Many restaurants devote a corner of the takeout menu to family meals, often offered on slow nights or packaged as Seahawks specials. Our food critic wades through all the lasagna trays, pizza specials and buckets of fried chicken to pick three deals with the best bang for your buck.
Lasagna ($70 or $130) at Café Lago
A full take-and-bake tray ($130) or a half-tray ($70). Must be ordered 48 hours in advance; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-329-8005.
2305 24th Ave. E., Seattle; cafelago.com
The old-school lasagna has landed on countless takeout menus during the pandemic, but you still remember the OG, right? Café Lago’s lasagna remains the gold standard, the signature dish for this Montlake Italian restaurant since it opened 30 years ago this month. It’s still the undisputed champ. Made with gossamer-thin sheets of pasta that alternate with bechamel, a medley of ricotta and Parm and marinara sauce to form nine layers. Most pandemic lasagnas hew closer to an Italian American take, with thick, corrugated girders of pasta backstroking in red sauce, edges all curled and crisp. Café Lago’s is more elegant — so eggy, fluffy and creamy sweet, it would make for a wonderful Champagne brunch on Mother’s Day. It’s not listed online, but insiders know you can buy a tray (10 servings) or a half-tray to bake at home. Add $10 to the order if you want Bolognese sauce.
Sunday Fried Chicken Dinner special ($50) at Bar Dojo
8404 Bowdoin Way, Edmonds; call 425-967-7267 or visit bardojo.com
With a lot of chicken dinner deals, the sides are afterthoughts whipped up to fill the other three corners of the takeout box, with little consideration given to them. (I’m lookin’ at you, soggy coleslaw, and you, mushy mac and cheese.)
The best chicken deal in the Sound belongs to this Asian fusion bistro, eight pieces of organic Draper Valley bird marinated in a garlicky hot sauce and brined and coated in a seasoned batter. It stays crispy even after sitting 30 minutes in a to-go box. Chef Luis Brambila’s sides are a couple notches better than those in other chicken family meals — lumpy mashed potatoes studded with grilled, sweet green onions; mac and cheddar cheese cut with the zing and pop of kimchi; avocado rice that brims with herbaceous flavors; and four brioche from the stellar bakery The Cottage at Blue Ridge in Edmonds. The chicken dinner feeds four.
The Original ($30) at West of Chicago Pizza Company
5604 Delridge Way S.W., Seattle; call 206-339-3337 or visit westofchicagopizzacompany.com. Note: Open only Wednesday-Sunday for takeout.
If you’ve exhausted all your pizza options during the pandemic, hit this takeout window. Shawn Millard has a cult following for the Chicago-style deep-dish he bakes out of a commissary kitchen in West Seattle. Windy City transplants and fans come from as far as Olympia and Snohomish for his pizza. It’s still hard to score a pizza on Fridays and Saturdays if you don’t place your order in advance, since he can bake only 40 pies per night in his shared kitchen space. Each pie needs 45 minutes in the oven. You have better luck if you order on other days (and the traffic won’t be as treacherous). Six pie options are offered including a monthly rotating special. I’m faithful to “The Original,” a 4.4-pounder stuffed with homemade fennel pork sausage swaddled in 20 ounces of melted mozzarella. Atop that sit layers of the salty-sweet tang of caramelized onions, tomato sauce, pepperoni and Parm, bordered by a gritty, cornmeal-texture crust drenched in olive oil, reminiscent of Lou Malnati’s in Chicago. For 10 bucks more, you can add a Caesar salad, but this mammoth 2-inch-high pie can easily feed four hungry diners.