Takeout Review: Tamale Co.

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tamale takeout truck

Some of the more enterprising restaurants aren’t just sitting by the phone waiting for takeout orders to come in. Instead, facing the prospect of going out of business, they are going out for business, targeting neighborhoods and turning takeout to bring-in cuisine.

4 Rivers Smokehouse is doing that. On the Saturday before Easter, the popular barbecuerie set up a van and tent in downtown Orlando’s Bel Air neighborhood where residents could pick up preordered dinner packages. It turned out to be a big hit with the neighbors.

And because the people who organized the pickup with 4 Rivers also invited the next-door neighborhood of Lancaster Park to participate, Lancaster Park returned the favor the following week when it arranged preordered pickups with the Tamale Co. Never mind that the rendezvous site in Lancaster was almost as close as Tamale Co.’s restaurant in the Hourglass District; it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

And I was happy to participate.

Takeout Review: Zaza New Cuban Diner

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Zaza togo replate

Zaza New Cuban Diner has set up a nifty online ordering system for effortless and contactless takeout, at least to a point, but we’ll come back to that.

Zaza has four locations – Curry Ford Road, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs and Lake Mary – so it’s a good choice for a large audience. And if you’ve tried Zaza before, you know that the food is good.

Takeout Review: Tornatore's Pizzeria

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Tornatore togo tent

Tornatore’s, the College Park pizzeria and Italian cafe, was one of the first restaurants to use staff members to deliver food when restaurants were ordered to shut down dine-in operations. I appreciated that they seemingly adapted effortlessly.

I wanted to order takeout – I hadn’t had a chance to visit the restaurant before the lockdown to try newly hired chef Jason Wolfe’s food – but unfortunately my house falls a couple of miles outside the six-mile delivery radius.

So instead I phoned in my order for curbside pickup. I wish I had looked a little closer at the restaurant’s website because it has a nifty online ordering interface that would have made the process a lot smoother, even when it comes to the tip, which can be added at checkout.

Takeout Review: Soco

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Socoto sack

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).

Takeout Review: Saffron Indian Cuisine

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How about Indian food today?

Sorry, we won’t be able to visit a local Indian restaurant for one of the requisite all-you-can-eat buffets. To be realistic, I’m not sure we’ll see self-serve buffets like we used to have B.C. (before covid-19).

But let’s be honest, to really experience what an Indian restaurant can do, it’s better to order from the menu. So that’s what we’ll do at Saffron, the Indian restaurant on Sand Lake Road.

I phoned in my order and negotiated the total, including the gratuity, while still on the phone. When I arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes later, I had only a short wait before someone called to say the order was ready. A man approached the car and place it in the trunk.

Takeout Review: First Watch

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Here’s a good takeout option for you weekend brunchers, although it doesn’t have to be confined to Saturday or Sunday because for a lot of us right now everyday is like a weekend.

First Watch has always been a popular choice for morning and midday meals, and now you can make all your selections using its new online ordering system, one of the user-friendliest I’ve ever seen.

Takeout Review: Stefano's Trattoria

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“This is the very definition of comfort food.”

That was what my isolation companion said as we tucked into our takeout from Stefano’s Trattoria, the popular Winter Springs Italian restaurant. And it was true. Pasta, sauce, cheese – all a warm culinary hug.

The team at Stefano’s jumped right into offering takeout when restaurants were ordered closed, and they’re doing a very good job.

Stefano’s Trattoria’s entire menu is available for takeout, which is a lot. Takeout is available via phone or through online ordering on the restaurant’s website. Delivery is available: Before 4 p.m. food is delivered by staff members; after 4, Doordash and Postmates pick up the food and bring it to you.

I called in my order and drove to Winter Springs to pick it up.

Takeout Review: Delaney's Tavern

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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It would be quite a normal thing for a Friday evening to stop by Delaney’s Tavern, the new Cheers-like hotspot restaurant in Orlando’s SoDo district, and have a bite to eat. So in an attempt to maintain some normalcy in these abnormal times, I ordered takeout for curbside pickup and took it home, where everybody knows my name and doesn’t give a hoot.

DT has put together a special takeout menu, though I’m told that most of the regular menu is available, too. But there were plenty of delicious options on the special menu, so I stuck to that.

I phoned in my order, gave the credit card information, including authorizing the addition of a gratuity, and was sitting at the curb outside the restaurant on Orange Avenue in no time. After a quick call to the restaurant to let them know I was there, a staff member came out and placed the order in my trunk.

Takeout Review: Tasting Room and Chef's Table at the Edgewater

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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If you want to see how takeout should be done during a pandemic – or at any other time, for that matter – look to the folks at Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, Tasting Room and The Attic in Winter Garden.

Since I live in downtown Orlando, I phoned my order in while driving along State Road 408 (on speakerphone, of course), after memorizing what I wanted from the takeout menu posted online. But a couple of my choices weren’t available.

Takeout Review: Tap Room at Dubsdread

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Taptogo bag

In recognition of current social distancing and voluntary isolation, Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide will be focusing on restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup. Check here for a continuously updated list of restaurants offering to-go options.

It’s a truism that the enjoyment of food often has to do with the atmosphere in which it is consumed. Food that might be considered just so-so often becomes a sumptuous feast because of the place it’s consumed in and the people with whom it is shared.

So the real test of the quality of a restaurant’s food is how it tastes off premises instead of enjoyed in situ. (Out situ?)

I can attest that the food from Tap Room at Dubsdread is just as good when enjoyed at home as it is in the bustling, clublike atmosphere with dozens of friends stopping by the table to say hello.