Dining in has become the new dining out.
To stay alive during the pandemic, many restaurants have converted their operations to “ghost kitchens” set up for takeout and delivery-only meals with no in-person dining. That’s not as easy to do as it appears. Restaurant management software company Upserve found that 47% of restaurant owners surveyed said the transition to a new business model was their biggest challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even restaurants that still offer socially-distant, full-service dining rely on delivery and takeout more than ever before – as business isn’t anywhere near its pre-pandemic state, and every little bit helps.
Here are a few of our favorite spots for low-contact pickup and delivery. There are many more. Supporting these and other restaurants during this challenging time helps ensure they’ll be around once the pandemic passes.
Hummus is a textbook-perfect takeout food. French fries, not so much. Both are the top offerings at Seattle hummus bar, Aviv. There are no rules to eating hummus, but French fries must be consumed immediately. Best to eat them in the car, as who knows what will become of these light-as-air, only a whisper of grease battalions of perfection? What makes them perfect, besides their creamy insides and exacting crunch, is the shawarma spices they’re tossed in. And if you dip them in the tahina that crowns that nutty, silken classic hummus (or get an extra side), revelry ensues. Imported from Israel, this tahina is smooth, creamy and not too bitter, like many of the store-bought varieties. If you only got these three items and ate them shamelessly in your driveway, no one would judge you. http://www.avivhummusbar.com
If there’s ever an opportunity to try General Porpoise’s elusive peanut butter and jelly donut, with its far-from-standard homemade components, do it at once. But if it’s not available, just pick any of the eggy, light, yet intensely buttery and rich donuts at random. Made fresh each morning, in limited batches, even the staple vanilla is a standout, with flecks of vanilla bean in the thick swirls of custard squirting out the edges. All the fillings are house-made, and such beautiful attention is given to bringing out the flavor in the fruits used for your jam filling. https://www.gpdoughnuts.com
While the green papaya salad, with its hit of mint and lightly smoky grilled prawns, and the sticky-crispy-sweet drunken chicken are solid choices, Monsoon’s wokked wheat noodles are in the upper echelon of the city’s noodle options. But they do incite head scratching. After all, these noodles are just about as bare as noodles can get. How can they be so flavorful? Could it be the king oyster mushrooms, which are meaty in texture and delightfully chewy? Or the egg and green onion? Maybe it’s the oil they’re cooked in? Or the seasoned wok that imparts years of history into each strand? We may never know, but we will be too busy eating another helping to care. https://monsoonrestaurants.com
We’re so glad that Santouka, a ramen chain from Japan, has set up shop in University Village and Bellevue, where any time you order a bowl of tonkotsu shio ramen, you’ll be feeding your soul as much as your stomach. There is something to be said of the nearly 24-hour low-heat cooking process for this rich, perfectly salty (shio means salt in Japanese) pork bone broth, which gets its creaminess from the addition of milk. The shio comes with meaty and chewy fresh bamboo, the seaweed-like kikurage mushrooms and pork belly, but order the ajitama, a soft-boiled egg marinated in soy sauce, to round out the bowl. The takeout container for the soup is a brilliant contraption, with the noodles in their own section of the lid, never touching the broth until you’re ready. https://santouka-usa.com/
There are many things to love about Revel’s Korean fusion dishes, but when it comes to comfort, the crowning jewel here is the crab and red curry noodles. The handmade noodles, which are studded with flecks of seaweed, are a work of art. Topped with fresh crab, crème fraiche, sweet pickled ginger and bok choy for extra crunch, it’s a symphony of flavors, elevated by a resonant heat from a light dressing of curry sauce that sticks around on the lips, but leaves the palate free to take it all in. Second in command are the short rib pot stickers with chili oil. Don’t think your way through this; just order both, and pick them up from the bar with zero contact. http://www.relayrestaurantgroup.com/restaurants/revel/
Labeling something as the city’s best burger is asking for trouble. A burger is a deeply personal thing, its preparations and adornments subjective. But at its core, a burger is the very definition of comfort. Especially when you get it from Uneeda Burger, which is considered by many in this city to be the best, and for good reason. Have you ever had a tempura lemon? How about on top of a lamb burger, with manchego cheese, pickled peppers and a parsley and cilantro-based sauce known as chermoula? How about a burger with sautéed porcini and crimini mushrooms, topped with Gruyère and truffle aioli? If you’re a purist, then the classic is what you want – a quarter-pound patty with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a house sauce that is near perfect. http://uneedaburger.com
