Here’s the thing about restaurant delivery services, those third-party gig operations that allow you to order from various restaurants and have the food brought to your doorstep. They add convenience in the best of times and a valuable service in the worst of times, i.e. now. And that goes both ways: there are benefits to the customers, to be sure, but restaurants also gain by expanding their offerings beyond the dining room.
But it comes at a cost, especially to the restaurants. Many of the delivery services have waived the delivery fee they charge to the customers. The money is made by taking a rather hefty portion of the cost of the order, usually 30 percent. And with most of the restaurants that are still open and offering takeout and delivery, that 30 percent eats into an already meager, nearly nonexistent profit.
So I found it a positive development when the Florida Insurance Commissioner encouraged auto insurance providers to allow restaurants to use their staff members to deliver food and be covered on their regular policies.
One of the restaurants that got approval for its staffers is Soco of Thornton Park, so I was anxious to see how the process worked (and to order some of my favorites from the menu).
Soco is offering a limited takeout menu but it has most of the things I would have if I were to stop in and have a meal at the bar (my preferred seating arrangement there). I phoned in and placed my order with the woman who answered the phone. The process was seamless and effortless. I had the gratuity added to the charge and asked if the delivery person could leave the order at the door for contactless ordering. The woman on the phone said, “Sure, I’ll call you when I get there and then I’ll just leave it out front.” (So order taker and delivery person in one.)
And just a little over 30 minutes – the time that was promised – the food was in my kitchen.
The food was packed in cardboard containers, which I transferred to the recycle bin after I replated the food.
I got two of my perennially favorite appetizers, the Soco version of Chicken and Dumplings and the Slow Roasted BBQ Glazed Pork Belly Biscuits.
The first features large ravioli-like dumplings filled with lobster, topped with slices of chicken breast meat, mushrooms and crunchy edamame. At the restaurant, it would be served in a rich soy butter. The butter was delivered on the side for me to pour over the dumplings as I wished. I used every drop of it and it was delicious.
So were the Pork Belly Biscuits, bite-sized delicacies topped with jalapeño jelly and a green tomato chow chow.
For a main course I got the Burger, which was cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare, topped with white cheddar cheese and served on a fresh bun smeared with a marmalade fashioned out of bacon and onion. It also had house-made pickles, a thick slice of tomato and crispy lettuce. It was accompanied by big onion rings, which traveled remarkably well in their own container and were still crispy. Both burger and rings were enhanced by the house-made ketchup served on the side.
And by the way, I appreciated that both the ketchup and the soy butter were served in a separate box instead of them being placed on top of the food.
I saved the best for last. I also ordered a cocktail, the wonderful Manhattan-ish that I’ve enjoyed so many times at the bar. It was served in a plastic tumbler with a lid. I poured it into my favorite rocks glass on top of a large ice ball. (I always keep large format ice on hand.) It could be served straight up, of course, but I appreciated the extra bit of cool, and I loved sipping it through my dinner. Almost as good as being there.
I’m glad that Soco is still open and serving the Thornton Park and downtown neighborhoods, and I’m delighted the staff is able to facilitate delivery. Yes, the people driving for the third-party delivery services want to continue earning money, too. But they’ll be able to keep delivering food for restaurants that can’t get the approval from their insurance providers.
And when I can, I’d prefer to support the restaurant staff members who have always served me so reliably.
Soco is offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery daily, including brunch on weekends. Delivery is free within a five-mile radius and requires a $50 minimum order. The address for pickup is 629 E. Central Blvd., Orlando. The phone number is 407-849-1800.
Click here to see Soco’s Easter menu.