It may be a little easier than an OkCupid first date, but visiting a restaurant that you've only ordered delivery from is often fraught with as much shock and disappointment.
“THIS is the place that makes those extra crispy chicken wings?” you think. “How could I be so foolish?”
But first, there was the optimism. Having a go-to delivery restaurant is a special kind of long-distance relationship. You build trust when the food always arrives promptly, consistently warm and tasty, with all the extra little cups of sauce you asked for, and sometimes, even topped off by a bit of witty banter from the friendly delivery person. What could possibly disturb this utopian ferrying of delicious eats?
I’ll tell you: the misguided need to know the truth. It wasn't enough to have that twice-cooked pork delivered straight to your doorstep—you had to see where it came from, to feel the grain of the formica table-tops, to bask in the fluorescent lighting, to inhale the lemony scent of the viscous bathroom soap. Surely, you had thought, you and this restaurant were a pair brought together by fate, but having only known your lover through its website and delivery bags, it was finally time to see its face.
Often, we assume that an eatery from which we order delivery will be the platonic brick-and-mortar representation of its food. It must be a temple of Alexandrite gemstone, with harps and bubbling brooks and butterflies carrying salt and pepper shakers, a place where you never age or have to poop, and where you’ll quickly be recognized and have a special table waiting, as the staff’s favorite delivery customer.
So one day you decide to eat there, and venture out into the unknown. Every block closer brings increased nervousness. What if there’s a wait? What if they don't know I'm the one who orders delivery from here three times a week? And, as one worries before any first date, What if they're ugly?
You finally approach the address, and glance up from the restaurant’s sleek website, pulled up on your phone, to take a look.
This is when it happens. You realize you've been catfished.
“What the fuck?”
A dilapidated sign and yellowed, cracked windows await, and the only thing that feels even remotely new is the crisp C grade assessed by the city health department. The front door is guarded by a mischief of feral rats, who rip off swaths of your skin with their teeth as you dash into the vacant restaurant. Inside, it's even grosser, and not in a poetic way. Cheap polka dot wallpaper peels from the walls, and a thick fog of rancid cooking oil and air freshener saturate your nasal passages.
“You a cop?” the proprietor asks, so you make an excuse (“My grandmother JUST died”) and run away screaming into the night.
Sometimes the restaurant is not awful in this way; sometimes, it's awful in a different manner, slickly filled with lame tchotchkes and douchey customers, and located in the most touristy part of town. You make the painful realization upon entering that you're the only person who orders delivery from there.
In either case, it's not the restaurant that's truly the problem—it's the shattering of our delusions, and what we realize about ourselves in the process. For ages, you’ve been welcoming this food into your home, where you sleep and bathe and watch Netflix. Nothing is more personal, and so when you later try to vomit out the past two years’ worth of their delivery, it's because maybe your taste isn't as good as you thought.
Maybe you have no idea what's real anymore, and no longer trust a single instinct. Sometimes, like that Tinder user who's so witty in their messages and so impossibly alluring in their photos, the reason a restaurant can only be that wonderful from a distance is because we don’t want to know its faults: that it’s unattractive, unsure of itself, or perhaps just smelly.
There is one solution, however: Never visit a place you order delivery from. Sure, it might end up perfectly nice, but why risk it? While it’s certainly hard to only know a restaurant online and not have any kind of physical relationship, avoiding it might be the only way to mitigate your vulnerability. And hey: If the food's good enough, the food's good enough.
Or, you could ignore all of my warnings entirely. There’s that one-in-a-million chance that it could turn out to be the one, where the floors are marble, the servers are immaculately trained puppies, and there are extra appetizers for their bestest delivery customer. It looks so good inside that you toss your phone into the garbage, lest you ever be apart again.
If that’s not the case, just get takeout.