PIZZA AND CHINESE used to be the primary at-home food delivery options.
Times have changed, but not so much for me. I’m that guy who’s never used food delivery services DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates or UberEats. Not once.
I can hear you mouthing, Okay, Boomer.
FYI, I’m not a Baby Boomer. Call me a cusp Generation X-er.
However long in the tooth, I’ve never tapped a Grubhub app to have Sage Fried Chicken Benedict from Hillcrest’s Hash House a Go Go delivered to my door.
An UberEats driver has never been summoned to my address with a Prosciutto Panini from Pappalecco in Little Italy.
I like those menu items, but I won’t call and ask somebody else to bring them to my home.
Delivery isn’t my thing but I’m still wild about takeout orders. I call in and then do pickup.
On a monthly basis, I visit East Village’s Urban India for an order of Coconut Chicken Curry for me and Aloo Saag for my vegetarian wife.
We also crave the food at Tajima. Spicy Sesame Ramen for my palate; Vegan Ramen for Jules. It’s nigh impossible not to add Cinnamon Churros for dessert.
My philosophy and approach to procuring to-go restaurant food is dated, to be sure. I prefer to phone the restaurant directly. I will order online if I have to (I’m not a Luddite.) Then I’ll lace up my sneakers and go get it.
Dining in the Age of COVID
Tajima East Village.
Takeout and delivery were gaining popularity before 2020. Yes, of course, the pandemic caused restaurants to see a steep rise in off-premises sales.
Yelp reports that three prominent factors cause people to order takeout:
- Convenience: People like saving the hassle of making the trip to a restaurant, especially when traffic, parking, weather, or managing children come into play.
- Comfort: People gravitate toward enjoying food in front of the TV or a movie at home.
- Cost: Eating restaurant food at home saves money on a variety of things, including gas, ordering extras and tipping.
Good economic news: Diners are ready to eat out in restaurants again in a (fingers crossed) post-COVID world. On-premises dining sales are up 46 percent in a year-over-year comparison from the first quarter of 2022, according to Blue Book Services.
Takeout and delivery sales are down 7 percent over that same time span. Despite this one-year dip, off-premises sales are still higher than recent past years.
My wife and I are venturing back to restaurants, but are definitely still doing more takeout than in the pre-pandemic era.
And when we order out, I’m our delivery guy.
The Delivery Connection
About five years ago, we lived in a condo in the Marina District and favored occasional delivery from China Too in the Gaslamp Quarter.
We ordered a variety of things that were brought to our door: Chow Fun. Walnut Shrimp. Ma Po Tofu. Steamed Seasonal Veggies.
The delivery guy was an older gent who wore a cabbie hat and rode a bike. He never arrived in less than an hour and the food was hardly warm upon arrival.
Know what? We didn’t care. We loved that guy. When he’d finally show up with our order we’d chat about the weather and the traffic.
He was reliably late, yet always polite and deferential. He carried himself like the happy-go-lucky streetsweeper in Jimmy Buffett’s song “It’s My Job.”
He didn’t have a ton to say, but you could see a light still flickered behind his dark eyes.
Due to the human connection we built with the delivery guy, my wife and I were fine remembering to order more than an hour ahead of when we thought we’d be hungry.
I always over-tipped him.
When China Too changed management and let our guy go, we stopped patronizing the place.
Humanizing Food Service
Urban India: To-go, please.
As far as I can see, there’s nothing wrong with using food-delivery-service apps.
Sure, there has been some bad press about UberEats drivers who were caught snacking on deliveries. A survey found a shocking number of drivers admitted to doing it.
And the delivery apps aren’t free. Prices vary, but some charge up to $8.99 per delivery.
Those things are not the driving issues for me.
In my East Village apartment building, in fact, there’s a Valet store on the first floor. It offers free delivery of food and drink to units in the building. Staff ring your buzzer and drop off a white bag containing your items in front of your door.
I hear they complete orders in about 15 minutes or less.
The company just celebrated its one-year anniversary. As of this week, they sell beer and wine.
I shop at the Valet store occasionally–on my way out of the building. So far, I’ve not had anything delivered to my unit.
By now, you’re wondering, “What in the world is this guy’s hang-up?“
It’s not cost, fear of food tampering or service time delays.
Part of the reason is stubborn habit. I’ve got a streak going. Why break a streak?
Plus, it feels very “downtown” to me to go get my grub at the actual food hub.
I could vainly claim that walking to Tajima or biking to Urban India to pick up my orders is pre-meal exercise. That’s a thin argument (pun half-intended).
The convenience, comfort and cost-saving aspects of takeout food are all copacetic. And it really doesn’t matter how the food gets from the restaurant kitchen to my face.
The therapy-breakthrough reason, the subconscious motivating factor is…a desire for human connection.
As somebody who works alone from home, I don’t mind getting out and walking a few blocks to look somebody in the eye when they hand me foodstuffs.
No man is an island. There it is.
We know there are plenty of challenges in the food-service industry. Wages. Staffing. Supply-chain issues. Customer service can always be sharpened.
Still, human contact is a keystone. That’s worth walking the extra (quarter) mile to connect with.
Do I want fries with that? I shouldn’t. But I do. And I’ll be right there to pick ’em up.
