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Fly back in time to Larry Himmel's favorite chicken wing spot

Salt and Pepper chicken wings is still the top seller at Royal Mandarin Restaurant in National City.

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Eight years ago this November, CBS 8's legendary storyteller Larry Himmel passed away. In this Zevely Zone, I returned to one of Larry's favorite restaurants in National City, where their special dish still flies out the door. "Do you have any idea how many chicken wings you cook a day here?" asked Larry in 2013 when he visited the Royal Mandarin Restaurant. According to Larry back then, "It's not for weak of palate, nor the faint of heart. But the Royal Mandarin restaurant in National City serves up a deep-fried delicacy that folks simply can't stop eating."

The restaurant's owner Mario Woo still serves a complete menu of Mandarin cuisine at the Plaza Boulevard café.

Credit: Royal Mandarin Restaurant

But one item he's created has been a standout since 1984. "The most popular one is the chicken wings. The salt and pepper chicken wings. People love it," said Mario. The wings are first dipped in a batter of flour, corn starch, salt and water, then, because one fryer is not enough, they are triple-deep fried. "They put it down, one by one to the first one, and then they move it to the second one. Then when it goes to the third one, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes and they are ready to go," said Mario.

Credit: Royal Mandarin Restaurant

Locals have an insatiable appetite for Mario's salt and pepper chicken wings. Larry loved to tell stories, make us laugh and when it came to a good restaurant, he never chickened out. In 2013, he warned us the Royal Mandarin may not be the place for you if you're counting calories, especially the Salt and Pepper chicken wings. "Yes, yes, still our number one seller, always," said Mario.  So, how many did Larry eat that day? "That I don't remember. I did not pay attention," said Mario who refused to rat Larry out. Mario might not disclose Larry's wing count, but his recipe has always been an open book.

Credit: Royal Mandarin Restaurant

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San Diegans know the real deal when they see it and that includes Larry's wit. I shared Larry's closing line from his story with a table of USPS workers. Larry joked that, "Somewhere in the South Bay a cardiologist is smiling." The table erupted with laughter. Himmel humor stands the test of time; no bones about it. "Best wings in town," said the customers.

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The Royal Mandarin Restaurant cooks up to four thousand pounds of chicken wings a day. For more information about the National City restaurant visit their website by clicking here.

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