What do you get when one of Seattle’s most creative fine-dining chefs does a total 180, and then a pirouette, to save his restaurant in the face of a pandemic? You get Addo’s doors open to customers in a new way, where they can order fresh fish and copious varieties of steak, chicken and beef from the restaurant’s purveyors, while keeping their home fridges stocked. Chef Eric Rivera also offers off-the-wall five-course meals you heat at home, like the rad hot chili peppers tasting menu, or the tomato or plantain tasting menus. He has a hot sauce club and a socially-distanced ice cream club, along with a dried pasta program, with fresh pasta available on Fridays. He offers sauces such as saffron sazon and lobster mushroom cream, or fresh heirloom tomato sauce. And there are virtual trivia games where you can play along with other diners and pretend, for a moment, that fun is a thing and the pandemic isn’t. https://www.ericriveracooks.com
One of the hottest tickets in town has always been The Pantry’s intimate cooking classes. Now the same can be said for its to-go orders, which are modeled after those cooking classes. The meals, like the classes, are inspired by global and regional cuisines, and change often, making them a fun departure from typical restaurant menus. The low country shrimp boil, loaded with smoked sausage, corn, fingerling potatoes and peel-on shrimp, with a grilled lemon mayo for dipping, was a memorable offering in July. The cheddar and black pepper biscuits were notable, but the endive and radicchio salad with a sorghum vinaigrette hit all the marks – the dressing serving as a perfect counterpoint to the bitter chicory, its sweetness tempered by apple cider vinegar and a bit of bourbon. The hummingbird cake trifle with cream cheese mousse and toasted coconut was made creamier by the addition of tender chunks of caramelized bananas. https://thepantryseattle.com/
We’re thrilled that Chera Amlag chose to spread the ube gospel to the people of Seattle. What started as a word-of-mouth cheesecake business turned into two outposts of the Filipino-focused Hood Famous Bakeshop, with only its International District location in operation during the pandemic, and with a health-focused reservation system. Sign up online for a time slot, as no walk-ins are allowed. Once inside, you can order drinks like a pandan latte or ube cookie affogato while waiting for your smooth and creamy ube cheesecake, whose brilliant purple hue comes from both ube jam and extract. But don’t leave without a show-stopping ube cookie — tender, moist and intensely buttery — like a mash-up of marzipan and shortbread someone colored purple. https://www.hoodfamousbakeshop.com
Why have cake-by-the-slice bakeries not been a thing? Perhaps because very few pastry goddesses on this planet have mastered cake in the way Deep Sea Sugar and Salt’s Charlie Dunmire has. The cake is so tender that your fork wants to bury itself inside and never come out, with flavors that make the taste buds twerk, like the PBJ – olive oil cake with alternating layers of homemade pistachio butter and raspberry jam, crowned by the silkiest cream cheese icing, which has been kissed by more of that high-octane pistachio butter. Even the London Fog, unheard of in cake form, is just as soothing as the warm beverage. An Earl Grey cake with a honey and Earl Grey syrup is layered with a bergamot mascarpone cream and crowned with a cream cheese frosting and a little gold leaf. Call or order online and pick up at a socially-distanced pickup window. https://www.deepseasugarandsalt.com
Pulcinella Pizza is the kind of place you might miss completely if you have zero cause to hang out in Rainier Valley. But that would be a mistake. This tiny spot with the upside-down sign offers fantastic Verace-certified Neapolitan pizza, which means the pizza is made using the same ingredients and strict processes the Italians do. The margherita’s chewy, plump crust is a dramatic counterpoint to its thin, almost translucent base, which wilts under the heft of its mozzarella and sauce. More than anything, it feels like something you’d find in a pizzeria in Naples. http://vincesrestaurants.com/pizzeria-pulcinella
During times of stress, healthy eating is often put on the back burner. But at Heartbeet Organic Superfoods Café, comfort is effortless in vegetable form, and even avid carnivores likely will not miss the meat -- or the heat, since this is a raw foods spot. The Mighty Thai salad, a mash-up of carrots, cabbage, basil, dates, cashews and Thai dressing, is a standout. The Buddha Bowl will put you into immediate namaste when you taste the sesame ginger and garlic cilantro sauces, plus the onion cashew cream, which bring bliss-full flavor to the red rice, quinoa, walnut crumble, kale chips, mushrooms and cucumbers in the bowl. The fresh-pressed organic juices – especially the Magenta Love (apple, cucumber, beet and ginger) and Northern Light (apple, basil, lime, cilantro, celery and ginger) – are truly special, as are the superfood smoothies. The Coconutty is worthy of a deep bow on its own – fresh coconut meat, coconut water, cashews and dates – but upgrade to a Cookies ‘n’ Cream, and you’d swear you’re eating a sinful dessert without the sin. https://www.heartbeethealthy.com
Citizen is a tiny coffee house next door to an auto body shop that you might miss, were it not for the intoxicating smells that draw you inside as you walk past on your way to Seattle Center. You might also be excited by the outdoor beer garden next door, Citizen Campfire, where you can order a spicy watermelon margarita or spiced rum piña colada slushie. Whatever gets you here, just make sure to try the vegetarian breakfast tacos, which are available all day, and are soft, griddled flour tortilla pillows filled with light-as-air scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and black beans. The matcha latte is excellent, but you can’t go wrong with a Nutella mocha either. http://www.citizencoffee.com