Whether for a quick solo lunch or a family-style dinner—on those occasions when we’re thinking more about what sounds good rather than what’s good for us—these restaurants are the ones that keep us coming back.
Grabbing a meal to go from this vibrant Green Lake restaurant means you miss out on the joy of eating there—sand-filled patio and all. But then again, this is the kind of food that makes an excellent picnic next to the lake across the street: Caribbean plates of citrus-braised pork ($9.99) or spicy shrimp ($10.99) with black beans, rice, slaw and a single sweet maduro (fried sweet plantain). Skip the sandwiches, which get soggy on the drive home. Green Lake, 6501 Aurora Ave. N; 206.420.8548; bongosseattle.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Among Seattle’s many options for Indian takeout, this Roosevelt spot has been a gem for nearly 20 years. Order the lamb pasanda ($18), a cilantro and chile curry concocted with house-made yogurt, which is one of chef Muhammad Uddin’s specialties. Entrées come with rice, which is a bit unclear from the ordering apps, so there’s no need to order extra—but don’t forget the naan ($2), which is puffed and blistered in all the right ways. Roosevelt, 6509 Roosevelt Way NE; 206.985.0041; bengaltigerwa.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Perfecting a properly noisy ramen slurp is something that should be done alone. And since we don’t have those specially designed privacy booths seen in Japan, we have to settle for takeout ramen. Pick up your parcel and follow the careful reheating instructions; noodles are packaged to be reheated separately so they don’t absorb all the liquid. Our favorite is the umami-packed miso ramen ($11), and don’t forget to add the gooey-yolked egg. Multiple locations; kizuki.com; Pickup; delivery available limited hours.
Miso ramen from Kizuki Ramen.
It’s impossible not to swoon a little when one of the Arsheed brothers—Sammy or Joni—remembers your order (with the extra hot sauce). They greet every customer as if they’re family. Plates of crispy falafel ($10.89) or freshly shaved gyro meat ($10.89) with rice, excellent hummus and a generous pile of Greek salad (made with cabbage) stand up best to travel time, but the gyro-stuffed pita sandwiches ($7.29) are ideal for inhaling immediately after exiting. Hours are irregular, so check the website before going. Wallingford, 256 NE 45th St., 206.535.8841; Ballard, 5522 20th Ave. NW, 206.782.7777; Greenwood, 8411 Greenwood Ave. N, 206.706.7472; mrgyroseattle.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Windy City Pie
Dave Lichterman knows a thing or two about delivery—he launched Windy City Pie in 2015 as a delivery-only, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza operation out of his Capitol Hill apartment. As demand has grown, so has his business, and you can now get his hefty pies, edged in caramelized cheese, for dining in (21 and older only, inside Batch 206 Distillery), or pickup or delivery ordered directly through the easy-to-use interface on Windy City’s website. Try the Hot Island ($27), topped with house-made sausage, pineapple and jalapeño. The pie is best eaten within the hour of being made, unless you’re the sort who likes cold pizza (we are). Interbay, 1417 Elliott Ave. W; 206.486.4743; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Wood Shop BBQ
This is food that is made to be eaten on the go. Matt Davis and James Barrington started their pit master journey with a food truck before opening a brick-and-mortar Central District location nearly a year ago. Texas-style brisket (a must-try), pulled pork, smoked chicken, sausages and ribs are all available by the pound if you’re ordering for a big group; if you’re dining alone, opt for one of these stellar proteins atop a bowl of smoked jalapeño mac ’n’ cheese ($11–$13). Central District, 2513 S Jackson St.; 206.485.7381; thewoodshopbbq.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Vermicelli with pork and egg roll from Green Leaf.
With four locations, Green Leaf is no longer as coveted a destination for unbeatable Vietnamese fare as it once was, but each spot can still be crowded (even the largest one, in the Asian Food Center on Aurora Avenue), which usually means takeout is your best bet. If you can’t stay for pho, order what tastes best at room temperature, such as the fresh spring rolls with grilled chicken, the spicy lemongrass chicken over rice (order extra vegetables) and the green mango salad, showered with fried shallots. Although it uses most Seattle-area delivery services, we find it’s best to order directly from the restaurant and pick the food up, to avoid mistakes. Multiple locations; Pickup, lunch and dinner.
