During COVID-19, few industries have suffered as mightily as the restaurant business. Unable to offer dine-in services for most of the past year, restaurants have turned to takeout in order to survive. In the process, they’ve managed to keep us well fed with fun, interesting, delightful food in boxes, cartons and bags.
Majka Pizzeria & Bakery
Why we love it: Because, with one pizza flavor per day, there’s no dithering over what to order.
Only one style of veggie pizza per day—what’s up with that? According to Alex Sherry, who owns Majka with his wife, Chutharat Sae Tong, it’s so they can use the freshest ingredients possible without any waste. The couple previously worked at The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, famed for its vegetarian pizza (and the hordes of people who lined up for it). At Majka, the pizza comes on an organic, whole-grain sourdough crust, using wild yeast from a mother starter. Toppings are sourced from local farmers markets and small farms, including Twin Peaks Orchard in Newcastle. When the weather’s nice, pick up a pizza, a bottle of natural wine and a couple of chocolate chunk miso cookies from Majka’s takeout window and head across the street to Fremont Park for an alfresco meal. 1704 15th St.; (916) 572-9316; lovemajka.com
Why we love it: Because they do takeout right.
Drive past Mikuni’s big picture windows overlooking 16th Street at dinnertime and you’ll see quite a sight: dozens upon dozens of bags filled with takeout orders lined up on tables, bar tops and every other horizontal surface. In the before times, Taro Arai’s famed rock ’n’ roll sushi joint, with its hip design and pulsating music, may have been the ultimate dine-in experience for local sushi freaks. But in the age of COVID, it quickly figured out how to swivel to the takeout space. These days, Mikuni’s to-go business is run like a military operation. When a customer in a car pulls up outside, a staffer promptly runs the order out for wham! bam!, thank you ma’am! service. That means you’re home before you know it, enjoying your Zig Zag Soft Shell Crab hand roll or your DMC sushi roll (named for DeMarcus Cousins) in your own crib. 1530 J St.; (916) 447-2112; mikunisushi.com
Bacon & Butter
Why we love it: Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
This popular breakfast house has had to pivot—hard—during the pandemic. Owner Billy Zoellin shut down his East Sac restaurant and turned the Tahoe Park eatery into a takeout-only operation. (The crowds proved too large and unruly for patio dining.) But the menu remains the same, an alluring selection of a.m. comfort foods such as biscuits and gravy, French toast, flapjacks and B&B’s famous gut bomb, the grilled cheese Benedict. Breakfast foods don’t always travel well, so Zoellin got creative. The house potatoes, for instance, get extra time in the frying pan in order to stay crispy in their takeout container. On weekdays (Tuesday–Thursday), there’s a nice little perk: free coffee or tea when you order online. 5913 Broadway; (916) 346-4445; baconandbuttersac.com
Why we love it: Because it’s Michelin quality to go.
In a few short years, Brad Cecchi has made his mark on Sacramento’s dining scene with his young East Sac restaurant Canon, which received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2019—not quite a Michelin star, but not bad for a Sacramento newcomer. When you pack up elevated fare to go, it often loses something in the car ride between restaurant and home, but the talented Cecchi has mastered the art of making inventive fare that travels well. His Sunday-night prix-fixe dinners are particularly successful. The $35 meal, which changes weekly, includes a starter, entrée and dessert. It’s not your typical takeout: A recent dinner featured a stuffed pasilla pepper, beef cheek tacos on beet-juice tortillas, plancha potatoes and, for dessert, pumpkin mousse. 1719 34th St.; (916) 469-2433; canoneastsac.com
Binchoyaki Izakaya Dining
Why we love it: Because it serves pupu platters for the 21st century.
As parents of small children, Craig Takehara and Toki Sawada know how challenging it is to have to put dinner on the table—stat. So the couple behind Binchoyaki came up with several “mixed platters” that answer the age-old question “What’s for dinner tonight?” The kids’ platter ($40) features fun foods such as edamame with sea salt, arabiki corn dogs, Japanese fried chicken and French fries. Other options include a poke and tako wasabi dip platter ($35) and a veggie sumiyaki platter ($96). Platters are available with 24 hours notice. 2226 10th St.; (916) 469-9448; binchoyaki.com
Why we love it: Because the burger can’t be beat.
