Since COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon and restaurants continue to stress alternative options to dining in, each week we'll bring you a roundup of takeout dinners recently enjoyed by dining editor Timothy Malcolm.
In September we'll find out whether Anita Jaisinghani will get a James Beard award for Best Chef Texas, but in July I got proof she's due. Sure, my order of saag paneer and butter chicken was the most basic of Indian food orders (blame one small, picky 3-year-old), but the punchy creaminess of the former and the gentle heat of the latter proved that even with traditional everyday dishes she's a cut above the rest. If you're ordering to-go, Pondicheri has a separate entrance and exit, and markers on the floor make social distancing a breeze.
The first time I visited this new Thai restaurant in the Heights, I ordered and enjoyed the Northern-style curry with a quartered chicken in a spicier golden sauce. This time I opted for what's called the Southern curry or the traditional khanom jeen kaeng khiao wan, a sweeter and more coconut-forward green curry with what looked like chicken tenderloins. This was more familiar, as it's a staple at all those straightforward Thai restaurants in every small town in America, but there was definitely a creamier and more hearty bite to it. I really enjoyed it. One flaw: I hoped to pick up my food curbside but there was no indication of how to make that happen, so I just walked in and got it from a masked server.
My takeout experience with Austin-based chain Tacodeli was nearly flawless, but I got confused by the sign that informed me to text if I wanted salsa. "I already ordered salsa with my breakfast tacos," I thought, so I texted that I didn't want additional salsa. That proved a bad move as I got no salsa whatsoever. Oh well, the tacos were still good. I especially loved the migas taco with the right amount of sweetness, crunch, and spice.
A friend suggested I visit this Timbergrove-area haunt because I was seeking some comforting enchiladas and margaritas. I sprung for combination plate No. 4, which figured to offer the biggest bang for my buck with a beef enchilada, tamale, tostada, crispy taco, rice, and cheese-topped refried beans for $10.50. It came divided in two takeout boxes, so yes, it was enough food for one person. That alone made me happy. While I wouldn't place Tecate atop my comfort Tex-Mex rankings, the wealth of food was a positive, the enchilada and tamale were coated in a rich gravy, and I practically drank the Velveeta-colored queso from its Styrofoam cup. Oh, and the margaritas were choice.
One more shoutout to this Vietnamese stalwart in Bellaire. I recently picked up the grilled fish entrée, a favorite among customers because it can feed a brood of at least four, and I also received an impromptu, masked-up spring roll lesson (because I asked) from Jacklyn Pham, the face of Saigon Pagolac. Her teachings worked because I passed them on to my three-year-old, who had a blast rolling her tender chunks of fish meat with lettuce and a single carrot stick. This after simply buttering up and reheating the crispy whole fish in the oven for 15 minutes. It resulted in one of the most memorable dinners we've had as a family.