Welcome to our first food review digest of 2022. Our January digest is an all-takeout edition as we want to ride out the COVID-19 omicron variant before we dine inside a restaurant again.

Denny’s

My mother and I hadn’t eaten at Denny’s since just before the pandemic, but once I received a 20 percent online discount from Denny’s to either dine inside or take out, we decided to take advantage of the coupon and order a takeout lunch on December 15. My mother ordered a Cali Club sandwich with hash browns, and I ordered an Ultimate Veggie Omelette with hash browns and whole-wheat toast.

Denny's Cali Club sandwich with hash brownsI ordered on the Denny’s app and arrived about 20 minutes later, and once I parked my car, I called the number on the sign outside to tell the staff I was there. All I got was a voicemail message, so I went inside to find the only worker there cleaning the dining room floor. I told her I was there to pick up my meal. She went back to the kitchen and came out 90 seconds later with the bag.

The Cali Club sandwich includes turkey breast, ham, Swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and sun-dried tomato mayo between two slices of seven-grain bread. The sandwich was cut in half, and the dimensions of most ingredients were larger than the bread. My mother said the meat was hot, the cheese was only somewhat melted, and the produce was fresh. The hash browns were toasted properly and salted enough to make the mass of shredded potatoes tasty.

Denny's Loaded Veggie Omelette with hash browns and wheat toastThe Loaded Veggie Omelette is a three-egg omelet filled with spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and topped with melted Swiss cheese. A few of the vegetables spilled out of the omelet within its plastic container, and there were plenty of vegetables to be found in the omelet itself. Only the peppers and onions provided any flavor, so I found black pepper on top was needed.

The buttered, toasted bread was on top of the hash browns, which dampened the toast a little, but the toast was still crunchy enough. Denny’s included a packet of Smucker’s grape jelly and a packet of Smucker’s strawberry jam. I used one packet on each slice of toast and found Smucker’s jams and jellies to be as good as always. I agreed with my mother that Denny’s has their hash brown game down.

So, we give Denny’s a green light, and it’s a good takeout option if you don’t want to dine in. You can also have Denny’s meals delivered using DoorDash. The price of our takeout meal including the 20 percent discount and tip was a little over $24, and you can view the Denny’s menu on their website.

Panda House and Star Donuts

Panda House egg flour soupMy mother and I have a holiday tradition: pizza on Christmas Eve and Chinese food on New Year’s Eve. We got pizza from Papa Murphy’s on Christmas Eve, and on New Year’s Eve, we took advantage of a DoorDash coupon to order dinner from Panda House in Martell. We last had takeout from Panda House in 2020, and we decided to order from them in the middle of New Year’s Eve day since we figured they’d be too busy that evening serving customers who have the same tradition we have.

We ordered their Family Dinner A with beef broccoli in soy sauce, vegetable chow mein, steamed rice, and egg flour soup. The dinner also comes with a pork egg roll, fried wonton, and fortune cookie for each person. Our midday dinner was as good as always, and there was plenty of the beef broccoli, chow mein, and rice for dinner two nights later. As we’ve come to expect from Panda House, the leftovers were just as good.

We also had Analine, our six-year-old daycare graduate, with us during the last week of winter vacation. She not only ate both the fortune cookies, but she also ate part of a fried wonton, some of the steamed rice, and had two helpings of broccoli. There’s your seal of approval for Panda House.

Star Donuts apple fritterBefore I ordered from Panda House, I ran errands and then stopped at Star Donuts in Jackson Creek Plaza to pick up donuts for dessert, as I hadn’t been there before. Star Donuts had few regular donuts but plenty of apple fritters, so I happily ordered two of the latter. Their apple fritters are large and included fairly large chunks of apple, but one small corner of my fritter was burned. That didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the fritter. My mother told me she didn’t have the same issue with her fritter.

So, Star Donuts also gets a green light, too. The cost for the Panda House meal including the DoorDash discount and driver tip was a little over $28. And our two fritters at Star Donuts cost $5.

