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18 best takeout restaurants in Southern California

Chicken sandwich The State in Rancho Cucamonga | Photo by Rob Andrew

From the Santa Ynez Valley to San Diego, we’ve tracked down terrific take-away meals for all tastes and budgets.

Did you know that Los Angeles was the birthplace of restaurant takeout and delivery? In the 1920s, the owners of Kin-Chu Café placed a newspaper ad announcing the restaurant’s grand opening, touting it as the “only place on the West Coast making and delivering real Chinese dishes.” These days, takeout and delivery are staples for many restaurants; recently, even some high-end establishments have pivoted to offering their fine-dining dishes to go. While the proliferation of food-delivery apps has made ordering in as easy as pushing a button, we recommend contacting restaurants directly to check if they offer their own services. 

 

Los Angeles & Environs

Reviews by Colleen Dunn Bates

Other locales: The Valleys | Central Coast | Inland Empire & the Desert | Orange County | San Diego

Alta Adams in Los Angeles | Photo by Vanessa Stump

Alta Adams in Los Angeles | Photo by Vanessa Stump

Alta Adams

5359 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles

323-571-4999; altaadams.com

The fried chicken isn’t the only reason to love Alta Adams in central L.A. Since the pandemic hit, the eatery has been offering “Family Meal”: a nutritious, family-style take-out meal (perhaps baked chicken or tofu with brown rice, spicy black-eyed peas, and a cucumber-tomato salad) sold on a sliding-scale basis. Diners can pay what they can afford, and if they can afford to kick in something extra to pay it forward, that’s great. Alta Adams also packages up a more extravagant Alta at Home take-out dinner, consisting of a starter, a main (maybe the incredible oxtails or fried chicken), two sides, and a dessert—hopefully, the coconut cake. 

 

Hippo

59161/2 Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

323-545-3536; hipporestaurant.com

Sure, you can get pizza from its affiliated Triple Beam Pizza, but for a proper meal, it’s hard to beat Hippo in Highland Park. Chef Matt Molina’s modern Italian cooking is richly flavorful and consistently prepared. Plus, these dishes travel really well. The packaging is environmentally friendly, the ragù pastas seem to deepen their flavors on the way home, and even the salads (the one with shaved brussels sprouts, almonds, and mint is amazing) hold up well. I’m grateful to live close enough to make the trip regularly.

 

Birdie G’s

2421 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica

310-310-3616; birdiegsla.com

The first time I went to Birdie G’s in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, it was because it was geographically the right place to meet a friend. We went in with no expectations and left wowed. Only later did I realize that it’s part of the Rustic Canyon Family restaurant group, so of course it holds to high standards. Those standards remain with its not cheap but first-rate take-out menu: a lettuce salad with vinaigrette, matzo ball soup, house-made cavatelli, and the chocolate cake you’ve been longing for, even if you didn’t know it.

 

The Valleys

Reviews by Jean T. Barrett

Other locales: Los Angeles & Environs | Central Coast | Inland Empire & the Desert | Orange County | San Diego

The Brothers Sushi in Woodland Hills | Photo by Vanessa Stump

The Brothers Sushi in Woodland Hills | Photo by Vanessa Stump

The Brothers Sushi

21418 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills

818-456-4509; thebrotherssushi.com

Popular West Valley spot The Brothers Sushi pivoted to contactless pickup and delivery this past spring (delivery available for a minimum $75 order, within a 10-mile radius of the restaurant). You can order à la carte (available by phone order only), but the $75 sushi platter of 20 pieces of nigiri and a spicy tuna cut roll is a real buy. Elegantly arranged on a clear-topped, oversized tray, the sushi platter gives diners a bit of the restaurant experience at home. What’s really fun are the DIY hand-roll kits, which include all the ingredients to make your own sushi rolls; the kits cost $20 for a vegan version, $30 for a basic version, and $50 for a premium. Quantities are limited each day, so order early.  

