Way back when (i.e., March), the mere sight of an aluminum to-go tray with a foil lid made it all go away — the worry, claustrophobia, mind-numbing boredom. As long as there were islands of chicken parm swimming in an oblong silver lake, so the thinking went, the world would continue to spin on its axis, everything would be OK. The proliferating family meal deals offered by eateries were a godsend, and no amount of misfires unleashed by a restaurant’s takeout team (Grease-soaked cardboard! Cold fries! Forgotten honey mustard!) could temper our gratitude. There was no cheaper or convenient way to feed a brood. If it wasn’t always the healthiest way to eat, and the packaging for a single bowl of tonkotsu was enough to make landfills weep, nobody felt a moment’s guilt, because you knew this was all just a temporary thing. What you didn’t know was how long a temporary thing could last.
Now we know what autumn has brought and it’s something most of us can ill afford: takeout fatigue. The solution? Expect more out of your family meal deal than an avalanche of comfort food at a reasonable price point. Be adventurous. Don’t let being stuck at home leave you stuck eating the same old thing, not now, when it’s never been easier to sample the cuisines of continents near and far from the comfort of your own quarantine chamber. A phone call or short drive might be all it takes to bring home the world in a bag.
Is a Brazilian dinner even possible without knife-wielding gauchos? Find out for yourself with this home version of the Fogo de Chao game (235 Old Country Rd., Carle Place). Available packages include a "celebration experience" for four ($90) that features a collection of meats, sides, pao de queijo (the chain’s beloved cheese bread), a chocolate brigadeiro fudge bomb and some all-purpose candles. There are two ready-to-grill packages as well. More info: 516-588-7100, fogodechao.com
Peruvian chicken should be on everyone’s to-go shortlist, and there are two family combos featuring it at Brasas Peru (673 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square). For $30.95, you get a whole bird, salad, salchipapa (a sausage-and-fries comfort classic), rice, beans and tostones. A $34.95 upgrade, meanwhile, comes with a whole bird, avocado salad, fried rice, salchipapa and either tostones or maduros. More info: 516-284-6852, brasasperu.com
Greek meal deals can be among the most delicious and economical for families. Two cases in point: Pete the Greek (728 Old Bethpage Rd., Old Bethpage, 516-387-4976, petethegreekny.com), where $59.99 gets you two proteins (e.g., pork gyro, chicken souvlaki), along with a tray of salad, a side, two dips and pita bread, a feast that can easily feed 6; and Grecian Grill (261 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-753-1260, greciangrill.com), whose $31 family deal comprises four sandwiches, each with your choice of falafel, gyro or souvlaki meat, along with a large Greek salad or quart of soup.
Bring home pans of pan-Mediterranean with meal deals from Ayhan’s Shish-Kebab (283 Main St., Port Washington, 516-883-9309; 550 Sunrise Hwy., Baldwin, 516-223-0708). Its $80 five-course meals for four consist of a salad, an appetizer such as spinach pie or babaganoush, two kebab and gyro-esque main courses, rice and baklava. More info: ayhansrestaurants.com
Despite its increasing ubiquity, Afghan food is still, for many, the greatest cuisine never tried. If you’re one of them, address that egregious oversight with a visit to the Afghan Grill (1629 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park). Get your barg or koobideh on at this popular eatery, where family dinners mean the chance to sample four of seven kebabs, along with two of five stews or a vegetarian dish. $75.95 (for 4), $109.95 (6). More info: 516-998-4084, afghangrillny.com
Ja! A family platter at The Village Lanterne (155 N. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst) runs just $42, and features a grand Teutonic smorgasbord: a choice of two wursts, pork schnitzel, sauerbraten, housemade spaetzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage and vegetables. More info: 631-225-1690, thevillagelanterne.com
The Island’s Mexican family deals are so numerous, they really deserve an article unto themselves. A few standouts include MattiTaco (10560 Main Rd., Mattituck, 631-298-7826 mattitaco.com), where $75 gets you 16 tacos in four flavors, rice and beans, chips and guacamole; Avo Taco (2340 Jericho Tpke, New Hyde Park, 516-373-2340, avotaco.com), whose $65 family taco package comes with 12 tacos, four cobbettes of Mexican street corn, and chips with either guacamole or queso; and Right Coast Taqueria (516 Commack Rd., Deer Park, 631-940-8300, rightcoasttaqueria.com), whose taco boxes offer an interactive, if-you-build-it-they-will-eat experience. Family meals for four start at $35 ($65 nets you a quart of margaritas and cannoli tacos for dessert) and include 12 tacos and all the trimmings, while a $125 grand fiesta package will feed 8 to 10.
