Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The highs and lows of takeout food

P.F. Chang's in Hackensack packed my takeout, but forgot a Fried Rice Combo.
The next day, leftover brown rice and vegetables went perfectly with an omelet.
P.F. Chang's asked me to return to the restaurant to get the Fried Rice Combo, but when I asked for a credit, it was delivered to my home in about 10 minutes. 

We enjoy dining out on the wonderful Chinese food at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack and having takeout delivered by New Zen Kitchen in Teaneck.

But on Saturday night, we decided to try P.F. Chang's, an upscale chain restaurant where I've enjoyed lunches of brown rice and stir-fried vegetables with garlic.

I didn't know whether the restaurant delivered, so I drove to The Shops at Riverside mall on Hackensack Avenue, a couple of miles from my home, and entered the separate takeout entrance.

I learned two things right away. Delivery is available to Hackensack and nine other towns for $3, and P.F. Chang's does a brisk takeout business.

$74 for four

I looked over the takeout menu, ordered too much and waited more than 30 minutes for our dinner for four, which cost more than $74.

I noticed the employee at the takeout computer would look through the bag and make sure each ordered dish was included before handing it to the customer, but he didn't do that with me.

He said the kitchen included an extra rib in the appetizer we ordered, because I had waited so long.

When I got home and unpacked the bag, our P.F. Chang's Fried Rice Combo ($10.95) was missing.

Pickup or delivery?

I called the restaurant. The takeout employee actually asked me to come back and pick up the missing item, but finally agreed to deliver it at no charge. 

Our other dishes were a starter of Chang's Spare Ribs ($9.45), Philip's Better Lemon Chicken ($13.75), Sichuan Shrimp ($15.45) and four vegetables stir-fried simply with garlic ($4.95 each for a large portion). 

Only the spinach is listed -- under "side dishes" -- as being prepared with garlic, but I asked for Brussels sprouts, green beans, and asparagus done the same way, because I've found their usual sauces too salty.

Bargain dishes

These vegetable side dishes are among the few bargains on a pricey menu.

We liked everything we had, but P.F. Chang's can't match the whole fish available at Lotus Cafe or its delicious multi-course dinners from a special price-fixed banquet menu.

Lotus Cafe is a BYO in the Home Depot Shopping Center on Hackensack Avenue, only a hop, skip and a jump from P.F. Chang's.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 201-488-7070. 

Web site:

After a long day out of the house on Monday, I walked into the kitchen and saw a Costco Wholesale pizza box on the counter.

I was so hungry, I threw out my diet and attacked a half-slice of vegetable pizza without bothering to heat it up (see photo above).

My wife brought it home from the warehouse store's small food court in Hackensack, where 18-inch pies cost only $9.95.

The slices are so big, the store cuts each one in half.

She had ordered half vegetable and half pepperoni, and there was no surcharge, as there is at many pizzerias.

I usually like to heat up the slices to crisp them, but didn't bother this time. And I limited myself to one half-slice.

A two-topping pizza costs the same as a single-topping pizza.

On Tuesday, I had a great takeout meal of fish and vegetables for only $7.99 from Jerry's Gourmet and More in Englewood (see photo below).

I ate everything but the pasta, which was made with sausage.

The dinner included baked tilapia, a fresh fava-bean salad with asparagus, and stuffed zucchini with cheese.

The pasta course was orecchiette with tomato sauce and ground sausage.

Other Meals To Go included chicken wings, chicken cacciatore and tilapia francese.  In the past, I've bought Jerry's dinners with wild-caught flounder and mahi-mahi.

Jerry's Gourmet and More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201- 871-7108.

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