrating the great Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on December 25, or just craving Peking duck after opening those presents.
4316 Markham St., Annandale, 703-813-8181; 1319 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-251-7878
There are no carts at these dim sum houses, but we’ll trade the ease of a point-and-order system for fresh dishes that emerge hot from the kitchen. Tick off items on paper—they’ll come quickly, so order in batches. We feasted on spicy wontons, dan-dan noodles, and egg-stuffed pastries. It’s hard to go wrong, unless you arrive cashless. (Credit cards aren’t taken.)
16051 Frederick Road, Derwood; 301-977-7676
The dish you’ll find on nearly every table at this Szechuan-centric restaurant: dry hot pot. Build your own bowl from a menu of 40 proteins and veggies—we like the pork-stuffed fish balls and the beef, but you can also opt for pork kidneys or boneless duck web. The ingredients are stir-fried with chilies and spices rather than simmered in a broth. Equally fragrant and complex is the Szechuan-style fish filet, which hides a mound of sprouts, wood-ear mushrooms, and slippery rice noodles under its lagoon of chili oil.
Bob’s Shanghai 66
305 N. Washington St., Rockville; 301-251-6652
Peer through the kitchen window and you’ll see the staff methodically stuffing and folding dumplings. Hint, hint. In particular, this cash-only restaurant is known for soup dumplings so flavorful they don’t need the accompanying dipping vinegar. The checklist menu of 100-plus Cantonese, Szechuan, and Taiwanese small plates can be intimidating to navigate, but you’ll feel like a pro ordering the fragrant lamb with cumin and the spicy fried tofu with Doritos-like crackle and color.
755 Hungerford Dr., Rockville; 301-294-0808
Many people know this bare-bones mainstay by its nickname, Mama’s Dumplings, and for good reason—the freshly folded and pinched bundles, sold by the dozen and steamed or pan-fried to order, are delightful whether stuffed with shrimp and chive, pork and cabbage, or beef and celery. Pro tip: Order an uncooked bag to stick in the freezer for when the inevitable craving strikes later.
8395 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 703-893-4488
Focus on the menu under the glass tabletop and the handwritten signs on the wall—that’s where you’ll find Peking duck, crunchy “kingdom” pork chops, and Hong Kong shrimp blitzed with green pep-per. We like to kick things off with a round of pork dumplings wrapped in house-made dough.
2227 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-933-8388
It’s tempting to stick to the list of proven hits—say, the justly famous shrimp-dumpling soup—but this Hong Kong–style eatery is the sort of place where you can order with abandon. Pan-fried whole cod, spooned with ginger-scallion soy sauce, is a worthy detour. So, too, a platter of glossy roast duck, pork, and soy-sauce chicken.
2646 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-929-8818
Who needs brunch when you can have dim sum? Families crowd this banquet room on weekends for the joys of shu mai and other Cantonese specialties ferried around on carts. It’s easy to fill up on shrimp rice-noodle rolls and translucent-skinned chive dumplings, but you’ll also want to hail a bowl of tender braised beef tripe or sweetened custard-like tofu.
6799 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church; 571-405-6947
At this Eden Center outlet of the Northern China–based hot-pot chain, your first order of business is picking a broth. Chili-laced spicy or the mild “original,” bobbing with spices such as cardamom pods? (We go half-and-half.) Then you accessorize it with raw ingredients you cook yourself in the bubbling liquid. Take a cue from the place’s name and focus on the ovine offerings, including shaved lamb shoulder and lamb wontons, then load up on veggies (bok choy, spinach, mushrooms of every kind), glass noodles, and tofu.
Mark’s Duck House
6184-a Arlington Blvd, Falls Church; 703-532-2125
This storefront remains a standard-bearer of Hong Kong–style Chinese cooking—from the crackling-skinned Peking duck and marvelous lacquered roast pig to a dizzying array of soups, seafood dishes, stir-fries. Don’t miss shrimp-and-pork wonton with brown vinegar and red chili sauces in addition to the meats, plus beautifully stir-fried greens and steaming noodle soups.
Northwest Chinese Food
7313 Baltimore Ave., College Park; 240-714-4473
Some of our favorite burgers can be found at this mod cafe devoted to Shaanxi-style snacks and noodles. House-made rice-flour buns hold morsels of cumin-scented lamb, red-onion-studded pork, and five other fillings, and we’d be happy downing them all. Chili-flecked pea-nuts and skewers of grilled bean curd make a fitting prelude.
Panda Gourmet and Xi’an Gourmet
2700 New York Ave., NE; 202-534-1620; 316 N Washington St., Rockville; 202-875-5144
Some of DC’s best Chinese food is in a . . . Days Inn? In fact, the oddball locale has become part of the charm for Szechuan heat-seekers. Fish filet with silky tofu hides under a cover of chilies and numbing peppercorns, while bright chili oil punctuates dumplings and dan-dan noodles. But spice isn’t the only trick in the kitchen. The Chinese beef “burger” is enlivened with cumin that you’ll smell before it even hits the table. New Rockville sibling Xi’an Gourmet serves up similar mouth-numbing dishes.
Peking Gourmet Inn
6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church
Restaurants, keep your trendy roast chicken—we’re feasting on duck at this 40-year-old institution, which has lured a spectrum of celebrity guests (the Bushes, Psy). The details make this bird stand out: house-made hoisin and fresh pancakes, scallions grown on the Tsui family farm in Purcellville, and servers who expertly hew the moist meat and crackling skin. Round out a festive meal with a scorpion bowl and stellar plates like shrimp with local garlic shoots.
2503 N. Harrison St., Arlington, 703-538-6688; 20 Maryland Ave., Rockville, 301-838-9188
Scallion pancakes, puffed as big as Mylar balloons, sail through these restaurants run by the star Chinese chef Peter Chang. Take your cue from the other tables and order one—for the dough, dotted with bubbles, but also for the terrific curry dip that comes alongside. The rest of the menu channels flavors from Szechuan province and Chang’s home region of Hubei—including numbing stone-pot dishes and dry-fried eggplant showered in chilies.
1121 Nelson St., Rockville; 301-279-0806
Ultra-light soup dumplings are the draw at this bustling cafe. On weekends, the place serves up a pan-fried version, less liquidy but no less delicious. Round out the meal with a salad of mustard greens and edamame, plus salt-baked ribs with noodle soup.
Urban Hot Pot
1800 Rockville Pk., Rockville; 240-669-6710
This Chinese hot pot spot sets itself apart from the competition in a few ways: It’s all-you-can eat for two hours (many others are à la carte)—$18.99 for weekday lunch, $25.99 for dinner and weekend lunch. Instead of a communal pot, everyone gets his or her own broth and can pick from various flavors. (Our favorite: the “less spicy” rendition of the spicy pork-and-chicken-based soup, followed by the tomato version.) Plus there’s a conveyor belt proffering ingredients like bok choy, cabbage, mushrooms, and more.
Yu Noodles Cafe
9 Dawson Ave., Rockville; 301-978-7693
It’s a cash-only strip-mall joint with a packed parking lot, but that’s where the complaints end. Take a seat in the rustic-cool dining room and you’ll be given a cup of cucumber-scented water. Then peruse the menu of house-made noodles, which range from mellow (a toss of sesame paste and scallions) to singeing (destination-worthy Yibin noodles, with chili oil, ginger, and peanuts). Don’t bypass the condiments—pots of brown-rice vinegar amp up bowls nicely.