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The latest coronavirus restaurant trend: family meals

Ordering for four has gotten easier and more affordable for at-home diners

Two quarts of pork belly pozole rojo, plus tortillas and garnishes
Two quarts of pork belly pozole rojo, plus tortillas and garnishes

I was sitting on my couch watching TV when I had my first experience with no-contact delivery. First came the text message, letting me know my food was arriving. I watched through the peephole as the driver walked up, and placed the bags on my doorstep, without knocking. He walked a few steps away, then paused for a moment, before returning to his car. A moment later, my phone buzzed again: he’d taken and sent a photograph of the bags on my doorstep, confirming delivery of my order: two quarts of soup.

No contact, doorstep delivery, a new function of life during the Covid-19 pandemic

Given two full weeks now to adjust to San Diego’s take-out only reality, delivery services have adapted well to the pandemic. And so have restaurants. Among those still open for business, online ordering has become more prevalent, whether or not a delivery service is involved. Curbside pick ups have gotten so streamlined you may see orders placed directly in your trunk — no need even to roll down the window. But one of the more interesting trends has been the emergence of family meals.

These are meal combos that bundle entrees and sides to serve a family of four at a price more affordable than four entrees. For example, locations of Italian restaurant family Buona Forchetta offer $39 dinners that include choice of soup or salad, choice of pasta, and two pizzas. Ranch 45 in Solana Beach offers meals ranging from $25 to $75, built around turkey pot pie, lasagna, or rib roast. At its three coastal locations between La Jolla and Carlsbad, sustainable ingredients specialist Urban Plates offers fresh-baked bread and two sides to go with grilled grass-fed steak, free range chicken, or line-caught ahi tuna for family meals ranging from $39 to $45. East Village’s Social Tap offers $50 meals of BBQ chicken and tri-tip that include sides, cookies, a four-pack of canned cocktails, and a roll of toilet paper. And for every one sold, the restaurant provides a meal to a Scripps health care worker.

An Urban Plates meal, dropped into a car trunk, curbside, for no contact pick-up

While the majority of family meals cropping up assemble popular dishes and sides from restaurants’ regular menus, they occasionally inspire a restaurant special, and that’s how I’ve come to order so much soup on this Sunday afternoon. My local East Village taco shop, Lola 55, has been gradually expanding its family meal offerings. For 40 bucks, customers may choose a pound of carnitas, mesquite grilled chicken, or pasilla salt-fried chicken; served with two portions each of Lola’s creamy peruano beans and chipotle rice, avocado mousse, salsa, and a dozen warm, handmade corn tortillas.

Made-in-front-of-me tacos may be the food item I miss most while in isolation, so I’d originally planned on ordering one of these family meals and gobbling down self-assembled tacos all day. But then came the Sunday special: two quarts of red pozole with pork belly and some of those Peruvian beans. Lola’s regular menu includes a fantastic green pozole, but this one, with red chilis and hunks of succulent pork, had to be tried. It’s served with the usual pozole fixins, and then some: avocado and diced onion, cilantro, lime, Mexican oregano, and pasilla (chili pepper) salt. Oh, and a dozen fresh corn tortillas.

The aroma of warm masa nearly overwhelmed me as I unpacked my order — it’s been missed. Pozole for four might be just what the doctor ordered, if doctors weren’t currently preoccupied by the surge of Covid-19 patients expected any moment now. In that regard, it’s heartening to know that Lola 55 has delivered meals to first responders through the Office of Emergency Services.

From its self-isolating sofa perch, the best my goldbricking ass can do is support the minor heroes of the great pandemic: delivery drivers and restaurant workers, and especially those making fresh tortillas.

To find more in the growing number of family meals being served in San Diego, check out Meze Greek Fusion in Gaslamp (345 Sixth Ave.), Dan Diegos Pub in Bay Park (2415 Morena Blvd.), Iron Pig Alehouse in Pacific Beach (1520 Garnet Ave.), Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido (1999 Citracado Pkwy) and Liberty Station (2816 Historic Decatur Rd.), Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen in Oceanside (626 S Tremont St.), Cori Pastificio Trattoria in North Park (2977 Upas St.), Kaminski's BBQ & Sports Lounge in Poway (12735 Poway Rd.), and Pacifica Del Mar (1555 Camino Del Mar).

