Most Washingtonians will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 15 , but cases are still high enough that many restaurants remain in takeout mode. Instead of a la carte, many have shifted to family meals or cooking kits to streamline their operations. The price tag is higher, but these family meals are a better value when you break down the cost per person. Here’s a look at some of the meal deals in Seattle and on the Eastside that we’ve loved this month.
Boca at Queen City
2201 First Ave., Seattle (Belltown); 206-268-0528, bocarestobar.com
The deal: Parrillada mix, grilled, $40 (feeds at least two). Note that the meat deal is available only at its Belltown location, not at its Capitol Hill restaurant.
Somehow, three South American steakhouses ended up within a block of each other in Belltown. And now they (Boca, The Grill From Ipanema and Buenos Aires Grill) are dueling for carnivore supremacy in this barhopping ‘hood. Boca, the new kid on the block, started hawking its medley of meat as a takeout package (hangar steak, short ribs, pork chop, chicken and sausage and a side).
With these sorts of restaurant value packs, I often can’t tell which cut of meat is what — they’re usually so heavily sauced, I suspect it’s to mask the inferior cuts. But at Boca, the taste is so clean, you might be able to make out the grass blade in the grass-fed beef. The steak cuts are more odds and ends; they aren’t doctored with much, just a salty, unctuous bite with the grill flavor from the open flame. I requested mine cooked medium-rare, and for once, a kitchen got it right. The chicken, usually the weak link in these meal deals, is actually quite tasty, the skin charred and the white meat moist. The snappy sausage is juicy enough that you might get a squirt of pork drippings onto your shirt.
Most meat deals get bulked up with grains and cheap fillers. Boca’s motto seems to be gout or bust. Its meat deal comes with just one side (a rotating list that includes fries and mashed potato). Unless you’re on the Atkins diet, you might want to add more sides ($4 each, or a salad for $8-$9). You’ve got dinner for four if you order a couple of appetizers or other add-ons.
Four branches in Washington: Ballard, West Seattle, Redmond and Tacoma; matadorrestaurants.com
The deal: Take-and-bake nachos, $10, feeds two to three as an appetizer or snack.
The most popular bar food in Seattle might be the nachos at this local Mexican chain. If you boast that you can make it better, I won’t fight you. This is about nostalgia. The nachos here are the best reminder of the way things used to be — sharing a plate with co-workers while clinking rounds of salt-rimmed margaritas and laughing so hard, you didn’t realize you missed last call for happy hour. I can’t wait until we all get vaccinated and schmooze again across the table. Until then, there’s The Matador’s take-and-bake. Some assembly required.
All the ingredients, such as the sour cream, black beans, guac and pico de gallo, are kept in separate containers. Maybe you throw this fiesta with your pod. Or maybe over Zoom. What makes the nachos here so good are the fresh, thin tortilla chips with a crumbly texture and the glob of cheddar and Monterey Jack. Lots and lots of cheese. It’s just a plate of tangy, gooey crunch. If you don’t have a drink in hand, you might complain these nachos are too salty or cheesy. Matador’s nachos were constructed with happy hour in mind, meant to pair with a Modelo Negra or a margarita. Bottoms up!
Two locations: 803 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, 206-457-5272; 22610 S.E. Fourth St., #400, Sammamish, 425-961-0831; tanoor.com
The deal: Family Mashawi meal deal, $59, feeds two to four; or get the bigger meal deal that’s $115 and can feed four to six.
For your Tuesday dinner, when your family can’t bear to order another pandemic pizza, may I suggest the kebab meal at this Lebanese restaurant? It can feed a working couple with two small children. A year into the pandemic, this remains my go-to meal when I don’t want to cook for guests.
It includes kebabs of chicken breast, top sirloin, lamb, kafta (ground beef and lamb) and veggies, all redolent with the smoky charcoal aroma you get from street food. They’re served over a bed of turmeric-scented yellow rice along with three pitas, tzatziki and the Lebanese toum garlic sauce to dip. The family meal includes three veggie sides. There are 20 sides to choose from. Your kids will want the golden mound of fries, but those will wilt in the takeout container and need reviving in your oven. Or get the halloumi fries, Middle Eastern mozzarella sticks with squeaky cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk. The most substantial side is the cheese pie fatayer — six pieces of feta-like cheese stuffed inside a bread-like dough, the shell glistening with extra virgin olive oil and specks of herbs.