Tyler Smith

Eating takeout again post-pandemic

I didn't eat out much during the pandemic. As a matter of fact, in the time between the March 2020 shutdown and being fully vaccinated in mid-May, I only used my car about a dozen times. I've been living with my parents during the pandemic, and have made most of my meals using food that they bought (sweet, right?). My go-to pandemic meals have been sandwiches, eggs, fried rice, salads, quesadillas, burgers, ramen stir fry, toast and nachos.

Now that I'm eating out again, I've come to a disappointing but undeniable conclusion: most of the takeout I was eating before the pandemic really just isn't that good. And the cost adds up quickly. I saved a metric ton of money by not eating out during the pandemic.

I will use this post as a living document for my impressions of takeout post-pandemic. Here's the good and the bad.

Starbucks: 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Starbucks. I drink their Pike roast coffee with cream. I drank Kirkland brand coffee during the pandemic, and while it is better than Pike roast, starting my morning with a walk to Starbucks has been a tradition of mine since 2018. I've been excited to resume my morning ritual now that I'm vaccinated, and I plan to continue drinking Starbucks until I'm no longer in reasonable walking distance from one.

McDonalds: 2 stars

When McDonalds hits, it hits. The burger is well seasoned and the patty is warm. The cheese is melted. The bun is fresh and adorned with 3 pickles and onions. The ketchup and mustard are perfectly blended. The fries are golden and well-salted.

Unfortunately, this is not the typical experience when going to McDonalds. The patty is lukewarm and unseasoned. There is one drop of mustard and three drops of ketchup. The fries are unsalted; the bun is stale. Over three-quarters of the time, this is my McDonalds experience.

Post-pandemic, I will relegate McDonalds to roadtrip food.

Carls Jr: 2 stars

I took to eating Carls a lot over the past few years because it's one of the only chains where I could dependably get my burgers bunless and lettuce-wrapped. This is the only redeeming quality of Carls Jr. Moving forward, I will only go there when I'm back on keto and need food-on-the-go. If I'm on keto but eating at home is an option, I'll eat at home.

Little Caesars: 5 stars

Little Caesars is every bit as greasy and gross as I remember. It's perfect. It's the gnarliest of chain pizzas and I love it. The stipulation is you have to order pizza fresh: the Hot-and-Ready pizzas and cheap and convenient, but they are really selling the experience short. Little Caesars is perfect fresh and tastes like cardboard within a few hours. This is food of occassion in my post-pandemic life. Definitely not everyday.

Popeyes: 4 stars

The Popeyes chicken sandwich is exactly as good as I remember it. No complains. The spicy version is better than the non-spicy version.

Taco La Villa: 11 stars

It's every bit as good as I remember.

Overall, I'll be eating at home much more often in a post-pandemic world. This list will be updated as I continue to retry foods from my pre-pandemic life.