Cool Takeout Ideas from Restaurants Around the Country

These restaurants are delivering clever hospitality with their food.

May 15, 2020

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The hospitality community, including chefs, restaurateurs and bartenders, specializes in making food and drink experiences special, and even in this takeout- and delivery-dominated world, many places are finding inventive, fun ways to add a bit of charm and flair to far-flung dining. Whether it be a creative throwback, a themed meal or fun surprises included in your package, here are some of the special ways restaurants are connecting with customers.

Throwback Dinners

Dear John’s in Los Angeles is special for plenty of reasons — set blocks from the Sony movie lot in Culver City, the original 60s-era restaurant was a favorite of Frank Sinatra. Reopened by Hans and Patti Rockenwagner with Josiah Citrin last year, the space once again offers martini-swilling mid-century steakhouse vibes. Faced with the challenge of pivoting steakhouse fare to takeout, the team decided to have a little fun and create TV dinners in perfectly kitsch foil trays that conjure old-school microwave meals. Three nights a week, they prepare Steak au Poivre, Salmon, Chicken Parm and Salisbury Steak, all served with sides, a Caesar and cheesecake. Steak au Poivre, for example, comes with a three-peppercorn brandy sauce, whipped potatoes and a pea-carrot medley cooked in a pea jus to give each little vegetable extra flavor. Fans love it so much, they use dining room photos for Zoom backgrounds and have virtual Dear John’s dinner parties, pretending they’re back in the clubby, warm dining room listening to live jazz.

Dinner Date

In Austin, Texas, Nova Hospitality (Devil May Care and Ten Ten) is offering Date Night boxes filled with everything you need for a virtual date (they even partnered with dating app Bumble) or a night at home with your significant other. Choose your meal or snack (options include mezze and sushi platters) and your drink of choice, then they’ll throw in incense, dessert, activity cards and a link to a killer playlist to set the mood. 100% of the proceeds support their workers, too.

Chicago’s The Darling has the complete package for pickup. Along with a meal, they deliver stemmed roses, champagne glasses and LED candles. They also give a QR code to scan that brings up a cabaret performance to view while you dine. After dessert there is another code with a live DJ set to dance the night away… in your living room.

Murder Mystery Dinner at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas is turning dinner into a virtual murder mystery. The aptly named “Death by Chocolate” (with a chocolate lava cake for dessert) is a three-course meal with live virtual interactive entertainment by A Touch of Mystery and More.

DIY

Many restaurants are doing meal kits, but some are going beyond the ordinary.

Sushi Roku in Los Angeles, Pasadena and Santa Monica and Katana in West Hollywood is supplying you with everything you need to create your own hand rolls. They’ll supply you with fresh fish, veggies, sushi rice, soy paper, nori, ginger and wasabi, and instructions of course. Get ready to roll.

Chef James Rigato of Mabel Gray in Hazel Park, Michigan, is offering small cooking classes complete with meal kits to pick up at the restaurant. These aren’t your average classes but adventurous opportunities like butchering a whole duck and cooking and making everything from duck leg ragout to crispy skinned duck breasts. There are even optional wine pairings.

Themed Dinners

You and Yours in San Diego, California, is offering movie-themed dinner packages complete with movie recommendations. One theme is baseball, which comes complete with a family meal of Sonoran hot dogs, potato wedges, sunflower seeds and housemade caramel corn, diners' choice of cocktails to-go and a handful of great baseball movie recommendations (Field of Dreams, anyone?).

Fine Dining at Home

Chicago’s Alinea wasn’t going to pass up on a chance to celebrate their monumental 15-year anniversary, so Grant Achatz and team figured out how to create a six-course menu representative of the restaurant for those at home, complete with their famous chocolate on your table dessert. On their Instagram you can also attempt to solve puzzles and win anniversary swag like a signed chef’s coat from Grant Achatz or the grand prize, a dinner for two at Alinea when it’s back up and running.

Across the country, Santa Monica hotspot Pasjoli has offered limited numbers of its coveted duck press dinner, with an instructional Instagram video by Beran, an alum of Achatz's Next in Chicago, with the many steps to creating the exquisite presentation.

Little Extras

Many restaurants are throwing in little extras just because. At Notch Modern Kitchen and Bar in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, dinner comes with a coveted hand sanitizer pen, so their customers can have sanitizer on them at all times.

Clutch Coffee Bar in Mooresville, North Carlina, has drive-thru coffee and a new menu addition of reusable masks. Order your latte and a mask, and avoid waiting weeks for one in the mail. The masks are being sold without the upcharge – the shop just wants to make things safe and convenient for their customers.

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