Homebound doesn’t mean you have to be chained to the stove seven days a week come 6 o’clock. Dinner? Scores of restaurants now will rustle up affordable family meals to go, especially on slow nights when they need to keep the lights on during this pandemic. Make it a Taco Tuesday over HBO. Or a pasta night with meatballs. Here are some family meal deals that will please both the adults and the little ones.
Jack’s Chicken Shack
(pop-up for Jack’s BBQ in South Lake Union)
Closed on Mondays; 228 Ninth Ave. N.; South Lake Union, Seattle; jackschickenshackseattle.com
The deal: “The Winner Winner Chicken Dinner”; eight fried chicken tenders (plain or spicy). Comes with cornbread and honey butter; choice of four sides (buttered corn on the cob, queso mac and cheese, remoulade coleslaw, potato salad, collard greens with pork, fries, beans, chili and black-eyed peas); four dipping sauces (smoked honey mustard, roasted garlic ranch, black pepper BBQ and the hot “Lickin’ Sauce”).
Feeds: Two adults and two kids.
Chicken strips or chicken nuggets are not the same as chicken tenders. The former are made mostly from processed or scrap meat. The chicken tender is the tenderloin part of the bird, a white meat that is moist and, well, tender. Once your kids discover chicken tenders, they might never go back to the cheaper chicken nuggets or strips. The fried tenders at Jack’s are something — about a quarter-pound each, oblong-shaped, brined and dredged in buttermilk and double-fried to give you that extra crunch. Your choice of plain or spicy. Or request a “half and half” order. The spicy version plays more like a sweet-and-sour sauce you would get from Chinese American takeout. The unadulterated tenders are better, moist pieces embedded inside a craggy, salty batter. If you must dunk, the ranch is the way to go. Of the nine side options, the chili is the best — no beans, just chunks and shards of Jack’s signature Texas-style smoked briskets along with whatever pulled pork and ribs are leftover from the night before. That cup of chili comes with sour cream, shredded cheddar and raw onions.
Villa Escondida Family Mexican Restaurant
Closed Sundays-Tuesdays; 2203 First Ave.; 206-448-2393 villaescondidaseattle.com
The deal: A tray of 10 chicken enchiladas with sides of refried beans and rice.
Feeds: Two adults and two children for lunch or a light dinner.
The family deals vary at the whim of brothers Jose and Salvador Perez, but I would be happy if every night was chicken enchilada night. The shredded chicken is tinged orange from guajillo chile. These enchiladas simmer in a garlicky tomatillo sauce and are topped with melty mozzarella and queso fresco, with squirts of smoky guajillo sauce to finish. Hot sauce is served on the side for those who want a tingly kick. This is not overrun with globs of cheese or sour cream like many enchiladas that cater to the mainstream. This workhorse is a simple, old-school enchilada with bright flavors and a clean bite.
Closed Mondays; 2326 First Ave. (Belltown) Seattle; 206-492-0522, limoncelloseattle.com
The deal: The three-course dinner for two with a bottle of wine ($49) is most popular. But the better value, especially for a family meal, is just to get four to five pasta dishes to share.
Cost: Most pasta dishes cost under $15.
Feeds: Five pasta dishes can feed two adults with three children.
You get some big portions, and these house-made pastas hold up remarkably well in to-go containers. (Call ahead to request gluten-free pasta.) The red sauce dishes are much of the same, with different pastas swapped out. Your kids will steer toward the cheesy, sauce-heavy six-layer bechamel lasagna ($14) with beef ragu and plenty of tomato sauce to mop up with a side of bread ($3.99). For a meatier version, there is the cannelloni tube pasta stuffed with ground beef, ricotta and spinach. Not on the menu, but that you can also request: bucatini and meatballs ($10). For the grown-ups, the ravioli ($15) is more nuanced, stuffed with beef, spinach and ricotta, with a salty kick of pecorino cheese and the acidic pop of cherry tomatoes to cut into the cream sauce. Or go for the pasta rag of the pappardelle ($13) clinging with beef ragu and scented with rosemary.
4539 California Ave. S.W.; West Seattle; 206-935-1966 westfive.com
The deal: Five different family meal deals, from a 12-taco pack with chips, guacamole and other sides ($55) to its signature “Take & Bake” mac and cheese (a serving for two is $15; serving for four costs $30). You can also get the $45 mac and cheese dinner deal that comes with salad, a hummus platter and their signature coconut cake.
Cost: $30 for a tray of mac and cheese
Feeds: Two adults and two children and if you supersize to include starters and desserts. Easily feeds family of five.
You can add salad, an appetizer and dessert for $15 more, but that $30 mac and cheese is dinner in itself, a 4-pound tome of a tray that you bake for 15 minutes in the oven. But to finish, I would put that tray on the top rack and turn the oven to broil to brown and crisp up the top. This comfort-food version is neither sharp-cheddar dominant nor gooey like many takes around town. There’s a blend of cheddar, Romano and Swiss cheese, but the mac and cheese has a distinctive milky, salty taste with the addition of American cheese and cream cheese. The recipe comes from former chef Kelly McLain, who died earlier this year. Management hopes to honor her when the pandemic is over.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Open Sunday for brunch only (though you can order the family meal); regular service on other days. 7102 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., Green Lake, Seattle; 206-294-3178 eightrow.square.site
The deal: About a pound of shredded pork, 10 corn tortillas, a quart of refried beans, an assortment of pickled veggies along with a pie.
Feeds: Two adults and two children.
The pork shoulder, applewood-smoked and then made tender from a 14-hour braise with citrus and chiles, is four notches better than the cafeteria-style, hard-shell taco your kids eat. You’ll need more than the 10 fresh tortillas this family meal comes with. My leftover meat turned into day-after nacho toppings. For dessert, a peach pie, though depending on the season, your pie filling could be strawberry-rhubarb or whatever bounty the chef gathers from his family farm in Wenatchee.