[Cover Photo by Getty Images]
In Other Attributed News…
Same as the Old Mayor
Looking more and more like his predecessor in his response to the city’s burgeoning homelessness issues, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has resorted to sweeping encampments and ticketing and arresting people for violating encroachment laws. Gloria says he doesn’t want to go this route. “We don’t like to do this,” he says. To people experiencing homelessness he pleads: “Please accept the help you are offered. I can’t imagine what caused you to end up on the streets. Bad luck. Divorce. Job loss. Generational trauma. The list goes on…” (Union-Tribune)
UC San Diego in the Thick of Homelessness
University of California San Diego researchers are launching an extensive homelessness study. Not coincidentally, the UC San Diego Park & Market community building in downtown opened this spring. It’s being imagined that researchers might easily base their study downtown, which sits at ground zero of the local, rampant, unsheltered people problem. (KPBS)
Play Time is Over, for Now
The 46-year-old San Diego Repertory Theatre, which has been based within the Horton Plaza re-construction zone, is shuttering its doors on June 19. All future productions have been cancelled. Boosters hope the issues of debt and low ticket sales that is causing the 23 full-time and 15 part-time staffers to lose jobs can be rectified by a reboot in 2024. (Union-Tribune)
Fewer Free Lunch Areas
A COVID-era outdoor dining area being removed from Fifth Avenue.
Outdoor parklets were a smart response to COVID restrictions. Now, the City of San Diego is reminding restaurant owners there’s no such thing a (permanent) free lunch area. Eateries that want to keep the extra tables set up on sidewalks and parking spaces must apply for a new Spaces as Places permit by July 13. Annual permits will range from $10 to $30 per square foot. No longer allowed: Overhead roofing and electrical wiring. (CBS8)
Children’s Park Remodeling, Again
The 1.6-acre greenspace across the street from the San Diego Convention Center has never lived up to its name. Rather than be a haven for children, it’s long been an avoidable part of town–used more frequently by drug dealers and other unsavory characters. Knock wood: Another redesign is underway. Architects promise actual kids’ play areas and on-site restrooms with all-day attendants. (SD Business Journal)
Sounding the Ambulance Alarm
San Diego is looking at taking back its ambulance service contract from Falck and possibly merging it with the city’s Fire-Rescue Department. Falck had scooped up the contract from long-time provider American Medical Response. However, Falck has failed to boost services such as more ambulances on the street kept in operation longer. (Union-Tribune)
Manny: Happy Faces at Petco Park
All smiles: Manny Machado is taking a leadership role with the Padres. (Getty Images)
In 2019, the San Diego Padres spent $300 million on a 10-year contract for third baseman Manny Machado. A new article in Sports Illustrated makes the case that Machado–more mature and becoming a clubhouse leader–is earning his paycheck. The Padres are one of the hottest teams in all of pro baseball and seem destined for the postseason. With Fernando Tatís Jr. still on the injury list, Machado is putting up MVP numbers on offense and continues to add to highlight reels with his stellar defense. (si.com)
Who’s In/Out at Comic-Con
Comic-Com arrives in downtown San Diego in just over a month, and the blogosphere is atwitter with news and rumors. Games of Thrones author George R. R. Martin has announced he’ll be in town. GoT prequel House of the Dragon is hopefully forthcoming on HBO. (sdccblog.com)…Apparently not coming to The Con this summer: anybody from Marvel. We don’t want to be Thor losers, but somebody tell Marvel’s parent company, Disney, to take a closer Loki at San Diego. (CBR.com)
Of All the Gin Joints
Yelp has spoken. Downtown San Diego’s You & Yours Distilling Co. has been named the best gin distillery in California, according to Yelp contributors. The East Village spot is an “urban craft liquor destination distillery, cocktail bar, event space and bottle shop.” (Fox5)
Even Bigger Yelp Kudos
Those Yelpers like to make their opinions knowns, and that’s good news for East Village’s Izola, which was picked by as the top bakery in the United States and Canada. Noteworthy: During the pandemic’s social distancing protocols, Izola would lower croissants in a basket from a third-floor window to customers below. (Fox5)
Bay Watching at Hess Tower
Deals & Contests
The new Hess Tower in Seaport Village.
- BAY WATCH: Seaport Village’s only rooftop deck has opened above the Mike Hess Brewing location. With four big screen TVs, it’s set up for sports watching or just enjoying views of the San Diego Bay. Throughout June, the restaurant is offering specials on starters like its Caribbean-style seafood cocktail or ahi tuna poke tower, which can be paired with a pint of any Mike Hess beer, for $15.
- MUSIC MAGIC: Sofar Sounds is an international community of music fans, artists and hosts that put on semi-secret concerts every month. In San Diego, events are ramping up, with dozens of offerings in communities all over the region. Adventuresome? Want to try it out? Go to the Sofar Sounds website, select a city and pick out a show. Use the promo code: SDSUN10 and get 10 percent off the ticket price. (Note: Offer applies to one-time use per person.) FYI: There’s a downtown show coming up on June 21. Details: HERE.
- WALK THIS WAY. Out of the Ordinary Group Adventures has a Get Fit Walking program that’s both fun and a physical fitness boon. (Check out the story about the company’s downtown San Diego scavenger hunts.) Groups that want to participate in Out of the Ordinary’s “Hidden Gems” or “Secret Beaches” walks can go HERE for details. Use the promo code: SDSun11 and get an 11-percent discount on tickets.