As COVID-19 cases spike and the virus is at an all-time peak in this country and others, some of us are wary of dining in restaurants. Thankfully, most restaurants have rolled with the punches and even many fine dining establishments now offer takeout meals and curbside pickup and/or delivery. My wife and I have been indulging in a lot of takeout cuisine during the past nine months; here are some of the highlights: excellent restaurant food that travels well to enjoy at home.
Since opening around the beginning of 2016, SOMI Vietnamese Bistro has been one of my go-to Asian restaurants in Salt Lake City. It is independently owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Sophia and Michael Eng – hence the moniker SOMI (Sophia + Michael). Some of my favorite SOMI takeout items are the generously portioned Vermicelli plates with a choice of grilled pork, chicken breast, prawn, boneless short rib or the SOMI Special: it includes the USDA choice short rib plus chicken breast and pork chop. I ordered the grilled boneless pork chop which is lemongrass-marinated and served on a bed of vermicelli noodles with house-made pickled daikon and carrot. Also included in the dish is a delicious crispy fried spring roll with chili-lime vinaigrette. Atop the tender pork slices was a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and scallions.
WB’s Eatery is the creation of Amy Wanderley-Britt (hence, WB, which also stands for “wine & bites”), who also owns the Pig & a Jelly Jar restaurants in SLC, Holladay and Ogden. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and customers can order everything from full meals to trail mix, energy bars, coffee mugs, T-shirts and CBD products from the bodega/cafe. A coffee house by day, WB’s morphs into a wine bar at night. It’s a well-lit space that’s very pleasing to the eye, filled with contemporary art by local artists. The Chimichurri Steak Bocadillo at WB’s is one of the best steak sandwiches I’ve ever gotten my lips around. When ordering, there’s an option to order your steak cooked anywhere from rare to well done. I chose medium rare and was pleased to find that my steak was cooked exactly as requested. It was a generous portion of oh-so tender grilled flank steak with chimichurri (a dry “sauce” made with parsley, garlic, oregano and olive oil), and fresh arugula on a Spanish-style bocadillo bun. Alongside was a tomato/red onion spread and delicious kettle-style potato chips.
Whether you dine in at Cucina Wine Bar or opt for food to takeout, the bold flavors that emerge from chef Joey Ferran’s kitchen are mesmerizing. There’s an abundance of creative cuisine ranging from smoked pork shank pozole rojo and roasted cornish game hen with baked rosemary risotto, to octopus tom yum soup and lobster gnocchi with wood ear mushrooms. One of our favorite Cucina dishes is Ferran’s Ahi Tuna Steak, which is gorgeous sushi-grade ahi loin, coated with sesame seeds and seared until crisp around the edges but still raw and tender inside. The terrific tuna came with a kaffir lime rice cake, hot & sour cabbage, green garlic oil and sambal-coconut cream.
Kaysville’s Nikko Sushi & Ramen is a culinary island in a desert of fast food franchises. To my surprise, virtually all of the dishes on the regular Nikko menu are available to go. And the choices range from starters and salads to bento boxes, ramen, sushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi and desserts. Even entrees such as Miso Glazed Salmon, Donburi, Katsucurry, Tonkatsu, and Teriyaki dinners can be enjoyed at home. To be honest though, I was skeptical about ordering Tonkotsu Ramen for takeout. I feared that the noodles would be a mushy mess by the time I got it home. But I was wrong. At Nikko, chef Sunny Tsogbadrakh puts the luscious pork bone ramen broth with black garlic oil in one container and the ramen fixings – noodles, fish cake, pork chashu, cooked egg, nori and scallions in a separate to go container. So at home, you just mix the perfectly pre-cooked noodles, pork, broth and other ingredients together and you have perfect ramen in the comfort of your own dwelling.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had fried chicken that I loved any more than the fried chicken that Matt Harris cooks up. He’s Chef/Partner with his wife, Maggie Alvarez, of Afterword restaurant on Main Street in Heber. Chef Harris allows his all-natural chicken to bathe in a dill pickle brine for 24 hours before frying it. The extraordinary result is chicken pieces that are tender, juicy and richly flavored inside while remaining crisp and crunchy outside. Nobody does it better. Other tasty menu options from Afterword include Smoked Idaho Trout Toast, Desert Mountain Hanger Steak, Roast Confit Duck Leg, Rocky Mountain Elk Bolognese and much more.
