For good timing, you sure can’t beat Kitchen United. A pre-covid concept, Kitchen United leases space to ghost kitchens, professional kitchens that only do pick-up and delivery. In many ways, a ghost kitchen is a fancier food truck with just enough brick and mortar to prep meals. Started in Pasadena, California in 2018, Kitchen United is also in Chicago, Scottsdale, and now, yes, Austin, a takeout bag or two north of Burnet and Anderson.
The business model is simple: rent kitchens to restaurants for take-out and delivery. The Austin location has 13 kitchens in total, including a space for Keep Austin Fed to prepare meals. With covid either restricting occupancy or keeping folks away from dining in, Kitchen United’s Austin opening just after the break out of the outbreak was immensely timely. At present, the Austin location hosts 15 storefronts, including the first, and previously reviewed, Hawaiian Brothers (still a favorite [but hold the mac-salad for The Bride]). We tried all 15 of the storefronts at least once so you don’t have to (although you probably should).
The first step is to order, and you do that on-line. Taking advantage of one location with many menus, you can blissfully mix-n-match choices from different kitchens under one order, so everyone gets what they want, and it all comes at the same time. You can order pick-up (check your email for the time; they will also text you when it’s ready) or delivery. The delivery service is out of Kitchen United, so the kitchens aren’t getting egg-rolled by a third-party courier. Expect about 30 minutes for pick-up and about an hour for delivery. You can keep your payment info on-file when you create an account; however, oddly (and irritatingly) they force you to re-enter your address Every. Single. Time. you order delivery.
At the moment, your choices are Bad Ass Breakfast Burrito, Boa’d Up, Bombay Walla, Dog Haus, Eldorado Taco y Torta Co., Hawt Chicken, Hawaiian Bros, PF Changs To Go, Plant B, Ramen512, Senor Churro, Seoulju, Sustain Burger, Teji’s Indian, and the suggestively-named Bad Mutha Clucka (taglined “The Best Frickin’ Chicken”). I don’t have enough space to write about each one, so I’ll focus on a few faves. But I will say that we’ve been generally happy about what we’ve ordered. Eldorado Taco y Torta Co. is the covid-induced side hustle of the beloved Eldorado and serves up one flavor explosion after another with their bowls, tortas, and tacos. PF Changs To Go has also been rather tasty, and you can order something healthy there like the fantastic Changs Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Seoulju is the side hustle of the highly rated Korean restaurant on Lamar big on kimchi and fried chicken. The Bad Ass Breakfast Burrito was, indeed, bad ass, although the Bad Mutha Clucka was perhaps just a mere Mutha Clucka (in other words, not bad).
Like an industrial dance band on Wax Trax Records, several of the storefronts are either back-officed by the same kitchen, or several kitchens contribute menu items to one storefront (15 storefronts – 12 kitchens = hmmmm…). I also get the feeling that there are shared menu items among the different storefronts. Exhibit A are the tater tots, which suspiciously appear on many of the menus. In fact, I believe that there’s a running internal joke about fusing tater tots into your kitchen’s cuisine. Exhibit B are Eldorado’s “Too Hot to Tot” tacos. No, I am not joking. You’re welcome.
One surprising omission, given the promiscuous cross-menu ordering policy, is the lack of a pizza joint baking up personal pies. While you can’t have everything, you do nearly get it at Kitchen United. They are definitely worth a save on your browser and an exploration of their menus.