Sometimes, and especially now, your couch is your restaurant. Sometimes, you want to dine and dash, as in "pick up your food so fast no one notices you’re in your PJs at 6 p.m." Sometimes, a Styrofoam container is your china of choice. And sometimes you just want to binge Netflix while you binge. For those times, there’s takeout, and the Valley has everything from drunken noodles to full-on family meals, all expertly packaged and piping hot, because takeout is supposed to make your life easier.
Here are 10 eateries and local chains that have been in the takeout game long before the coronavirus hit, so you know the food travels well.
Worth Takeaway218 West Main Street, Mesa
Sack lunches are often kind of sad. Worth Takeaway lunches are decidedly not. All-scratch sandwiches at this downtown Mesa favorite are stacked with gourmet layers like crispy chicken breast doused in Buffalo sauce and carrot celery slaw. Or veg versions like roasted sweet potatoes, spiced walnuts, and herby goat cheese, all served in neatly wrapped packages with a side of house-made potato chips. You’ll find standbys like the Reuben, Cuban, and grilled cheese on the menu, although elevated with tasty touches like house-made pickles and honey Sriracha, plus cold sammies like the Italian grinder and Calabrian turkey that’ll stand up better to park picnics. And if your sweet tooth is calling, the banana pudding, a bomb of heavy cream, real bananas, and vanilla wafers, will have you licking out the container.
Salvadoreño RestaurantMultiple Locations
For the best pupusas in town, you have to go to Salvadoreño Restaurant. These griddled and glorious straight-off-the-plancha Salvadorian staples are the perfect food for pickup — yes, that includes you, pizza. Think thick rounds of masa stuffed with standards like refried beans and cheese, chicharron (shredded pork), revuelta (chicharron, beans, and cheese) and loroco (a bitter flower), all perfectly balanced and brightened with tomato salsa and curtido — pickled cabbage adding just the right zing. The secret is in the cheese. Instead of the stringy stuff, these pupusas ooze, bubble, and burst in cheesy delight. Sure, you could order two or three and call it a day, but then you’d be missing out on the best takeout deal in town: 20 pupusas for $39.99. Throw a pupusa party or freeze and reheat what you don’t eat.
Chanpen Thai CuisineMultiple Locations
Cramming noodles in a lidded container can spell a soggy, stuck-together mess, but not so at Chanpen Thai Cuisine. Pad Thai comes hot, fresh, and fab with noodles coated with just the right amount of spicy sweetness and veggies that hold their crunch. Lift the lid and a blast of aromatic steam is unleashed, unveiling a picturesque dish that looks way too pretty to be takeout, not that that’s going to stop you from eating it. This Thai find, whether you pick up from the hole-in-the-wall Broadway Road outpost or the roomier Baseline Road location, is a hidden takeout gem with tasty Thai chicken wings, street food-style pad see yew, and wonderfully aromatic curries, like green avocado curry and pumpkin panang style. Takeout means you miss out on the complimentary green ice cream that comes with dining in, but the comfort of slurping noodles at home with an unapologetically saucy face cancels it out.
Haji Baba1513 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you order takeout at Haji Baba in Tempe. First: Everything on the menu is amazing. Sure, the chicken shawarma, a gigantic plate of marinated meat, garlic sauce, basmati rice, hummus, and tabouleh gets plenty of “best ever” raves, and deservedly so. But let's not forget the impossibly creamy babaghanooj or the super-stuffed falafel sandwich for only $3.99 that will ruin you for all other falafel sandwiches ever. Second: The restaurant comes with a market, so don’t leave without grabbing a few cans of sardines, a chunk of creamy feta, and a bag of the plumpest dates going. And third: No order is complete without tacking on a house-baked baklava. We’re partial to the Queen, but with choices like cashew, walnut, and pistachio, you can’t go wrong.
