The Heping Joy City is roughly triangular. A large open space reaches up through the middle of the shopping center, allowing shoppers to peer up and down the whole complex. But there’s more to this than looking nice. Joy City wants shoppers to spend a while on its top floor, overlooking the five-floor cauldron of capitalism in the below. The strategy? Food.
The top floor of Joy City is known as the South End, or as brightly-lit hanging letters stylize it, ‘SOUTH END.’ Essentially a food court on performance-enhancing drugs, what initially appears to be no more than five restaurants in a circle reveals itself to be more like 20 restaurants. Behind establishment facades lie hallways that lead to even more food. Our own trip to South End involves walking in a circle, realizing there is more food, walking in a bigger circle, eating food, then realizing there is even more food. We’d advise prospective diners to think about what they’d like to eat beforehand; if you try to make the decision after perusing South End you’ll just end up overwhelmed.
Among the spread is a Korean BBQ place, a Hong Kong dessert joint, hot pots of both the conventional and electric-stove variety, the obligatory sushi conveyor belt, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Our expedition lands us (after much deliberation) at a Sichuan-themed diner. Although unassuming compared to the other, flashier options, the food is quality, and certainly competitive with any nice Sichuan eatery in Tianjin. Our choice includes views of the city around Joy City; South End window views face either inward toward the aft-mentioned cauldron, or outward toward the urban sprawl.
Our only gripe, then, is the bizarre escalator system we have to navigate just to get to South End. Escalators in the center of the mall rise two stories at a time, which makes the concept of going to the ‘next floor’ oddly difficult. The actual single-story escalators are tucked away in the periphery of the mall. But when your top complaint of South End is the escalators, well, that’s a good sign.