With the pandemic affecting quick-service and fast-food restaurants this past year, there have been many changes in how customers pick up their food at their local spots.
Pizza Hut, which boasted the first major pizza chain to offer delivery to your car, will now add yet another convenient feature for folks not looking to leave their vehicle. This time, customers won’t even have to park their vehicles.
The Hut Lane is essentially a drive-thru option that lets customers pick up the Pizza Hut app and PizzaHut.com orders upon arrival. All they’ll have to do is pull up to the dedicated window, pick up their order, and leave.
Currently, The Hut Lane is available at 1,500 Pizza Hut locations, with more in development. For customers who order their pizzas from locations without a Hut Lane, an employee will bring your pizza out to you once you park.
Baltimore’s Ekiben Restaurant is known for creative and interesting takes on Asian food. Recently, they’re also becoming known for an amazing deed of kindness they performed: Serving a dying customer their favorite dish.
The customer lived in Vermont, and was the mother of a Baltimore local and would often come visit. According to the Baltimore Sun, the family would regularly eat at Ekiben, with the tempura broccoli becoming one of the mother’s favorite dishes.
Sadly, the mother had fallen ill with lung cancer, and although she had jokingly said she would want to eat the broccoli on her deathbed, the family wondered if they could make the dish for her one last time.
They initially planned to try to make it on their own and get tips from Ekiben’s owners, Steve Chu and Ephrem Abebe. However, after the family contacted them for some advice, Chu and Abebe decided to drive up to Vermont and make it themselves.
It took six hours to get there, plus a few more hours to heat up the fryer in the freezing snow, but the owners were able to make the tempura broccoli and some tofu bowls outside of the customer’s house and safely deliver the meals inside.
For the mother, who enjoyed the meal thoroughly, it was a surreal and happy experience, one she was happy to enjoy. As for the owners, they told the Sun that they were just glad to make her happy.
The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 100,000 dining spots have closed nationwide, with a harsh winter leading many to expect that number to only go up over time.
That being said, group efforts have come about to help get restaurants in some areas the support they need. Of course, stimulus funding and federal/state aid is the optimal solution, but for those that choose to stay open, getting the word out is crucial to making enough money to keep selling food.
In Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley, one can attribute a movement called “SGV Eats” as one of the primary reasons the restaurant industry is able to keep going. Originally a group created by friends Alan An, Megan Lam, and Brian Ngoy, their movement has now exploded into over 32,000 people on Facebook, spreading the word on restaurants all over the region.
“When we saw that restaurants were struggling during the pandemic, it ignited something in us to help out,” An told Foodbeast. He, Lam, and Ngoy together started the original group, called “SGV Restaurants Open During COVID-19” at first, as a way to bring light to those restaurants looking to get help.
Lam told Foodbeast that the group started as just the three of them telling their friends, which led to a cascading influx of invitations that saw the group grow to the size it is now. All of the members are locals and restaurateurs who promote and provide support to eateries beyond just their own or their favorites. It’s what Ngoy described as a “phenomenal response” that helped elevate the entire restaurant scene and keep it afloat.
Thanks to their efforts, restaurants who were maybe seeing a few orders a day would sell out close to opening, helping keep many restaurant owners going through the pandemic.
It’s also allowed the innovative food scene in the San Gabriel Valley to flourish. For those not in the know, San Gabriel Valley is an incredibly diverse community: over 44% of the population is Latino and a quarter of residents are of some sort of Asian descent, according to data from the Los Angeles Times.
The SGV is known as a hub for many Asian restaurants, but An, Lam, and Ngoy also surprised even themselves by discovering a large, diverse set of unique restaurants through all of the owners and customers that shared photos and stories of the food. From Filipino food in West Covina to the storied seafood banquet restaurants of San Gabriel, there’s a lot of history and flavor from many parts of the world that reside in the SGV.
You’ll also find a lot of unique restaurants offering creative takes on dishes, often inspired by the meshing of cultures that happens in this region. Mexican and Asian-inspired pizzas, birria loaded burgers, and even Sichuan peppercorn-infused queso are just some examples of the unique dishes the region has to offer.
