Pandemic Takeout 34: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)

Well, we are back in quasi-lockdown in Minnesota. I say “quasi-lockdown” because nowhere in the US have we had anything resembling an actual lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic. Perhaps if we’d had one back in the first half of the year things wouldn’t be quite as fucked as they are now, with numbers spiking higher than they were in the first wave. Our own part of Southern Minnesota has been hit particularly hard with our little “metro area” down here regularly showing up once again in the “top 10” rankings for infection rates in the country. At home we have clamped down pretty tight. No more meals on the deck with friends and no more visits/meals inside with those we were podding with. (Alas, this means we’ll be doing Thanksgiving on our own for the first time in more than 15 years. We’ll manage.) I did one large Costco run earlier in the month that should take us through mid-December—it’ll be curbside grocery shopping for the foreseeable future after that. The only indulgence will continue to be weekly takeout runs—though we will be eating on our own for the foreseeable future. Hopefully most places will move to a curbside takeout system; if I need to go in for pickup I’ll double mask it as I’ve been doing in enclosed public spaces for the last month, and as I did at Grand Szechuan this past weekend. For yes, I went back to pick up yet another excessive order from them.

In addition to the fact that we haven’t gotten food from Grand Szechuan in a dangerously long time, last week I put together a birthday dinner order from there for friends who’d never eaten there before. They enjoyed the meal a lot, they said; but even if they hadn’t, just creating their order made my stomach rumble so much I had to get some soon for myself as well; and when I told the missus about it she agreed as well.

We would, of course, rather have eaten this meal with friends, as we have been doing most weekends since the summer. We certainly ordered as much food as we would have if we’d been a party of 8-10. That said, we quite enjoyed this meal—or rather I should say we are quite enjoying the meals that resulted from this order (see the previous sentence). What did we get?

  1. Szechuan Chilli Wontons. We haven’t got these previously in takeout orders because steamed dumplings in oil don’t travel so well. But it’s hard to go so long without an old favourite. Yes, the skins got a big gummy over the drive but we still enjoyed them.
  2. Mouthwater Chicken. Another favourite that we haven’t been ordering in a while—its place is usually taken in our group meals by friends’ favourite, spicy hammered chicken (which we also like a lot)—and this was one of the highlights of the meal.
  3. The inevitable Dan Dan Noodles for the boys, much enjoyed.
  4. Fish Fillet in Milky White Broth. This may be our favourite of their short soup menu.
  5. Kung Pao Chicken. This is one of our older boy’s new favourite dishes in the pandemic. I didn’t ask for it to be made mild and it was gratifying to see him enjoy it anyway.
  6. Chengdu Grilled Lamb. Another favourite that we’ve not been ordering on account of the long drive and therefore missing. Not as good as when it comes fresh out of the kitchen but still very good—heavily redolent of cumin.
  7. Double Cooked Chinese Bacon. The pork belly was sliced a little thicker than I remember but still excellent.
  8. Szechuan Green Beans. Another constant.
  9. Fish Flavour Eggplant. Is it possible that I like the eggplant version even more than the pork one? If you haven’t got either before and don’t like fish you should know that there’s no fish involved in this dish.
  10. Fish Fillet with Cold Bean Jelly. This is another of our absolute favourites and it did not disappoint at all.

For a look at the food, launch the slideshow. Scroll down for a few more thoughts and to see what’s coming next.

Grand Szechuan is one of the few places we’ve been getting takeout from during the pandemic that has not opened at all to in-person dining during that time (I think Indian Masala is the only other such we’ve visited). This is something I really laud and I am very glad that they have been able to make it through what must have been a hit in business once other places opened up. Now that everybody is back to takeout and MN winter is settling in, I do hope, however, that they might do something about their pickup situation. Right now you have to go in to the small area in front of the cashier to pay and pick up. If no one else is there it’s no issue at all. But when there are more people it gets crowded and not everyone is good with the social distancing. In such cases I’ve been waiting outside for the crush to clear. In late December or January, however, that won’t be attractive. I hope therefore that they might make some more of their large dining room space near the entrance available to space out pickup customers or—even better—go to a pay by phone/curbside pickup system.

Ok, what’s next? Probably more Indian. The boys seem to expect tandoori chicken every other weekend now.

Stay safe, stay masked, stay distanced.


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