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Of all the local restaurants I have frequented, both as critic and regular ol’ diner, few get me as excited as Joe’s Noodle House in Rockville. Sometimes I get keyed up just thinking about going here. Part of it is the simple thrill of discovery as you work your way through Joe’s long and diverse menu, from the steamed dumplings and boiled peanuts to the double-cooked pork and Szechwan-style beef noodle soup. But part of it is just the pleasure of returning to old favorites, like the golden, green-flecked scallion pancake, the crispiest anywhere, or the soft, almost slurp-worthy cubes of bean curd in the ma-po tofu, which mixes toe-curling heat with the refreshing, pine-needle coolness of Szechwan peppercorns. Besides, where else can you watch employees snap beans in the corner of the dining room?

1488-C Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md., (301) 881-5518

Next up: Jang Hyun Ban Jun