Cheap Eats 2015: Panda Gourmet

Where we go for no-frills Chinese dishes.

A drab Days Inn in Northeast DC is an unlikely destination for crave-inducing Chinese, but that’s part of the allure of this Szechuan/Shaanxi eatery. No-frills is an understatement—the banquet-like room is harshly lit, and service can be indifferent. Dishes, by contrast, are full of fireworks (though heat seekers should be vocal about their mission, as items are often toned down for American palates). Custardy cubes of mapotofu and minced beef smolder in chili oil, cumin lamb sizzles with fresh and dried peppers, and ethereal hand-pulled Shaanxi noodles draw fiery flavor from a crown of spices. Not all dishes are mouth-searing—try a Shaanxi sandwich, braised pork stuffed into warm, pita-like bread, when the sweat starts beading.

Cuisine: Chinese

Where you can get it: 2700 New York Ave., NE; 202-534-1620

Also good: Wontons in chili oil; dan-dannoodles; double-cooked pork; cumin-beef burger; Szechuan-style Kung Pao chicken.

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