Little Ting’s Dumplings
It’s a mesmerizing experience to sit at the counter of this unassuming restaurant, so far north it’s nearly in Shoreline, and watch the meticulous folding of dumpling after dumpling after dumpling. The entire menu of dumplings—pork and cabbage, chive and scallop, beef and green onion, and many others ($8.99–$12.99 for 15 pieces)—is available fried or steamed. Your best bet for takeout is to think ahead and stock up on the frozen dumplings that are available to take home ($26–$30 for 50 pieces). You’ll never feel richer than when you have a freezer with a stash of pro-made dumplings, just waiting to be boiled and eaten. Broadview, 14411 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.363.3866; littletingsdumplings.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Toshi’s Teriyaki Grill
Shiro Kashiba may be the legendary local king of sushi, but Toshi Kasahara is the reigning royalty of teriyaki. Kasahara has been credited with introducing Seattle to its now iconic dish in 1976; he still works the stove at this Mill Creek flagship (the only one he’s associated with now, despite the other locations bearing his name), expertly grilling chicken and beef to be topped with his signature sauce. You should order the combo of both meats ($8.45), which comes with a heap of white rice and tangy coleslaw, plus a side of gyoza ($2.95), not made in house, but delicious all the same. Mill Creek, 16212 Bothell-Everett Hwy.; 425.225.6420; toshisgrill.com; Pickup, lunch and dinner.
There’s something delightfully entertaining—in a juvenile way, anyway—about hearing the buttoned-up out-of-towner in line ahead of you order: “One Gritty Scrambled Cheesy Bitch with bacon ($12.60), please!” All of the big, buttery biscuits—this one topped with grits, scrambled eggs, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon—at this popular, tongue-in-cheek café are worth both the wait and the blush you get from ordering. At the Belltown location within Caffè Lieto, the lines are always long, and with just a few tables there, you almost have to get yours to go. Belltown and Pioneer Square; biscuitbitch.com; Pickup, breakfast and lunch.
Beef or potato, wrapped in dough, served in a bowl for easy transport—these Russian dumplings are food for the inebriated at its best. Lucky for us, both Fremont and Capitol Hill locations are open until 2:30 a.m. daily. The little pockets of deliciousness are served with your choice of toppings, but we like the classic preparation of sour cream, butter, curry powder, red sauce and cilantro ($9–$10), enjoyed at the Dumpling Tzar’s stand, which made the fair circuit for years. Capitol Hill, 1630 12th Ave., 206.466.6561; Fremont, 3516 Fremont Place N, 206.588.2570; Pickup and delivery, lunch, dinner and late night.
Garlic chicken aka “crack chicken” from Buddha Ruksa.
West Seattle has long loved this inviting Thai restaurant, but those of us outside the ’hood should know a visit here is worth the cross-bridge commute, particularly for what regulars affectionately call “crack chicken,” a lightly batter-dipped chicken ($12) that’s fried with garlic and chiles, served with crisp basil, and which has the most addictive crunch. Call to place your order (you’ll also want to try the salty-sour-sweet beef salad, $11), pull into the 30-minute loading spot out front and rejoice. West Seattle, 3520 SW Genesee St.; 206.937.7676; buddharuksa.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
By now, the story is common knowledge: When Seattle fried chicken king Ezell Stephens lost a court battle and the rights to his Ezell’s fried chicken hot spot originally in the Central District, he started his own joint, Heaven Sent—same recipe, better chicken ($19.85 for eight pieces). At Heaven Sent, where the fried chicken’s golden crust is reliably fresher and the hot variety is reliably hotter than Ezell’s, you can either grab your chicken and eat it as soon as possible, or give it a few hours in the fridge; a middling temperature is less appealing. Lake City, Renton, Everett; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
La Bu La
With the big, busy dining-room style of Asian favorites like Din Tai Fung and dishes loaded with the citrus buzz of Szechuan peppercorns, this Bellevue Szechuan restaurant is an Eastside favorite for good reason. The name, which translates to “spicy not spicy,” reflects its knack for satisfying all palates. The dry-cooked string beans ($10.49), redolent of garlic, compete for favorite status with the ma po tofu ($10.49) and the chicken chow mein (choose the hand-shaven noodles; $12.49). La Bu La’s meals travel well, but delivery services often take hours during busy times, so plan to pick up your food. Bellevue, 288 106th Ave. NE, No. 200; 425.688.7991; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Chicken chow mein with hand-shaved noodles from La Bu La.
