These onion pancakes will be great for late-night snacking
6618 Mission Gorge Road, San Diego
There’s a downside to trying to appeal to the masses, and Mr. Spicy is a good example. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and the customer service and space are pleasant enough, but the food has the flavor and quality you expect to find at a mall food court, wedged somewhere between a Cinnabon and a Hot Dog on a Stick. By which I mean kind of greasy and not very fresh tasting.
Inside Mr. Spicy
On a recent evening David and I both had a hankering for Chinese, but neither of us wanted to drive all the way to the Asian-food-centric Convoy District (home to some of our favorite Chinese food purveyors, including Emerald and Dumpling Inn). We opted to try something new and closer to home. During one of his excursions running errands, David noticed Mr. Spicy tucked away at the back of a little strip mall and made a mental note to give it a try.
The table with a big pile of green beans
The interior was nicer than I expected for an “order at the counter” kind of place. Everything was clean and new looking, from the red tablecloths to the minimalist Chinese décor. On one table was huge pile of green beans. The sight of fresh produce made me smile and bumped up my expectations.
A disappointing beef-and-broccoli dish
As we always do when getting takeout, we ordered enough to ensure there’d be leftovers for another meal. The woman at the counter was all smiles, but her poor English and our non-existent Chinese made it impossible for us to ask any questions. We opted for a few easy standards, just to get a feel for the place. We got the Onion Pancake ($2.99), Combination Wonton Soup ($7.99), General’s Chicken ($9.99), and Broccoli Beef ($11.99). Then we sat and played with our phones for about ten minutes until the friendly woman at the counter a few feet away nodded in our direction and then handed over our bags.
General Tso chicken, mostly breading
When we got home, we unwrapped everything. The moment I saw the food, my expectations, which had been lifted by the sight of the fresh green beans, immediately crashed — particularly at the sight of the meat dishes. The beef had a sad, pale tone, and the texture was as disappointing as the look. The sauce was plenty tasty, mostly due to the heavy use of salt, so I ended up eating all of the broccoli. But after a few bites of the chewy, slimy meat, David and I agreed to just toss it in the trash.
The wonton soup wasn’t bad
General Tso is not something I usually order. I was looking for some sweet-and-spicy notes, so David recommended it. Usually if I’m going for fried and saucy I opt for citrus, like an orange or lemon chicken. At Dumpling Inn, the chicken is unmistakable — tender chunks with a light breading, flash fried. Here, the chicken was hard to find, as these were mostly breading and of a gelatinous texture. The sauce wasn’t really sweet or spicy but more of a salty flavor.
An old, stale fortune cookie
The meal’s high point was the soup. The wontons were fresh and packaged separately so that they did not turn to mush. The broth was flavorful, not too salty or bland. Other than that, pretty much your standard wonton soup. The Onion Pancake makes for a satisfying snack, though we’d have preferred it a bit less greasy. It reminded me of a cheese quesadilla.
The dehydrated cherry on top of this mud pie of a meal were the fortune cookies. Instead of cracking open, these stale, old cookies kind of pulled apart. David had a nibble and confirmed that they were long gone. The next time we’re craving Chinese, we’ll drive a little further than Mr. Spicy.