As San Francisco’s restaurants continue to limit service to outdoor dining and takeout only, Bay Area foodstagrammers and bloggers are reminiscing about the indoor eating of the past, with posts captioned: “What will you eat when restaurants reopen?”
Others, however, are embracing the new normal, and using their personal social streams to spotlighting some of San Francisco’s prettiest takeout. Local foodie Sophia Hu has several viral videos featuring Bay Area takeout on her travel- and food-focused TikTok account @xswhatever.
Post-worthy takeout seems to be a trend of the pandemic, and more restaurants are putting their own spin on the idea. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, a Peruvian restaurant located on the Embarcadero, is set to launch its own “aesthetically pleasing takeout set” either this week or next, says Cynthia Linh, whose media company does social media and content creation for the establishment.
“I do think the taste is the most important thing and the value of the food contributes to whether people end up buying it or not, but the aesthetic or how pretty the food is attracts your first attention,” Hu says.
TikToks of beautiful takeout presentations have amassed hundreds of thousands or even millions of views. Here’s what TikTok has determined to be some of San Francisco’s most viewable and visually appealing to-go orders:
Lao Table by Osha Thai
Hu has two TikToks in which she carefully unwraps the banana leaf packaging encasing her takeout order from Lao Table by Osha Thai. One video reveals a serving of Tom Yum Koong shrimp fried rice; the other, a serving of Black Pepper Pork with Jasmine rice.
“Reveal” videos are particularly popular on TikTok, and Hu’s two videos featuring takeout from Osha Thai have a combined 7.7 million views.
The two dishes in the video are only $12 each and are included in Osha Thai’s Back to Basics menu, which features authentic Laotian dishes served in eco-friendly (and aesthetically appealing) banana lead-and-twine packaging, instead of plastic containers.
Hu is a long-time patron of Osha Thai. She is also friends with one of the business’ partners who asked her if she would feature the Back to Basics menu items on her TikTok in an effort to support the business during the pandemic. Hu said she heard afterwards that a number of new customers credited her video as the inspiration for their order.
While the food’s presentation is certainly key to the popularity of Hu’s posts, her personality is also a factor. In one video, she stretches out an amazed “Woah” for several seconds, and in the other, she responds with “Ooh, shrimp!” upon reveal.
“A lot of people commented saying, ‘I wowed at that same time you wowed,’” Hu says.
Lao Table is currently serving their Back to Basics menu either for pick-up or delivery from their location in The East Cut.
San Francisco food blogger and social media consultant Allie Tong recently took to TikTok to unveil her order of the Little Lao Set from Farmhouse Thai. Billed as “the prettiest takeout you’ll ever see,” the video, posted just a few days ago, already has over 190,000 views.
“It’s so much food and it’s so pretty,” Tong says. “I wanted it both to eat and to take photos of.”
At $59.99, the meal is intended to feed two, but Tong says it could easily serve three or even four people. The set itself includes shrimp fried rice, pad Thai, papaya salad, a gorgeous heap of blue rice, Hat Yai fried chicken, spicy eggplant and a lot more — all arranged in an Instagrammable display.
The set, which also includes a kids meal and either two Singha beers or two Thai iced teas, is available for pick-up and delivery from Farmhouse Thai’s location in the Mission District or at the Oakland location in Jack London Square.
Within 48 hours of Tong posting her Lao set to TikTok, she received a number of comments from people who planned to try the meal themselves — one user even made a “duet” with her video to show off the Lao set they ordered after seeing Tong’s video.
Son & Garden
TikTok user Cian Dominique’s video of Son & Garden’s $89.99 afternoon tea set, captioned “Takeout but make it fancy,” has accumulated over 424,000 views and nearly 900 comments — many of which discuss the steep price (“It’s expensive cause it’s smaller business and made with love. I think the price is worth the fun,” one commenter wrote).
Son & Garden, from the same owners as Farmhouse Thai, was initially offering the tea set for three days over the Fourth of July weekend only. Due to high demand, however, the Little Saigon establishment has made the tea set for two a part of its regular menu.
The set comes with finger sandwiches, macarons, assorted fruits, scones and other sweet treats as well as Harney & Sons teas, a three-tiered stand for set-up and floral and gold table settings.
Bay Area baker Jina Kim is offering quarantine baked boxes filled with an assortment of goodies for $35 each and quarantine cakes for $40 each. The baked box menu for July 11 comes with two matcha cream puffs, two chocolate chip cookies, two madeleines, two strawberry butter mochi and “Furikake Chex Mix.”
TikTok user Tim, who runs the @bayareafoodies account, featured an earlier version of the baked box that included a brownie, matcha mochi, two strawberry cookies, two berry brioche tarts, milk rusk and giant chocolate chip cookies.
The boxes are available for pick-up or shipping, and orders can be placed on the Jina Bakes website.
Contemporary Japanese restaurant Ozumo — open for both outdoor eating and delivery at its location in The East Cut — is offering two different hand roll kits: the Fukuoka kit for $49 and the Tokyo kit for $79. Both kits include the same ingredients, like snow crab, spicy scallop, toro and salmon, but the Tokyo kit also includes lobster and sea urchin.
Tong, who tried one of Ozumo’s kits and posted a TikTok of her assembling a roll which has over 6,000 views, said the takeout set itself, which feeds two, was “really cute.”
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
La Mar, which is currently open for outdoor eating, will soon release two of its own visually appealing takeout sets. Tong, whose recent video of her outdoor dining experience at La Mar credits the establishment as her “favorite restaurant patio,” says she’s excited to see the new sets as the restaurant’s plates are already “super colorful and pretty.”
The two sets, the Caja de Bandeja de Cebicheria and La Caja Caliente de La Mar, will include a selection of appetizers — the former will include cold appetizers like Cebiche Clasico, Causa Limena and Tiradito Verde and the latter will include hot appetizers like Empanadas de Aji de Gallina, Las Roquitas, and Chicharron, Linh explained. The sets, both priced at $79.95, serve four people as an appetizer or two as a main course.
“La Mar’s food is always very colorful and vibrant so the sets are purposely structured to be photogenic,” Linh says.
If you’re in the mood for Michelin-star takeout, look no further than Jū-Ni’s $39 Chirashi bowl which includes fish, ikura, Hokkaido scallop, crab, tamago and house pickled veggies over rice. The bowl is available for delivery or pickup at Jū-Ni, located North of the Panhandle.
In TikTok user Sylvie’s compilation of San Francisco’s “cult spots” offering takeout, Jū-Ni was deemed “the best sushi in SF.”
Hannah Holzer is an intern covering news and culture.