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15 Engaging Restaurant Meal Kits in San Francisco

Because takeout suffers for so many reasons, and a little bit of assembly can go a long way

Burger kit from Shake Shack Shake Shack

As restaurants have rapidly transitioned to takeout and delivery, many have tweaked their menus and dishes to make sure they travel well. Enter the rise of a new to-go offering: the restaurant meal kit. From steak and spaghetti to tacos and dumplings, chefs are experimenting with this relatively new format and engaging diners more than ever by asking them to sear, stretch, steam, and get hands on at home.

What is a dinner kit, exactly? Blue Apron popularized the genre, and prior to the pandemic, the term generally referred to quick and easy weeknight dinners, aimed at busy working professionals, handing them a box of ingredients and a simple set of instructions. Restaurant meal kits, however, are a breakout category that can mean a lot of different experiences. They can be as simple as a heat-and-eat lasagna, served up family style, or as big of a production as five courses, carefully detailed by a star chef.

It’s an intriguing trend, because here’s the thing — takeout suffers for so many reasons. Steak goes cold, pasta loses its bite, salads wilt. At the end of the day, a little assembly can go a long way. Here are 15 restaurants serving up engaging meal kits in San Francisco. Hopefully, it’s an idea that will stick around for a while, even when this is all “over.”

Lobster scampi meal kit from Prairie Prairie

Lobster Scampi Delight from Prairie

Feeds: 2 people

Cost: $42

Hands-on time:15 minutes, boiling pasta, tossing together

Order: Online

Chef Anthony Strong from Prairie was in the pizza delivery game for 10 years with Delfina and even tried out a ghost kitchen at one point. He has officially decided: He’s over third-party delivery. Now, he’s handling takeout and delivery himself, and kitting out dinners that people could throw together tonight or stash in the fridge for a couple of days. He’s got salted maple toaster waffles, beef cheek pappardelle, and not least, a whole lobster scampi, breaking down a restaurant treat and making it a fun experience at home.

Proper Sunday Roast from Lord Stanley

Feeds: 2 people

Cost: $130

Hands-on time: 30 minutes, heat and eat

Order: Online

Lord Stanley is rocking a different dinner every night of the week, from duck cassoulet to lobster roll. In the meal kit category, right now they’re best known for doing a collab with Mister Jiu’s: Lord Jiu’s is a five-course tasting menu experience from both star chefs. But the restaurant is also keeping British tradition alive and well in the form of a proper Sunday roast, which includes a wagyu chop, mashed potatoes, and herb butter.

Sear-Ready Steak Kits from Mastro’s

Feeds: 2 or 4 people

Cost: $82.50 or $132

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, sear steaks, reheat sides

Order: Online

Yeah, Mastro’s is that over-the-top steakhouse chain in Union Square. But hear us out: Steak is quite possibly the perfect food to do as a dinner kit. It is a tragedy to cook a steak to specified doneness, let it go cold in transit, and leave diners to resort to — shudders — microwaving. These filets come raw, ready to sear. And in true steakhouse glory, diners get to choose their own sides, and they get butter cake.

Perfectly Brined Pork Chops from Nopa

Feeds: 2 people

Cost: $16

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, sear and slide into the oven

Order: Online

A friend of a friend had a surprising unboxing experience, when she thought she was ordering the legendary Nopa pork chop, ready to eat, and in fact pulled a raw chop out of the bag. (This was a user error. Nopa is clear on their site.) But a fully brined pork chop, that’s ready to sear off, is in fact a dream. Nopa is also offering steaks, burgers, and bolognese in kit form, as well as the lofty French toast. Really.

Pillowy Pizza Margherita from Del Popolo

Feeds: 1 person

Cost: $10

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, stretch, top, bake

Order: Online

Of all the Neapolitan-style pies that are slung around this town, Del Popolo has a pillowy reputation for naturally leavened sourdough. Which pizza lovers can now buy by the ball, along with sauce, basil, and mozzarella. Will a homemade pizza ever be as ferociously leopard-spotted as those from a restaurant oven? Oh God no. But it’s still a treat to lay paws on this beautiful dough, and a fun project with kids.

Pasta kits from Delfina Delfina

Toss-Together Pasta Kits from Delfina

Feeds: 2 to 3 people

Cost: $22.99 for the spaghetti pomodoro

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, cooking pasta, tossing with sauce

Order: Online

In addition to their usual takeout offerings, Delfina is trying out pasta kits, including the classic spaghetti from Delfina and the spicy and fatty amatriciana from Locanda (an early victim of the crisis, may it rest in peace). It’s an opportunity to learn the tricks that make this kitchen’s dried pastas so extraordinary — exactly which brand of pasta they use, and how they finish cooking in the sauce. Those that get it right will reap the rewards, because spaghetti is so much better right out of the pan and perfectly al dente.

Lasagna kit from Great Gold Becky Duffett

Heat-and-Eat Lasagna from Great Gold

Feeds: 2 people

Cost: $45

Hands-on time: 30 minutes, heat and eat

Order: Online

Great Gold is comforting the Mission with red sauce. Lasagna has always traveled well in times of need, and this lasagna bolognese meal kit is a beaut, with a big slab of the casserole, focaccia, Caesar salad, and a deli tub full of tiramisu. The lasagna is the only element that needs to slide into the oven and warm through.

