Alhambra city planners probably should think about installing a trolley route along the western section of Valley Boulevard, just for all the people waiting in restaurant lines. First, last summer, came the justly lauded Chengdu Taste, possibly the best Sichuan restaurant to open in the San Gabriel Valley in years — and certainly its most popular. (Now there's even a second location, also on Valley. Of course there is.) In August, Szechuan Impression opened and immediately started drawing similar lines, for similar reasons: Like Chengdu, it's a moderately upscale restaurant, with excellent iterations of Sichuan home-style food, executed with beauty and polish. The dishes may not be as dangerously spicy as at other Sichuan restaurants — the chef, who hails from a five-star restaurant in Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan province, seems to appreciate restraint — but you'll get enough spice to keep you happy, even as you're able to taste the nuances of the cooking. There are endearingly homey dishes, including one of blanched potatoes, which are like un-fried french fries; an instantly addictive dish of sliced chicken sauced with chiles and peanuts; and a beautiful communal bowl of beef and vegetable soup, the lotus root floating like flowers. Arrive hungry and patient, because the lines won't be abating anytime soon. —Amy Scattergood
1900 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, 91803. (626) 283-4622, no website.