Mama said there’d be days like this, but I don’t remember anything about “weeks and weeks like this.” Normally, I’d try to save a report on food-delivery services for the rains of winter, but in this case, I heard about them right on time to celebrate Labor Day weekend with some heavy labor. (In October, the Reader’s “food issue” is coming up, which means — aagh! — three extra writing assignments on a very short deadline.)
Just as I was despairing over how to go out to eat and still find time to work, I got an email from the publicist of Eat24Hours. The next day, I saw a Flash ad on the Reader website for San Diego Food Connection. My delivery was at hand!
I was a little (a lot) skeptical. The last fledgling delivery service to lobby me offered dire choices from mediocre national-chain restaurants. (Keep yer bloody bloomin’ onions to yerself, mate.) But I dutifully checked out both newly discovered websites to see what they might have for delivery to my neighborhood, underserved Golden Hill, and — wow! Eat24Hours had 38 restaurants I could order from. San Diego Food Connection had 17. Most of the restaurants at both (there’s plenty of overlap) are neighborhood places, just not in my neighborhood. SDFC, with the smaller list, was stronger on somewhat “better” restaurants, such as Red Pearl and Savory Deli. On the other hand, Eat24 includes my favorite local Indian restaurant, Gourmet India. (The crystal ball shows another delicious sev poori and peshawari naan in my near future — with a delivery charge of only $2, too.)
Both services are easy to use. You enter your zip code to learn which restaurants deliver to your area, shown as a list of names and restaurant icons. To look at the menu, click on a restaurant that interests you. If you decide to order, you register (name, address, etc.). I found Eat24 a little easier to order from: pull up a menu, lick your lips, and click on the dishes you want. They also offer the chance to search by cuisine. But on SDFC, it’s a snap to order several hours in advance and specify your delivery time. They proved pretty accurate at this, showing up only ten minutes late. Neither is any great shakes at ordering a full day ahead — I tried both and somehow got snarled up — as soon as I entered tomorrow’s date for delivery, the order process just stopped. (There’s probably a way, I just didn’t find it and became too frustrated to keep trying.)
SDFC delivers from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Eat24 follows each restaurant’s normal hours and includes several restaurants that are open quite late (midnight or so), but forget the “24 hours” claim. That applies to other cities where the company has branches. I doubt there’s anything for a 3:00 a.m. post-bar snacker on the list here, although I didn’t pursue this issue intently — later for that.
Eat24 promises an email to confirm your order, but they didn’t send one either time I ordered. (You can go back to the website to the online order log to make sure your order “took.” It also keeps a record of your past orders, which I suppose could be useful in some way.) On SDFC, you can opt for email confirmation, and if you do, it’s just the opposite: “Your order has been received!” “Your order is being prepared!” “Your order is on its way!” “Your order is about to arrive!” “You ate your order, do you have fridge space for all the leftovers?”
Yeah, if you’re single, over-ordering is a temptation, because most delivery restaurants have minimum orders of about $23. So, say you order $19 worth, now you need some more, and you look over the menu and consider the delivery charges and — whoops, you just decided to stock up for tomorrow’s dinner, too. (Since I ordered from three restaurants, my fridge is now bulging like Shakespeare’s, with dinners for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…)
Both websites allow you to pay with cash or a credit card. Delivery charges vary per restaurant. A couple charge only a dollar or two, a few as much as $7.95, but $6.95 is the norm. SDFC tacks on a small-change fuel surtax. Both websites add a 15 percent tip for the driver, which seems a bit high. After all, he hasn’t been offering you service, menu advice, and flirtation for two hours. I mind the tip less for faraway restaurants, more for those two miles and ten minutes from my doorstep. On the other hand, the automatic tip does save you from that awkward doorway moment when you discover you’ve got nothing smaller than a $20.
SDFC promises delivery within an hour. Eat24’s delivery times, they claim, range from 45 to 90 minutes. I experienced both ends of the spectrum; it was more like 100 minutes on the second order. So don’t wait until you’re already ravenous, order at the first hunger-pang.
The Scouted Restaurants (in order of appearance):
Given that delivered food is not the same as fresh-made and fresh-served, I wouldn’t consider assigning star ratings to these restaurants. This was merely an opportunity to try a few restaurants I wouldn’t normally hit in the everlasting search for the new, trendy, and reviewable.
I decided that cold sushi and reheatable ramen soup might travel better than hot dishes that might overcook in their containers. This tactic gave me a chance to try a couple of unheralded sushi bars in Point Loma. I also revisited a Gaslamp Asian-fusion restaurant after several years and changes of chefs.
Ikiru means “to live” and may be named for a great film by Akira Kurosawa with a moving performance by Takashi Shimura (who played the leader of The Seven Samurai) that I’d really rather talk about than this restaurant. The menu lists all the types of sushi carried by genre (“fresh sushi,” “cut sushi,” “nigiri,” “baked sushi,” etc.). This caused me to over-order scandalously, to try to taste everything in one meal.