From curry to gnocchi, pickles to polenta, here’s where to satisfy your cravings and support a local favorite
Words by S. IRENE VIRBILA
The call earlier this month to close sit-down dining in all of California’s restaurants and bars in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus came abruptly for owners, chefs and customers alike. Some of our beloved establishments decided to close for the time being, sending cooks and servers home — but, if they are very lucky, the change won’t be permanent. Other eateries have quickly pivoted to offering orders for pickup and/or delivery via apps like Caviar, Postmates and Door Dash.
To weather the next few weeks or months, restaurateurs have had to get creative, fast. Birdie G’s in Santa Monica, for example, has turned into a deli, takeout restaurant and improvised store for pantry staples. The menu started small, but as chef Jeremy Fox and his team have found their focus, they’ve expanded what they’re doing. On Birdie G’s in Santa Monica morphing into Early Birdie’s Deli, Fox says, “I just did it — anything to keep the restaurant going, to keep some people on payroll. Beneath the surface of Birdie G’s has always been a Jewish deli element. That food is really comforting, and so it felt like the right thing to do. We’ve pivoted 12 times in 12 days. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?”
At Antico in Los Angeles, the shutdown left chef/owner Chad Colby with a restaurant full of food. “It would be a shame to have all these beautiful ingredients we sourced from the farmers market and other purveyors go to waste,” he says. “I spent the first day pulling everything from the fridge and pantry, figuring out what could make pizza toppings, what could go into ice cream. My chef de cuisine, Brad Ray, and I brainstormed and came up with a focaccia pizza that’s kind of its own style.” Four days in, the takeout is doing well enough he’s been able to bring back three of his staff. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep the business alive.”
Here we wanted to share some of our favorite restaurants around Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego that are still turning out delicious meals — green lasagna, carne asada with all the fixings, beautiful bento boxes, vegetable bumbai curry, matzoh ball soup — that you can enjoy in your own home. Many, such as Dija Mara in Oceanside or Sonoratown in DTLA are continuing to offer their full regular menu; others have created new menus specific to this unique time period and have added family-sized feasts like grass-fed beef meatloaf and whole chicken from the wood-burning grill to carry away and eat at home. Helping, too, is California’s decision for the first time to allow restaurants to sell take-home beer, wine and cocktails.
That said, the situation is still fluid. Be sure to check websites and hours before you place your order or drive by. What’s listed here is just a fraction of the establishments trying to survive and keep their staff working. Many businesses are social media-savvy and get the word out about their new menus or hours via their Instagram feeds or newsletters, so those are good places to check first when you’re considering supporting your local restaurants. And please don’t forget the smaller ones in your neighborhood that may have minimal digital presence or way to publicize the fact that they’re doing takeout.
Don’t delay: Restaurants need to know now whether this improvised strategy will keep them afloat or not. Consider investing in your favorite spots by ordering meals, gift cards and merchandise. Let the chef and staff know you value their restaurant and empathize with this unforeseen blow to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Finally, take advantage of this opportunity to practice some self-care and maybe even a comforting dining ritual.
Considered one of the best Jewish delis in the country, the iconic Downtown L.A. establishment Langer’s Deli, now in its 73rd year and recipient of Regional Classics award from the James Beard Foundation, remains open for to-go orders, curbside service and dropoffs through the usual delivery partners. What to order? The famous #19 handcut pastrami sandwich with coleslaw, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese on double-baked rye, of course. Add in a couple of extra pickles and maybe some chopped liver or smoked whitefish. 704 S. Alvarado, L.A., 213-483-8050. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chef/owner Chad Colby has retooled his soulful rustic Italian restaurant to operate as an improvised focacceria, where he’s turning out fluffy focaccia pizza. Each rectangular focaccia from Antico feeds four to six people and can be topped with ingredients such as sausage, tomato, and peas with mozzarella; or, the Napolitana sees anchovies and capers added to the typical tomato and mozzarella. Don’t forget a pint of the dreamy fresh-spun honeycomb or ricotta and pistachio ice cream as a special treat. Update: He’s now added “heat and serve” pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup), chicken noodle soup and lamb and veal stew to the brief menu. Plus, current release wines are 30 percent off. 4653 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-510-3093, Mon.-Sat. 12 to 8 p.m.