Along with in-house dining, Log Haven has implemented a LogDash Curbside Dining program where customers can pre-order meals for curbside pickup Wednesday through Sunday. Regular menu choices for curbside takeout include Tuna Tartare, Alpine Nachos, Sesame-Crusted Crab Cakes, Grilled Bison Teres Major Steak, Roasted Poblano Chili Risotto, Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna, Grilled Duck Breast, Sake-Marinated Market Fish, and much more. Log Haven celebrates its 25th anniversary as a restaurant this year and the 100th anniversary of the log mansion’s creation. To honor that milestone, chef Dave Jones is offering an Anniversary Dinner to-go which includes Caesar Salad, Beef Wellington, side dishes and dessert for two. The Beef Wellington itself is an entire boneless, center cut filet of beef wrapped in puff pastry which conceals a delicious layer of Madeira mushroom duxelles. On the side was a container of rich, silky Cabernet-Port demi glace. Log Haven’s Beef Wellington can easily serve 4-6 hungry people, maybe more – we had lots of leftovers. The beef, even after reheating at home, was cooked to a beautiful medium-rare and the flaky pastry crust was divine.
Feldman’s Deli is justifiably renowned for its overstuffed Jewish-style deli sandwiches. But man cannot live on sandwiches alone … even at Feldman’s. So there are other great foods available for takeout, including potato pancakes, knishes, pickled beets, salads, hummus, blintzes, and my favorite: Janet Feldman’s soul-affirming Matzo Ball Soup. It’s chicken soup made with celery, carrots and fresh dill, a big baseball sized matzo ball, and lots of love. This sensational soup is perfect for our current situation; as you may know, chicken soup is also called “Jewish penicillin.”
Stoneground Italian Kitchen cooks up some of the best pizzas in town, including their marvelous Margherita. It’s a perfect wood-oven fired crust topped simply with fresh tasting pomodoro, house-made mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and fresh basil leaves. Other current pizza offerings to take out or eat in include a Bianco pizza, Chicken Pesto, Salumi, Bologna and an interesting Ole Louis with house pork sausage, smoked chili flakes, fried sweet onions and smoked mozzarella.
I love a French dip sandwich and it had been a long time – years I think – since I’d eaten one until visiting Gourmandise for takeout food. Well, I was blown away by the Gourmandise French Dip. Tender, tasty slices of slow-roasted Italian beef were stacked with Swiss cheese and served on an incredible house-made baguette that was light and airy with a beautiful crunchy crust. Alongside came a container of rich, tasty au jus and a dill pickle wedge. Simply put, this is one of the best French Dip sandwiches in town.
For excellent Italy-inspired meals, Caffe Molise is a slam-dunk and has been for many years. Pasta dishes like Pappardelle al Sugo and entrees such as beef tenderloin Bistecca are completely killer. But my wife and I also really love the generously portioned salads at Caffe Molise. The Gamberetti salad, for example, is a large plate filled to the brim with mixed greens and seasonal fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, along with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onion, Feta cheese, and strewn with grilled Gulf shrimp. This is one very satisfying salad, indeed.
If there is an upside to the fact that Takashi is only offering curbside to-go dining at this time, it’s that curbside pickup means you don’t have to wait for an hour or more to get a table to dine in the restaurant. The curbside pickup experience is quick and easy, with designated curbside pickup parking right in front of the restaurant. There are more than 20 signature sushi rolls on the Takashi takeout menu, plus a handful of vegetarian rolls and maki sushi – quite a large selection. One of my favorite Takashi rolls is the Easy Rider. It’s a roll with rice on the outside and inside a scrumptious combination of maguro tuna, fresh mint, avocado, Thai basil and fresh wasabi, topped with roasted and crushed sesame seeds. The citrus and herbal flavors of the Thai basil and mint pair beautifully with the tuna and avocado.
With its fun and funky roadhouse vibe, great live music, and equally great food and drink, the Garage on Beck is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and a cold beverage. It’s also a terrific takeout option if you’d prefer to dine at home. There’s a lot to love at the Garage, from killer fish and chips and Mormon funeral potatoes, to rib-sticking burgers and pot pies. But of all the really great comfort food I’ve enjoyed at the Garage on Beck, I think my favorite is the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich. It’s a zippy and spicy battered and fried chicken breast served on a soft roll with house slaw and pickles – just perfect.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.” — Kevin James
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.