Burger King

I gave my mother three restaurant choices for our first weekly dinner out of 2022, and she chose Burger King. We hadn’t eaten there since 2019 and I could easily pick up dinner at their Martell restaurant drive-thru after I ran some errands on January 5. I downloaded the Burger King app and ordered from the app during my drive around Martell.

Burger King Impossible Whopper with onion ringsBurger King had a $6 mix-and-match featured special that offered several burgers and sandwiches, so I ordered an Impossible Whopper, and my mother ordered the BK Fish sandwich. We needed sides, too, so I ordered fries for my mother and onion rings for me. I was able to get a discount on the fries as a first-time user of the Burger King app.

After about five minutes of waiting at the drive-thru window, an employee came and told me that they were frying the fish sandwich. I got the bag less than a minute later. The Impossible Whopper is made with an Impossible Meat patty that is as large and flat as their beef patty. It also comes with lettuce, what clearly looked like unripe tomato slices, and rings of white onion.

I couldn’t see the difference between the regular and Impossible patty, and I couldn’t taste it, either, because Burger King grills their Impossible Whopper patty on the same grill as their meat patties. But the burger was tasty, and the burger and onions were the dominant tastes. The onion rings were soft and very mild, so dipping them in a condiment like ketchup, ranch dressing, or (if you’re like me) barbecue sauce is a must.

Burger King fish sandwich and friesMy mother took the first bite of her BK Fish sandwich, which included a fish filet, lettuce, pickles, and tartar sauce, and said it didn’t taste quite like fish to her. As she made her way through the sandwich, she told me that the center tasted like fish and the filet was hot and crispy. She also liked the crisp, medium-sized fries with skins on one side and hot potato inside. (Our three-year-old daycare kid said he liked the fries we gave him, too.)

In sum, we bring out our green light for Burger King, especially if you’re looking for a veggie burger and don’t mind tasting flavors from the meat grill. The price for our meal was a little over $10.50 and you can order on the Burger King website.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

I had a coupon from DoorDash during the first half of January, so on January 12, I suggested to my mother that we order from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). We couldn’t remember when we last ate at KFC, so we decided to order our KFC dinner from DoorDash.

KFC Three-Piece Chicken Box with coleslaw and mashed potatoesMy mother ordered the Three-Piece Chicken Box with one drumstick and two thighs. This box lets you customize your sides and comes with a medium-sized drink, so my mother ordered mashed potatoes without gravy and coleslaw, and she ordered a Dr. Pepper. I ordered a Pot Pie Fill Up that includes a chicken pot pie, chocolate chip cookie, and a medium-sized Diet Pepsi.

We received the order at our doorstep 20 minutes after I entered it, and after I went on the front deck the driver yelled at me from the street that the drink carrier was flimsy. (Thanks, Gina.) I carefully took the lidded cups out of the carrier and brought them in before I brought in the empty carrier and bag with our food.

My mother’s chicken box had a few surprises. First, there was gravy on her mashed potatoes, but after she took one bite of the mashed potatoes, she said the gravy was fine and she could eat it. She received a biscuit with her meal, which wasn’t on the KFC website menu. And the two thighs had spicy breading, which she didn’t order. Curiously, the drumstick had the original recipe breading. So, my mother could only eat one of the thighs because her mouth was getting too hot. She had the second thigh for lunch the next day.

KFC pot pie interiorI ordered the pot pie in part because I wanted to compare it to the pot pie at Down Home Delights in Pioneer. I also had some leftover potato salad made by a friend of mine, and the last of that potato salad was the perfect side dish. The pot pie had a flaky crust and fresh chicken pieces, carrots, and peas. It was tasty but the vegetables were bland, so it tasted like chicken with some flaky bread. I preferred the Down Home Delights pot pie. The next day, I drank the Diet Pepsi and gave the cookie to our daycare kid who’s the only one old enough to eat cookies.

In all, KFC gets a flashing green light from us. The food is good, but you may not quite get what you ordered. The price for our meal including the DoorDash discount and driver tip was a little over $26. You can view the KFC menu and order directly from KFC on their website.

Next month, we expect we’ll flip the script, and our February 14 food review digest will have reviews from mostly local restaurants. Until then, enjoy!

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.