The team behind SGV Eats is making sure that these restaurants continue to get support for the unique creations they’re making. Outside of the regular daily support the group offers, SGV Eats is also launching a dining event that will spread across the entire valley. Called Eat SGV Week, it features nearly two dozen restaurants that are a part of the group, all of which are providing unique specials and offers to encourage people to order food.
Viral pizza spot Rose City Pizza, for example, is creating a Korean Popcorn Chicken pizza, a spin-off of one of their more recent mouthwatering menu creations. Other options from headliners include a combo meat plate from 38 Degrees Alehouse, a combo pack of obanyaki (stuffed Japanese pancakes) and ube horchata from Mr. Obanyaki, and a meal platter from Hummus Labs, arguably one of the most popular restaurants in the SGV to date.
The Eat SGV Week runs from December 7th to 13th, although you can preorder for pickup on any of those days already on their website.
Going from support group to organizing a dining event that brings together multiple restaurants feels like a large leap. For the SGV Eats team, though, it was just another way to bring assistance and unite the local dining community to help keep it thriving.
Beyond just the Eat SGV week, SGV Eats hopes to find more ways to encourage the community and get folks to discover and explore more local restaurants.
As a bullhorn for one of the more innovative dining regions in the country, they’re definitely a group anybody should join, follow, and be a part of to learn about some of the most creative culinary eats the San Gabriel Valley has to offer.
There have been many innovative pizzas from LA-based Rose City Pizza in the past few years, but their latest creation may very well be my favorite yet.
The viral pizzeria behind the Birria, Elote, and Al Pastor Pizza has now added a Popcorn Chicken Pizza to the menu and its gangbusters.
Inspired by the immensely popular snack found at Taiwanese boba shops, the new Popcorn Chicken Pizza takes breaded chicken thigh pieces and fries them along with Thai basil. For the pizza base, a simple rainfall of mozzarella cheese is met with a dash of five-spice. Once the chicken joins the pie, it’s drizzled with a unique Thai Basil aioli made in house and topped with the crispy fried basil leaves.
Our own Constantine Spyrou recently tried it and had this to say about the new addition:
“It was bomb,” young Spyrou told us. “The chili oil and the Thai basil aioli combine to give it some punchy flavor. The five-spice adds a nice undertone to everything.”
He also added this was one of the best things he’d eaten in 2020 and a great take on popcorn chicken in pizza form.
High praise, but honestly, I agree 100 percent.
You can find the Popcorn Chicken Pizza now on the Rose City Pizza menu. Other notable pies include the ever-viral Birria Pizza, Al Pastor Pizza, Elote Pizza, and Manila Sunrise Filipino Breakfast Pizza.
I’ve been a huge fan of throwing hot sauce on pizza, been doing it ever since I saw the scene from Selena as a kid. I’m a firm believer that pizza is one of the foods that can be enjoyed sweet, savory, or even spicy.
Well, it looks like Blaze Pizza is leaning heavily towards the spicy.
The pizzeria where Lebron hangs his hat has introduced a Hot Chicken Pizza that encapsulates some of the spiciest toppings seen at a fast-casual concept.
Inspired by Hot Chicken Sandwiches, the pizza boasts a base of red sauce and mozzarella cheese. It’s then topped with a scorpion pepper slaw, Ghost Pepper Chicken Meatballs, and finished with a Frank’s RedHot drizzle.
You can find the Hot Chicken Pizza at participating Blaze Pizza locations nationwide for a limited time.
I’ve tried many a dish over at Red Lobster over the years, probably my favorite creation in recent memory being their Fried Lobster and Cheddar Bay Waffles. It appears Red Lobster is bringing back that Fried Lobster in a new, more savory form this fall season.
The house that Cheddar Bay cravings and buttery seafood dunks built has just released a new Kung Pao Noodles and Fried Lobster dish.
Made up of hand-battered fried lobster tail, the dish is paired with noodles tossed in a sweet and spicy soy-ginger sauce. Edamame, cabbage, crispy onions, cashews, and green onions are added to round out the dish.
Luckily, no peanuts for anyone with allergies itching to try this.
It looks like you can find this Kung Pao Noodles and Fried Lobster now at your local Red Lobster. You can also order alternative proteins to the dish, including crispy shrimp or chicken.