My family, as a whole, does not appreciate the subtleties of raw sea urchin, pea foam or anything that looks up at you from a dinner plate. As a food writer I do not understand this, but as a wife and mother I am frequently asked to provide daily sustenance for their hungry faces.
Therein lies the rub. As we all spend more time with our families at home, waiting for the latest wave of bad news and feeling unmotivated to make that sourdough bread that seemed so enthralling in March or even lift a finger to boil water, I figured it was time to discuss the takeout box in the room — what we’re all stress-eating right now.
My family probably looks a lot like your family. We order takeout pizza every Friday night (and sometimes, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday). We order a ridiculous amount of Mexican food. We crave fat sub sandwiches and go nuts for volcano chicken with macaroni salad. On a good day, we gather around the TV with greasy paper plates, paper towels for napkins and fingers for utensils, with a communal bottle of ranch dressing. On a bad day, we pilfer whatever’s left over from each other’s fast food bags. These are strange days.
Why am I revealing this deep, dark secret? I feel like this isn’t a time for finger-wagging about what we eat or raving about perfectly plated dishes with edible flowers and raspberry coulis.
It’s a time to give in to calories-be-damned comfort cravings with the ones we love. It’s time to order out, hunker down and pray for daylight.
In fact, the recent stress of fires overlaying months of pandemic worry made crawling under the blankets with a giant bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion chips, a super burrito stuffed with French fries and a bag of frozen peanut butter cups seem like an utterly reasonable thing to do. I have no regrets.
Sure, we’ll all get back to organic tofu stir fries eventually, but for now, this is the absolutely transparent, mom-is-so-not-cooking, real-world truth about what my crew is craving, enjoying and gobbling up as we wait for life to return to some semblance of normality.
Note: Installing delivery apps on your phone makes life a lot easier, but I’m also including direct phone numbers or websites if you want to pick up.
Mary’s Pizza Shack: The new crispy chicken sandwich ($10.95) is as good as I’d dared to hope. A toasty brioche bun, not-too-thick fried chicken patty, chili mayo, Parmesan cheese and pickled onion with cabbage and arugula slaw pairs perfectly with my third glass of chardonnay. My go-to however, is the Chicken Parmigiana ($14.75) with tart tomato sauce, melted provolone and creamy fettuccine Alfredo. I eat it while hiding in the garage from my family. Various locations, maryspizzashack.com
Taqueria California: My kids discovered this spot on Doordash and we’ve never looked back. Crispy carnitas and al pastor tacos were still shockingly good even after they sweated it out in a delivery driver’s car. In fact, these are the tastiest carnitas I’ve had in a very, very long time. Leftovers were perfect while we watched the blood red sunset and chunks of ash fall from the sky. 750 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa, 707-595-3363.
Smokin’ Bowls: Loaded Pizza Fries ($8.75) have teenage boy written all over them. So does the Rohnert Pork ($8.75), a temple of beef-tallow fried taters smothered with heart-stopping goodies like cheese sauce, pulled pork, bacon and gravy that keeps the kids stuffed all day. For me, they just make the sad go away for a little while, especially if eaten while watching “Hoarders.” At least my life isn’t that weird. 295 Southwest Blvd., Rohnert Park, 707-665-5265, smokinbowls.com
Ricky’s Eastbound: Former Bruno’s owners are doing takeout “Heat & Eat” family meals that make it look like you actually did something besides chug White Claw and cry all day. Our Father’s Day dinner (served in aluminum trays) was their braised short ribs with cheesy potatoes and chocolate chip cookies. I think there was a salad, but no one really cared about that. They now have cocktails to go with your dinner, making the whole socializing with your family thing a lot more fun. 5755 Mountain Hawk Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-843-5143, rickyseastbound.com
Zoftig Eatery: Is falafel a vegetable? I’ve decided it is. This breakfast/lunch spot near Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is doing a brisk business satisfying stress-eating hospital workers and my family. You can go either way here, with a kinda-healthy falafel wrap (hummus, cucumber raita, pickled onions, veggie, tahini dressing, sparkles of hope) or the K-Town buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich with gochujang barbecue sauce, sesame aioli, jalapeño and lime. A perfect handheld lunch for those days when you’re walking in circles questioning reality. 57 Montgomery St., Santa Rosa, 707-521-9554, zoftigeatery.com
Haku Sushi: Wacky sushi rolls with names like Thunder Down Under, Funny Feeling Down There, 420 Happy Meal and Sex On Fire. Hours of parental giggling ensue as your teens roll their eyes in disgust after hearing your phone order. Win! 518 Seventh St., Santa Rosa, 707-549-6359. Their website isn’t very good, so use doordash.com for a current menu.
Castaneda’s: The family “Super Snack Pack” comes with six crispy tacos, four burrito halves, tater tot nachos and grilled shrimp ($40). Order one for them, then sneak another into your bedroom and lock the door, yelling, “No one home!” when anyone knocks. Also an ideal reward for crabby husbands who’ve been stuck “homeschooling” the children all day. 8465 Old Redwood Hwy., Windsor, 707-838-8820.