The Stand Burger Shoppe3538 East Indian School Road
If you want a burger without a side of pretension, The Stand is your place. More joint than restaurant, the menu is minimalist — five burgers strong — and the service, whether you’re driving through or picking up, is 1950s polite. Each of the five burgers are themed and thoughtful, made of 100 percent beef ground daily in-house, nothing soggy or grease-soaked. Take the Big Kahuna, a double patty party of grilled pineapple and thick-cut bacon doused in honey lava sauce that makes every meaty mouthful a sweet, spicy romp. And yes, you must order fries with that, hand-cut, crispy, salt-coated spears that come with Stand Sauce, a spicy aioli-like concoction that puts ketchup to shame. Slurp it down with a hand-spun salted dulce de leche shake. Burp optional.
Carniceria Los ReyesMultiple Locations
If you haven’t seen Carniceria Los Reyes on 16th Street and McDowell Road, you’ve certainly smelled it. The scent of barbecued pollo asado billows out from the front of the Mexican market, filling the entire intersection with the smoky, savory scent of meaty merriment. But as good as that charred bird smells, it tastes even better, all butchered into big hunks of burning meat love — especially when a whole chicken plus corn tortillas and a side of salsa rings in at $7.99. Pollo isn’t the only star here: Salsas are standout, chicharrones are large and in charge, and the ready-made carnitas, asada, and buche are seasoned just right. Get the meat stuffed into a burrito or buy it up by the pound for the ultimate to-go taco party.
Chino Bandido15414 North 19th Avenue
Just like Chino Bandido is fun to say, the food is fun to order — and eat. That’s because the Chinese-Mexican-Jamaican mashup offers more than 90,000 different and dizzying mix-and-match food combinations all served to-go style in lidded aluminum bowls. Feeling spicy? Get the pollo diablo served over Jamaican jerk fried rice. Feeling bold? Get egg foo yung and teriyaki chicken stuffed into a burrito. When in doubt, go with the Jade red chicken, hands-down the house favorite that works surprisingly well quesadilla-style. Still not sure? The staff and the free samples will guide you. No decision needed for desert: A complimentary snickerdoodle cookie comes with each “takee outee” order.
Red Devil Italian Restaurant & PizzeriaMultiple Locations
There’s a reason Red Devil has been slinging pizzas in the Valley since 1960. The family recipe is dang good. Nah, it’s not a thin-crust, dainty pie you need to eat with a knife and fork all polite. They're hearty, foldable slices with a slightly crispy, flaky crust and to-die-for sauce with a pow of fresh tomato flavor that’s served still-bubbling hot straight out of the oven. Heck, at the McDowell Road location, you can watch its creation from the takeout window like dinner and a show … only a show, then dinner. Standard pepperoni is a standout. Ditto for the Red Devil Combo of pepperoni, chunky sausage, onion, mushroom, and green pepper. Or sacrifice sauce altogether for the Red Devil White, a mix of fresh Roma tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil that’s not shy on the garlic.
Indian Palace2941 West Bell Road
Indian Palace takeout is like a gift that keeps on giving. A north Phoenix go-to since 1988, it offers softball-sized vegetable samosas, chicken tikka all bright orange and bursting with flavor, deliciously deep-fried and buttery fish pakora, impossibly rich matar paneer, and an assortment of biryani rice dishes and breads. That last part includes glorious garlic naan, a requisite for sopping up all that fragrant sauce. The deeply seasoned scents of Delhi swirl through your car until you reach your destination where you open the containers to unleash a tandoori tornado of mint, cardamom, and turmeric. Inhale it, the scents and the food, but the best part may be the leftovers, which you might find yourself downing cold straight from the fridge the next day. Just warning you.
Abacus Inn Chinese RestaurantMultiple Locations
Located just west of I-17 on Thunderbird Road, the original Abacus Inn is one of those unsuspecting don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover strip mall joints that’s easy to drive right by. But then you’d be missing out on impossibly crispy fried wonton starters, spicy beef with just the right amount of volcano, kung pao cabbage that’s super saucy but somehow still crunchy, and house special chow mein loaded with pork, chicken, shrimp, and oodles of noodles. Everything comes out sizzling hot — seriously, it will still be steaming when you get home — with all the requisite sauces and utensils that, left out, can ruin takeout faster than you can ask, “Where’s the soy sauce?” In short: This place woks.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on October 23, 2019. It was updated on May 1, 2020.
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