Learn how to do takeout better
Winter is coming. And with a pandemic still raging, the survival of many of Spokane County’s most beloved restaurants could come down to takeout.
But as much as you may want to support them, you may have felt a little underwhelmed by some takeout or delivery experiences in the past.
A half-hour car ride can transform the incredible into the inedible. Saucy sandwiches can collapse into soggy messes. Crispy fries can sag into mush.
Fortunately, many local restaurants have adapted to the demands of takeout and have some advice for making takeout work for you.
CHOOSE TAKEOUT-FRIENDLY CUISINE
Beware of any dish that relies on a specific texture or a level of “doneness,” says Jon Brown, general manager of Ruins and a number of other local restaurants.
“You’re a person who enjoys a medium-rare steak … if you like your beef cooked properly, if it’s going to be in a container, and you put that hot food into the container, it’s going to steam itself,” Brown says.
The steak could continue to cook in transit. A lot of fried food can lose its crispness along the way, too. Unless they’re in a paper bag like when you order fast food, french fries are often “absolutely worthless,” he says.
“Don’t order fish and chips takeout,” Brown says. “It’s going to suck when you get it.”
So when it comes to Ruins — which has a regularly rotating menu with different cuisines — they’ve chosen to focus on cuisines that survive the journey.
There’s a reason, he says, that certain types of food pop into your head when you think of “takeout.”
“If you’re anything like me, I think of Asian food, I think of Thai, I think of Chinese, I think of Mexican food, and Italian food,” Brown says.
Heck, some foods might even improve with takeout. Stews and curries are famous for tasting better the next day — as the flavors have more time to mix and mingle.
GET THE SAUCE ON THE SIDE
Alyssa Krafft, a manager at Wild Sage, says that Wild Sage’s chef designed an incredible duck bánh mì sandwich to be ideal for takeout. But how to avoid takeout sogginess with such a saucy sandwich? Simple.
“When we do it to-go, we put all the sauces on the side,” Krafft says. Diners at home can apply the sauce and the fillings exactly how they like, right when they’re ready to eat it.
They do the same thing with certain pastas, separating the sauce to avoid gumminess.
GOOD THINGS COME IN GOOD PACKAGES
It’s not just the food that’s important. It’s the container. Krafft says that Wild Sage invested in sugar-cane composted containers that keep “hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
“It really doesn’t sweat. The packaging doesn’t get greasy-looking,” she says. And the wide packages with clear tops allow chefs to showcase the food even before the customer opens it.
ORDER AT LEAST 30 MINUTES AHEAD
Maisa Abudayha, program director for Feast World Kitchen, says part of the secret for their rotating crew of international chefs to make great takeout food comes down to timing. Finish a dish too soon, and it can get cold or dry out. Start a dish too late, and the customer can get impatient waiting curb-side. And since freshness matters in so many meals, they want to get the timing just right.
Calling — or ordering online — ahead of time gives a restaurant enough lead time to nail the timing of your order. And keep in mind, since restaurants have to pay for the packaging, it can cost them more to do a to-go order than a regular dine-in meal. It doesn’t hurt to tip a little better, if you can.