Simple Veggie Soups from Atelier Crenn

Feeds: 1 person

Cost: $38 per kit, $55 for additional cheese and chocolate

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, heat and eat

Order: Online

Dominique Crenn’s vegetarian kit sounds deceptively simple for the three star chef, packing vegetable soup and stuffed pasta, and showcasing produce from the restaurant’s much-touted farm. But the real treat might be the butter brioche and revelatory chocolates from pastry chef Juan Contreras.

Seafood paella kit from Canela Canela

Seafood Paella Party Kits from Canela

Feeds: 2 to 4 people

Cost: $30 for 2 people, $52 for 4 people

Hands-on time: 30 to 40 minutes, simmering pre-prepped ingredients

Order: Online

Paella has always been the star menu item at Canela, sometimes to the restaurant’s dismay, taking over the stove for 45 minutes per pan and making it challenging to prepare other tapas. But now, it presents a fun project to make at home. The restaurant sources all of those special ingredients like Spanish rice, saffron broth, and shellfish. And served up family style, paella always feels like a party.

Meaty Taco Meals from Nopalito

Feeds: 2 people

Cost: $40

Hands-on time: 10 minutes, heat and eat

Order: Call 415-437-0303 for takeout, Caviar for delivery

Instead of stuffing tacos in advance and letting them steam and soften, Nopalito is serving up a big meaty meal kit. It’s fully loaded with the restaurant’s legendary carnitas, chicken tinga, and beef birria, with veggies, rice, beans, and those beautiful fresh tortillas tucked tidily on the side. Very low effort and family friendly, fans only have to reheat and fold.

DIY dumplings from Palette Palette

DIY Dim Sum from Palette Tea House

Feeds: 12 to 15 pieces per order

Cost: $15 for bao to $18 for soup dumplings, $15 for the steaming basket

Hands-on time: 10 minutes per batch

Order: Call (415) 347-8888 for takeout, DoorDash for delivery

Palette Tea House, the beautiful dim sum spot in Ghirardelli Square, is encouraging customers to practice the art of steaming dumplings at home. The dumplings come frozen, along with a steaming basket, and instructions for how to either steam or boil, depending on type. Is it as enchanting as having a cart sweep by the table, depositing dumplings in a cloud? Maybe not quite, but there is an entirely different magic to a big dumpling project on a Friday night.

Filipino Feast from Pinoy Heritage

Feeds: 2 to 4 people (or 5 small meals for one person)

Cost: $50

Hands-on time: Not specified

Order: Online

Pinoy Heritage is having fun with the meal kit category, rolling out Filipino home-cooked spreads. In the early weeks of the pandemic, their six-course dinner kit might have overestimated inexperienced home cooks, asking them to deep-fry lumpia, boil pasta, and make a chicken stock all at once. But it looks like the team has the menu dialed in now, with ingredients that are already prepped out and are easy to assemble, and solo diners can spread the cooking process out over the course of several meals.

Burger kit from Shake Shack Shake Shack

Smash-It-Yourself Burgers from Shake Shack

Makes: 8 burgers

Cost: $49

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, searing and stacking

Order: Online

Love it or hate it, Shake Shack was the biggest burger sensation to sweep into the Bay Area last year. And now, instead of waiting in line or letting burgers go cold during delivery, fans can smash their own at home. Why buy a fast food kit? Well, they are making the effort to use local meat, courtesy of Cream Co., and stacking it on the ever popular Martin’s potato rolls.

Sausage kit from Rosamunde Rosamunde

Grill-at-Home Sausages from Rosamunde

Makes: 4 sausages plus sides

Cost: $26

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, grilling and stacking

Order: Online

Sausage legend Rosamunde is stocked up and ready for grilling season, offering a few different options: either just the dogs or a full family pack, including rolls, kraut, German potato salad, curry ketchup, and honey-wasabi mustard.

Sourdough kit from Thorough Bread Thorough Bread

Sourdough Starter Kit from Thorough Bread

Cost: $23

Hands-on time: 2-day process, mixing, fermenting, shaping, baking

Order: Online

Many bakeries across the Bay have been offering starter, now that everyone is baking sourdough at home. Thorough Bread is rounding it out with flour and a basket, everything aspiring bakers need to give this a knead. The bakery is an extension of the San Francisco Baking Institute, so beginners can really trust those instructions. And once you’ve mastered a basic loaf, level up and try homemade bread bowls.

Bacon-egg-cheese from Daily Driver Daily Driver

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Kit from Daily Driver

Feeds: 6 people

Cost: $50

Hands-on time: 20 minutes, frying bacon, scrambling eggs

Order: Online

Daily Driver, the one-two punch for bagels and cream cheese, is getting into the kit game. Maybe most exciting is the bacon, egg, and cheese, a breakfast standby that’s often missing from the Bay (don’t let any New Yorkers get started on this subject). The eggs are easy to scramble, the bacon is quick to fry, and piled on a fresh bagel, it’s a seriously satisfying breakfast.

Croissants from Le Marais Le Marais

Take-and-Bake Croissants from Le Marais

Makes: 12 assorted croissants

Cost: $40

Hands-on time: Overnight process, proof overnight, bake in the morning

Order: Online

Rivaling the Trader Joe’s freezer aisle, Le Marais has actually been into take-and-bake offerings for a while. But the appeal of a freezer-friendly pain au chocolat has taken on a whole new appeal during these times, and the local mini chain of French bistros does it well. The pastries arrive frozen, proof overnight, and bake in the morning. Is there anything more intoxicating than the fresh scent of cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning, while still wearing pajamas?