 

Dolan’s Uyghur Cuisine

742 W. Valley Boulevard, Alhambra

626-782-7555; ladolans.com

When global events limit travel, why not take advantage of L.A. County’s amazing diversity and voyage to a distant land via its foodways? Dolan’s Uyghur Cuisine in Alhambra serves the food of the Uyghurs, the ancient Turkic Muslim ethnic group from northwestern China, in and near Xinjiang. It took just one spectacularly delicious take-out dinner to make me an instant fan of Dolan’s hearty, well-spiced food. Try the samsas, flaky little beef hand pies; the spicy fried noodles with beef; and the popular Big Plate Chicken, tender poultry meat scented with star anise on a bed of chewy hand-pulled flat noodles. A small parking lot in back allows for easy payment and pickup.

 

Lal Mirch

11138 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City

818-980-2273; lalmirch.com

Those of us who love Indian food know that, with a few exceptions, it makes great leftovers and ideal takeout. Curries and other saucy dishes reheat beautifully; rice revives with a spoonful or two of water when reheating (naan and deep-fried appetizers travel less well). In the Valley, my go-to is Lal Mirch; there’s a sister restaurant of the same name in Agoura Hills that’s owned by other family members, and the Agoura location likewise offers takeout. The standards (chicken tikka masala, lamb curry) are masterfully done here, but try the chicken jalfrezi, a gingery stew of chicken, green pepper, onion, and chile (“medium” hot is plenty fiery for me).

 

Central Coast

Reviews by Nancy Ransohoff

Other locales: Los Angeles & Environs | The Valleys | Inland Empire & the Desert | Orange County | San Diego

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar in Santa Barbara | Photo by Chuck Place

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar in Santa Barbara | Photo by Chuck Place

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar

38 W. Victoria Street, #109 (inside the Santa Barbara Public Market), Santa Barbara

805-335-2426; emptybowlnoodle.com

The popular Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar has been doing to-go orders almost since the restaurant opened in 2014. Helmed by owners Jerry Lee and Emre Balli and chef-owner Nui Pannak, the noodle bar turns out dishes that reflect an array of Asian influences, with a focus on Thai noodles and contemporary spins on classic Thai dishes made with fresh ingredients. Don’t-miss items include Mama’s Hand-Wrapped Jiaozi Potstickers; Northern Thailand Curry Noodle (khao soi) Soup made with Shelton’s chicken; and Hangover Noodle with a zing of red jalapeño, Thai chiles, and fresh garlic. Order online or by phone from Restaurant Connection for delivery (food and drink from several other Santa Barbara Public Market venues are also available), or call the restaurant directly for pickup.

 

Ojai Rôtie

469 E. Ojai Avenue, Ojai

805-798-9227; ojairotie.com

Co-owners Larry (Lorenzo) Nicola and Claud Mann opened their combination bakery, rotisserie, and wine bar in April 2019, serving food that they call “a Lebanese French picnic.” There’s a lovely Tipu tree–shaded and light-strung dining courtyard, but the menu is tailor-made for takeout. A good bet is the Rôtie chicken meal, which includes a rotisserie chicken with a dry rub of spices including aleppo pepper, sumac, and turmeric; two picnic sides; grilled Lebanese flat bread; pickled turnips; and garlic sauce. Sides range from caramelized cauliflower to purslane tabbouleh. Almost everything, from the pickles to the za’atar, is made in house with local, organic ingredients. Add a loaf of rustic sourdough bread, Bea’s Hurricane Brownies, or chocolate chunk cookies. Pick up your order at the Wine Box, a converted 1930s-era gas station offering local-centric wines, beers, ciders, and kombucha.

 

Los Alamos Delivers

losalamosdelivers.com

The wine-country town of Los Alamos has developed a reputation as a small but mighty culinary outpost. Now, eateries and vintners in the Santa Ynez Valley burg have created a delivery system for foodies outside the area. Los Alamos Delivers brings select menu items and family-meal packages from Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, Full of Life Flatbread, Plenty on Bell, Bell’s, and Pico in Los Alamos, and from The Hitching Post II in Buellton, to pickup locations in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, and Los Angeles (some restaurants not available for Los Angeles delivery). Local wines and beers are on offer, too. Some menus change weekly, but recent deliciousness included Bob’s Well Bread’s B-L-D Meal Package with house-made granola, vegetarian pasta salad, and Carolina-style pulled pork with slaw and freshly baked brioche buns. Bell’s (helmed by Daisy Ryan, named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2020) might offer its smash-hit Egg Salad Survival Kit and an ever-changing CSA Box.