Last spring, when COVID shut down indoor dining, this upscale Land Park eatery began selling humble smash burgers 4–7 p.m. on Mondays, dubbing it “Burger Madness.” What started out as a way to keep the staff employed turned into a neighborhood community builder as people flocked to Taylor’s for the tasty diner-style burgers. Last summer, the place was routinely selling 200 burgers a night. Even now, people still clamor every Monday for the burger: a 1/3 pound beef patty (an 80–20 blend from the butcher at next-door’s Taylor’s Market), American cheese, red onion and house-made pickles on an Acme bun, plus fries. The price: $10.99 for one, $35.99 for a four-pack. Makes you almost wish Monday would hurry up and come. 2924 Freeport Blvd.; (916) 443-5154; taylorskitchen.com
Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine
Why we love it: Because it’s widely considered Sacramento’s finest sushi.
In the pre-COVID era, Kru owner Billy Ngo had a strict dine-in-guests-first policy: “We only took takeout orders if we had time,” he explains. Since the restaurant was generally packed, that meant no takeout for you. But all that changed with the pandemic. Now, you can take enjoy Kru’s exquisite sushi in the comfort of your own home. Order the colorful Firecracker roll (crab and avocado topped with salmon, spicy garlic sauce, tempura crisps and jalapeño) or a five-, 15- or 25-piece assortment of sparkling-fresh sashimi. Ngo has a few other takeout tricks up his sleeve, offering grab-and-go bento boxes at lunchtime and dumpling-and-broth meal kits that can be warmed up at home or frozen for future consumption. They come in two varieties: duck dumplings with mushroom dashi and kabocha squash agnolotti with squash dashi. 3135 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 551-1559; krurestaurant.com
Bawk! Chicken + Bar
Why we love it: Because who doesn’t love fried chicken?
When Rob Archie, Josh Nelson and Tamera Baker teamed up to open Bawk! on the R Street Corridor, they already had major food cred: Archie is the guy behind Pangaea Cafe and Urban Roots Smokehouse, while siblings Nelson and Baker practically grew up in the food business. (Their parents are Randall Selland and Nancy Baker of The Kitchen fame.) This hip chicken joint was ideally situated to shift to takeout: A bucket of fried fowl is, after all, the perfect moveable feast. Theirs is a fusion-y version that marries Southern fried chicken with Japanese karaage—each piece has a crisp, almost glassy exterior and a moist interior. Note: If you’re watching your waist, Bawk! recently added rotisserie chicken to the menu. 1409 R St.; (916) 376-7531; bawkfriedchicken.com
Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro
Why we love it: Because the Thai flavors are clean, fresh and authentic.
Thai restaurants are a dime a dozen, but local foodies swear allegiance to this small Broadway shop. It’s owned by Sacramento native Bradford Promkesa and his wife, Ice, who came here from Thailand in 2008. Many of the dishes are from her own family recipes. Kao soi, for instance, is a noodle dish from her native Chiang Mai province. “A lot of people come back from a trip to Thailand and say it tastes just like what they ate there,” says Bradford. The food is fresh, with a heavy emphasis on organic produce and high-quality meats. 1049 Broadway; (916) 382-9448; thaifarmhouse.com
Why we love it: Because the owner himself delivers the food to your door.
The pandemic has forced restaurant folk to adjust in new and unusual ways. To keep his downtown brasserie afloat, Aziz Bellarbi-Salah summoned his inner hustle and personally delivers takeout orders to customers all over the city. It allows him to bypass the third-party delivery services like Doordash and Grubhub, which take as much as 30 percent off the top of each order. The food he’s delivering is classic French fare: steak frites, cassoulet, coq au vin, mussels. Some customers are surprised when the owner shows up at their door. But he always gets a good reception: At one home in Elk Grove, a pit bull named Veronica greeted him happily, sniffing and wagging her tail. 1201 K St.; (916) 329-8033; brasseriecapitale.com
Why we love it: Because the crispy tacos are the bomb.
