The name might make it sound like it’s just another Chinese take-out restaurant you’d find in the city, yet Panda Gourmet is anything but. This place, among Thrillist’s 13 DC Secrets You Had No Idea Existed, is the real deal. And by that I mean it’s authentic, with dishes that go well beyond your standard American-Chinese fare. But, more importantly, it’s all so delicious.
Just as the title says, I had no idea Panda Gourmet existed until I saw it on that list. That’s why it’s part of my ‘DC “Secret” Uncovered‘ series, the results of my vow to visit with my kids all of the places I wasn’t aware of before reading about them.
Located in an off-the-beaten-restaurant-path part of Northeast DC at the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue in a Days Inn, Panda Gourmet is unassuming to say the least. Who knew a restaurant was even there, let alone a culinary gem like this?
We actually got our first taste of Panda Gourmet last fall, shortly after the article was published, when we picked up take-out. While yummy, we knew it wasn’t the same experience as eating there. So, we went back with friends on Christmas Eve (in the grand Jewish tradition) for a fantastic holiday dinner. We were seated at a large table with a lazy Susan, perfect for sharing and fun for the kids to turn. And then we went to town, ordering a variety of dishes, some we’d previously had, others we’d read were must-tries, and a couple recommended by the staff. It was all so good, we did a repeat when our same crew returned this past weekend.
Some favorites: Lamb or beef with cumin, whole fish in a fiery pot (WOW!), double cooked fish, eggplant with hot garlic sauce, tofu with minced beef. The kids like most of these dishes, too, but we’ve also ordered Chinese burgers and dumplings for them. The menu is quite extensive, so finding something picky eaters will enjoy isn’t difficult.
As mentioned above, Panda Gourmet probably isn’t on your regular restaurant route, but it’s location just a few minutes down Bladensburg from the National Arboretum makes it a convenient stop after an outing there. Though I highly recommend going out of your way to eat there, too.
Panda Gourmet is located at 2700 New York Avenue NE. Turn into the parking lot from Blandensburg, just north of the intersection; if you turn down New York Avenue, you’ll get stuck on the road and will have to go a ways before you can turn around. Hours are 11am – 10pm Sunday – Thursday, and 11:30am – 11pm Friday & Saturday.