 

Inland Empire & the Desert

Reviews by Roger Grody

Other locales: Los Angeles & Environs | The Valleys | Central Coast | Orange County | San Diego

The State in Rancho Cucamonga | Photo by Rob Andrew

The State in Rancho Cucamonga | Photo by Rob Andrew

The State

Locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands

thestaterestaurant.com

Both locations of The State offer innovative take-out and delivery services that are the next best things to being there. The gastropub’s signature burgers—consider one that layers tempura-battered shallots with aged cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon, and barbecue sauce—are among a full menu of upscale comfort foods. Other standouts include a spicy fried chicken sandwich, poutine (here, the fries are topped with braised short rib, cheese curds, and gravy), and mac-and-cheese. A kids’ menu is offered, as well as attractive beverage propositions for grown-ups, including bottles of wine with prices comparable to what glasses sometimes cost elsewhere. Additionally, cocktails are packaged in secure mason jars, accompanied by the appropriate garnishes for home service. For dessert, mascarpone-stuffed doughnut bites await dine-in customers.

 

Cara Mia

7945 Vineyard Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga

909-360-1498; caramiarc.com

The coronavirus pandemic temporarily shuttered Cara Mia’s dining room just weeks after its grand opening, but the take-out and delivery options that kept the business alive are still available. Sartaj Singh, a veteran restaurateur born in India and classically trained in Italy, brings a sophisticated quality to many dishes, with Gorgonzola cream elevating a simple crab cake and a splash of brandy contributing to a luxurious lobster bisque. Slightly sweet butternut squash ravioli are bathed in a Pernod-infused pink sauce, and, while homey lasagna is offered, chicken Cara Mia with mushrooms in velvety truffle-infused Gorgonzola sauce—these same ingredients top one of the restaurant’s pizzas—feels more special. For a finale, take home a refreshing panna cotta or an elegant crème brûlée.

 

Rooster and the Pig

356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

760-832-6691; roosterandthepig.com

Palm Springs’ Rooster and the Pig reminds us of Vietnamese cuisine’s healthful qualities, intriguing French influences, and, when owner Tai Spendley deviates from tradition, its creative potential. Customers pull up to the curb for dishes like fried calamari with Sriracha-spiked aioli or pork belly fried rice with sweet Chinese sausage. A panko-crusted, chicken-stuffed rice ball in silky yellow curry sauce can be followed by inventive Vietnamese iced coffee panna cotta.

 

Orange County

Reviews by Miles Clements

Other locales: Los Angeles & Environs | The Valleys | Central Coast | Inland Empire & the Desert | San Diego

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Santa Ana | Photo by Julee Ho

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Santa Ana | Photo by Julee Ho

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

102 N. Sycamore Street, Santa Ana

949-336-3936, gusfriedchicken.com

If you can’t make it to the summer cookout, bring the cookout home with a bucket or two from this Tennessee import. The star, of course, is Gus’s old-school, Southern-style fried chicken. There’s a hint of heat in the ultra-crunchy batter, but it’s not a full-on Nashville burn. The restaurant’s entire menu is available for takeout and delivery, so it’s easy to build a meal here. Consider an eight- or 20-piece chicken combo and a side order of fried okra, stewed collard greens, or creamy coleslaw. Pies are essential, so save room for at least a slice of Gus’s signature chess pie. The Southern staple is a rich vanilla custard pie that’s unerring in its simplicity.

 

Vaca

695 Town Center Drive, Suite 170, Costa Mesa

714-463-6060; vacarestaurant.com

Amar Santana’s Spanish stalwart has earned its place as a pre-show and post-shopping favorite. The restaurant’s curbside pickup menu is a curated selection of some of its greatest hits. There are a few à la carte options like Wagyu steaks and slices of acorn-fed ham, but the best bet is one of the family meals. Order the paella Valenciana for two, four, or six and you receive a feast: a baby kale and asparagus salad with blue cheese and lemon–poppy seed vinaigrette; roasted cauliflower with tahini and raisins; charred brussels sprouts; paella loaded with shrimp, scallops, chicken, and chorizo; caramel-slicked flan; and one more rotating dessert, perhaps an airy cheesecake or a delicate tres leches cake.