Porridge + Puffs
Last August, Minh Phan opened what would seem a crazy concept: a restaurant serving savory rice porridge and “puffs” of fried dough for dipping. The place was just taking off when the order to close came through. Phan is determined to stay open and keep her staff working so she’s launched what she calls a collaborative pop-up shop. “Our provisions will include composed meals, food products, self-care products and a few affordable luxuries. Composed meals will of course include most of our current menu of porridge, plants, puffs and Pinch takeout,” Phan says. (Pinch was a $20 ad hoc meal she served on Thursdays.) She’s also considering a subscription plan for families. Check Porridge + Puffs’ website for updates as the innovative chef continues to evolve her gameplan. Meanwhile, swing by for some of her comforting porridge garnished with soy-braised chicken and turkey or mushrooms and seaweed. 2801 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 213-908-5313, orders taken between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., pick-ups start at noon.
Most of the menu at beloved Angelini Osteria can be ordered for takeout, including a selection of antipasti and salads, Gino Angelini’s famous “Nonna Elvira” green lasagna and pastas, such as fiery penne arrabbiata and comforting spaghetti alla Norma. Also pizza and a gluten-free chocolate cake. Bottles from the osteria’s Italiancentric wine list are available for retail sale. And you can also get packaged pasta and Gino Angelini’s bottled pasta sauces and organic Tuscan olive oil to go. Pick up is at Angelini Alimentari next door. 7317 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-297-0070, email@example.com, daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
At this savvy little Echo Park sake bar (sibling to the izakaya Tsubaki next door) chef Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan are offering a combined Tsubaki/Ototo menu featuring bento boxes, Japanese fried chicken, Osaka kimchi and cheese pancake, lamb belly yakisoba, a classic miso soup and more for takeout and curbside delivery. The good news is you can now order bottles of regional and seasonal sake from the most varied and inclusive sake list in the country to go. 1356 Allison Ave., L.A. 213-900-4900.
Carbon Beach Club
If you are in the Malibu vicinity just outside L.A. proper, the Carbon Beach Club is open for curbside pickup. Housed within the Malibu Beach Inn, it offers the same grilled avocados, Baja shrimp cocktails and grass-fed beef burgers you would ordinarily enjoy while gazing at the waves lapping against the pier. All the produce is from nearby One Gun Ranch and local farmers’ markets. Plus, if you buy one of its $35 Swell Malibu Beach Inn cocktail canteens of CBC Margarita, vodka lemonade or Negroni, you can come back for a $4 refill. 22878 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-460-7509. Curbside pickup 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The minuscule, wildly popular Sonoratown downtown is sticking with its regular menu of quesadillas, tacos, chivichangas and burritos, all for pick-up and takeaway. To address the hungrier stay-at-homers, they’ve added generous family-sized specials. For example, you can pick up one or two pounds of grilled carne asada, chicken or chorizo with a couple dozen of their homemade flour tortillas, a pint each of chile arbol and avocado salsa and all the fixings. A vegan feast is also on offer. 208 E. Eighth St., L.A., 213-628-3710, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Jeremy Fox and his team at Santa Monica’s Birdie G’s (part of the Rustic Canyon Group which also owns Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, Milo & Olive, Cassia, Esters Wine Shop & Bar, and Tallula’s) are stepping it up with an “Early Birdie’s Deli” concept that sees them stocking lots of pantry items, sliced deli meats (corned beef brisket, corned beef tongue), salads, sauces (I’ll take some Calabrian chili oil), sandwiches, pickles and even dry goods like flour and polenta. A limited dinner menu includes matzoh ball soup and a vegetarian gnocchi sardi with wild nettle pesto — and, yes, Birdie G’s stupendous rose petal pie. A terrific selection of family-size dishes that will feed four to eight persons includes noodle kugel, grass-fed beef meatloaf and a roasted whole chicken. They’ve got wine and beer, too, plus stirred and shaken cocktails (Negroni!). Think about picking up some sides for your own roasted chicken or grilled vegetables. 2421 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-310-3616, 4 to 8:30 p.m. daily.