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Two quarts of pork belly pozole rojo, plus tortillas and garnishes
Two quarts of pork belly pozole rojo, plus tortillas and garnishes

I was sitting on my couch watching TV when I had my first experience with no-contact delivery. First came the text message, letting me know my food was arriving. I watched through the peephole as the driver walked up, and placed the bags on my doorstep, without knocking. He walked a few steps away, then paused for a moment, before returning to his car. A moment later, my phone buzzed again: he’d taken and sent a photograph of the bags on my doorstep, confirming delivery of my order: two quarts of soup.

No contact, doorstep delivery, a new function of life during the Covid-19 pandemic

Given two full weeks now to adjust to San Diego’s take-out only reality, delivery services have adapted well to the pandemic. And so have restaurants. Among those still open for business, online ordering has become more prevalent, whether or not a delivery service is involved. Curbside pick ups have gotten so streamlined you may see orders placed directly in your trunk — no need even to roll down the window. But one of the more interesting trends has been the emergence of family meals.

These are meal combos that bundle entrees and sides to serve a family of four at a price more affordable than four entrees. For example, locations of Italian restaurant family Buona Forchetta offer $39 dinners that include choice of soup or salad, choice of pasta, and two pizzas. Ranch 45 in Solana Beach offers meals ranging from $25 to $75, built around turkey pot pie, lasagna, or rib roast. At its three coastal locations between La Jolla and Carlsbad, sustainable ingredients specialist Urban Plates offers fresh-baked bread and two sides to go with grilled grass-fed steak, free range chicken, or line-caught ahi tuna for family meals ranging from $39 to $45. East Village’s Social Tap offers $50 meals of BBQ chicken and tri-tip that include sides, cookies, a four-pack of canned cocktails, and a roll of toilet paper. And for every one sold, the restaurant provides a meal to a Scripps health care worker.

An Urban Plates meal, dropped into a car trunk, curbside, for no contact pick-up

While the majority of family meals cropping up assemble popular dishes and sides from restaurants’ regular menus, they occasionally inspire a restaurant special, and that’s how I’ve come to order so much soup on this Sunday afternoon. My local East Village taco shop, Lola 55, has been gradually expanding its family meal offerings. For 40 bucks, customers may choose a pound of carnitas, mesquite grilled chicken, or pasilla salt-fried chicken; served with two portions each of Lola’s creamy peruano beans and chipotle rice, avocado mousse, salsa, and a dozen warm, handmade corn tortillas.

Made-in-front-of-me tacos may be the food item I miss most while in isolation, so I’d originally planned on ordering one of these family meals and gobbling down self-assembled tacos all day. But then came the Sunday special: two quarts of red pozole with pork belly and some of those Peruvian beans. Lola’s regular menu includes a fantastic green pozole, but this one, with red chilis and hunks of succulent pork, had to be tried. It’s served with the usual pozole fixins, and then some: avocado and diced onion, cilantro, lime, Mexican oregano, and pasilla (chili pepper) salt. Oh, and a dozen fresh corn tortillas.

The aroma of warm masa nearly overwhelmed me as I unpacked my order — it’s been missed. Pozole for four might be just what the doctor ordered, if doctors weren’t currently preoccupied by the surge of Covid-19 patients expected any moment now. In that regard, it’s heartening to know that Lola 55 has delivered meals to first responders through the Office of Emergency Services.

From its self-isolating sofa perch, the best my goldbricking ass can do is support the minor heroes of the great pandemic: delivery drivers and restaurant workers, and especially those making fresh tortillas.

To find more in the growing number of family meals being served in San Diego, check out Meze Greek Fusion in Gaslamp (345 Sixth Ave.), Dan Diegos Pub in Bay Park (2415 Morena Blvd.), Iron Pig Alehouse in Pacific Beach (1520 Garnet Ave.), Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido (1999 Citracado Pkwy) and Liberty Station (2816 Historic Decatur Rd.), Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen in Oceanside (626 S Tremont St.), Cori Pastificio Trattoria in North Park (2977 Upas St.), Kaminski's BBQ & Sports Lounge in Poway (12735 Poway Rd.), and Pacifica Del Mar (1555 Camino Del Mar).

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