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Your Go-To Guide for Pairing Takeout Food and Wine

Need a Lambrusco to go with your pizza? On it.

14 min read
5/26/2022
steak and red wine

The perfectly matched beverage can elevate your meal from tasty to terrific, whether it’s a matcha latte and oatmeal or a frothy Pilsner with a cheeseburger. But what happens when your go-to burger joint doesn’t sell the perfect IPA, or your local pizza joint doesn’t have a liquor license? Our new program, Caviar Pairings, makes it easy to add a beverage from a second merchant, all brought to you as part of the same delivery. You’ll see the option to add on a drink (or dessert!) after you check out. 

When it comes to wine in particular, some of our diners may want a little guidance on what to get. To help you understand what wines pair best with your takeout order, we spoke with Natalia MacAdams, owner of Los Angeles’s natural wine mecca Heaven's Market. MacAdams, who has worked as a sommelier at popular Los Angeles spots Kismet and El Prado, helped us find the perfect pairing for some of Caviar’s most popular items. I guess we are now officially your delivery sommelier!

Thai + Off-Dry White

“Anytime you’re eating spicy food of any kind, the best pairing will be something with a little residual sugar. The acid in wine makes spicy food spicier, and the spice can make the wine bitter. So that little tinge of sweetness neutralizes the spice and enhances the wine. My pick would be an off-dry Chenin blanc. If you’re eating Thai and going in the mild direction, consider a white that’s lean but not too acid-driven. I’d choose a white Burgundy.” Add a single bottle to your order, or stock up with a wine pack like the ones offered at Lolo Wine Bar in Los Angeles.

Here are some of our favorite Thai dishes around the country: the ultra spicy chicken larb gai from Night + Market Song in Silverlake, Los Angeles; the shrimp pad thai at Wayla in New York; and the green curry from Lers Ros Thai in San Francisco. If you find yourself ordering from any of the above, along with a chilled white, know we are jealous.

Sushi + Mineral-Driven White

“With sushi, you’re digging deep into the subtle flavors of individual pieces of fish, so you want a wine that allows the fish to shine. I’d choose a minerally white, maybe from Spain’s Catalonia region. Lesser known grapes like Xarel-Lo and Parellada often thrive in the dry, arid environment and tend to be more mineral-driven, especially when they’re from limestone-rich soils.”

To go with that mineral-y white, grab a selection of sushi and sashimi (fatty tuna, uni) from New York’s Michelin-starred Kanoyama. In Portland, the fish at AFURI Izakaya is tops. For the best of the day, try the chirashi don and the five-piece Chef's Choice Nigiri Flight. If you’re in LA, look to Hollywood’s Murakami for the 12-piece Mixed Sashimi and the avocado-laced soft shell crab cut roll. 

pizza and wine

Pizza + Sparkling Red

“Pizza’s perfect match is sparkling red wine — Lambrusco in particular. It has this inky, brambly undertone, but light floral and dusty notes that cut through the richness of the cheese. Since it’s only lightly tannic, it doesn’t dry your mouth out too much. One of my favorites year-in and year-out is Sottobosco from Ca de Noci. They master the art of tiny but persistent bubbles.”

To go with that Lambrusco, go for a pie from one of New York’s most iconic pizzerias, Di Fara's. Yes, you can get it delivered! We love their Di Fara Regular, with tomato sauce, cheese, basil and EVOO on an ultra thin crust. Trust us, this pizza is much more than the sum of its parts. Whether you cut it up with scissors, as they do at the shop in Coney Island, is entirely up to you. If you’re in San Francisco, try Tony's Pizza Napoletana for a classic pepperoni or meatball, ricotta, and garlic pizza. Good news, they make both New York and the thinner-crust Italian-style to satisfy.

Tacos + Cold Red

“I am finally going to say the two words everyone has been waiting to hear: CHILLABLE RED. I’m talking a Beaujolais or Gamay. If you’re eating anything charred, i.e., carne asada or al pastor or grilled vegetables, a light, juicy red is the way to go. It’ll stand up to the char while minimizing  the heat from peppers. To be honest, it’s making me hungry just thinking about it.”

There’s certainly no shortage of charred options on Mexican menus, but some of our favorites come from Oscar's Mexican Food in San Diego. We love their grilled tacos, including the surf & turf and grilled fish taco. Thought you couldn't get good Mexican in Seattle? Not true. Cactus has been doing Mexican- and Tex-Mex-inspired food since 1990. The grilled chicken fajitas or carne asada with all the fixings (salsa, corn, black beans, queso and housemade corn tortillas) are both great options. If you’re in LA, order up a heap of carne asada tacos from Petty Cash. You won’t regret it. 

Burgers + Big Red

“For burgers, I’d suggest a more substantial red wine. Body and supple tannins will lend a hand to a meat- and potato-type meal. I’d look for a wine with slightly higher alcohol (13%+), perhaps from Southwest France, Sonoma, or southern Italy. Something like a Syrah.”

