It’s Day 60+ and counting of self-quarantine. You’ve gone back and forth between thinking of your home as a safe haven and viewing it as a padded cell. News about the outbreak is giving you mental whiplash. By now, you’ve experienced such a range of emotions, you make Dr. Jekyll and Bruce Banner seem stable by comparison. Thankfully, whatever your quarantine-induced persona, there’s a takeout or delivery food option made for you.
For the anti-social media influencers
An Insta-story about your latest baking project? A TikTok of you and your kids doing a choreographed dance to your favorite Drake song? A Facebook challenge involving photos of you that no one else asked to see? It’s #QuarantineLife for you.
What you need is something to make your social media followers jealous. When two-time James Beard award-nominated chef of Lehja, Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, announces on Facebook that he’s coming to your neighborhood for delivery, it’s almost like Santa Claus trumpeting his next stop.
And Baweja comes bearing gifts: vibrantly composed chaats, sluiced in frothy yogurt ($9); paneer cheese and young asparagus, their stems soft and melded into a spicy, creamy Mughlai sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro ($16); and a prawn dish infused with tellicherry peppercorns, Kashmiri chilis and coconut and deepened by the flavors of fresh prawns, like a western coastal-Indian bouillabaisse ($23).
For the slugabeds
“IDGAF” is your new mantra. Get out of bed? Why bother, there’s another Netflix show cued up. Like Ke$ha, you might “wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy.” But based on your daily wardrobe of baggy hoodies and sweats and the unbarbered mullet you’ve started growing, you look more like Seth Rogen-meets-Joe Exotic.
What you need is beer-friendly grub. Dive into a greasy mess of tater tots and burgers from Boulevard Burger & Brew. My personal fave, the “Mr. Moe” ($12.95), is a carhop-style double cheeseburger, revved up with onions and a piquant, Russian dressing-esque “Moe sauce.” (Pro tip: For a smaller version, order the “Plain Jane” and add American cheese, onions and Moe sauce.) Or get your hands on a serious New York-style pizza from Zorch ($21), streaked with orange grease — hey, it’s a pizza, not a salad — and confettied with puckered roni cups.
While you’re at it, nab some beer or cider from your favorite breweries around town. Places such as The Veil, Hardywood, Triple Crossing, and Blue Bee Cider are doing home deliveries.
For the amateur epidemiologists
Don’t be ashamed to admit it: You’ve started crushing on Anthony Fauci. Your new favorite pastime is shouting out your car window at clusters of disc golf-playing bros for not observing social distancing protocols. Dr. Fauci would be so proud.
What you need is to feed the fire within. Give yourself a fierce tongue lashing with the tofu skins ($11) from Peter Chang’s. Those cold bands of bean curd have been steeped in a Sichuan chile oil that shoots numbing rays of heat in every direction. Or heat things up a different way with a flambéed round of salty kefalograviera-cheese saganaki ($10) from Stella’s, served with tiny triangles of pita — opa!
For the accidental vegetarians
You’ve become a vegetarian, but not the healthy kind. Thanks to a steady supply of instant ramen, Kraft mac and cheese, and Pop-Tarts, you subsist on a meat-free diet of processed dairy, hydrogenated oil and weapons-grade seasoning.
What you need is real meat and vegetables. Perhaps some hickory-smoked jumbo chicken wings ($9) and pork ribs slathered in sweet barbecue sauce ($16) from The Original Ronnie’s BBQ. Or maybe the yangnyum galbi ($30.95) from 88 Garden. Tender down to their beveled bones, the short ribs are grilled over binchotan charcoal and burnished in sweet-salty Korean marinade.
For that veggie fix, chef Ida MaMusu of Africanne on Main — my go-to, workday lunch spot downtown — sports a green thumb when it comes to sprucing up leafy vegetables ($12/vegetarian plate). Be sure to double down on MaMusu’s seasoned spinach anointed with tonic African spices, a dish that could make a bona fide spinach lover of even the pickiest little eater.
For the comfort seekers
You’ve been glad to connect with your family and friends over Zoom, but the lack of physical human contact is starting to get to you. What you desperately crave is a hug. Thank goodness for dogs.
What you need is fried chicken. Tanglewood Ordinary ($10.49) and Mama J’s ($9) are plating up their simple, homestyle Sunday fried chicken. Saison’s version ($20) is slightly more done up, a briny sponge of meat sealed under a layer of breading bronzier than George Hamilton’s signature tan. Whichever one you choose, you’re sure to feel the embrace of good ol’ Southern comfort.
For the party rockers (stuck) in the house
Once a social butterfly, you’re now trapped in your cocoon. You miss going out. You miss the tightly packed crowds. You miss the ear-splitting music. You’re a queen bee without a regular hive of activity to keep you busy.
What you need is to hit up a different sort of club: the California club sandwich ($8.29) at Westwood Fountain, a popular American diner owned and operated by a Lebanese immigrant for over two decades. This is not your basic club. It’s a Jenga tower of ingredients. Teetering on rye bread are compressed stacks of cold-cut ham and turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, iceberg lettuce and sliced provolone and American cheeses, and — because why not? — a flourish of honey mustard. The sandwich is a thing of beauty, really.
For the three-quarantini-lunch crowd
You’re so fancy, you still bother throwing on a shirt and maybe pants for dinner and eating with a fork and knife. Just because no one’s looking doesn’t mean you’ve stopped keeping up appearances.
What you need is the finer things. And boy, has Dutch & Company got some plated masterpieces for you! Fava bean crostini ($15) over planks of sourdough are trimmed with lusciously fatty capicola salumi, folded in half and arranged in a tidy row like a set of elegant dinner napkins. A slab of bavette steak ($23) is painted with a dense and smoky romesco and crested with garlicky scraps of wild ramps, those fleeting harbingers of spring.
Feed your inner wine snob, as well, with a trio of natural beauties ($65) expertly curated by Lyne and Randall Doetzer of Adarra — a crisp, minerally Basque rosé? An orange wine from New Zealand that smacks of grapefruit? A beeswaxy Chilean chenin blanc you can just as easily sip on as a light summer cocktail?
Justin Lo writes freelance reviews for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @justinsjlo.