The two-year Covid-19 pandemic (remember that?) turned the restaurant industry upside down and sideways. Dining establishments around the world were forced to come up with new and different ways to serve their customers, without having them gather inside.
Streets and thoroughfares became restaurant seating areas, and parking lots became dining rooms. And the entire notion of having your food delivered exploded. In a good way, though not without some snags.
The simple act of calling ahead to pick up your food simply became the way food was prepared and ordered. That simple task spawned a brand new industry.
A good example was the “ghost kitchen.“ The idea behind a ghost kitchen is that there is no physical restaurant. Several restaurants may share several kitchens under the same roof, and all offer delivery and pick up services.
The idea was just beginning to catch hold as the pandemic broke, and now, ghost kitchens may simply be part of the restaurant landscape as we now know it.
One of the most successful locally is Kitchen United MIX, one of five such locations in Southern California.
The “destination“ allows diners to order meals from more than 10 restaurants all on the same bill. As the name implies customers can order American Asian and Italian takeout from any number of restaurants as part of the same order.
There are also high protein, plant-based, and health-conscious menus along with the standard comfort food, like pizza and burgers. The Pasadena location offers 15 restaurants along with a “snack mix “menu. The choices range from Dave’s Hot Chicken to Sweetfin Poké to vegetarian subs to salads to Middle Eastern menus.
Over the course of a week, we visited four of Kitchen United MIX’s restaurants— Dave’s Hot Chicken, Mason’s Dumpling Shop, Sweetfin Poké, and MrBeast Burger, with Indarra Indian restaurant still on the schedule. We stretched it out over a week because frankly, we can only eat one lunch at a lunch time.
We began with MrBeast Burger. We opted for the beast-style burger combo with fries, because we could. Although Kitchen United MIX used to have a dining area, the pandemic changed all of that. Thus, once we grabbed our food, we literally walked about a half mile west on Colorado Boulevard to Old Pasadena where we found outdoor dining areas, originally opened in 2020, to accommodate restaurants that could no longer serve indoors.
Eventually, we found open tables at the Starbucks at Paseo Colorado where we could easily purchase something cold in exchange for a shady seat and table. This became our modus operandi for the week.
MrBeast Burger was juicy and filling, essentially standard hamburger fare that hit the spot on that particularly very hungry day. We did well on our first adventure.
The next outing brought us to Sweetfin, Kitchen United MIX’s poke spot.
This one was tricky. Because we were arriving on the Metro Gold line and walking down Lake Avenue to the kitchen which was about a mile away, we had to time our order properly.
When we arrived, we gave our name to the guy in the restaurant lobby, which is replete with computer monitors to take your food orders on the spot, and racks of food ready to be picked up.
He smiled and said, “I just put your order in the fridge for you!”
Our order was perfectly packaged fresh and cold, like poke should be. We made our way down Colorado and dined in shady splendor.
We eat a lot of poke, to be honest, and this meal didn’t disappoint. Sweetfin uses its own bamboo rice for its poke, and some sauces we had not seen before. We will see them again, I’m sure.
We chose salmon, albacore tuna, creamy tagarashi, mango, and pineapple for our “Build Your Own” poke. The poke held up to any other poke spot we visited in the San Gabriel Valley, and we have visited a lot of them.
Next up—Dave’s Hot Chicken and Mason’s Dumpling Shop. First off, this was a lot of food. To begin, we ordered Dave’s #2, which is two Sliders with fries. All sliders are served with kale slaw, pickles, a drizzle of Dave’s sauce, and a side of Dave’s sauce. We customized ours not to include the Kale Slaw, and were only able to finish one of the sliders, which, to be honest, was pretty awesome in its crunchy spiciness. The second one, served at 10 p.m in the comfort of my modest home, was just as good, heated up in a toaster oven.
We then opted for the Pan Fried Dumplings from Mason’s, which features Pork shoulder with a dash of ginger and green onions. Again, we were only able to down two of the hearty morsels, and saved the rest for Hulu. Like Dave’s contribution, the dumplings were easily just as good heated up for later. The sauces are sweet and flavorful, and the dumplings themselves are perfectly chewy on the outside, and spicy and tangy on the inside, like all good dumplings should be.
We will be visiting Indarra later this week, and we anticipate our trip to India to be just as intriguing as our trips to Asia, Hawaii, and Nashville, culinarily speaking.
You can create your own dining adventure at http://order.kitchenunited.com/pasadena