For the unindoctrinated, tackling a bowl of pho can prove to be an intimidating task. First, the Vietnamese soup is served in rather large bowls, roughly the size of your average mixing bowl. Your only tools for this job: a pair of chopsticks and a ladlelike spoon. Plus, for those who purport that the beef-broth soup can cure that hangover, well, they have other troubles. But those who conquer their fears will be pleasantly rewarded. Pho Tau Bay serves a mean bowl of this traditional Vietnamese dish. Theirs is a refreshing concoction of long, thin rice noodles joined with your choice of meats, including steak, brisket, flank, meatballs, tripe or chicken, topped with onions, scallions and fresh herbs. Just grab some bean sprouts, squeeze in some lime juice, add some basil and other greens, drizzle some chili and hoisin sauce, and dive in. For all we know, there might be a map to El Dorado on the bottom of that bowl; we've never made it that far. But we've never cared to check either, because we've already found this hidden treasure.
A good rule of thumb when measuring how good the salsa is at your favorite Mexican restaurant is the chip-to-meal ratio. If you end up downing a whole basket of chips before your cheese enchiladas even get to the table, chances are that the salsa is superb. So be forewarned: If you decide to dine at Lopez's, you might never even bother with the main course. This large bright yellow restaurant just outside Beltway 8 recently moved down the street to larger digs, no doubt because their delicious salsa was bringing in fans in droves. The dark red, chunky dip is made fresh right at the restaurant, and while waitstaff suggest a "secret recipe," we detect plump tomatoes and spicy peppers just by taking a sniff. Like any good salsa, it's strong stuff -- by the end of a meal your eyes water and your sinuses clear. But if you're still craving more by the time the check comes, you can take a large plastic tub of it with you for just $2. Pick up a bag of chips on the way home, and you won't even need to bother making dinner.

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