 

Quán Mii

Locations in Westminster and Fountain Valley

quanmii.com

In the waning days of summer, there are few better choices in Little Saigon than Quán Mii. The specialty here is banh xeo, a crispy, lacy crepe flavored with turmeric and coconut milk and packed with bean sprouts, pork, and shrimp and served with a garden of fresh herbs in which to wrap each bite. Quán Mii’s entire menu is available for takeout and delivery. If you’re feeding a group, order a do-it-yourself banh trang platter. It’s a roll-your-own spring roll kit like those popular on Vietnam’s central coast, with a skein of springy rice noodles, a bounty of fresh herbs, and proteins like thinly sliced sheets of fatty, roasted pork. It’s an engaging, interactive meal that travels effortlessly.

 

San Diego

Reviews by Candice Woo

Other locales: Los Angeles & Environs | The Valleys | Central Coast | Inland Empire & the Desert | Orange County

Tribute Pizza in San Diego | Photo by Rob Andrew

Tribute Pizza in San Diego | Photo by Rob Andrew

Tribute Pizza

3077 N. Park Way, San Diego

619-450-4505; tributepizza.com

What started out as an itinerant pizza pop-up has turned into one of San Diego’s most beloved pizzerias. Helmed by pizzaiolo Matthew Lyons, Tribute Pizza brings together traditional Neapolitan technique and fresh regional ingredients often sourced from the farmers market that shares the restaurant’s North Park neighborhood. The menu pays homage to some of the country’s top pizza practitioners, from the white pizza with a sesame seed crust and wood-roasted caramelized onions—a nod to Best Pizza in Brooklyn—to the Biancoverde, an arugula-topped pie that’s a signature of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, whose famed chef Chris Bianco is one of Lyons’ mentors. A favorite to pair with dry sparkling red wine is The Bees Mode, which layers soppressata, spicy honey, pickled sweet peppers, and ricotta on a base of mozzarella and organic crushed tomatoes. The 10-inch pies, which cook in a custom wood-fired oven, are also available with vegan toppings and a gluten-free crust. And don’t miss the focaccia bread, burnished in the wood-fired oven, or Tribute’s twist on classic tiramisu, spiked with coffee liqueur from a local distillery.

 

Soichi Sushi

2121 Adams Avenue, San Diego

619-677-2220; soichisushi.com

For sushi lovers, an omakase menu is the ultimate dining experience. Presented course by course, the meal usually starts with seasonal appetizers before moving into a selection of sashimi, then grilled fish and other cooked items, followed by an assortment of nigiri, and ending with miso soup and dessert. A reverential meal, designed to highlight both the pristine freshness of the seafood and the skill of the chef, or itamae, it’s typically served at a sushi bar. But some restaurants in San Diego have begun to offer the multicourse feast for takeout, including Adams Avenue’s popular Soichi Sushi. Overseen by co-owner Soichi Kadoya, a chef who’s been practicing Edomae-style sushi for more than 25 years, each component of the seven-course dinner ($100) is carefully packed; dishes could include tiny firefly squid, a delicacy from Japan, and silky, savory egg custard called chawanmushi. It’s a special-occasion feast celebrated in the comfort of home.

 

The Original Sab-E-Lee

6925 Linda Vista Road, Suite B, San Diego

858-650-6868; originalsab-e-lee.webs.com

When this Thai restaurant opened in 2008 (it has since expanded to a larger space in Linda Vista), it introduced San Diego to Issan cuisine, which hails from northeastern Thailand and is known for its pungent flavors, lent by fermented fish and fresh herbs. Powerfully spicy, the dishes provide an awakening for the taste buds; on the restaurant’s heat index of one to 10, a three is a medium and a seven is sweat inducing. Its fiery specialties include vibrant green papaya salad; nam tok, or grilled beef in a fish sauce dressing with toasted rice powder; and larb, a warm dish of minced meat seasoned with chile and lime and served with a cooling wedge of crunchy cabbage. Its take-out menu includes more-soothing dishes, too, from creamy and mild panang curry with chicken to pad see ew, a dish featuring fat rice noodles sautéed in a sweet soy sauce with pork, Chinese broccoli, and eggs.

 

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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