The Best Takeout We Got This Week
A running list of the best things we had out of to-go boxes and containers recently.
We eat a lot while researching the various guides and reviews you see on our site. And we want to share some of that food with you—at least digitally. This guide is where we’ll be putting some of our favorite things we had as takeout recently—the dishes that made us give a creepy smile to our plates. Hopefully it serves as a source of inspiration the next time you’re deciding what to order.
The Best Takeout We Ate This Week
In case you’re currently in need of a carb-fueled distraction from, well, everything, diving into a bag of pineapple buns from Garden Bakery is a foolproof way to go. Each bolo bao from this bakery in Chinatown is roughly the size of a newborn baby’s face, and will only run you $2.50 for three. And even though I swung by the cash-only bakery at the end of the day, the milk buns were so squishy (and still warm) you’d think they just came out of the oven minutes before. I’ll be sure to bring more cash next time so I can try more of their mooncakes, egg tarts, and BBQ pork buns.
- Julia Chen, SF Staff Writer
This Asian-inspired bakery in the Richmond is only open a few days a week from 10am-2pm, but planning my entire day around getting their fantastic pastries is always well worth the effort. I recently picked up a soft, pillowy milk bun filled with bright green coconut pandan cream and an egg salad bunwich, both of which will continue to inspire me to block out midday “doctor’s appointments” on my work calendar so I can make it there regularly (for legal reasons, this is a joke). I didn’t stock up on even more of the milk buns this time, something I immediately regretted after finishing one in about 10 seconds flat—but I’ll be back in a couple of days anyway.
The Best Takeout We Ate Recently
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The Bay Area’s pizza slice shop game is lacking, at best. To which I say, sure, but great ones do exist. You just have to know where to find them. So when I want a quick-hit slice, I head to everything from Golden Boy Pizza for fluffy focaccia squares to (I’m not afraid to admit) Nazario’s on cocktail-fueled nights for an overly bready slice of pepperoni. Across the bay, Rotten City and Graffiti Pizza are standbys, and now Violetta joins the list. This Piedmont Avenue spot took over the space formerly occupied by Slicer (which closed last year), and makes thin crust pies that are not quite Neapolitan, and not quite New York style, but are dedicated to high-quality ingredients. If the Sweet Little Pig with pepperoni and candied bacon combination arr on the menu, get it. It’s the runaway hit.
- Lani Conway, Senior Editor
I was working near Union Square the other day when 1pm rolled around, and my stomach promptly (and loudly) reminded me that I needed to figure out a lunch plan, stat. Luckily, Burma Love’s Mint Plaza location—and their great lunch special—was only a couple of blocks away. For $20.95, you get your choice of entrées like ginger chili pork or red curry (I went with the wok-tossed, turmeric-heavy chicken kebat, which was delicious), plus a side of fragrant coconut rice and a nutty house salad. The whole thing was super flavorful and comforting, and the three boxes of food were enough to last two meals - an overall win in my book.
Devil's Teeth Baking Company
On a recent lazy Sunday morning, the promise of freshly-baked carrot cake and an excellent breakfast sandwich led me to Devil’s Teeth in the Outer Sunset. The tiny bakery had the usual line out the door, but it moved fast. Less than 20 minutes later, a hefty, tinfoil-wrapped special breakfast sandwich with eggs, bacon, pepper jack, avocado, and a generous helping of lemon-garlic aioli was cradled in my hands. The biscuit it all comes on is buttery, flaky, and sturdy, and biting into the whole thing was an ideal way to start off my morning.
Taqueria El Farolito
If burrito-making was an Olympic sport, the folks at El Farolito in the Mission would make like Katie Ledecky and rack up all the gold medals. The taqueria’s absolutely perfect carne asada is still as tender and flavorful as ever, and I love coming here for a massive, loaded super burrito that always lasts me two meals. El Farolito is cash-only, so come prepared.
Lucca Foods Deli & Wine Shop
After a morning of staring aimlessly into a computer screen, stopping by Lucca’s in the Sunset for a quick lunch is an ideal midday break. I like their Italian combo on a home-made sourdough roll. It has layers of mortadella, salami, provolone, and a range of fixings, from shaved red onions to pickled jalapeños. The deli/convenience store/wine shop is also stocked with chips, candy, and drinks, which you should get if you’re really in need of a power-up to get you through the day.
