San Francisco, CA

San Francisco food delivery fatigue is real, these companies may have just what you need

Johanna Miyaki

Shelter in place mandates and restaurant closures gave way to an explosion in food delivery demand. We are just 45 days or so from the one-year anniversary of this “Stay at Home” experiment in California, trying to keep Covid-19 numbers down as best we can. The recent relaxing of the SIP orders in San Francisco is a welcome relief. I am looking forward to eating out again, outdoors, with cautious optimism, but as far as food delivery goes, I am ready to tap out of the delivery services from the usual suspects. I am tired of the same restaurants, the long wait times for deliveries of luke-warm food and the additional fees and charges that come with every order. I started searching for alternatives to the same old, same old food delivery services, I profiled five lesser known or new food delivery options and tried four of them myself. Follows are the results of my tireless (and tasty) research, in no specific order, to help those in need of breaking out of the food delivery rut. Now, I am no food critic, but I do love to eat! In any case, the opinions here are my own, I encourage readers to try these services and judge for themselves.

Bento Cart: (BC) Aready-to-eat”, packaged meal delivery service that offers food from local restaurants ordered in advance and delivered up to twice a week in San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula area with plans to expand service to the East Bay and South Bay.

Bento Cart on BC: Joseph Lai and Wenjing Yu are the co-founders of Bento Cart. If it sounds familiar, that is because it was formerly Bento Club, a food delivery service that catered mainly to businesses and the office building set that often ate lunch at their desks. Lai and Yu met thru Bento Club, Lai was the founder /delivery person of Bento Club, Yu a frequent customer. They struck up a friendship and when the pandemic hit, Yu joined Lai as he pivoted Bento Cart to deliver food to the “Work from Home set” during the SIP. Lai says, “We offer our service to customers where they are now and we expect that working from home is a trend that is here to stay. We also feel the “cold format” of our food offers a convenience that “on demand” does not; preordered food, prepared fresh, packaged and delivered to your door to stock in your refrigerator, so it is ready to eat when you want it.” Our delivery drivers are paid hourly and you can tip them directly by requesting the drivers Venmo tag.

Me on BC: I placed orders for both deliveries in one week. The restaurant selection on each delivery day varied and I could mix and match from as many restaurants as I liked. This kind of flexibility was great for my household that has a vegetarian, a mostly "Keto eater" and a “eat anything” kind of person. The “Build-Your-Own Mac” bowls from Mac’d were delicious and generous. The “Cauliflower Carbonara” from Keto Kitchen made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on the cheese fest. Musubi and onigiri from Onigilly and meal kits from Koja Kitchen made lunch a breeze while we are all working and schooling from home. Delivery time was well communicated and the food came in clearly labeled and compostable containers.

Bento Cart founders Wenjing Yu (left) and Joseph Lai (right). Photo Credit: Bento Cart

Bread, Spread, Pickle prepares pre-ordered kits with a red-wheat sourdough boule, rotating spread and seasonal quick pickle, every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. You can subscribe to regular orders, or place single orders of kits and spreads, quick pickles and other items like salads, soups, snacks and treats that change weekly are also available ala carte. They offer pickup in Haight-Ashbury neighborhood between 10am - 1pm or delivery in San Francisco proper after 12pm. The $7 fee goes directly to their delivery person.

Bread, Spread Pickle on BSP: Co-Founders, Peterson Harter and Moni Frailing had the idea for BSP when the restaurant where they worked at closed during the SIP. The couple was inspired by the way the like to eat. They source fresh, local and seasonal ingredients every week from San Francisco farmers markets to create their picnic inspired kits. It started with what they call their “OG Hummus” and they added the fresh baked breads and quick pickles. They are self-taught bread makers, once they perfected their signature bread round, they experimented with quick pickles and other spreads. Voila, BSP was born.

Me on BSP: I will start by saying this: if you want a kit, plan ahead they sell out quickly! I couldn’t get a kit in time to write this piece, so I had to go ala carte. I started with the “OG Hummus”. It is lemony with hint of garlic and the thick, smooth, and creamy consistency of any good hummus. I added the spread of the week, “umami chili”, a pumpkin and braised pork stew and topped it off with a brown butter chocolate chip cookie. I added my own crudité, crackers and such for the dips and snacked on the two spreads all week. The stew was dinner and a lunch and the cookie, well that narrowly made it from the door to the kitchen at delivery time. It was a butter, salty, perfectly crisp on the outside, chewy in the inside, chocolate chip cookie delight.

Moni Frailing, Co Founder of Bread Spread Pickle, prepares to to hand off an order from their pick up window at thier Haight-Ashbury kitchen. Photo Credit: Bread Spread Pickle

Cast Iron Kitchen : Weekly deliveries of organic, Paleo, gluten-free meals to your door. They also offer private chef and catering services throughout San Francisco and Marin.

Cast Iron Kitchen on CIK: Diane Davidson is a chef, nutritionist, and founder of CIK. She started CIK eight years ago while working as a chef at the now defunct Munchery*. She set out to offer healthy food that tastes good and makes people feel good. The menu changes weekly and they never repeat the same dishes more than once a month. Davidson prides herself on knowing her customers, she used to deliver meals herself in the early days of CIK, now she averages about 90 households per week and while there are not subscriptions required, many are long- time customers. She says, “Its’ important to me that my customers can order as much or as little as they like and that I always offer customizable options to meet their dietary needs”. There are plans to expand to offer service in the East Bay, but she is clear that scaling her busines is not her goal, maintaining a close connection to her customers is a priority. Deliveries are made by memmbers of the CIK team.

