By now, who among us isn’t experiencing pandemic fatigue, not to mention Netflix fatigue, Zoom fatigue, jigsaw-puzzle fatigue, and even takeout fatigue? Too many times, we’ve opened up the to-go box only to be greeted with soggy and lukewarm food. Many folks, however, may still be more comfortable dining at home. So our restaurant critics scoured the Southland to find the best takeout and delivery spots—places that offer comforting dishes that travel well. Contact the restaurants directly to check if they offer their own delivery services; food-delivery apps usually charge hefty fees.
For folks on the Westside, a new-to-the-pandemic restaurant is Mírame, an Alta California place showcasing the exceptional food of celebrated chef Joshua Gil, formerly of Tacos Punta Cabras. The patio and sidewalk tables at the former Gratitude space are open, where you can enjoy the crisp fried Baja snapper, the grilled albacore tacos with smashed avocado, and the terrific hanger steak with shrimp-stuffed squash blossoms and an Asian-influenced sauce via DoorDash. (310) 230-5035; mirame.la.
My happiest delivery discovery is DTLA’s RiceBox, whose elegant take on Cantonese barbecue makes for a perfect takeout experience. In addition to personal deliveries to West L.A., the Valley, and some Orange County areas, RiceBox also works with all the main delivery companies in a decent radius from its South Spring Street location (Silver Lake, Boyle Heights, and K-Town are all within range), and its food travels beautifully. The house specialty is super-savory char siu pork, but the poached soy sauce chicken with ginger-scallion sauce, the roast duck (Saturdays only), and the mapo eggplant are also well worth ordering. Each comes in an environmentally friendly cardboard box with jasmine rice or addictive pork fried rice and absolutely delicious greens. (213) 988-7395; ricebox.net.
Chifa is a stylish Peruvian-Chinese restaurant that had the misfortune of opening during the pandemic. It was intended to be a hip, colorful bistro; instead, as of this writing it’s a mostly takeout spot that’s open only on weekends (4–8 p.m. Friday–Sunday; hopefully, by the time you read this, it’ll be open during the week). The cooking is not fusion—the Peruvian dishes hew to the classics, as do the Chinese ones. “Chifa” means “Chinese restaurant” in Peruvian, and the family behind it has roots in Peru, Taiwan, and China. The food is prepared with great care, from the classic pollo à la brasa with fries to the sweetly caramelized Chinese-style spareribs. Pass on the dan dan noodles, which don’t travel well, in favor of “Dad’s” restorative beef noodle soup, and absolutely order the garlic rice. (323) 561-3084; chifa-la.com.
Osteria la Buca
Melrose Avenue mainstay Osteria la Buca opened a Valley outpost last year, and who doesn’t like a neighborhood Italian spot? The restaurant has a full menu of Italian specialties, but I’ve been leaning in to the “Family Meal,” a generously portioned three-course dinner for two, four, or six diners. Opt for one of three hearty main courses—spaghetti pomodoro, rigatoni Bolognese, or chicken Parmesan—and you’ll also get bread, a fresh green salad, and tiramisu. Pricing ranges from $40 for spaghetti pomodoro for two to $190 for chicken Parmesan for six. We found that the meal for two served three to four, and I don’t believe we are modest eaters. Abbondanza, or abundance, seems to be the operative word at Osteria la Buca! (818) 456-1216; osterialabuca.com.
Chakra Indian Kitchen
Indian takeout got my little pod through a number of stay-at-home evenings last year, so I was delighted to have a new option when Chakra Indian Kitchen opened in December in the heart of Pasadena’s Old Town. Chakra serves all the classics but specializes in South Indian cooking and features an array of that region’s prized griddle cakes, from the thin, crepe-like dosas to the thicker uthappams. Goat dum biryani is a fragrant and satisfying rice dish (watch for bones!), and don’t miss the spectacular vegetable specialties, such as eggplant curry Hyderabadi, which is baby eggplant served with a savory peanut-coconut sauce. Chakra spinach masala, a rich South Indian spinach curry, is another standout. (626) 365-1151; chakraindiankitchen.com.
Ji Rong Peking Duck
Peking duck is always a treat, and Ji Rong Peking Duck does a takeout version that is so beautifully presented that it turns an ordinary evening into a special occasion. The crisp duck skin is arrayed in a single layer alongside a generous portion of duck meat, a stack of gossamer-thin pancakes, sauce, and a container of shredded scallions and cucumber sticks. (Reheating instructions for the duck and pancakes are included.) It’s a feast for two to three people, particularly if you round out the meal with an order of fried rice or some sautéed a-choy (Taiwanese lettuce). Note: The restaurant sits on Valley Boulevard, and the entrance isn’t visible from either of the parking lots on the east and west sides of the building. (626) 280-8600; jirongpekingduck.com.
