I know this has been a year like none other, because unprompted, year-end lists are assembling themselves and floating into my head. One of the many losses of this pandemic has been the forced closure of small businesses. Early on, Fricano’s Deli chose to close, and it broke my heart a little, because it was so good. Then Full English was forced to close, and was even able to articulate how it happened in a way that should make you furious. Because it didn’t have to be this way. Essentially, the city of Austin closed down restaurants, then took five months to offer any kind of grants or funding. So I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to try to run a restaurant in a pandemic. Seems painful enough without a pandemic, but we all gotta eat. And I have been boggled at how many restaurants (and HEB!) have pivoted to pick-up and delivery, and some do it so well it looks easy. One of my favorite food spots in Austin, the Soup Peddler, got out of the home delivery game a few years ago, and purely because of logistics. The time when I got home delivery of the Soup Peddler feels like a dream now. That they have not returned to delivery indicates just how difficult it must be. Same for Trader Joe’s, who won’t even try the curbside thing.
So this is my list of Austin’s absolute best food home delivery or pickup options, for me and my house, for 2020. I sincerely thank you for everything.
This Vietnamese cafe slings perfectly built vermicelli bowls, rice platters, pho, and other classic North Vietnamese dishes all day. Build yourself a bao with BBQ pork, or lemongrass tofu. The Lemongrass tofu also appears in summer rolls, or can take the place of any protein in any dish you like — maybe not the perfect as-is Mapo Tofu, which blends pork with silken tofu cubes. Wok-style plates like Egg Foo Young and General Tso’s round out a solidly well-done menu, anchored by a something-for-everyone vibe. There’s a versatile selection of chicken wings, fully loaded kim chi french fries, and even a kid’s menu.
Guard your feet, I’m about to drop some names. I grew up in NYC within walking distance of Balducci’s, can navigate my way around a Zabar’s, and lived for one year less than one block from Russ and Daughters. That was 1990, a magical year in which I ate many bagels, all of them good. In 2020, every good bagel I ate was from Rosen’s, here in Austin. Rosen’s Bagels moved into the home delivery game, and the frozen…