On the outskirts of the city, along a busy stretch of New York Avenue, attached to a Days Inn and behind a Dunkin Donuts is where you’ll find Panda Gourmet. Not to be confused with Panda Express, this Sichuan restaurant delivers spicy deliciousness, albeit in somewhat dubious location. (Note: it’s not unsafe, just a bit rundown.)
Friendly staff and a familiar Sichuan menu await you if you do venture there. My favorites include cumin lamb, both Chinese burgers (cumin beef and rouga mo, a pork version), the wontons in hot and spicy sauce, and the dan dan mein. Whether you choose a cumin beef burger or the cumin lamb, make sure you like cumin. Both are heavily, pungently seasoned with it, and I love it, so I love these. The pork burger is more traditionally and delicately sauced, but both burgers have a crisp wrapper that provides a nice textural contrast. The dan dan mein is super spicy and the noodles are perfectly cooked. The wontons are well-filled and make a great starter. I recently tried the egg roll on a whim (I love a good one) and it left much to be desired. In the past, I’ve had the garlic eggplant, which is soft, garlicky, and tasty.
Takeout is available, and I’ve often done that as well, which if you’re heading 50 west from the Cheverly/Bladensburg area, it’s an easy in-and-out spot. Do note that I find the spiciness is kicked up if eating in the restaurant versus ordering take out. The D.C. area offers plenty of Sichuan options, and it can be hard to choose, but Panda Gourmet is a worthwhile addition to your usual suspects.
Editor’s Note: Yes, when she pitched the story, I did ask LEM is she was talking about the place in the mall food court. My bad.