The past two years have made carryout meals feel like less of an occasional indulgence and more of a way of life. (Seriously, is there anyone who has the energy left at the end of the day to cook dinner anymore? Don’t answer that question, I don’t want to know who you are.) Whatever enthusiasm I might have at one point feigned over food preparation has long since given way to acceptance of the fact that I don’t like cooking, and in a pandemic, if Ina Garten can resolve to drink more large cosmos, I, too, can order takeout for dinner.
But all that eating out can get pricey.
Here are some ideas for carryout meals for two you can pick up in Baltimore for $25 — or sometimes much less. Split a meal like the black bean feijoada at Brazil Gourmet, while adding on an appetizer. Or maybe order two of the same delicious item — check out that chicken pot pie at Sugarbee’s.
Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen: Appetizer medley and salmon chermoula
During the pandemic, Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen on Fort Avenue pivoted from a neighborhood bistro to a mini grocery store and carryout, offering hummus to go as well as an array of local foods like eggs, cheese and Michele’s Granola.
Nearly two years later, it’s a pivot that’s stuck. The inside seats are still gone, and customers are still coming for owner Farid Salloum’s roster of tasty Levantine fare. Need dinner for two? I’d recommend ordering an appetizer medley that comes with hummus and olives, stuffed grape leaves, flaky spanakopita and falafel ($12.50). (Salloum says he hears from Israeli and Palestinian guests alike that his falafel is the best around.) For an entree, share the flavorful Moroccan-style salmon chermoula ($12), served with an incredible garlic tahini sauce that I could eat on anything. The portion is huge, comes with rice and is easily shareable. Trust that no one is going hungry at Baba’s.
Total: $24.50 before tax and tip
745 E. Fort Ave., Locust Point. 410-727-7482. babaskitchen.net
Brazil Gourmet: Feijoada to share with a side of pao de quiejo
A black bean stew with barbecued meat, feijoada is Brazil’s national dish, and after my first bite at Brazil Gourmet I wondered why the U.S. hasn’t adopted it too. It’s just the kind of hearty, meaty stew you want when it’s blisteringly cold outside. Priced at $20, it’s served with rice, greens, yucca flour and oranges. Split this entree with a side of pao de quiejo, a chewy baked cheese roll made with manioc starch ($4.98).
The restaurant, which also has a branch in Columbia, is extending its hours and getting a liquor license soon.
Total: $24.98 before tax and tip
2000 Eastern Ave., Upper Fells Point. 410-276-2198. facebook.com/brazilgourmet.baltimore
Mekong Delta: Pho and pork
Baltimore-area pho connoisseurs know that no one makes it better – or cheaper – than Mekong Delta, an unassuming little stall inside the equally nondescript Charles Street food hall, or as I often refer to it, “the place next to Streets.” Their delicately-seasoned broth made according to a generations-old family recipe warms me up anytime of year and the fresh basil and jalapeño that accompany help create the ultimate cold busting dish. Eat at the first sign of sniffles.
Someday, I’d love to travel to Vietnam, where owner Luan “Leo” Nguyen says pho stalls are available on every street corner — it’s eaten for breakfast. Until then, weekly trips to Mekong Delta must suffice. If feeding two, either pick up two soups ($10 each) or share one and add on a side of grilled, marinated pork with rice (also $10). The total will be less than $25 and you’ll likely even have leftovers.
Total: $20 before tax and tip
222 N. Charles Street, Downtown. 443-955-1100.
Sugarbee’s: Two chicken pot pies
This longtime Caribbean stall sits next to Mekong Delta and attracts long lines of loyal customers whenever it’s open. While they serve an array of wallet-friendly dishes: fish and sausage gumbo and the jerk chicken platter with homemade sauce are both $12.99. When it comes to dinner for two, you can’t go wrong with their house chicken pot pies ($10.95 each) served with chutney. Perfectly flaky crusts encircle hunks of chicken, carrots and peas in homemade broth, with a side of pungent dipping sauce for an extra kick.
Total: $21.90 before tax and tip
222 N Charles Street, Downtown. 410-443-0475.
Trinacria: Baked ziti with meat
Frozen lasagna is almost a last-minute, “I hate cooking” dinner cliché. But the frozen baked ziti with meat ($11.99) or without ($9.99) from Trinacria, the more than century-old Italian market on North Paca Street, might win over even the most lasagna-fatigued eaters. Owner Vince Fava says his Sicilian family has tweaked the recipes slightly over the years — “but it’s primarily the same.” (Other options include eggplant parm and lasagna as well as ravioli with Gorgonzola and pear). I picked up a small tray during a recent shopping trip. After an hour in the oven, I had a respectable dinner on the table: tender pasta with meaty red sauce and cheese, with plenty left over for lunch the next day.
Total: $11.99 before tax
406 N Paca Street, Bromo Arts District. 410-685-7285. trinacriabaltimore.com