It should not come as a surprise that I really love restaurants. I love having a drink at the bar, getting recommendations for dishes from servers, watching chefs conduct their magic in the kitchen, and waiting until the end of the meal to decide on dessert– should I get a light lemony sweet treat or a seasonal apple pie or go with the epitome of gluttony chocolate cake option? I love tableside guacamole and made to order cacio e pepe and right out of the oven chocolate souffles. Take out does not offer the same experience, and I’ve always been an all of nothing kind of gal. But we are in unprecedented times. With the desire to support our local chefs and restaurant staff, I have come to accept that take out is the closest I will get to restaurant dining anytime soon. So, last month I jumped in head-first into the world of take out and as it turns out there are heaps of delicious options out there where quality and flavor are preserved until the food gets to your kitchen table. Read on for my (veggie) recommendations!
Albi: Albi is currently offering a three course dinner menu every evening, with choices for each course. The offerings for the first course are all equally as tempting so good luck choosing: Beirut style hummus with pea tahini, which is silky and smooth and comes garnished with whole peas, a super smoky burnt eggplant baba ghanoush, and a little gem and feta salad. Each of them comes with hunks of warm, doughy pita bread for dipping. The vegetarian entrée features meaty grilled oyster mushrooms served over tabbouleh. I highly recommend ordering some of their side condiments; the garlic toum, turmeric labne and spicy harissa are all divine.
Q by Peter Chang: I have always loved Peter Chang’s food, and Chinese food is especially amenable to delivery or take out. From his hot and numbing tofu skin salad to his scallion pancakes to his garlic eggplant to his wuhan noodles, its all warm, comforting and delicious.
Cielo Rojo: This Takoma Park neighborhood joint will satisfy any and all cravings for Mexican food. I love their gorditas, two fat potato pancakes smothered in salsa, guacamole and cashew crema, and the red hominy soup is a local favorite. I always get an order of their vegan flan; it’s sweet and creamy and has just the right amount of caramel sauce.
Seven Reasons: Having recently introduced a new vegan menu, I jumped at the chance to order from this South American restaurant. The vegan items include a rich, creamy coconut corn chowder, a super hearty bomba rice with grilled mushrooms, and chili made with black beans and impossible meat, served with spicy tortilla chips. The vegan chili was the standout winner; get two orders so you can have it for lunch the next day.
Bun DC: This tiny Vietnamese shop offers really affordable take out options. I am a huge fan of their bún bò huế xả chay, a lemongrass infused soup with vermicelli noodles and fried tofu. Their spring rolls are fresh and crispy, the tofu bahn mi is sizeable enough for two meals, and their noodle bowls, complete with rice noodles, bean sprouts, cucumber, basil, pickled carrots, and crushed peanut are reminiscent of the ones I had in Hanoi.
Centrolina/Piccolina: Amy Brandwein’s pasta dishes are my ultimate weakness. Her to-go menu at Centrolina changes regularly; the items I was lucky enough to sample were a gorgeous artichoke salad, melt-in-your-mouth gnudi, and a beautiful strawberry rhubarb crostada. From Piccolina, the spinach lasagna is a must-try. It will give you all the comfort you need to survive the madness.
Mandalay: Located in Silver Spring, this is one of the D.C. area’s few Burmese restaurants. Their food is earthy and flavorful. Hunks of tofu come swimming in a pickled mango curry that is sweet and savory and spicy all at once. Mini samosas, stuffed with potatoes and peas, serve as the perfect snack. Chewy rice noodles come dotted with yellow beans and a fragrant peanut sauce. The papaya salad is fresh and crunchy and spicy. In other words, no matter what you order, you can’t go wrong!