Sometime during all of this, the excellent pandemic-born pie pop-up started offering $7 slices out of the Berkeley pick-up location. Which is a good thing, especially if making decisions is harder than crawling out of bed at midnight to brush your teeth after four hours of binge-watching Manifest. Apple strawberry, stone fruit streusel, berry chocolate—yes, now you can get one of each, and easily try them all. Order the strawberry rhubarb, or, better yet, the passionfruit meringue—a phenomenal graham cracker crust, thick cream, and ultra-creamy meringue makes it, flat-out, the best passionfruit meringue pie I’ve ever had.
Taiwan Bento is permanently closed
This Taiwanese restaurant has been a Downtown Oakland staple since 2014, and is known for bentos, naturally. But don’t overlook the bao, especially the gua bao. The braised pork belly is tender and thick, and topped with a generous amount of mustard greens, cilantro, and crushed peanut sugar. The bao is $8 for one, but don’t let its small size fool you. It’s hearty, rich, and packed with tons of flavor that pairs well with one of their boba teas. For a super quick lunch or early dinner, this sandwich definitely gets the job done.
This small Japanese cafe in SoMa is my absolute favorite spot in the city for a katsu sandwich, but their chicken katsu plate with Japanese curry is also great for a quick weekday lunch. The tender chicken has a nice crackly breading and is served on top of fluffy rice with a side of rich, sweet curry. It’s the ultimate comfort dish, and one that I’ll get every time I need something that makes me feel like I’m swaddled in a weighted blanket.
Noodle Belly is a garlic noodle lunch spot (and former pop-up) near Fruitvale BART that lets you customize your order with numerous protein and vegetable add-ons. Get the Noodle Belly Combo ($19). The garlic noodles are an ideal base for the well-seasoned rainbow chard and nicely barbecued achiote-marinated flank steak. The service is quick and the hearty contents inside the plastic takeout container will be more than enough to last you two meals. Other choices you’ll have if you visit: fried popcorn chicken, BBQ pork belly, lemon pepper shrimp. And for the vegetables, grilled broccoli, roasted carrots or mushrooms.
The Japanese restaurant has built up a loyal following since it opened fall 2020—I attribute that to the stunning, high-quality nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls which are tightly packaged in attractive wooden bento boxes. The North Oakland spot is predominantly a takeout operation, and coming here for a meal is great if you want fresh fish without having to put much thought into what to get. Their omakase-style combos are 16 pieces of sashimi for $35 or $25 for 7 pieces of nigiri. The control freak in me prefers to customize my box, and choose from a menu of things like arctic char nigiri, inari, and spicy tuna maki.
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s how to successfully eat takeout in my car. My glove box is stuffed with napkins, to-go utensils, and, after a particularly cursed incident involving eating salmon poke with my hands, a pair of chopsticks. So the other day, when the wind dashed my hopes of having a picnic by the water, I parked my car at Ocean Beach and dug into my garlic pork hoagie from the backseat. The hefty, forearm-length sandwich comes on a sesame roll, is stuffed with thin slices of roasted pork, broccoli rabe, cherry pepper relish, and Point Reyes Toma. It’s massive (it easily serves two) and messy. Good thing I always keep napkins in the glove.
Our Favorite Desserts Of The Week
This sandwich spot in the Mission has fried egg sandwiches down to a science. Case in point: the BEC, a wonderfully gooey work of art that also tastes incredible. The sandwich is simplicity at its finest, made with perfectly-cooked Applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, and an over-medium egg. It’s all layered between a squishy poppy seed roll. And a bright orange, tongue-tingling house-made habanero sauce comes on the side.
The Damel is both a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Downtown Oakland and a food truck on Lakeshore. It doesn’t matter which location you visit, as long as you head to one for a taste of their incredible food. The Damel serves a mix of dishes from West Africa and South America, a combination that reflects owner Oumar Diouf’s Senegalese background and time spent in Brazil and Argentina. On the menu, you’ll find things like acarajé (fried, mashed black-eyed peas) topped with shrimp or veggies and spicy okra sauce, fried plantains, dibi plates, and fresh ginger and bissap juices. I love the empanadas, from the ground beef to the creamy mushroom to the deep-fried fataya with tuna, tomato, and shrimp. The dough is light and fluffy, and these empanadas are perfect for lunch or a snack.