The best burger: Is there anything more contentious? Some prefer the classic fast food smash burger, others a thicker tavern-style. Then there are those who go veggie. We have options for everyone. In Chicago, Au Cheval is delivering the most decadent, be it a single or double Cheeseburger, and always with a side of fries and garlic aioli. In Atlanta, check out the Little Freds hamburger or cheeseburger at Fred's Meat and Bread for those little McDonald’s-style burgers. All the LA vegans and vegetarians should know that Burgerlords went totally plant-based a few years back. Their Brainburner patty is made with more than 30 vegetables, nuts, grains, and spices. 

pasta and wine

Pasta + White, Orange, or Red

“For a creamy pasta, like a classic Alfredo, you want a wine that will cut through that fat with its acidity. You could go with an acidic white wine, of course, or mix it up with a lightly macerated northern Italian orange wine. Something like a Muscat, something with a little skin contact. With a red sauce, I love a spicy Italian red wine. Maurizio Ferraro’s ‘Solo B,’ a wine made from 100% Barbera from Abruzzo, is a go-to for pretty much all Italian food, especially a tomato-based pasta dish.”

With all that info, we bet you’re ready to order some delicious, delicious carbs. In New York, try I Sodi: The perpetually packed West Village restaurant is on Caviar, so you don’t have to fight the crowds for their famous lasagna a sugo. In DC, go for the chestnut-laced pappardelli from Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina. And on the west, Angelini Osteria has been catering to all Angelenos’ Italian needs for the past 20 years. The vegetarian Spaghetti Alla Norma with eggplant would pair perfectly with that spicy red.

Fried Chicken + Orange

Orange wine (aka white wine with skin contact) is just right for fried chicken. Something made from the Muscat or Malvasia grapes would be lovely. You’ll get rich tropical fruit notes, plush acid, and texture. Southern France is a great place to look for wines like this.”

Fried chicken is a classic American dish that also has a legacy in Korea and Southeast Asian food. When in Philly, head straight for Federal Donuts — don’t be fooled by the name! The fried chicken (tenders, or sandwich) is arguably more popular than their (also delicious) donuts. Some of the most famous fried chicken in the world can be found at LA’s Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. Get any of their house combos to taste a little of it all. To sample  KFC — Korean fried chicken, that is — it’s Brooklyn’s Insa that you need. Insa Fried Chicken, double-fried and tossed in their signature spicy-sweet sauce, is pretty close to perfect. 

Chinese + Light Red

“This is another scenario where you’ll want to avoid those tannic, mouth-drying wines. I’d go with a light red, something that neutralizes the spice and adds a depth of flavor to the food. I’d look for a California Carignan, or an ethereal Gamay, which packs plenty of fruit but not too much body, and has light spicy notes and elevated acidity.”

There’s no shortage of options for Chinese food to-go with those light reds — everything from the ultra-spicy Szechuan to the more mild Cantonese. We love the classic Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Family-owned and operated in New York since 1920, it now has a second location in Philadelphia. You’ll have to order dumplings — the pan-fried pork and shrimp & chive — and some items off the Dim Sum menu, like cilantro & scallion rice rolls and turnip cakes. San Francisco is another great Chinese food city, filled with both old-school and new-school options. Try Mamahuhu, the spin-off casual concept from Brandon Jew’s Mister Jiu’s; the menu is full of classics like broccoli and beef and kung pao chicken, all made using only the highest quality ingredients. 

Chocolate + Pink Sparkling or Red

“This is an area where the type of chocolate really matters. If it’s milky and sweet, go with something pink and sparking, like the off-dry Bugey Cerdon. If the chocolate is bitter, go with the classic red wine pairing — full or light body both work.” For those going the sweet route, the Barefoot Pink Bubbly Moscato at Prohibition Wine and Liquor in Brooklyn might do the trick. 

Sometimes, only a truly indulgent chocolate dessert will do. Royce,’ a favorite chocolatier to many, can be at your door in many cities, including Boston and New York. Go for their signature Nama Chocolates in one of many flavors, such as mild cacao or Champagne. In Los Angeles, Sweet Lady Jane Bakery has a variety of chocolate baked goods, including sea salt brownies and chocolate triple berry cake. 

carrot salad and wine

Salad + Wine with Body

“Match crunch with crunch. I love a white wine that has some texture to it, maybe some light skin contact to put you in that space where you’re not sure if it’s orange wine or white wine, but you’re also not sure if you care. I’m currently loving the Boire Desir from La Derniere Goutte. It drinks like a hopped IPA — pulpy, citrusy, and wheaty. It’s definitely not your standard Chardonnay.”

LA is definitely a salad town with endless options to choose from, but the Chinese chicken salad at Joan's on Third is a classic for a reason. At Via Carota in New York, you can get your hands on the cult favorite Insalata Verde, a lesson in simple perfection. In Houston, a city definitely not known for its vegetables, there are some great options at Local Table, including the kale cobb salad or honey-ginger roasted Brussels sprout salad, both Texas-big in portion and flavor.

Author

Kyle Beechey