Miss Eating Out? Try these Tips for Ordering Take-Out In the Iowa City Area During COVID-19

After talking to a couple friends, I realized all of us were at different places with our comfort level in picking up take-out from area restaurants. And now with things opening back up some restaurants are making a decision to only offer curbside pick-up and yet others are opening their doors for guests while following some new guidelines.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of that.

And I know many of my friends and family have differing opinions. And this is totally okay. But it got me thinking about the take-out option. What were my concerns with getting take-out for the first time after COVID-19 hit? What helped me get over my fears? Honestly, I was worried about how vigilant I needed to be in handling the food containers, what it would be like when I picked up or received the food delivery, and how safe it really was. To make ourselves feel more comfortable we asked around, got some tips from friends, and finally made our first order.

We have enjoyed take-out a number of times now, and we feel pretty comfortable with our system.

If you’re like us, you would love to support local small businesses with take-out food orders, and maybe these tips and tricks will help you feel more comfortable ordering take-out (if you haven’t done it already!).

Take-Out from St. Burch Tavern In the Iowa City Area
Take out from St. Burch Tavern

Take-Out Tips and Tricks During COVID-19

How do I order?

Well, that depends on the restaurant. The most common ways are calling the restaurant directly or using an online platform. The easiest way to figure out how to order from your favorite restaurant is to visit their website or Facebook page. Many have updates regarding their new ordering options. If you can’t find anything online, just pick up the phone!

When do I need to order?

If you’re calling the restaurant, you likely only need to call about 15-30 minutes ahead of when you’d like to pick up your food. However, if they are busy, times could vary. If you’re ordering online and utilizing a delivery option, you might want to plan a bit longer.

Take out from Pullman Diner in the Iowa City Area
Take out from Pullman Diner

Is the entire menu available or is it limited?

You can find the answer to this question by asking them over the phone, going to their website, or even checking out their Facebook page. Many restaurants have updated these resources to reflect their current offering. Most places are offering their full menu, but there are exceptions. Some are choosing limited menus, and others are offering family style meals.

How do I pick up?

The first time we ordered food, I pulled in, got out of the car, and walked up to the door and tried to go in. The door was locked. They began waving at me to go back to my car. I was really embarrassed! Turns out they watch for cars out their window and when they see someone drive up they come out to bring the order to you. Oops! Other places have specific parking spots with a phone number listed. When you arrive you call them to let them know you’re there and they bring out the food. And yet other places are now allowing you to walk in and pick up food directly from their counter. Often the restaurant will outline instructions somewhere in the online ordering form. If you are giving your order over the phone, just ask them what method you should use for pick-up.

Takeout from Dandylion Cafe in the Iowa City area
Take out from Dandylion Cafe
La Vencina take out in the Iowa CIty area
Take out from La Vencina

Do I tip for curbside pick-up?

If you would like to, yes. We personally tend to tip higher on our curbside orders because we know these businesses aren’t getting their regular amount of business, and we want to support them. But, again, it’s not required.

I got the food home, now what do I do?

That is up to you. At our house we have one person open all of the packaging. The other person helps move the food to one of our own plates while avoiding the packaging. Then we throw out all the packaging and wash our hands really well before eating. You may choose to do something different and that is totally okay. Do whatever you are comfortable with.

Andale Andale take out in the Iowa City area
Take out from Andale Andale

I’m ready to order some take-out, where do I start?

Chomp delivery is a great place to start. It is a locally owned food delivery service and they are great! Visit their website and then select from one of the restaurants. You will only see local places in the Iowa City area. You will not find any chains on the Chomp website. You can select no-contact delivery where they literally just leave it on your doorstep. Chomp also allows you to sort restaurants based on the wait time for your delivery which is super handy for timing purposes.

 Other Tidbits and Tips:

  • Some restaurants are offering delivery straight from the restaurant, even if this is something they do not normally offer. Call and ask if this is something they are currently offering.
  • Many restaurants are offering carry-out cocktails. Many are making them in ball jars with sealed lids on them and you can pick them up right with your food.
  • A number of area pizza places are offering contactless delivery. You order through their app, pay, and include a tip and they will leave it on your doorstep and walk away. For example, Pizza Hut in particular puts everything in a giant plastic bag so the pizza boxes are not sitting directly on the ground. Papa Johns is putting a seal on the pizza box so you know it was tampered with after it left the facility.
  • Order more than you normally would. This lets you have some leftovers! For example, Estellas is offering the Hawk Box. We ordered it and ate it for one dinner for four people and two lunches for two people each!
Estellas Hawk Box take out in the Iowa City area
The Estellas Hawk Box

What are your favorite local places to get take-out? Enjoy!

Linda is a Michigan native who moved to Iowa City in 2011 and hasn’t left yet. She and her husband of twelve years, Jacob, have two spunky kids – a kindergartner and a third grader. Linda works full time at the University of Iowa as the Administrative Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, Linda and her family enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (shhhh!), going on adventures both big and small, and playing board games (they have over 100 and will play with anyone they can talk into it). Linda is often told she has two volumes: on and off, and she will enthusiastically respond to any news you tell her. No matter the volume she uses, Linda is an “old soul” with a love for baking, embroidery, and old movies.


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