Bob's Well Bread at the Ballard Store
The beloved Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, run by owners Bob and Jane Oswaks, has added a second outpost to its original Los Alamos location. The new bakery and café, located in a historic building in Ballard, offers breakfast and lunch (until 3 p.m.) on its spacious outdoor patio. The pastries alone are worth the trip, with the likes of buttery-flaky croissants, seasonal scones, the caramelized Breton pastry kouign-amann, and the hard-to-find canelé, a Bordeaux specialty. But don’t miss items like the breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and house-made turkey sausage, and the mushroom toast with sautéed seasonal mushrooms and bacon lardons, served over a house-made biscuit with a poached farm egg. Lunch winners include the hearty meat loaf sandwich, the Reuben with house-made corned beef, and the croque monsieur. Don’t forget to add a loaf of fresh-baked bread and a bottle of private-label Well Bread Wine, created by winemaker Doug Margerum of Buellton-based Margerum Wine Company. (805) 691-9549; bobswellbread.com.
This small eatery in the Camarillo Plaza shopping center is a takeout gem, offering comforting bowls of well-prepared ramen. Owned by chef Yuya Ueno and his wife, Asaka, Cagami serves authentic ramen in the traditional style of Fukuoka, Japan, where Asaka grew up. Yuya also knows his way around sushi-quality fish, with menu items such as yellowtail and salmon sashimi. Long-simmered pork broth is the key in dishes such as old-school tonkotsu with house-made pork shoulder, and karamiso with a kick from original spicy paste. Simple, small rice bowls round out the menu. The same care that goes into preparing the dishes extends to making sure that noodles retain their texture when they arrive at your home: Special to-go containers hold the hot soup on the bottom, with a separate compartment for noodles and toppings. cagamiramencamarillo.com.
Your Choice Restaurant
Husband-and-wife team Aungkoon and Sukanya Sukavivatanachai opened this neighborhood favorite in 1989, and it has long been a go-to for takeout. The couple’s son, Piti, and his wife, Kathy Dao, took the reins in 2012, using the original family recipes for top-notch Thai food while adding some new touches. A case in point is the chicken wings in flavors like chile tamarind and honey Sriracha. For entrées, we’re besotted with the panang curry and the spicy drunken noodles made with fresh flat rice noodles. Soups include an outstanding tom kha chicken, bright with the flavors of lime, coconut milk, and lemongrass broth. Don’t miss the restaurant’s Thai-inspired Creaminal brand ice cream, riffing on Piti’s mother’s coconut flavor recipe. Try the Thai tea Oreo for the perfect capper. (805) 569-3730; yourchoicerestaurant.com.
Yuzu Japanese Izakaya
The Japanese counterpart to a British pub is the izakaya, a casual eatery offering shareable snacks washed down by beer or sake. Known as “Horsetown USA,” Norco may be more accustomed to tri-tip than tempura, but Yuzu turns out an impressive range of izakaya specialties. Recommended items include the soft-shell crab stuffed with mango salsa, the miso-glazed black cod, and the chicken karaage, Japan’s take on fried chicken. Less traditional but worth exploring are specialty rolls—my favorite features crab, spicy tuna, and avocado wrapped in soy paper and crispy potatoes—and Hawai‘i-inspired poke bowls. Yuzu had the misfortune of opening just when the pandemic hit, but its gracious owners adapted with takeout and delivery. (951) 479-5744; yuzuizakaya.com.
Guido’s Deli and Pizza
The food scene in Buenos Aires is heavily influenced by the city’s European immigrants, and Guido’s showcases the marriage of Argentine and Italian cultures in a tiny market with a takeout-friendly menu. In addition to chicken or beef, Guido’s empanadas are stuffed with spicy creamed corn, spinach Alfredo, or ricotta and onions. Pizzas, available in individual sizes, include a memorable tomato-less bianca (topped with pecorino, mozzarella, provolone, and pungent blue cheese) and fugazzeta (Argentina’s signature deep-dish onion pizza). Crusty Italian rolls lead to great sandwiches like choripán (chorizo sausage with chimichurri) and milanesa (breaded beef), both popular street foods. Alfajores (traditional sugar-dusted dulce de leche sandwich cookies) provide a sweet South American finish. (909) 980-8962.
Located in one of the deftly converted collection of restaurants and shops at Claremont Village’s historic Packing House, Gus’s features an expansive menu that can be enjoyed on the patio or taken to go. Start with corn bread (on-site, it’s presented in a hot skillet) or chipotle-dusted deviled eggs before tucking into regional specialties like succulent Carolina-style pulled pork, Texas brisket, or Southern-style fried chicken (optionally tossed in Nashville seasoning for some heat). Most meats can be reimagined as sandwiches—consider pulled pork or barbecued chicken with onion strings and garlic aioli—or combo plates with traditional sides like baked beans or mac-and-cheese. Desserts include a folksy blueberry biscuit cobbler, and smartly bottled cocktails are available for carryout. (909) 445-0931; gussbbq.com.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen
Downtown Fullerton’s Khan Saab opened early last year, providing comfort from the tumult with elegant and memorable Indian and other South Asian cooking. There are street-style snacks to start, like the restaurant’s take on keema pav (toasted sliders stuffed with spiced Wagyu beef, chopped onion, and chile). Afghan-spiced lamb seekh kebabs and tandoori prawns seasoned with kalonji seeds are terrific. Bhindi masala (snappy okra and sweet onion in a deeply flavored tomato stew) makes an ideal pairing for any of Khan Saab’s curries. Along with a selection of halal Wagyu steaks, there’s a fanciful nonalcoholic bar that makes inventive mocktails, like the smoked Nigroni with Seedlip Spice 94 (a distilled nonalcoholic allspice and cardamom spirit), rose syrup, and Palo Santo bitters. (714) 853-1081; khansaaboc.com.
