It’s been nine weeks since D.C. restaurants have been limited to offering take-out and delivery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As chefs tested the waters and adjusted to what customers were craving, a wide variety of offerings appeared. Some restaurants stuck with their standard a la carte menus, and some swapped their usual fare for more casual cuisines. Other restaurants assembled meal kits for Washingtonians who wanted a little kitchen homework.
But one of the most fun approaches to to-go food comes from restaurants that draw up a small weekly or daily set menu and price it per person or per pair. Take Queen’s English, for example. The Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Columbia Heights is serving a seafood feast this week consisting of shrimp pin noodles, mapo octopus, cauliflower and anchovy, cured hamachi, and jasmine rice. For $58 per person, you get portions of each dish.
Once you unpack the family-style order and add a little imagination, it feels like Chef Henji Cheung invited you over for a dinner party. You can even select the “Be Our Guest At Home” package that comes with dinner, a bottle of wine, a candle, the restaurant’s Spotify playlist, and house-made ginjha (a liqueur). It costs $185 and serves two diners.
Tail Up Goatin Adams Morgan launched a similar style of take-out last week when they reopened for the first time since Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented the stay-at-home order. Dinner Friday night included smoked brisket in a red wine and black garlic gravy, Texas toast, grilled and pickled asparagus with a spring garlic vinaigrette, cucumber salad, dessert, and a “midnight snack” shortbread cookie, as well as instructions for reheating everything at home. It goes for $40 per person.
“The main reason we are going with this dinner-party approach is we’re committed to keeping our staff and guests safe,” says Tail Up Goat chef and partner Jon Sybert. Because the restaurant’s kitchen is “super tiny” he couldn’t fathom carrying out a “full-on service” while maintaining a safe distance from all of his employees. “It was never going to be an option to come back to exactly what we were.” Many Tail Up Goat dishes weren’t built to travel, he says. The pasta-heavy restaurant didn’t offer carry-out before the pandemic.
“As we were debating how we were going to come back and in what form, we realized what people want right now is food that will make them feel really good,” Sybert says. One of his business partners, Jill Tyler, points out that the weekly menu changes based “on what’s coming out of the ground.” The restaurant continues to support local farms like Autumn Olive and Earth N Eats.
On Barracks Row, chef and restaurateur Aaron Silverman has a number of set meal options to choose from, starting with Rose’s Luxury’s “Treat Yo’ Self!” four-course menu. This week features the restaurant’s famous pork lychee salad followed by Mexican corn salad, a choice between grilled pork ribs or cauliflower cashew korma, and a key lime tart for $45 per person. You can add fried chicken for $12.
Silverman says he went with a small, set menu to ensure consistency and quality during a time when it’s hard to estimate how many orders will come in every night. “Our food tastes better when we can pay more attention to it,” he says, noting he’s working with a smaller than normal team. “We’re changing it every two weeks so we can keep it super fresh.”
This style allows Rose’s Luxury to be more efficient. “We need to serve as many customers as we can right now,” Silverman says. He’s trying to stick to his restaurant group’s style of cuisine—somewhat familiar foods with a twist. “We’re not trying to be too chefy, but we’re also not doing cheesecake and lasagna. There’s something interesting about each dish.”
Silverman also has an option available for customers who want to feel like they’re having a dinner party at his house for three nights in a row instead of just one. Through his restaurant’s group new “Rose’s At Home” catering outfit, customers can order three nights of multi-course meals for $40 per person per night using Tock. Each night has a different theme. For Rose’s at Home, the restaurant group offers delivery within 20 miles of Capitol Hill.
With all of these dinners, if you don’t like what’s on offer, or it doesn’t meet your dietary restrictions, you can check back to see if future menus are more suitable. Some chefs can make accommodations if diners call them before ordering. Most restaurants are also selling beverages to-go such as wine, cocktails, beer, sake, and non-alcoholic drinks.
Here’s what you need to know to order from Queen’s English, Tail Up Goat, Rose’s Luxury, and seven other D.C. restaurants that are doing this style of take-out particularly well.
