San Diego struggles to find a gastronomic identity beyond the gastropub, but a good place to start your culinary journey in Ron Burgundy’s backyard remains Kearny Mesa. The neighborhood houses more than a mile of strip malls that are mostly devoted to Asian restaurants. Spicy City is one of the neighborhood’s best options, resting in the back of the Plaza del Sol strip mall. The sprawling menu showcases the dishes of China’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. They might as well lash the pages with chile oil and chile pods, since they’re so integral the cuisine.
Spicy City graces Plaza del Sol, a strip mall that isn’t as fancy as the name suggests. Expect mirrored walls, red paper lanterns, and not much more, which keeps people focused on food.
Choose your own adventure with Spicy City’s Appetizer Plate, which are on display in a cold case, and could include firm, garlicky cucumbers; crunchy oil slicked slices of pig ear; and crusty, chewy dried beef.
Szechuan Style Spicy Fish lived up to the name, with firm fillets embedded with crunchy bean sprouts, scallions, dried chilies, fried garlic, and chile oil.
Fried Lamb with Cumin was a crowd favorite, with stir-fried meat that wasn’t too fatty or gristle-y, graced with chile flakes, scallions, and cilantro.
Occasional greenery helps tame the slow burn, but won’t stop inevitable stains. Chef’s Special Green Beans were supposed to be a token vegetable, but proved to be more satisfying thanks to the savory sauce of scallions, soy sauce and garlic.
Snow bean Leaf w/Garlic were even simpler, sautéed with shaved garlic.