Restaurant News

Spicy Girl Brings the Mouth-Tingling Heat to Midtown

Three flavor pepper chicken is beautifully plated and mouth-tingling.
Three flavor pepper chicken is beautifully plated and mouth-tingling. Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
A new spot for Sichuan cuisine has opened in Midtown, tucked in the Winbern strip across from Winbern Messhall in the Breakfast Klub, Continental Club, Double Trouble fun zone. Spicy Girl is another reason to head over to this cool little pocket of Midtown, especially if you're in the mood for the mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn that will mess with your taste buds in the very best of ways.

From Chinese restaurant offerings for the timid  — steamed dumplings, general Tso chicken, eggrolls and edamame — to spicy Sichuan specialties, this restaurant's gigantic Soft Opening menu offers about 90 items total, making it nearly impossible for a party of one to choose his or her own adventure wisely. Definitely bring friends, spice lovers or not.

The dining room looks as if it can accommodate larger parties, including a centralized hightop that includes seating for about nine or ten people. The industrial feel is perked up by large fresh flowers and great light pouring in from the large windows, where you can watch a meter maid outside hand out parking citations all day long.

click to enlarge Inside Spicy Girl, now softly open in Midtown. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Inside Spicy Girl, now softly open in Midtown.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
Heaven knows how humongous the final menu will be, but juice, smoothie and fruit bowl menus are already hung behind the bar, along with promises of mimosas and bellinis, which will all be rolled out after the grand opening — the server didn't yet know the big date. The eatery is already serving wine and beer, necessary companions if you're going all out with the Sichuan peppercorn.

Many dishes will be recognizable to fans of Houston favorites such as Mala, Pepper Twins or Chengdu Taste. Spicy Girl has its own variations of spicy dumplings, jelly noodles, boiled beef, spicy fried chicken cubes and even a Strange Taste Chicken.

"How do I tell what's spicy? Is everything spicy?" asked a man among a four top of suits who'd rolled in for an office lunch. There aren't the ubiquitous pepper pictures on the menu designating the level of spice here. The servers take note of how much heat you want.

I ordered a cucumber salad to get the train rolling, and its touch of fiery red oil keeps a cooler head than the variation at Mala, the cucumber here cut thicker, but still quite delicious.
click to enlarge A spicy cucumber salad is majorly refreshing. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
A spicy cucumber salad is majorly refreshing.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

A serving of 3 "favor" pepper chicken was beautifully plated in a horn-of-plenty-type basket, with tender bits of chicken and Sichuan peppercorns again on the subtle side, with added heat from dry chile peppers and the sweetness of fried green pepper. You'll sweat a little. Your water will taste funky for a second; the lemon seemingly more tart. But it's all perfection. The heat builds up over time in a good way. It's like soaking in a hot tub. And who doesn't want to soak in a hot tub on his or her lunch break?

click to enlarge Half of the dishes at Spicy Girl. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Half of the dishes at Spicy Girl.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
The fact that I ordered two appetizers, a side and an entrée with a bill at only $30 was a pretty good sign. The pricing here seems comparable to that at other Sichuan restaurants in town, and the servings were enough to feed two people. I will definitely be back for dinner when the lights dim, and I have a cohort or two to help sample an order of Fish Jump Out Of Water or the Spicy Pot with Intestine.

Spicy Girl, 917 Winbern, Unit B,
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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.