The lines are usually around the block at Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl. For now, the cafe is just offering takeout, encompassing favorites like her famed ricotta toast, buckwheat pancake and long-cooked chicken and rice porridge. Avocado toast? Check. Plus plenty of vegan and vegetarian options — sorrel pesto rice bowl, tomato jam sandwich, etc. The menu is evolving every day. Grab a jar of her luscious jam in flavors like as well, or do one better and subscribe to the bimonthly jam club. We may be here for a while. 720 Virgil Ave., L.A., 323-284-8147, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Chef/owner Pim Techamuanvivit and her Kin Khao crew are cooking out of the larger kitchen at her sister restaurant Nari in San Francisco’s Japantown. Expect Thai comfort food from this Michelin-starred chef. Take home caramelized pork belly, hot wings with nam pla fish sauce and sriracha glaze, chrysanthemum greens in chili lime vinaigrette, pork ribs in sweet chili sauce, vegetable bumbai curry with coconut, caramelized fish sauce cabbage and more. And for dessert, add in a puffed rice bar with peanuts, sesame and honey. You can buy some pantry items as well, such as a pint of curry sauce, duck or chicken stock, farm and salad boxes from Dirty Girl Produce, and a few wines to go. This one’s also a drive-through. Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St., S.F., 415-868-6247, firstname.lastname@example.org, 12-6 p.m.
From Nopalito’s Broderick Street location, chef/owner Gonzalo Guzman is now offering cocktails, take-home meal kits and hot food to go. Ready-to-heat-and-eat meal kits for two persons include mole poblano con pollo, tacos Arabes with salsa, onions and cilantro, carnitas with salsa and more. Caldo tlalpeño (chicken soup with chickpeas, vegetables, avocado and quest fresco) sounds cheering, especially with a bottle of take-home tequila or wine. Check out the company’s Instagram feed for a good preview of what’s on offer. 306 Broderick St., S.F., 415-300-0029, email@example.com.
Get your pie fix from Delfina’s Pacific Heights and original Mission locations. They’ve got family meal packages that feed three or four, too: a whole chicken, spaghetti and meatballs or rigatoni alla Norma, all with salad, crostini and dessert. The a la carte menu proposes burrata with arugula, chilled tripe “streetcar style,” saffron arancini, and Little Gem salad with green goddess dressing. As for pizza, the oven is turning out clam pie, a classic Napolitana and a pepperoni pie. And if that doesn’t entice you, consider Neapolitan meatballs in sugo or Mary’s chicken alla Diavola. To finish off your order, take home a bottle of “Surprise” white, rosé or bubbles. 2406 California St., S.F., and 3611 18th St., S.F., order online, 12-9 p.m. daily.
The popular downtown San Diego spot is serving up chef Brian Redzikowski’s globally inspired cooking to take home. Keep in mind that menus are changing daily. If you’re lucky, you might find Kettner Exchange’s savory duck meatballs, pork belly buns, lamb Szechuan noodles, spicy tuna crispy rice or Thai roasted pork shoulder when you call to order. 2001 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, 619-255-2001, 1 to 8 pm daily.
This much lauded Southeast Asian kitchen Dija Mara resides at the top of Eater’s 38 Essential San Diego restaurants. Right now the kitchen is cooking up nasi goreng with bay shrimp, stir-fried Chinese greens with Malay curry, charred eggplant with tomato sambal, beef short rib pendang with coconut rice, and tofu or pork belly banh mi sandwiches to take away and eat at home. Maybe you just want to order the whole menu to go. 232 S. Coast Hwy., Oceanside, 760-231-5376, Tues.-Sun. 12-8 p.m.
Et Voila! French Bistro
Looking for a taste of the familiar? Classic bistro Et Voila! is one of the few places offering a proper French-style prix-fixe meal, comprising three courses with three or four choices per course, for pickup curbside. For example, you could treat yourself to a cheese or charcuterie plate followed by traditional coq au vin or steamed mussels; and for dessert, chocolate mousse or blueberry tart. Order either your meal served hot and ready to eat, or vacuum-sealed to reheat later. Before you pay online, check the well-priced wine list of to-go bottles. And when you get home, set the table and light the candles. 3015 Adams Ave., San Diego, 619-209-7759.
Feature image: Photo by Louis Hansel/Unplash.
March 26, 2020
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