Nếp Café is the daytime spin-off of Fountain Valley’s Gem Dining. Whereas Gem draws inspiration from Southern California’s Asian-American diaspora, Nếp works mostly to modernize Vietnamese brunch favorites. The restaurant, which is open daily until 4 p.m., became an instant hit with dishes like bánh mì chao, which features filet mignon slicked with truffle-peppercorn sauce, slabs of paté, blistered cherry tomatoes, two eggs, and a few slices of baguette. The savory sticky rice known as xoi man is another stunner. As is the case at Gem, the cooking here is precise but always willing to take a few liberties: Popcorn chicken is dusted with five spice and scattered with fried basil, and orecchiette is served with Vietnamese-style roasted bone marrow. Nếp is also a first-rate coffeehouse. Try the ca phe trung, coffee topped with an aerated mix of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolk. (714) 516-8121; nepcafe.us.
Renzo's A Taste of Peru
This is the second coming of Renzo’s A Taste of Peru. After an absence of several years, this former Irvine favorite resurfaced in Lake Forest in what has been a much-welcomed return: Renzo’s is again one of Orange County’s best Peruvian restaurants. The ceviche mixto is essential; the fish, shrimp, squid, mussels, and scallops are lashed with bracing citrus and tempered with sweet potato and choclo. Perhaps nothing here is as popular as the expert lomo saltado, but it’s hard to deny the comfort of Renzo’s cilantro-laced arroz con pollo. Dessert is all about rich dulce de leche, be it sandwiched between crumbly, buttery cookies to make alfajores or swirled into a rolled cake called pionono. (949) 273-3322; renzostasteofperu.com.
The Market at HFS
Hawaiian Fresh Seafood is a direct-to-restaurant wholesaler and distributor, specializing in fish from the waters between California and Hawai‘i, and, in December 2019, the company launched a public-facing, on-site market to showcase its fresh catch. Now, a crowd gathers even before the doors of the Mira Mesa seafood counter open, eager for Hawai‘i-inspired eats that come as close as it gets locally to true island-style grinds. The poke is delicate and sparkling fresh, relying on pristine seafood and a few essential seasonings. Available à la carte or as a poke bowl with white or brown rice, the daily-changing roster includes simple shoyu ‘ahi poke flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil, spicy mayo salmon poke, and tako limu poke, an octopus-based version with seaweed. Other Hawaiian specialties include Spam musubi and butter mochi, as well as lunch specials that might include furikake-crusted ‘ahi tuna or fish tacos with pineapple salsa. In addition to pricey bluefin tuna, the seafood counter offers lesser-seen affordable and sustainable cuts such as the belly of wild-caught opah, or moonfish, which sears to a juicy and toothsome texture. (858) 282-0591; hawaiianfreshseafood.com.
Jasmine Seafood Restaurant
At this Convoy Street Chinese food stalwart, rolling dim sum carts have been replaced by a streamlined all-day take-out menu that can be picked up at the restaurant’s adjacent to-go department, Jasmine Express. It features many classic dim sum staples, from translucent-skinned shrimp dumplings called har gow and fluffy barbecue pork buns to shrimp and pork siu mai, as well as personal favorites like meat-stuffed tofu skin rolls, lotus leaf–wrapped packages of sticky rice, and fiddly but tasty chicken feet in black bean sauce. And special occasions can be enjoyed at home with the Kearny Mesa restaurant’s three-course whole Peking duck meal, which includes 20 bite-size buns sandwiching crispy duck skin, nine lettuce cups filled with a stir-fry of the roasted duck meat, and a fortifying soup made from the duck bones. (858) 268-0888; jasmineseafood.com.
Coop’s West Texas Barbecue
Texas transplant Brad “Coop” Cooper, whose eatery has become a dining destination over the past decade, learned the barbecue arts from his father, who owned a small barbecue joint in Texas. His family helps to run the smoked meat parlor as well as Da Chicken Coop, their nearby fried chicken shop. Smoked low and slow over a mix of wood including mesquite and red oak, and seasoned with a dry rub that is signature to the Texas method, Coop’s most popular meats are his beef brisket, pulled pork, and rib tips, although the weekend-exclusive hot links and Texas sausages, both house-made, are also essential. Each item is offered in pound and half-pound portions, but a fine way to sample Cooper’s skills is via the Kit N’ Kaboodle combo, which feeds three people and includes four meat choices (about 2 pounds total) plus two sides and two slices of corn bread. coopsbbq.com.
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.