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Delivery only

Don't get up: new Indian concept brings dinner to you

Tandoori chicken thighs, stewed spinach saag, lamb samosa, rice, and condiments; delivered.
Tandoori chicken thighs, stewed spinach saag, lamb samosa, rice, and condiments; delivered.

It’s tough to believe, but only ten years ago, if you wanted dinner from your favorite restaurant, you had to go to said restaurant in person. Those were primitive times, when home delivery was the domain of pizza joints, and the occasional Thai or Chinese spot. Then came the delivery apps. Today, no fewer than five operate in San Diego, bringing the food of any restaurant offering to-go containers to your doorstep.

If you don't want this food delivered, visit sister restaurant Sundara in Ocean Beach.

Now, a new kind of local restaurant has emerged. It’s got a web site where you may order food, but no dining room. Dabbawala takes orders for delivery only.

Dabbawala is affiliated with a traditional eatery, the Point Loma Indian restaurant, Sundara, and its menu is nearly identical. However, Dabbawala operates out of a commercial kitchen in Balboa Park, delivering hot food to households within a few minutes’ drive.

The name Dabbawala refers to a common boxed lunch delivery practice in Mumbai. But lunch isn’t an option for this service. At the moment at least, hours run 5 to 9pm nightly. The cost of delivery strikes me as reasonable, with a $15 minimum and a fee that doesn’t go to the restaurant, or any middleman. Dabbawala specifies, “We have a 15% delivery service charge instead of tipping. This service charge goes to the delivery drivers and cooks.”

Dabbawala mentions that commercial kitchen is equipped with a clay tandoor oven, so ordering its 24-hour marinated, roasted at 700 degrees, tandoori chicken ($9.75) was my first priority. While there were a good number of vegan options that looked enticing, I supplemented with lamb samosas ($6.75) and the spinach and cheese dish, saag paneer ($11.75, including rice).

I was given an hour estimate, but the food showed up much quicker than that. It was packaged in recyclable plastic containers in a paper bag. I opted out of disposable utensils, which all home delivery orders should do, because we all have our own knives and forks.

The food was terrific, all around. The tandoori chicken had been roasted tender, with the occasional crispy edge. The spinach leaves in the saag had almost gelatinized, disintegrating with each bite, around the semi-soft texture of the paneer. The samosas could have used more lamb, but, loaded with peas and minced veggies, ate like a curried shepherd’s pie.

The meal adequately served two large appetites, and I will be ordering again, when I’m too tired to go out, and too put off by the fluctuating costs of delivery apps, which now charge between six and nine bucks per order on weekend nights, not including tip. Based on my Dabbawala experience, I would not be opposed to more delivery-only eateries.

I can’t see a restaurant having the gumption to try such a business model in the past, but at this point in San Diego history, we’ve reached a critical mass of homebodies accustomed to getting our movies, groceries, and dinner on demand. If Sundara can furnish food for customers without having the costs or headaches of table linens, silverware, dishwashing, or managing waitstaff, I can see a lot of businesses pursuing the same model.

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Tandoori chicken thighs, stewed spinach saag, lamb samosa, rice, and condiments; delivered.
Tandoori chicken thighs, stewed spinach saag, lamb samosa, rice, and condiments; delivered.

It’s tough to believe, but only ten years ago, if you wanted dinner from your favorite restaurant, you had to go to said restaurant in person. Those were primitive times, when home delivery was the domain of pizza joints, and the occasional Thai or Chinese spot. Then came the delivery apps. Today, no fewer than five operate in San Diego, bringing the food of any restaurant offering to-go containers to your doorstep.

If you don't want this food delivered, visit sister restaurant Sundara in Ocean Beach.

Now, a new kind of local restaurant has emerged. It’s got a web site where you may order food, but no dining room. Dabbawala takes orders for delivery only.

Dabbawala is affiliated with a traditional eatery, the Point Loma Indian restaurant, Sundara, and its menu is nearly identical. However, Dabbawala operates out of a commercial kitchen in Balboa Park, delivering hot food to households within a few minutes’ drive.

The name Dabbawala refers to a common boxed lunch delivery practice in Mumbai. But lunch isn’t an option for this service. At the moment at least, hours run 5 to 9pm nightly. The cost of delivery strikes me as reasonable, with a $15 minimum and a fee that doesn’t go to the restaurant, or any middleman. Dabbawala specifies, “We have a 15% delivery service charge instead of tipping. This service charge goes to the delivery drivers and cooks.”

Dabbawala mentions that commercial kitchen is equipped with a clay tandoor oven, so ordering its 24-hour marinated, roasted at 700 degrees, tandoori chicken ($9.75) was my first priority. While there were a good number of vegan options that looked enticing, I supplemented with lamb samosas ($6.75) and the spinach and cheese dish, saag paneer ($11.75, including rice).

I was given an hour estimate, but the food showed up much quicker than that. It was packaged in recyclable plastic containers in a paper bag. I opted out of disposable utensils, which all home delivery orders should do, because we all have our own knives and forks.

The food was terrific, all around. The tandoori chicken had been roasted tender, with the occasional crispy edge. The spinach leaves in the saag had almost gelatinized, disintegrating with each bite, around the semi-soft texture of the paneer. The samosas could have used more lamb, but, loaded with peas and minced veggies, ate like a curried shepherd’s pie.

The meal adequately served two large appetites, and I will be ordering again, when I’m too tired to go out, and too put off by the fluctuating costs of delivery apps, which now charge between six and nine bucks per order on weekend nights, not including tip. Based on my Dabbawala experience, I would not be opposed to more delivery-only eateries.

I can’t see a restaurant having the gumption to try such a business model in the past, but at this point in San Diego history, we’ve reached a critical mass of homebodies accustomed to getting our movies, groceries, and dinner on demand. If Sundara can furnish food for customers without having the costs or headaches of table linens, silverware, dishwashing, or managing waitstaff, I can see a lot of businesses pursuing the same model.

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I've read about these in New York and San Francisco. They call them "ghost restaurants and ghost kitchens."

April 30, 2018

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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