Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday until 11 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
Atmosphere: Warm, friendly neighborhood setting.
Price range: From $4 to more than $30 for complete Chinese dinners for four. Most entrees in the $6 range.
Reservations: On Fridays and Saturdays.
Credit cards: Visa and Mastercard.
Special features: Some American dishes. Children's menu. Parking lot. Back entrance is level; few steps on street side. High chairs and booster seats.
I always worry about returning to restaurants I once liked. But from the moment the hostess extended us a warm welcome, I knew the Good Earth had survived change over a period of time.
But changes were evident in the menu, which included the new "Washington demand" dishes of Hunan and Szechuan food as well as many old favorites.
The service was still as good as ever. From the pink tablecloths to the large pot of tea that was served promptly, it was evident that the restaurant cares and impressions. The tea was a clue to the individual attention dishes would receive: it had been freshly brewed without a bitter taste.
For our night out, we decided to combine the best Chinese food: the plain and hearty Americanized dishes like chow mein and chop suey, the fancy and pleasing dishes from the world of Hunan and Szechuan.
Our emphasis was on main dishes rather than appetizers. The Good Earth makes this decision easy with its limited appetizer offerings. Our son suffered temporary egg roll withdrawal, but was pleased when the main courses came quickly.
For main courses, we decided to mix the old and the new parts of Good Earth's menu. From the old came chicken chow mein ($4.35( and shrimp egg foo yung ($5.50); from the new, Szechuan beef ($6.85) and lemon chicken ($7.95). The lemon chicken is part of a complete dinner that begins with soup or egg roll.
We chose the chicken rice soup, which turned out to be a hearty and delicious broth. Other soups at Good Earth are wonton, egg drop and hot and sour.
Children's dinners of fried chicken, fried shrimp or chicken chow mein are available for $4 and include soup or an appetizer. But for our purposes, it was unnecessary. The children sampled a broader range of dishes and tasted items they otherwise would have ignored with their own dinners.
The chicken chow mein was not strictly a vegetable dish, as it is in many restaurants. Instead, this large serving was loaded with meat and crisp vegetables.
Three large egg foo yung pancakes had the right mix of ingredients and topping. The shrimp filling was still moist and the brown sauce was not pervasive.
The lemon chicken was a large portion of deboned chicken that had been quickly pan-fried and topped with a light, delicate lemon sauce. Too frequently, this sauce can ruin chicken, for it often is as gummy as if it were ready for a pie. In this case, it was nearly perfect.
Szechuan beef will be prepared with the degree of seasoning you request from mild to very hot. We had requested mild, and ours was a perfect blend.The dish arrived with its own sauce and an ample number of lightly tossed scallion pieces. The most pleasant surprise was the quality of the meat and the quantity of the portion.
All entrees were substantial protions of top-quality products that had been quickly prepared and not overcooked. Nothing suffered from steam table blues except the rice which needed a little revival.
The children each chose ice cream for dessert and we settled for almond cookies and happy fortunes.
I felt the first positive effect from the fortune cookie was the bill, $32.71, for four entrees, dessert, tax and tip. It was a lot of food for a reasonable price.