Kantine is a nearly three-year-old Scandinavian cafe on Market Street that makes pastries, porridges, soups, and sandwiches. Stepping inside the well-lit, airy space will make you want to pull up a wooden chair, read a book over a latte or a cinnamon knot, and stay awhile (they’re open for outdoor dining). But this is a takeout guide and Kantine’s takeout is fabulous. I recommend one of the smørrebrød (open-faced sandwich), which are a well-executed lesson in the art of layering. One I recently got: A slice of hearty, house-made sprouted rye bread, a bed of greens, a creamy, smoked-chicken and crème fraîche salad packed with mushrooms and herbs, wafer-thin slices of radishes, and crunchy dehydrated chicken skin that shatters in your mouth with each bite.
Sushi Urashima is a new-ish spot in the Castro that has a bunch of rolls, sashimi, and donburi on the menu. But the omakase set ($42), which comes with ten pieces of chef’s choice nigiri and a maki roll, was my favorite during my recent first experience. Each piece of nigiri almost tastes better than the next, but I love the uni, a perfectly creamy, briny bite that replayed in my mind on loop for the rest of the night.
Auntie April's Chicken, Waffles, & Soul Food Restaurant
The soul food restaurant in Bayview opened in 2008, and has been making incredible chicken and waffles ever since. You can choose between an original, cinnamon, or red velvet waffle, which is then topped with two pieces of juicy and super crunchy chicken (you can get any combination of thigh, breast, or leg). The order, of course, comes with a side of syrup, which I happily drizzled over my delicious lunch feast.
The photo of this glorious, Detroit-style vodka pie from Pizza Squared truly does not do it justice (if you’re wondering why it looks like it was dropped from the top of my car, it’s because... it was). But trust me when I say that Pizza Squared should be added to your takeout rotation immediately. They have a bunch of massive pies topped with things like clams and bacon or Thai curry chicken, all made on a light, fluffy crust with crispy cheddar cheese edges.
The things this Embarcadero seafood restaurant can do with fresh with is borderline magical—just take one look at their cebiche and Peruvian nigiri, which are both works of art. But the dark horse of my recent meal here was the empanada sampler. It came with four flaky, deep golden-brown pastries (beef, chicken, mushroom, and choclo, a sweet corn mixture) which were paired nicely with a trio of creamy sauces. My favorite empanada, though, was the sirloin beef with onions and an aji panca I want to eat by the spoonful.
Dumpling House in the Castro serves dumplings, buns, turnip cakes, potstickers, wontons, and Hong Kong-style wonton soup. I tend to want to order everything when my dinner brain calls out for dumplings, so I welcomed their shorter menu on my first visit and ended up ordering a bit of everything—and you should, too. The xiao long bao are extra soupy. The fresh shrimp and pork dumplings are flavorful and meaty. And the pan-fried veggie and meat buns still held up even after I drove them home. One thing to note is that the portions at Dumpling House are smaller than other dumpling spots around the city—for example, the pan-fried dumplings were three pieces for $6.95.
Okkon is a pop-up serving okonomiyaki—and these savory Japanese pancakes really, truly live in my mind rent-free. Okkon operates out of Soba Ichi in West Oakland but they also pop up at other locations around the East Bay. Their pancakes are topped with a crispy layer of pork belly, sweet okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes. You can also customize each pancake with things like mochi, mushrooms, and wild shrimp, but one thing never changes: each bite is packed with flavor, and you will probably immediately regret not ordering two for yourself.
Tacos El Último Baile
Since the first lockdown in 2020, Lake Merritt has become one of my spots whenever I’m in need of fresh air. You’ll find me there at least once a week, taking a lap, people/geese-watching, or ordering from Tacos El Último Baile. The truck parks at various spots throughout Oakland (check their Instagram for daily updates), and serves one of the best al pastor tacos in the Bay. The meat is tender, juicy, and crispy all at once, and topped with generous heaps of onions, cilantro, salsa, and fresh pineapple.
Hon’s Wun-Tun House
I’ll take hay fever and burning-hot steering wheels over winter and rain any day. But the one thing that makes the cold weather bearable is a steaming hot bowl of wonton noodle soup, especially if it’s from Hon’s Wun Ton House. Theirs comes with springy, chewy noodles and fantastic shrimp and pork wontons, and tastes even better with their barbecued pork on top.
