Eat like Spencer Cox, Angela Dunn, Tony Finau and Nick Rimando: See where famous Utahns order takeout

Politicians and performers talk about getting curry, spicy chicken, veggie burgers and more to help them — and their favorite restaurants — get through the pandemic.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ginger Street server Jess Zollinger hands out walk-up orders at the restaurant's takeout window located on State Street, Feb. 5, 2021. The restaurant is favorite takeout spot for Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

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Takeout is now master of the dining universe.

A meal option that a year ago was seen as a last resort, something we picked up when we were in a hurry — or the fridge was empty — is conquering the dinner dilemma.

Dozens of Utah restaurants, bars and even breweries — some that had never offered takeout or delivery before — started these convenience services in 2020 as a means of survival.

And diners, faced with the real possibility of losing their favorite neighborhood restaurant to the coronavirus pandemic, stepped up, placing orders online and over the phone not only for pizza, pasta and cheeseburgers but also for tacos, curry and gyros.

It has become such a phenomenon that we asked some of the state’s best-known residents — from politicians and performers to actors and athletes — to share their favorite pandemic takeout over the past 11 months.

Here’s what they said:

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

Gov. Spencer Cox • The state’s new chief executive splits his time between Fairview — his hometown — and Salt Lake City and has a favorite pandemic takeout in each locale. At home, Cox said its Corner Station Deli & Co-op, located in a renovated 1920s gas station. When he’s in the capital city, though, he calls Salt Lake City’s Pretty Bird restaurant for some spicy chicken.

“We are a foodie family and have used the pandemic to discover and support new restaurants,” Cox said. “Also, living part time in Salt Lake City, I finally used DoorDash for the first time, and I’m sure I will never be the same.”

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson • Bombay House in Provo gets a thumbs-up from the state’s second in command. Between her work in 2020 as a state senator, running for lieutenant governor with Cox and working toward an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, Henderson said she hasn’t had a lot of time to cook.

“It’s been so convenient to stop in and get takeout,” she said. “It’s kept us alive.”

Attorney General Sean Reyes • When the state’s top lawyer needs takeout, he returns to his Hawaiian roots, opting for the “affordable, fast and healthy” poke bowls at Savage Fish Poke Lounge, inside Provo’s Rekava Cafe.

It’s the “best poke outside of Hawaii,” said Reyes, whose mother is a native of the Aloha State. “My go-to is the spicy ahi bowl.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin, Salt Lake City jazz singer and actor, sings at the Gallivan Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin • At least twice a month during the pandemic, the Salt Lake City jazz singer and actor has ordered from Table 22 — a meal delivery service launched amid the pandemic by Utah chef Matt Parks and Rosalba Dominguez. “They’re my tried and true,” said Darby-Duffin, “and their queso dip is ridiculous.”

Tony Finau • The Salt Lake City native and professional golfer has been traveling to tournaments for much of the pandemic. When he returns to the Beehive State — he spends the summer at his home in Lehi — his favorite takeout spot has been Utah’s king of Hawaiian restaurants, Mo’ Bettahs. He gets the ekolu special, with a mix of teriyaki and katsu chicken, white rice and macaroni salad.

Jerry Rapier • The artistic director for Plan-B Theatre Company says at his house — which also includes husband Kirt and 8-year-old son Oscar — the favorite takeout is a toss-up between three locally owned restaurants: Red Iguana 2, J. Wong’s Thai and Chinese Bistro, and California Burgers and Deli.

“Pretty early on in the pandemic, Red Iguana 2 started delivering for the first time, and it was like Christmas for our family,” Rapier said. “J. Wong’s has been my go-to restaurant for years because it’s around the corner from the Rose Wagner, where Plan-B Theatre is based. And the family-owned and operated California Burger is in our neighborhood, so we’re especially invested in keeping them alive.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr. Angela Dunn speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

Angela Dunn • The state’s lead epidemiologist has been the face of Utah’s coronavirus fight, encouraging us to wear masks and social distance since early in 2020. She has heeded her own advice, ordering takeout for her family — and having a difficult time picking a favorite. “There are too many good restaurants out there,” she said. Avenues Proper (and its house veggie burger) and Cafe Shambala (vegetable noodles) were her top picks.

“Both of these restaurants have saved me numerous times when my husband and I are staring at an empty fridge with two hungry boys to feed.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson • The leader of Utah’s most populous county also has survived the hectic days of the pandemic with to-go Indian cuisine from Bombay House in Salt Lake City. It is “one of the family favorites,” she said. “It is the one place that my whole family can agree on.”