You won’t find anything fancy or highfalutin’ at this Natomas taqueria, just good, fresh, authentic Mexican food. El Bramido makes great burritos, quesadillas, tostadas and more—the whole enchilada, if you will. Meat choices include carnitas, beef and chicken, along with cabeza (head), lengua (tongue), buche (pork neck) and tripita (tripe). Tacos come two ways: in a warm, soft corn tortilla or a crispy fried tortilla lashed with savory sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. On weekends, people line up on the sidewalk out front for hot churros right out of the fryer, made to order by a guy working at a cart on the sidewalk. Jaunty Mexican music plays while you wait, adding to the merry atmosphere. 2394 Northgate Blvd.; (916) 565-1552
Camden Spit & Larder
Why we love it: Because the fish and chips are made by a real Englishman.
At this chic downtown chophouse, owner Oliver Ridgeway is known for serving elevated versions of pub staples and British schoolboy fare. (His sausage rolls are a kick.) When the pandemic struck, he started a new takeout tradition: Fish and Chip Friday. A native of Britain, he uses a recipe he’s tweaked over the years, coating Pacific cod fillets in a foamy ale batter that, when fried, stays crisp for hours. The fish comes with thick, hand-cut chips (those are fries to you, Yank) and tangy house-made tartar sauce. In a pandemic lockdown, it’s the next best thing to crossing the pond. 555 Capitol Mall; (916) 619-8897; camdenspitandlarder.com
Origami Asian Grill
Why we love it: Because it’s fast-casual fare made by a pair of talented chefs.
Scott Ostrander and Paul DiPierro aren’t your typical fast-food slingers: They’ve worked at some of the best restaurants in the country, including Chicago’s Alinea (Ostrander), Meadowood in Napa (DiPierro) and Park Winters (both). In 2018, they opened Origami in East Sacramento to serve affordable fare created through a fine-dining prism. Origami loosely follows the Chipotle mix-and-match, assembly-line model, with the diner choosing format (sandwich, ramen, rice bowl or salad), protein (chicken, pork belly, tri-tip or tofu) and sauce (onion glaze, chili miso or hot). Specials periodically make an appearance; look for the Origami double burger and fries, or the Saturday cream puff pop–up from pastry chef Ramon Perez of Puur Chocolat. 4801 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 400-3075; origamiasiangrill.com
Why we love it: Because the food is French—and delicious.
Graduates of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y., Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald ran the kitchen at Auburn wine bar Carpe Vino before leaving to open their own fine-dining restaurant. Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a hitch in their plans, so they’re temporarily running Restaurant Josephine (named for their young daughter) as an upscale, weekends-only takeout operation. The menu is largely French bistro fare: things like beef cheek daube Provençal and chicken á la Normande. Another popular offering is a whole chicken, grilled in a cast-iron pan and served with sauce verte and frites. Hot, ready-to-eat main courses are designed to feed two and cost around $45. McDonald, a former pastry chef, prepares restaurant-quality desserts, such as sticky toffee pudding with maple Chantilly and mandarin confit (made with produce grown on the couple’s farm). 1226 Lincoln Way, Auburn; josephineauburn.com
And There’s More…
Gently priced Italian favorites: risotto, meatballs with polenta, and lotsa pasta. 2107 P St.; (916) 440-9611; adamoskitchen.com
Azul Mexican Food + Tequila Bar
Ceviche, fish tacos and the best green enchiladas in town. 1050 20th St.; (916) 447-4040
Burritos, chimichangas and other Mexican favorites, plus the healthful Avocado Fresco Bowl, a partnership with Sacramento’s Food Literacy Center. 5604 Franklin Blvd.; (916) 428-6706
