Courtesy of Chronicle Books

Make all takeout the best takeout with these ordering tips

Magdalena O'Neal  –  Updated February 19, 2021

When you open your phone and Google “best takeout near me”, what are you really searching for? You probably want the highest-rated restaurants near you, but that won’t always offer up places that cater to carry out orders. To debunk the simple Google term, we’ve gathered some tips to make any takeout near you the best takeout. With suggestions for what to order, some foolproof menu options that will always deliver smoothly to your front door, and what dishes make the best leftovers, find our full takeout guide below. 

Chinese

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Ordering food to-go is no place to get adventurous, especially since some of my favorite menu items haven’t made it through the car ride home, like my no longer crispy shrimp, or broken soup dumplings. Unfortunately, some of the best dishes are meant to be eaten asap. Though hope is not lost, because some Chinese dishes make for amazing leftovers— have you tried a fried rice omelette? Here are our suggestions for a simple dinner from your neighborhood Chinese spot that will taste as good in your kitchen as the one it came out of. 

What to Order

Chow Mein: The thick noodles that are the default for chow mein won’t fall apart, and they’re super easy to reheat in a pan the next morning.

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Fried Rice: Need fried rice have an explanation? If the answer is yes, then just know you can’t go wrong with fried rice. Crack an egg in it for breakfast, and stick to veggie or chicken as your protein— shrimp won’t taste as good reheated. 

Sesame Chicken: Whether you get sesame, lemon, or orange chicken, leave a note to put the sauce on the side. This way you can heat up the sauce and toss the chicken in it yourself, meaning crispier chicken.

Sizzling Rice Soup: When you dine in, they pour the crispy rice over hot broth filled with meat, water chestnuts, and veggies causing everyone at the table to oooh and aaah. You can recreate this at home, most places will put the rice on the side (already crisped) so you can sizzle it yourself.

Burgers

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Sweet, sweet burgers. I promise this will be one of the last mentions of how much I love burgers. What I’ve learned from ordering burgers to-go in the last year of my life has been to keep it simple. You don’t want to overdo it with sauce, veggies, other toppings or anything that might damage your bun. Stick to the meats and the cheeses and order from somewhere close by. If your favorite burger spot is across town, pick it up and eating it in a nearby lot so it stays warm and fresh. Explore new spots on your side of town, too. You’ll want your burger to make its way into your hands within twenty minutes of pickup to make sure it maintains freshness.

How to Order

Everyone’s toppings are a matter of opinion when it comes to hamburgers, right? Keep the burger, cheese, and basic condiments between the bun, but keep in mind the key to takeout— get the extras on the side! 

I’ve recently become a fan of hot dogs, Burgers 99 in Los Angeles serves chopped onions and pickles on the side, I add grilled onions and bacon and it holds up better than my usual goto bacon burger.  

Thai

Thai food with red curry chicken

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Thai food is one of my favorites for leftovers. Whether I order pad thai, pad see ew, panang curry, or tom kha, I throw it all in the same pan in the morning and it makes the best stir fry all together. Similarly to when ordering Chinese, go for the thicker noodles. Stick to spring rolls over things like chicken satay that you’ll end up having to warm up. 

What to Order

Pad See Ew: These noodles are less likely to stick together in a box-shaped noodle block than pad thai. If you’re more of a fan of the pad thai flavor, try drunken noodles instead! 

Curry: Curries are the type of dish you can eat for days and the flavors just get better and better. Seeing as they are usually piping hot when they leave the restaurant, it should arrive to you at a perfect temperature for immediate consumption. 

Papaya Salad: This is one of those dishes that won’t be weighed down from being dressed ahead of time since the shredded papaya has more body than typical lettuce. Plus, it’s a refreshing palette cleanser between the heavy curries and noodles.

Pizza

slice of pizza on white

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Well, this is an easy and rather straightforward one— but important to cover nonetheless! Whether you eat pizza cold, room temp, or piping hot, ordering pizza for takeout is all about the spot you get it from. I’m a huge fan of pan pizzas (which I embarrassingly tried for the first time from Domino’s) with a fluffy focaccia-like crust. In Los Angeles I favor a whole pepperoni pizza from Bootleg Pizza, which is perfect to be enjoyed at any temperature, any time of day and their naturally leavened crusts make the perfect sturdy base for tons of toppings.

Reheating Tips

Always if possible heat up leftover pizza in the oven or toaster oven. We’ve all put a slice in the microwave and ended up fighting to chew the now rubbery crust. That can all be avoided by reheating your piece in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes. 

Ramen 

ramen on white

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Ramen has always been a sit down meal as opposed to take out, though most of the best spots were ready for the takeout trend to take off and nailed it by separating the broth from the toppings and noodles. 

How to Order

Call ahead! If you have a favorite spot, call them and double-check that they separate the broth from the other goodies. If they don’t, ask them to for your order and place it over the phone. With so many apps out there dominating the takeout industry, there has been a lot of talk about the outrageous fees they charge restaurants. Whenever possible, call your order in and go pick it up, or take advantage of places that offer local delivery! 

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