Me on CIK: The quality of the food is commensurate with the price. It’s certainly a bit more expensive that your typical food and meal delivery, but less than having a private chef come into your home to meal prep for you. Everything is fresh and delivered in an insulated tote. Davidson gives orders a warm and personal touch by sending an email with reheating instructions, nutritional information and eat by this date reminders prior to delivery. I didn’t miss the daily in a deep and luscious chocolate pudding or rich and savory mashed potatoes, both made with coconut milk. The kiddo, that claims to dislike coconut anything, had no idea these were dairy free and had no complaints. The salmon with turmeric yogurt sauce was excellent, my only complaint was that I wanted more sauce so I could put it on anything and everything I might cook later in the week. The celery salad didn’t sound appealing, I mean its celery, right? I did not expect the flavors and textures of the crunchy celery, smoky almonds, sweet, tender dates covered in a zesty lemon vinaigrette to come together with such perfection, but it did.

Cast Iron Kitchen Founder and Executive chef, Diane Davidson, in thier old shared kitchen, CIK just moved to a spot all thier own in the Dog Patch area of San Francisco last week. Photo Credit: Cast Iron Kitchen

Club Feast: (CF) A subscription-based restaurant delivery service currently, operation in SF, Daly City, South SF, and San Mateo with plans to expanding to the rest of the Bay Area and New York shortly.

Club Feast on CF: Club Feast offers customers the convenience of food delivery for 50% less. Subscribers offer a package of “credits” for meals that renew weekly, never expire and can be paused. Restaurants are offered based upon the delivery address, and orders are placed in advance at least 24 hours allowing CF to increase delivery efficiency. Laura Phillips, Head of Growth & Marketing for Club Feats says, “We have over 2000 dish options on the platform from over 150 partner restaurants ranging all cuisines. We do not charge restaurants to be on our platform and do not take any commission from them. We work with restaurants to offer the bests dishes they are comfortable selling at our price point so that they can increase their profitability and revenue. Our delivery partners are contractors. We are proud to offer them higher hourly pay than other delivery platforms.”

Me on CF: I ordered twice over two weeks from Club Feast. The delivery, pricing and food were good quality at a good value. It is hard to go wrong with the burgers/veggie burgers form Calibur, we would have liked to order some fries too, but they only had chili cheese fries available. The restaurant selection available in my area feels a bit limited at this time and the menus from each restaurant are also limited. You can order only what is on offer from Club Feast at each restaurant, the full menu is not available. Each delivery can come from only one restaurant, so, if you have dietary needs and/or preferences in your household, like I do, it can be a challenge to find something for everyone at the same restaurant from a limited menu.

I did not try this food delivery service but I didn’t speak to one of the co-founders for this story:

Planted Table: Planted Table (PT) offers heart-healthy, plant-based meals that are free of processed foods and refined sugar and available for delivery throughout the Bay Area by PT employees or pick up from their Oakland kitchen. Meals are freshly packed in eco-friendly containers as individual servings ready to heat and enjoy. They offer “meal Plans” and “Ala carte options”.

Planted Table on PT: They offer 100% vegan meals. The Co-founders, Megan Scott and Lauren Mahlke, are sisters and vegans rooted in the Bay Area. Scott says, “We always wanted to go into business together and a plant-based meal delivery service seemed like the perfect choice. We feel blessed to practice our mission of plant based, healthy eating, without creating waste for our customers all while eating in alignment with your values.”

Scott shared the top selling dishes from PT:

Freshly made organic salads, especially our classic ranch salad and sandwiches. The best-selling sandwich is our Bahn Mi: Lemongrass and Coconut Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwich with French Baguette, Sriracha Aioli, Pickled Carrots, Cucumber, Daikon, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Medium Spice. Our top selling entrée would be our Lasagna: Cheesy Lentil Marinara Lasagna, Sauteed Spinach and Almond Ricotta Cheese and our curry dishes.

Tip: Planted Table offers a discount of $10 off your first order if you enter the promo code "VEGNEWS" at check out.

Co-founder and Execuiove Chef Lauren Mahlke holding a Planted Table insulated tote ready for delivery. Photo Credit: Planted Table

The future of food delivery post pandemic:

Philips says, “Food delivery as a part of life is an existing trend that has only been accelerated by SIP. Fundamentally, we (Club Feast) make food delivery more accessible for our customers by making it more affordable regardless of where they need to eat. We anticipate offices will be a large source of business growth for us once things open back up.”

At Bento Cart, Lai believes “on demand” food delivery is neither sustainable or scalable. He says, “The relationships we have with our restaurants are strong because we are not relying on the “on demand model”. Our orders come in advance, allowing orders to be prepared during down time, so it doesn’t compete with the peak customer hours for their business.”

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this story, not just because I got a solid week or so off cooking, and the food was great, more impotantly I think they are all doing something to raise the bar on food delivery services. I think there is something for every budget, dietary need and food preference. Each one of is truly worth giving a try, check out thier websites and social media, the food pics are a feast for your eyes, then place your order and enjoy. Happy eating!

* I got an email recently from Munchery, remember them? They offered chef prepared meals for delivery. The email said “they are back with easy-to-cook recipes for Munchery's most popular dishes and exclusive food-related email offers - all to help you eat better at home”.

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Covering news and telling stories from beautiful San Francisco and beyond if the story takes me there! More than Human Interest stories, I will share stories about Interesting Humans. Not just Breaking News but news that matters to you, to the local community and the world we share. Follow me here on News Break! ~ Johanna Miyaki

San Francisco, CA

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