The gourmet food-delivery boom is going strong, appealing equally to industrious tech workers and couch-ridden stoners—in other words, to Seattleites. Here are some of the most popular services founded in our fine city and its ’burbs, and how they stack up against one another.
Eat Local offers an impressive roster of diverse frozen meals, some vegetarian and some featuring grass-fed meats, but suffers a bit from a stunted delivery system that often makes pickup more feasible. Downtown deliveries are only $2 and orders over $98 are shipped free (stock up!) elsewhere. Otherwise you’ll be saddled with an unfortunate $30-plus shipping cost. To save money, I had my meal delivered downtown, and found the ordering process and same-day delivery pleasantly painless. A smiley employee called and found me, and handed over my frozen meals, quick and easy.
My buffalo stew was a dark concoction of kidney beans and several types of grass-fed meat from Oregon. I liked it, though the sauce didn’t have quite enough kick. But I thoroughly enjoyed the soft, cheesy, crunchy salmon asparagus gratin and the Indonesian vegetable curry, despite some too-crunchy veggies.
Aside from some flaws in the system that possibly make them a better niche grocery store than delivery service if you don’t live or work downtown, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a few more frozen meals for a week of slow cooking. eatlocalonline.com
Fresh and Ready Mealsfeatures a rotating roster of Italian and Americana-style dishes, delivered to homes in Seattle and its suburbs on Monday or Tuesday, depending on location. Their site boasts about their generous portions and home-cooked-style meals. A little discouraged by the lack of variety (they offer three dishes and one potential substitution per week for $40), I placed my order and awaited my Tuesday delivery date. The food came on time, right at midday, delivered in cumbersome packaging, plastic dishes stacked sloppily in a flimsy canvas bag with a rudimentarily designed sheet of information on reheating.
The shrimp pesto macaroni and cheese came with a container of the sauce and a plastic baggie of uncooked pasta. The pesto cheese sauce was decidedly light on both pesto and cheese but heavy on oil, so the final product tasted more like a bland scampi. But the richness lacking in the macaroni was present and then some in the next meal I tried—balsamic meatballs with a side of tomato cobbler. Overall, I liked it, though the balsamic sauce was somewhat redundant given the semi-sweet sauce already overflowing from the tomatoes.
Next came a big portion of chicken arugula salad with big hunks of bland chicken salvaged only by the arugula and vinaigrette. It was passable but unimpressive, which seems to be a good summary of my overall experience with Fresh and Ready Meals. freshandreadymeals.com
Kitchen Door Meals has the same sort of familiar American-classic dishes as Fresh and Ready Meals, but with greater variety and, in my experience, greater success. Orders must be placed by 9 p.m. on Saturday for delivery the following Tuesday, and there’s an $8 delivery fee. My order was dropped off promptly around mail time with a thank-you note and a delectable complimentary chocolate-chip cookie. That was a good start.
My mint dressing salad was truly delicious, a savory-sweet affair with chicken, grapes, and goat cheese. The next meal was a braised pork shoulder sugo with broccolini and mashed potatoes, which refused to cook through evenly until I finally zapped it in the microwave for upward of 10 minutes. Thankfully, the reheating process couldn’t spoil the flavor or texture. The pork was delicious, basking in hearty gravy that mixed well with the potatoes. The whole dish, in fact, was almost hearty to a fault. Almost.
The final entrée came close to ruining the whole experience. Perhaps the spinach lasagna didn’t reheat properly, because the textures were all off. It was like taking a bite out of a hunk of oily melted cheese sculpted to resemble a lasagna. The flavors of the pasta and spinach were lost in this oily assault, and I couldn’t even finish the plate. Despite their lasagna folly, I can’t condemn Kitchen Door Meals for their caring service and the two delicious meals out of three I tried. kitchendoormeals.com
Maven Meals delivers their dishes for a $4.25 fee no matter the size of your order each Tuesday and Wednesday, depending upon your ZIP code. Most menu items are foods you’d find at any mid-range hipster restaurant, familiar-sounding meals made interesting with unusual flavors and ingredients. The service prides itself on sustainable, healthy meals that can be made to accommodate most dietary restrictions. I was impressed by the variety of their dishes but less impressed with the complicated delivery process. The foods come in reusable plastic containers inside a cooler, and all of it is picked up the next delivery date in your area. You incur a $4.50 charge per item you fail to return. I got mighty tired of having their cooler and containers gathering dust in my home for two weeks. Worse still, the deliveryman was next to no help explaining how the process works for a first-time customer.
I had orange sesame scallops that had to be pan-fried before serving—understandable, since scallops don’t hold up well to reheating. They came alongside a mandarin quinoa salad that was a bit bland on its own but a perfect complement to the flavorful scallops. Next came a golden beet salad that was apparently supposed to come with some sort of creamy orecchiette, of which there was none. As it was, it was all beet and little else, and I gave up halfway through.
My order came with two sweets, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The mighty Maven mini-bar was as chewy and sweet as it was alliterative, and the soft peanut-butter cookie was delicious and dotted with granules of sugary goodness. Though I liked Maven Meals for the most part, the pick-up aspect is a big detractor. mavenmeals.com
Turmeric ’n More is one of the area’s most specialized services, bringing cooled-down Indian and Pakistani dishes straight to your door. For a $5.99 fee per order, they deliver meals each Sunday if you order by the previous Tuesday. I found the weekend delivery time a little inconvenient for my purposes—I could have been in church or bumming around a farmers market!—but was nonetheless eager to try whatever delicious food had sustained Seattle’s longest-running food-delivery service since 2005. The employee left the food without knocking, but it came early enough that I don’t have any cause to complain.
I ordered a smorgasbord of unfamiliar dishes here, which all came in labeled, circular plastic containers. The chicken biryani rice was deliciously flavorful without being overseasoned, studded with incredibly tender pieces of chicken. The mint and saffron were well represented. The paneer bhurji was composed primarily of grated Indian cheese in a sauce of onions and peppers, a tasty dish but without the subtle complexities of the chicken. I preferred the ghia chanay kai dal—a fancy way of saying chickpeas and tomatoes in curry sauce—whose spicy flavors complemented the chickpeas’ meaty texture. Next came the masoor musallam (lentils), another winner, though nothing to measure up to the biryani.
I wouldn’t hesitate to call Turmeric ’n More among the best services I tried. That may be in part because Indian dishes, for all their rice and paste-like consistencies, simply reheat better. Primarily, however, it was nothing more than pure quality. turmericandmore.com