Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater SF where the site’s editors answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
Dear Eater SF,
I know you already have a running list of restaurants that are still open for takeout or delivery, but I would particularly love a list of places that have their own delivery folks so I’m not putting money in the pocket of evil GrubHub or Uber. My husband is immunocompromised and we live in a small apartment, so unfortunately I’m not comfortable going out to pick up food at the moment.
Hungry But Conflicted
Dear Hungry But Conflicted,
We feel you, HBC. One of the many, many infuriating things to worry about during the ongoing coronavirus crisis (apart from, you know, turning over the thought that things didn’t need to go nearly as poorly as they have) is the possibility that wealthy conglomerates like Amazon are the ones who will emerge from the pandemic even wealthier and more powerful than ever — all while small businesses in our neighborhoods shutter left and right. That’s why it’s great, whenever possible, to ensure your money is spent directly with small businesses — and why food delivery app companies like DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats might give you qualms.
All these companies have long been at least somewhat problematic — for their ethically dubious practice of adding restaurants to their sites without permission, for their treatment of their workforce of contractors, and for the fact that even during this time when restaurants are most vulnerable, they’re still taking commissions that are as high as 25 to 30 percent.
That said, at this time when takeout and delivery are the only option, it’s a challenge to support restaurants if you’re trying to avoid the delivery apps altogether. A lot of places just don’t have the resources to run their own delivery operation. If you do order via one of apps, at a minimum, please, please, please tip your driver beyond generously. People are out there risking their health so you get that carton of chow mein!
Now to the meat of the question: While the options are a lot more limited, the good news is that there are some solid restaurants in the Bay Area that are doing their deliveries in house (or through non-app partnerships), though availability will obviously depend on where exactly you live — and some of them are even finding fun, creative ways to it.
There’s SoMa’s Deli Board, which is doing delivering its massive, East Coast-inspired sandwiches via bike messenger (!) — to anywhere in SoMa, FiDi, the Tenderloin, and the Mission.
If you like the idea of a Russian food truck pulling up to your house to drop off some piroshki or cabbage rolls, Kolobok is now doing home deliveries, with a $30 minimum order and a rotating schedule that they update on Instagram. (This week they’re hitting up San Francisco on Saturday and different areas of the East Bay each day of the week.)
You know who was doing delivery long before these apps were ever a thing? Chinese restaurants. Calling up your favorite neighborhood spot to see if they’re delivering is a good way to start. Just know that some places, like Beijing Restaurant in the Excelsior, will handle delivery in house if you order from them directly, even if they’re also listed on the delivery apps.
The good thing is that there’s a wide range of cuisines represented by the places that are doing their own delivery: At Prubechu, the Guamanian restaurant in the Mission, you just have to fill out a convenient online form to place a delivery order. In the East Bay, Kingston 11, the Jamaican mainstay in Uptown Oakland, is taking takeout orders for jerk chicken and oxtail stew by phone (510-465-2558) or email (email@example.com) and offers delivery for bulk orders — though chef Nigel Jones says he hasn’t set a minimum order level because he wants to keep the food accessible. And Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, the rosemary fried chicken specialist, is taking pre-orders for delivery on Saturdays and Sundays, all handled in house — only to Emeryville, Berkeley, and West Oakland, though they’re willing to travel further if it’s a large order.
Which is a good reminder: Plenty of restaurants that don’t normally handle delivery themselves are willing to do so if your order is large enough. At the Outer Sunset’s Sunset Deli, for instance, the minimum threshold is $100. Don’t want 10 super falafel wraps? This might be a good time to see if you can figure out a safe, socially distant way to split an order with a couple of neighbors.