Soulful versions of French Creole fare: gumbo, jambalaya, chicken Creole and more. 3610 McKinley Blvd.; (916) 258-4060; celestinsgumbo.com
Coconut on T
Superb Thai food; don’t miss the avocado yellow curry or Drunken Noodle. 1110 T St.; (916) 822-4665; thecoconutthai.com
Cookie’s Drive In
Old-school fast-food joint serving burgers, fries and shakes. 5640 H St.; (916) 457-8353
Fish Face Poke Bar
Fresh fish fast—seafood salads and grab-and-go hand rolls—from Kru’s Billy Ngo. 1104 R St.; (916) 706-0605; fishfacepokebar.com
Upscale takes on Chinese-American faves like honey walnut prawns, plus Fat’s signature New York steak and banana cream pie. 806 L St.; (916) 442-7092; frankfats.com
Fish & Things
Poke bowls, sushi, seared ahi burger and that Hawaiian staple, Spam masubi. 7423 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove; (916) 647-3047; fishnthings.net
Journey to the Dumpling
Shanghai-style dumplings (try the soup-filled xiao long bao), along with Chinese dishes such as green onion pancakes, garlic green beans, salt-and-pepper calamari. 7419 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove; (916) 509-9556; journeytothedumpling.com
Juno’s Kitchen Friendly East Sac sandwich shop that bakes its own bread; open for lunch only. 3675 J St.; (916) 456-4522; junoskitchen.com
Middle Eastern fare such as shawarma, falafel and gyros; the mezza platter includes hummus, lebne, baba ghanoush and more. 2115 J St.; (916) 442-4388; kasbahlounge.com
Excellent Nepali and Indian fare. 234 G St., Davis; (530) 756-3507; kathmandukitchendavis.com
Kintaro Sushi Bar
Superfresh sushi, sashimi and nigiri. 8355 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove; (916) 684-6933; kintarosushibar.com
Lemon Grass Restaurant
Upscale Vietnamese and Thai food from the incomparable Mai Pham. 601 Munroe St.; (916) 486-4891; lemongrassrestaurant.com
Modern Afghani street food such as chapli kabob burger, naanwich and Sultan fries (with crispy chicken and feta sauce). 2654 Marconi Ave.; (916) 827-0009; madarstreetfood.com
Mom & Pop Chicken Shop
Buttermilk fried chicken, plus fries, burgers and doughnuts. 4355 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 673-9563; chxshp.com
OBO’ Italian Table & Bar
Wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas and specials such as $29 dinner and a bottle of wine for two (changes weekly) and $10 Meatball Monday. 3145 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 822-8720; oboitalian.com
Nash & Proper
Originally a food truck, now a restaurant serving Nashville-style hot fried chicken; you choose the heat level, from mild to “clucken hot.” 3270 Northgate Blvd.; nashandproper.com
Inventive tacos such as the Porky Shrimp (shrimp with beer and cheese sauce and chicharron powder) and the Octopus (with serrano-infused butter and peanut chipotle sauce). 1804 Cirby Way, Roseville; (916) 771-4165; nixta.co
All the greatest hits from the Thai canon, plus vegetarian and gluten-free options. 1609 16th St.; (916) 476-3681; orchidthai916.com
Pizza Supreme Being
A limited menu of whole pies that includes cheese, pepperoni and Hawaiian (Spam, jalapeño and pineapple). 1425 14th St.; (916) 917-5559; pizzasupremebeing.com
Relish Burger Bar
Options far beyond
the basic burger: bison, lamb, ahi tuna and a peanut butter bacon cheeseburger. 1000 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills; (916) 933-3111; relishburgerbar.com
Lou Valente’s hip take on sushi, nigiri and hand rolls. 1616 Del Paso Blvd.; (916) 550-2600; southpawsushi.com
Tacoa Tacos Y Tequila
Authentic Mexican-style street tacos, great carne asada fries and cocktails to go. 6350 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 476-3407
Known for its generous servings of topnotch crab enchiladas, prawns a la diabla and al pastor (grilled pork). 2416 K St.; (916) 443-6919; treshermanasonk.com
Exquisite dim sum that earned this Cantonese restaurant a shout-out in the 2019 Michelin Guide. 3860 Truxel Road; (916) 621-3737; yuehuangdimsum.com