Chicago’s best plates that travel well—and those that don’t

By Anthony Todd

Delivery is tricky. You’re sitting on your couch hungry, and you start looking at those pretty pictures on the many delivery services on your phone. Sure, you could get a full four-course seafood tower delivered in lieu of pizza, but you probably shouldn’t—not all delivery food is created equal, after all. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of delivery. .

DO: Have fried chicken delivered
Fried chicken is the perfect delivery food. It comes in its own wrapper, and it always arrives nice and warm. Plus the price is usually right, and you can order an entire pound of mashed potatoes and not feel guilty about it. Check out Parson’s Chicken and Fish, where you can get a whole fried Amish chicken, slaw, and Texas toast—more than enough to satisfy two—for $30.

DON’T: Order sushi for delivery
It seems like a good idea, and once in a while it works out. But most delivery sushi is overpriced and tastes like it came from the grocery store (except it’s lukewarm when you get it). Best-case scenario, you’re disappointed. Worst case, you get food poisoning. Just say no.

DO: Order Turkish on your couch
Turkish food is another great delivery choice, because it reheats really well. If it’s winter and the food arrives a little chilled, warm it up and it’s just great. The kofte kebab ($12), a mix of ground lamb and seasonings, at Café Orchid is just about perfect. Throw in a shepherd salad ($8), drenched in oil and filled with sumac, parsley, red onions, and tomatoes, and finish it off with a bottle of Turkish mineral water ($2), because why not.

DON’T: Order French food
Sometimes, when it’s really cold, ordering a fancy steak frites and a slice of pâté seems like just the thing for a sophisticated evening in—and there are lots of French restaurants that deliver. Don’t be tempted; your couch does not come with a handsome waiter, a good wine list (probably), or an Edith Piaf soundtrack. The pâté will be lukewarm, the frites soggy, and the maître d’hôtel butter on your steak will have congealed by the time you get it.

DO: Pizza pizza
Yup, it’s the obvious one. But it’s obvious for a reason: It’s great. You do have to pick the right place, however, which is why you should order from Art of Pizza. Some love deep dish, some love thin, but the sweet spot is right in the middle: The thick, gooey pan pizza here has been voted best in show by everyone in Chicago. Toss in a classic pizza place salad (who doesn’t love iceberg once in a while) and you’re all set.

DON’T: Italian is not for take-out lovers
If the Italian food you are ordering is not flat and covered with melted cheese, avoid it. Pasta, it turns out, does not travel well. Heck, at home it sometimes doesn’t travel well from colander to saucepan before it gets gluey. Imagine how it will taste after an hour in a delivery car.

DO: Ethiopian is amazing
Ethiopian food may not be at the top of your delivery list, but that’s probably just because you haven’t tried it yet. Most places will allow you to order a wide selection of dishes; be sure to get a ton of injera, the spongy bread that is delicious and, incidentally, means you won’t have to do dishes. At Demera, a combo meat and vegetarian meal for two (which comes with six different dishes) costs just $33.

DON’T: Go for Greek food
This may be a controversial argument, but Greek food just isn’t all that great when it’s lukewarm. Fries get soggy, gyros gets gummy, and you can’t have flaming cheese delivered to your house. Get off your butt and go to Greektown—it’s cheap and the valet parking is free.

DO: Spicy Chinese is just the thing
Chinese food is, for good reason, traditional delivery fare. But you can do better than the average Americanized Chinese stuff that comes from your drawer full of menus. Order from Lao Sze Chuan instead, and get the three-chile chicken ($12), salt and pepper squid ($15), Szechuan green beans ($10), and, if you’re adventurous, Szechuan-style pig ears ($5). Steam might come out of your ears after these, but you’ll love it.

DON’T: Order dessert
It’s mystifying (but true) that places have ice cream, shakes, and custards on their delivery menus. It might sound good, there might be a coupon for it, and you might have a sweet tooth, but it’s going to disappoint you when it arrives and it’s soup. Crack open the freezer and pull out your buddy Ben & Jerry.

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