It’s been just about a month since my last pandemic takeout report. At the time of that post (a brief write-up of takeout from Matt’s Bar) I’d begun to think we were done with mostly takeout meals. We ate dinner in at Tenant, we ate in at all our meals in Kansas City, and we came back to the Twin Cities and ate in at Estelle. The coda to that Estelle meal, however, was a call from the restaurant the next day alerting us that a server had tested positive for covid and that they’d be shutting down for a few days as a result. A bad omen it seemed like and so it proved to be. With the rapid spread of the delta variant we’ve gone back to our previous cautious posture. We did not eat in anywhere in Madison and are unlikely to be eating in anywhere until either the numbers approve or vaccines are approved for <12 yos. We’re happy to eat at places with outdoor seating (see Taco Madre) and we’re happy to bring food back to eat with cautious and vaccinated friends at home. And that is what we did this past weekend with a a takeout order from Grand Szechuan.
It had also been two and a half months since we’d last eaten Grand Szechuan’s food and that’s a dangerous length of time to go between fixes. When I was there last they were hoping to reopen in late June/early July. It took them a little longer than that. On pickup on Saturday the cashier said it was sometime in the second half of July that they opened back up. He said that business was now back to about 70% of normal with takeout still in the majority. I can say that as I was waiting for our order to get ready at 5 pm on Sunday there were a number of tables already occupied and more people coming in every five minutes or so. And there was indeed a steady stream of people coming in to pick up takeout orders as well.
While we are not ourselves ready yet for eating in at Grand Szechuan—a big bummer; early in the pandemic it’s where we’d thought we’d go first for our comeback—I will admit it was nice to see the restaurant open again and to see many of the familiar staff there (behind masks, of course). I’m glad they’ve come through what has hopefully been the worst of the pandemic and look forward to whenever it is we can have a blowout meal there with all of our usual Grand Szechuan crew.
Which is not to say we ate lightly on Sunday. We were dining on our deck with the friends we podded with last year—so four adults and four young children total—and our order comprised 13 dishes. What did we get?
- Spicy and Sweet Noodles. This is on the Szechuan Snacks part of the menu. We haven’t ordered it for takeout before as they didn’t seem likely to travel well. Alas, that proved true on this occasion in terms of texture but we’d missed the taste too long.
- Ma La Pork Tripe. This is one we haven’t ordered in a long time; not sure why—it was very good.
- Pork Ears in Chilli Sauce. As good as always—as long as you like that mix of soft and crunchy textures.
- Dan Dan Noodles. We got two orders, one mild for the two visiting kids and one regular for our boys. Enjoyed by all four customers.
- Fish Fillet Soup with Pickled Vegetable. Another old favourite that we haven’t got in a while, this sour soup was very good as always.
- Tofu and Beef with Chopped Jalapeno. Yet another old favourite that we haven’t gotten in a while, this was one of my favourite dishes at this meal.
- Chengdu Grilled Lamb. But this cumin-forward lamb dish was not far behind. I really love the way they do the onions in this dish!
- Tea Smoked Duck. They didn’t have this the last time we tried to order it so we were happy to eat it again.
- Twice-Cooked Chinese Bacon. One of the boys’ favourite dishes here and they were very glad to see it. I enjoyed my taste of it too.
- Szechuan Spicy Tofu. A tofu dish that’s not in our regular rotation but a hit with adults and children alike.
- Spicy Squid Roll. One of their absolute classic dishes, we haven’t ordered this much for takeout either as the crispy texture of the squid doesn’t survive a 35 minute drive. It didn’t this time either but the flavour of the sauce was as excellent as always.
- Szechuan Green Beans. We always get this to feel virtuous (and because the kids eat it happily) and it played its part perfectly.
For a look at the restaurant and the tood launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it cost and to see what’s coming next.
All of this came to $192 with tax and tip. Given how much we had leftover it was enough food for at least 10 adults. So less than $20/head. No drinks it’s true but a screaming deal nonetheless. God, I can’t wait to eat in here again!
What’s next? I’d been considering a Pakistani takeout meal but it’s also been a dangerously long time since we’ve had takeout from our favourite Thai places in St. Paul. Might have to be one of those first. We’ll see.