The Eritrean/Ethiopian cafe has been a staple in North Oakland since 2000, but I only recently discovered how much I had been missing out on their incredible shihan ful. I went to Alem’s for the first time to order the stew-like dish made with slow-simmered fava beans that are pureed and topped with thinly minced onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, jalapeños, olive oil, and berbere. Each order also comes with two big oval-shaped French rolls, which are the perfect vehicles to scoop up heaps of this flavorful stew. I’ll definitely be back for their other East African breakfast and lunch dishes, like kitcha fit-fit, fata, and tibsy with beef and lamb.
If I polled my friends and asked what their go-to burrito order is at El Castillito on Church Street, I would get many answers. That’s because El Castillito is one of the best taquerias in the city, and everything they serve is great. My tried-and-true burrito is the carne asada with black beans and everything. When I picked one up recently, I was reminded why El Castillito’s burritos are better than a day at the beach. It was thick, the meat was flavorful, and the signature melted cheese still made for a tasty surprise.
Nothing gets me warm—not even burying myself in a Comfy I stole from my roommate—like a piping hot bowl of noodle soup. The other day, my soup-deprived brain led me to Turtle Tower in SoMa, and, more specifically, the combination beef pho. The soup has fat, chewy noodles, plus a fragrant broth with tripe and tender beef. And I finished off the entire thing in record time.
Basa Seafood Express
When I recently went to Basa Seafood Express in the Mission for salmon poke, the person behind the counter asked if I needed chopsticks. “No thanks!” I said. This moment played over in my mind (a regret flashback, if you will) as I sat in standstill traffic on I-80, eating the poke with my bare hands. But the fish was buttery and bathed in a spicy mayo sauce with red and green onion, and eating it was well worth the mess, chopsticks be damned. The next time I stop by Basa, I’ll grab be sure to grab some—or, at least, keep an extra pair in my car.
Rooster & Rice
After reading this feature from the LA Team, I had to satisfy my craving for chicken and rice at Rooster and Rice. The mini Bay Area chain serves delicious khao mun gai with super tender chicken, cucumbers, and a really great ginger-garlic-chili sauce. The dish is Lenny Kravitz oversized scarf-level comfort, and inspires pleasant (and equally comforting) childhood flavor memories. Khao mun gai tastes a lot like chicken arroz caldo, a ginger-y Filipino rice porridge my grandmother would make growing up.
Flour + Water Pizzeria
Nothing says “comfort food” like a warm box of cheesy, saucy bread. Out of all the pizzas I’ve consumed lately, the pepperoni pie from Flour + Water Pizzeria is one of the best. The crackly, chewy crust is topped with thick, crispy-edged pepperoni, pickled red peppers, and mozzarella. But the best part is getting to dip each slice in a side of their creamy house-made ranch.
We eat a lot of sandwiches—so it’s a big deal when we say that the shaobing sandwich from this vegan Singaporean spot is very, very high on the list. The sandwiches change weekly, but the one I ordered was stuffed with thick hoisin-braised tofu slices, garlic charred cabbage, fermented chilies, mint, and cilantro. What really makes the sandwich special is the shaobing, a nutty, sesame-covered flatbread that’s chewy on the inside and has a crusty, golden-brown exterior.
Hog Island Oyster Bar
I woke up one recent morning with soup on my mind. And there to satisfy this intense desire for a bowl of warm liquid was Hog Island’s clam chowder. They make theirs without flour, so it’s thinner than a typical New England-style chowder. It also packs a ton of flavor with the help of some thick-cut bacon. But the star of this soup show is the juicy, perfectly-steamed Manila clams piled on top.
Cocobreeze is a new spot in East Oakland that’s serving Trinidadian roti, rice plates, and colorful superfood drinks. The curry goat roti was excellent, but the jerk chicken wingettes were something special—tender, saucy, and with a serious kick. Like me, you will probably inhale them in record time.
While there’s nothing like the experience of sitting inside a bustling dim sum restaurant and ordering more than can fit on the table, takeout from Good Luck Dim Sum in the Richmond is the next best thing. I recently stopped by on the way to Golden Gate Park, and had a lovely afternoon in the sun with my containers of plump shrimp har gow, golden-brown sesame balls, and baked BBQ pork buns the size of my face. They’re cash only—and also, be prepared to wait in line.