The experts will tell you it’s silly to order tacos or a burrito to go if you’re going to wait more than a few minutes to consume them; both get soggy. But for El Camión, the Mexican brick-and-mortar taco stop and food truck that started its first little outpost on wheels near Home Depot, it’s just such dishes that have built its good rep: From tamales ($3) to tacos dorados ($7.35), the menu is filled with down-home Mexican fare that travels well. Case in point: the mild green posole ($8.25), rich with hefty hunks of slowly cooked pork. Ask for a side of the green salsa, and stir it in with the cabbage and tortilla chips. Note: If you pay by credit card when you place a to-go order by phone from the restaurant, you can skip the line and pick up your order to the right of the register. Just remember to stop by the toppings bar; salsa isn’t packed in the bag for you. Ballard, 6416 15th Ave. NW, plus three trucks in Seattle; 206.784.5411; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
From the former owner of Paseo, Seattle's famed Caribbean sandwich spot, this restaurant has a different name, but the same addictively tender chicken, rich roasted pork and savory vegetarian black beans. Some swear you have to eat the Caribbean roast sandwich ($11.50) on site so the bread doesn’t get too soggy, but if you don’t have far to drive before consuming, you can still revel in that garlicky aioli, those jalapeño slices, the sweet caramelized onions, imperfect bread be damned. But the Smokin’ Thigh dinner ($14.50), an undeniably better road-tripper, does come with the surprise sleeper—the house salad, with those slivered pickled beets. Ballard, 7302½ 15th Ave. NW, 206.588.2040; Shilshole, 6226 Seaview Ave. NW, 206.420.7545; unbienseattle.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Pop Pop Thai Street Food
Tucked into a strip mall off Aurora Avenue just short of Shoreline, Pop Pop Thai is the type of Thai joint that has the guts not to offer all the dishes commonly associated with Thailand—maybe it’s because of its street-food-savvy origins as a food truck?—and all of the items on the (relatively small) menu seem to go well together. Try the springy woonsen pad thai (made with glass noodles; $10.95), the exceptionally moist grilled chicken ($9.95) or the prawn pad kee mao ($11.95). Note: Pop Pop’s star system is legit. Two out of five stars is hot enough for someone who likes moderate spice. Order plenty of mun gai (rice cooked in chicken fat; $2.50) on the side. Haller Lake, 13242 Aurora Ave. N, No. 104; 206.695.2858; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Pabla Indian Cuisine
Ornately decorated and with white tablecloths, this Renton Indian eatery is the place to go for Punjabi specialties. Tragically, the beautiful thalis (an Indian platter of many small dishes) are only available for dining in, although that’s understandable given the packaging that would be necessary. Everything else on the menu, however, is fair game for takeout: more than 50 different vegetarian, kosher dishes ($3–$13). Pabla has an Issaquah location, too, but only the Renton restaurant has an adjoining grocer with a freezer full of frozen house-made samosas to go. Renton, 364 Renton Center Way SW, Suite C60; 425.228.4625; pablacuisine.com; Pickup and delivery, lunch and dinner.
Ballard Pizza Co.
When Seattle restaurant emperor Ethan Stowell opened the first Ballard Pizza, his goal was simple: to create a New York–style pizzeria that caters to families. He’s done it, and with delivery, he’s made it easy. Order the ever-changing Big Moses (“The chosen pizza. Have some faith, it will be good”; $18 small, $25 large) or, if you like a little more control, the Staple & Fancy ($18 small, $25 large), which has pepperoni, pineapple and jalapeños. Ballard, Frelard, South Lake Union; ballardpizzacompany.com; Pickup and delivery, dinner only in Ballard and Frelard, lunch and dinner at South Lake Union location.
Perhaps it’s because Capitol Hill’s thriving Malaysian eatery started primarily as a takeout business, or the fact that Malaysian street food lends itself to travel. In any case, Kedai Makan (which translates roughly from Malay to “eat shop”) packages its food carefully for takeout. You’ll find the sauce for the savory beef bok choy noodles ($14.50) in a separate container, so that you can pour it over the dish yourself; the roti jala (“net” bread) carefully separated from its spicy, mustard seed-studded dal curry accompaniment ($6.50); and nasi goreng kedai, its signature Malaysian fried rice ($11.50), served with an egg that’s somehow perfectly runny, even at home. Capitol Hill, 1802 Bellevue Ave.; Pickup, orders only taken at restaurant, dinner only.