Not only do French crepes come in a dizzying number of sweet and savory variations, they make for great group dinners from Fresco Creperie & Cafe (72 Hillside Ave., Williston Park). The eatery’s to-go packages are well-suited for families of 4 ($65.95) or 6 ($94.95), each of whom can choose either a dinner crepe or entree salad, along with one of several elaborate dessert crepes (think white chocolate and raspberry glaze, banana and Nutella, etc.) More info: 516-280-6630
When it comes to Japanese, sushi will always be the go-to to-go, but if it’s a hot meal you seek, consider the $59.95 family special at Shiro of Japan (401 Old Country Rd., Carle Place). The package, which feeds four, features your choice of two teriyaki entrees (shrimp, chicken or steak), edamame, four individual salads, sauteed vegetables and rice. More info: 516-997-4770, shiroofjapan.com
Despite being a perennial takeout favorite, Chinese family packages can be surprisingly scarce. But at Danny’s Chinese Kitchen (2370 Merrick Rd., Bellmore, 516-783-9000; 20 Broadway, Massapequa, 516-809-9970) you can order family-size entrees from an extensive catering menu. Half-trays (which feed 7 to 9) offer your choice from among 10 different entrees (greatest hits like walnut shrimp, sesame chicken among them). They go for $53.95 and come with white or brown rice. More info: dannyschinesekitchen.com
The Spanish familia is an ongoing concern at Sangria 71’s three locations (4585 Austin Blvd., Island Park, 516-882-4250; 71 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, 516-246-9778; 1095 Jericho Tpke, Commack, 631-670-7606). Among the creative takeout choices is a four-person $55 tapas dinner that comes with your choice of six small plates (options include empanadas, Spanish meatballs, croquettes with serrano ham and chicken) and three types of paella packages ($69 for 4, $89 for 6), all of which come with salad and flan for dessert. More info: sangria71.com
Throw a Portuguese house party for 4, 6 or 8 courtesy the family-style catering menu at the Lisbon Cafe (399 Jericho Tpke, Jericho). Interesting entree options include the pork-and-clams goodness of alentejana, paella valenciana and more, all are accompanied by salad, pasta or rice and vegetables, bread, and the cafe’s irresistible housemade potato chips. Prices start at $39.95 (4), $59.95 (6) and $79.95 (8). More info: 516-364-4641, lisboncafegrille.com
When it comes to feeding a crowd, there’s Italian, and then there’s all the rest, and chances are good that at least some kind of meal special is offered by your favorite local trattoria. Consider these popular family deals in Nassau County: Eric’s Italian Bistro (70 E. Old Country Rd., Mineola, 516-280-5675, ericsbistro.com) serves up meals for families of 4 for $54.95 that include soup or salad, pasta and entree. Meanwhile, Vincent’s Clam Bar (179 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-742-4577, vincentsclambar.com) has different deals for different days. From Monday through Friday, a $40.95 package will feed 4; on weekends, $44.95 will feed 5 or 6. Both deals include pasta, entree and salad/vegetable. And at Cirella’s (14 Broadhollow Rd., Melville, 631-385-7380, cirellasrestaurant.com), $39 meals include a salad and entree, bread and garlic knots, and feed 4.
Among the options in Suffolk are Touch of Venice (28350 Main Rd., Cutchogue, 631-298-5851, touchofvenice.com) where 24-hour advance notice is required for an $80 multicourse dinner for 4 featuring antipasti, baked penne, meatballs, sausage and pork ribs, eggplant rollatini, and an Italian cheesecake platter. And Villa Italian Specialties (7 Railroad Ave., East Hampton, 631-324-5110, villaitalianspecialties.com) offers entree-only family trays that feed 4 to 6. These include manicotti and meatballs ($34.99), eggplant parmigiana ($36.99), and a chicken/eggplant/veal parmigiana trio ($36.99).
Here are a few more family-friendly, if less out of the ordinary, options you might consider:
Vegan meals at Fuel Cafe (196 W. Old Country Rd., Hicksville) will fuel a family of four for $49.99 and are available for delivery or pickup. Packages include your choice of soup (vegetarian lentil or chili) or salad, and either four mix-and-match veggie burgers with air-baked fries, four different wraps, or one large platter of Gardenburger crumbles served over hot quinoa with broccoli and avocado. More info: 516-933-3835, fuelyourbodycafe.com
Seafood meal deals are on the menu at Anchor Down Dockside (2479 Adler Ct., Seaford), where a family-size portion of horseradish-crusted salmon with salad and pasta or vegetables goes for $44.95 and feeds four. Similar packages are available for shrimp scampi ($59.95) and broiled shrimp and lobster tails ($74.95). More info: 516-785-2390, cardoonny.com
Barbecue is another dependable family option and deals are plentiful on the Island. Two to consider: Green Hill Kitchen & Que (48 Front St., Greenport, 631-477-4900, greenhillny.com), whose $170 family meal or four — it includes three proteins (think beer can chicken, smoked brisket) and three sides — sounds like it would feed a lot more; and Smok-Haus (7 Twelfth St., Garden City, 516-400-7100, smok-haus.com). There, meals for 4 or 5 cost $99 and consist of four smoker meats, a full rack of ribs, three large sides (collard greens and Cajun corn among them), bread and pickled veggies.