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A greatest hits of pandemic-era takeout.
Holy hell, what a year 2020 was. We would say it took the industry on a roller-coaster ride, except there were scant few ups to go with what seemed like a never-ending series of stomach-churning downs. But one bright area was the huge advances made in the realm of takeout, an area long tapped to be a potential saviour for an industry that had some serious dysfunction even before COVID strolled into our lives. So, in honour of this ray of light in a sea of darkness, we polled our fave foodie peeps and asked them for their greatest takeout hits from last year.
Ten months ago, few outside of the industry had heard the name Legends Haul, but they quickly became pivot masters and the go-to supplier for home delivery for a city that was missing its restaurants. You could get prepare-at-home from spots like Maenam, Chambar, Café Medina and Chau Veggie Express, meat from Hills Legacy, condiments from Downlow. We’re going with a simple, delicious bag of greens from Zaklan Heritage Farm that kept us healthy. All delivered quickly and always for free. Legends, indeed.
Not a restaurant, but a beloved restaurant supplier who pivoted to direct-to-consumer brilliantly with uber-local, amazing fare. The winner, however, was the bulk order of 36 beautiful, sustainable sashimi-grade albacore tuna loins at a price ($151) that was about the same as a pork tenderloin. They’ve recently added an insanely simple Poke Pack as well.
When the history of the pandemic in Vancouver is written, there’ll be a special place for this Fraser Street spot that, two months old at the time and facing financial ruin, asked: How can we help others? Thus was born the Staff Meal initiative—affordable food for industry types and frontline workers. But even normal folks were treated to their largesse: a huge pan of Southern-inflected lasagna and a side of Parker House rolls was just $28.
While many of the dishes here came from the early days of the pandemic, leave it up to AnnaLena to shine in the second act with a high-wire four-course mini tasting menu (smoked squid bruschetta, bison ribs) created just for takeout at the they’ve-got-to-be-losing-their-shirts price of $59.
Choosing just one thing from our reigning restaurant of the year is near impossible, given that they spanned the spectrum from a kit for baking a fresh sea bream in salt (surprisingly easy) to cornbread that could save the worst pandemic day. But we’re going with their flawless rendition of clam chowder served by the litre at an affordable price (it started at $10, and is still just $12). That it got you JP Potters strolling out to cheerfully drop it in your trunk in the Sutton Place roundabout was the icing on the cake.
In the realm of things you couldn’t buy anywhere before, we choose the Holstein striploin from Toptable’s Elisa. We’d enjoyed the cut pre-COVID at the restaurant for a cool $55, and while we’re no match for Chef Andrew Richardson, this falls in the almost-impossible-to-screw-up category. When we needed a pick-me-up from the grind, this special occasion cut at a Safeway price ($20) was there.
Once the province relaxed its dumb-ass rules on wine, there was a cavalcade of spots that turned to their cellars for financial salvation. For the savvy there were deals and for the nerdy there were unicorns, but no one combined both better than Dachi, selling a long sold-out magnum of gorgeous Bella bubbles for $88—or 25 percent less than the wine’s retail price (when it was available).
The sight of Masa-san working away with a huge smile on his face as he prepped takeout was one of the most uplifting moments of the early days of the pandemic. It was like watching Lucian Freud happily painting a house. His restaurant joined with its neighbour Say Mercy! in the Staff Meal program, offering Japanese stews and the like, and while all his takeout was a treat and a rare bargain, it was the sold-out-every-day-in-10-minutes chirashi ($25)—marinated fish on a bed of sushi rice—that became the beauty of a calling card.
In late 2020 we knew only two things about the owner of the Instagram handle @actual_daddy: that he worked at Como Taperia and every Monday he hand-made pizzas for friends, with goofy names like Howdy Valley Ranch. And they went bonkers for them. They were the perfect lo-fi antidote to the flurry of bad news bombarding us every day—and now it’s morphed into Good Pizza (@goodpizzayvr) with all the same heart and an easier interface. Win.