Road Trip: Takeout Favorites Coast to Coast

Published in Gourmet Live 06.20.12
In our monthly collaboration with BlogHer, we’ve got the inside word on where to stop for the fastest and freshest pizza, dumplings, tacos, and more in a dozen cities and towns
Takeout Favorites Coast to Coast

Boston: The Paramount

Boston’s Charles Street may be better known for its antiques shops than its takeout joints, but look no further than the Paramount for the best hand–cut sweet potato fries in the city. Once inside, follow the regulars to the back of the line, where a cook is ready to take your order well before you’ve had time to decide between the house-made salmon burger or the fantastic grilled apple and blue cheese salad. On sunny days, the best place to enjoy your takeout is the leafy landmark Public Garden, right at the end of the block, where a park bench and a little tranquility await you in the middle of the bustling city.

Brooklyn, New York: The Meatball Shop

When in the mood for something quick and tasty, I always turn to the Meatball Shop, which has two locations in Manhattan (Lower East Side and the West Village) and one in Brooklyn. Since the Brooklyn outlet is steps away from the Bedford Avenue subway station in Williamsburg, I can hop off the train, call in my order, swing by, and walk away with a hot and hearty meal. I love the chicken meatballs on a salad with homemade pesto, and you can thank the trusted cooks for always piling on loads of farm–fresh veggies like fennel, beets, broccoli, and arugula. My belly is full and my wallet is happy at the under–$10 price tag—unless you want to throw a fried egg on top for an extra $1, which I highly recommend.

Houston: Kam’s

My favorite Chinese takeout in Houston is Kam’s, locally famous for its steamed dumplings served with tiny bottles of rice vinegar, chile oil, and soy sauce, plus a side of minced red and green chiles. Mixing your own sauce is part of the fun, whether you’re eating in or getting dumplings to go. Takeout containers feature five or six steamed dumplings of your choice (pork, vegetable, chicken, or seafood), plus abundant sauce–making ingredients for customizing your perfect blend of salty and spicy flavors.

Las Vegas: Due Forni

Carlos Buscaglia’s popular pizzeria and wine bar was President Obama’s pick for pizza during a recent visit, and it's my number one choice as well. The name means "two ovens," one each for two different styles of crusts: chewy, yeasty Neapolitan and crispy, thin Roman style. Due Fornis pies are perfectly cooked for 90 seconds at an astounding 900°F. My favorite is the Prosciutto e Rucola (prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and peppery arugula), while my husband prefers the signature pie topped with Nueskes bacon, house-made sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and piquillo peppers.

Los Angeles: Attari Sandwich Shop

Attari’s Persian–style sandwiches take me right back to my childhood days in Iran. While I have enjoyed every item on the menu, my favorite remains the beef tongue sandwich starring tender pieces of cooked tongue inside a crunchy French baguette with juicy slices of tomato, Persian pickles, crispy onions, and fresh parsley. You can eat at tables surrounding the fountain in the courtyard or get your sandwiches to go.

Newtown, Connecticut: Carminuccio’s Pizza

Gourmet magazine actually introduced me to Carminuccio’s in a June 2006 article about great pizzas in Connecticut. I was shocked to find this hole–in–the–wall I’d always overlooked on the list, and I knew I had to give it a shot. Long story short: It lived up to the hype. Carminuccio’s serves an ultra–thin–crust pizza topped with a slightly sweet tomato sauce that’s totally drool–worthy. My favorite pie is the Clams Casino pizza, which is topped with baby clams, sweet roasted red peppers, onions, bacon, and garlic. The breezy, shaded outdoor patio is a nice spot to eat if you’re not getting yours to go.

New York: Momofuku Noodle Bar

What many don’t know about this immensely popular destination—the standard bearer of the steamed pork bun—is that you can skip the wait for a seat entirely by getting your food to go. Pick up a soupy bowl of Momofuku ramen (filled with floating slabs of pork belly and a silky poached egg), or opt for the unsung hero of the menu, roasted rice cakes, which are at once crispy and chewy, and doused with chili sauce. You can even cheat and get some crack snacks while you’re at it, because Momofuku Milk Bar (home of the legendary Crack Pie and other addictive treats) is around the corner.

Peoria, Illinois: The Burger Barge

The Burger Barge is a total dive with ridiculous decor, but its burgers are the best I’ve ever had, and the chipotle–mayo Dock Sauce is out of this world. Scan the menu for a huge selection of classic and creative burgers, from the Original B.B. Burger (stacked high with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and Dock Sauce) to the Tavern Burger (bacon, ham, grilled onions, cheese, and a fried egg). My meat-loving husband is especially fond of the Buy the Farm burger, which comes topped with a butterflied pork chop and a chicken breast, all on one bun. Don’t forget a side of "frips" (a mix of homemade potato chips and French fries).

Philadelphia: Garces Trading Company

Garces Trading Company, an all-in-one culinary destination combining a specialty food market, wine shop, bakery, and café, is a local favorite for excellent cheeses and charcuterie. Less well known are the takeout plats du jour, a rotating section of smartly updated classics such as coq au vin or short rib and oxtail lasagna, along with the city’s best paella. The meals are elegantly wrapped, generously proportioned to feed two or more, and won’t set you back much more than a couple of takeout containers of Szechuan chicken. Here’s hoping they bring back last summer’s grilling kits, complete with mortadella hot dogs, pain au lait hot dog buns, hand-cut potato chips, and a jar of spiced mustard—all made in-house.

Provo, Utah: Mountain West Burrito

Don’t let this little Mexican spot located inside a gas station fool you: Mountain West Burrito is serious about the food it produces while also supporting the growing local and organic food movement in Utah. When "We don’t own a can opener" is the first thing you read on their menu, you know you’ve landed the perfect takeout spot. Every dish on the menu is light, fresh, and crafted to perfection. The namesake burritos are true to San Francisco’s “Mission style” and are a must-try on your first visit. Opt for the Half-and-Half Burrito (your choice of two fillings—I recommend roasted vegetables and chicken) and don’t leave without a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and a Mexican Coke (sweetened with real sugar).

San Diego: Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack chef/owner Hanis Cavin and co-owner Sara Stroud love pork so much, they even have a pet pig (named Carnitas, of course). Although the Shack has been open only six months, it’s been an instant hit not only with San Diego’s rabid foodies but also with the city’s chefs and cooks. It’s a small menu—about 10 dishes, all made with local organic produce. Don’t miss the classic carnitas taco, the pork sandwich (filled with pork Schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, pickled pepperoncini relish, and house aioli), or the braised Duroc pork belly smothered in a spicy-sweet glaze. A carefully edited selection of locally sourced craft beers makes up the drink menu. Call in your order in advance for takeout, or grab one of 30 seats outside in the back.

San Francisco: Patxi’s Pizza

Let’s face it—San Francisco may be a food lover’s dream, but good pizza, and especially good deep-dish pizza, is hard to find here. Patxi’s, with seven locations in the Bay Area (including Noe Valley and Palo Alto), fills the void by serving up Chicago-style pies at their finest. The dough is made in-house daily, and there are myriad fresh toppings, including options for vegans and others with restricted diets. Seasonal salads, bruschettas, and antipasto plates round out the menu.

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