Her must-have dish? The “amazing” curry and naan bread.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall • Ginger Street is located just north of the Salt Lake City Hall, where Mendenhall has spent long days and nights during the pandemic. The restaurant’s “green curry with tofu” has been “a highlight of 2020,” Mendenhall said. “The entire menu makes my family so happy, which is a feat.” Beyond the food, she appreciates the handwritten notes on every takeout bag thanking customers for their support and the efficient service at the walk-up window that looks onto State Street.

“My only trouble,” Mendenhall said, “is not tucking into the curry before I get it back home.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ginger Street's Green Curry with Tofu has been Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall's go-to place for takeout.

Rep. Brad Wilson • Few people know it, but Utah’s Republican House speaker has a gluten intolerance. So he sees dining and takeout “through a slightly different lens.” As a result, the family regularly seeks out Red Robin in Layton or Chang’s Chopstix in Farmington, both of which offer the gluten-free menus he favors.

“The restaurant industry has provided the breath of fresh air at a time when we’re all feeling so overwhelmed with the stresses of life,” Wilson said. “As simple as it sounds, going out to a restaurant with friends and family — even with the plexiglass and masks — can offer a great relief and relaxation that makes life feel moderately normal.”

Sen. Todd Weiler • The Woods Cross Republican didn’t hesitate when asked for his favorite pandemic takeout. “The walnut shrimp at Joy Luck in Bountiful,” he said. “It is nice to be able to pick up when you don’t feel comfortable grocery shopping and are maybe too lazy to cook at home.”

Lex Scott • The leader of Black Lives Matter Utah says she tries to support businesses owned by people of color whenever she can. Last summer, when large murals depicting Utahns killed by police were being painted on abandoned buildings along Salt Lake City’s 300 West, Scott said she was a regular at Tacos Garay across the street. She regularly picks up chicken tikka masala at Gurkhas Indian and Nepali Cuisine. But it’s the gyros with yogurt sauce from Mad Greek Express that are a constant craving. “I could eat it every single day.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy in 2019.

Nick Rimando • Real Salt Lake’s most iconic player — who retired at the end of the 2019 season — has frequented Nomad East for its pizzas, mussels and famous Mary’s chicken. He also calls the Italian fare at Osteria Amore near the University of Utah “the perfect comfort food.”

“It’s the best Italian we’ve had in Salt Lake City,” he said. “Their authentic taste makes you feel like you’re in Italy from the comfort of your home.”

Freddy Juarez • The RSL head coach likes the fresh food and fast service at Zao Modern Asian Cafe. His go-to to-go dish is “rice noodles with yellow curry sauce, chicken and plenty of vegetables,” he said. “It’s good, healthy food that is quick no matter how you order.”

Doug Fabrizio • The host of KUER’s “RadioWest” show says it’s impossible to identify a favorite takeout. But he has tried to step up when he hears a restaurant is struggling. “A few weeks ago, someone, somewhere mentioned Este Pizzeria was having a tough time. We love New York-style pizza and Este has always been a go-to for us.”

Fabrizio said it’s hard to know whether he’s made a difference in the life span of a restaurant. “Sometimes you don’t know until you hear the bad news,” he said. “But placing an order lately has seemed like an act of faith that is helping us survive this plague.”

Meredith Marks • This cast member on “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” gives a shoutout to Handle in Park City and its Bang Bang Cauliflower. She said access to the restaurant’s “incredible, creative, responsibly sourced food has helped me endure this difficult time.”

Chase O’Connell and Beckanne Sisk • These Ballet West dancers — who also happened to be engaged — each has a favorite takeout spot.

For O’Connell, it’s Salt Lake City’s Cucina Wine Bar and Deli, where he orders the curry chicken salad over greens or chicken cordon bleu. “I usually go there on a Monday afternoon because I plan my weekly meals but always forget about Monday’s lunch — maybe on purpose,” he said. “They have a lot of options, and it’s quick and easy to pick up.”

Sisk also plans weekly meals but gives herself freedom on Saturday and Sunday to eat whatever she wants. “I order Bombay House almost every weekend,” she said. Her favorite dish is saag paneer. “Knowing I have warm spicy comfort food to look forward to makes eating my own cooking — which is not very good — bearable.”