ABC Pony in Navy Yard serves dinner for two for $50, including drinks. Each night of the week at Chef Erik Bruner-Yang‘s latest restaurant has a different theme. Tuesday is burger night, featuring a cheeseburger with bacon jam, chicken nuggets with a dipping sauce, fries, Cobb salad, and sparkling wine. Other nights this week include vegetarian Indian night, Korean carryout night, and chicken and shrimp gumbo night. Pre-orders can be made by calling (202) 913-8155. Pick-up is available starting at 5 p.m.
Albi in Navy Yard gives customers a couple of choices for each of three courses, priced at $40 per person. Highlights from Chef Michael Rafidi’s Levantine menu this week include Beiruti-style hummus, barbecued lamb, and almond basbousa with strawberries. Dinner comes with a biscuit and the option to add half a rack of smoked pork ribs for $22. Dinner is offered for pick-up Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Convivial in Shaw offers three-course dinners from Chef Cedric Maupillier Wednesdays through Sunday nights. They serve two people for $55. This Wednesday’s includes an endive salad, a baguette, a choice of entree (coq au vin, salmon, or quinoa and spring pea porridge), and two desserts. Customers can order online through Tock for pick-up or through Skip The Line for delivery.
Izakaya Seki on V Street NW has been serving bento boxes for pick-up and delivery. Vegetarian or meat bento boxes are available Tuesdays through Saturdays for $15 each. Place orders using Giftrocker before 3 p.m. for same-day pick-up from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can also get bento boxes delivered if you order wine through Domestique. The wine shop will deliver your bento with your food as long as you place both orders by 2 p.m. and include a note.
Little Pearl off Barracks Row, also from Silverman, is serving a backyard barbecue menu this week featuring biscuits with pimento cheese, a baby gem wedge salad, blackened salmon with asparagus, smoked baked beans, cornbread, and chess pie with strawberries and creme fraiche for $45 per person. You can add a burger for $16. Place orders using Tock. Pick-up is available Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. or use Skip The Line for delivery.
Queen’s English in Columbia Heights serves dinner Thursdays through Sundays. Place orders between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and choose a pick-up window between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. Delivery is an option for nearby zip codes. The seafood menu costs $58 per person.
Reverie Chef Johnny Spero launched “Reverie at Home for 2” dinners this week. The fine dining feast includes spring salad, a cured hamachi Carolina gold rice bowl, focaccia with seaweed butter, a duck confit katsu sando with burnt miso mustard, one half of the restaurant’s signature roasted duck, confit garlic potato puree, and white chocolate custard with miso caramel. It costs $130 for two and is available Tuesdays through Saturdays. Same-day orders must be placed before 6 p.m. Use Tock for pick-up in Georgetown and Skip The Line for delivery.
Rose’s Luxury serves dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Orders must be placed before 2 p.m. for same-day pick-up. Pick-up is available from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Menus become available Mondays at 11 a.m. for the entire week. Place orders using Tock and use Skip The Line for delivery.
Tail Up Goat serves dinner Wednesdays through Mondays. Each week’s menu is posted on Tuesday mornings. Pick-up is available from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., while deliveries go out from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. All orders must be placed in advance online. There is a 2 p.m. cut-off for same-day orders. The restaurant is handling its own delivery and will bring meals anywhere within the District for a $10 fee. Dinner costs $40 per person. Place orders using Shopify.
Unconventional Diner introduced a “Stay at Home Supper Club.” Customers can place a order for a “comfort meal for two” daily and pick it up at the Shaw restaurant from 2 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Select a pick-up time when you place orders on Tock. Delivery is available through Caviar. The meal costs $40 total, plus a $3 service fee. There are a variety of themes to choose from, including a fried chicken feast, seafood bonanza, and not your mama’s meatloaf. The latter comes with a pound of meatloaf with Sriracha glaze, red skin mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, morel gravy, and garden salad. A handful of add-ons and desserts are available for an extra fee.