I ordered UberEats for lunch and here’s what happened

A dynamite roll from Kome and soy-marinated chicken from Chi'Lantro delivered by UberEATS. (Credit: Kelly West AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

A dynamite roll from Kome and soy-marinated chicken from Chi’Lantro delivered by UberEATS. (Credit: Kelly West AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

UberEats recently expanded its delivery zone to include parts of South Austin and East Austin, and a collective sigh was released from the Statesman offices. (Uber says the expanded zone runs through January, but they cryptically say that if people keep craving it, they’ll keep delivering.) Many people here bring their lunch or have it delivered, and Uber’s expanded zone meant another option. But how did it work? And was it worth it?

Not surprisingly, given the efficiency of its passenger service, the delivery worked incredibly fast and efficiently. I opened my Uber app and selected the Eats icon. A menu popped up with seven options (one of which was simply a Topo Chico) from Chi’Lantro, Jo’s Coffee, Boomerang’s Pies and Kome Sushi Kitchen.

One of the great benefits of UberEATS: you can order multiple dishes from different vendors. The drivers already have the food in their cars, so they aren’t making multiple stops to deliver your food. I ordered the soy-glazed chicken bowl with fried Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage from Chi’Lantro ($10) and a dynamite tuna roll from Kome ($6.50). The meals were delivered in about two minutes. Granted, with my proximity to downtown, the service’s original small zone, my wait was definitely on the short end. But Uber claims on its site that your food will be delivered in 10 minutes or less. So, don’t order until you’re ready to eat.

Uber doesn’t charge an additional service fee or have a place for a tip, so the financial benefits to Uber are pretty profound compared to a service like Favor.  Convenience and budgetary concerns aside, how is the food?

The drivers keep cold coolers packed with ice and hot containers heated by a plug connected to the driver’s lighter socket, so the food should arrive at the desired temperature. My sushi was the temperature you would expect from a grocery store cooler, though colder than what you’d be served at a sushi bar, and the integrity of the roll held up. I’d definitely order the spicy tuna and avocado roll again. The heated dish was not as hot as you’d expect from take-out or counter service, but it was warm enough to be edible. It also comes in a container that can be zapped in the microwave for a few seconds. The dark meat chicken was sweet, salty and tender and I considered it a win. Not surprisingly, the fried Brussels sprouts, while caramelized, had lost their crispy crunch and the cauliflower limped toward sogginess, though both vegetables had plenty of flavor. The brown rice was as boring and clumpy as expected. I ate the entire thing, but would be wary of ordering any hot meal that could arrive mushy.

Of course, it arrived at my office almost faster than I could make my way down the stairs, so I don’t have much about which to complain.

As for questions regarding how long meals have sat in containers, my driver told me the delivery folks operate in two shifts, so none of the food is sitting in their traveling bags for more than about 90 minutes, often less. And all of the meals prepared that are not sold at the end of the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. lunch shift are donated to the Salvation Army, according to my driver.

Overall, I’d recommend UberEATS. The quality is better than Nimble Foods and the value is better than Favor (and, yes, of course I paid for my meal). Whether Uber continues to deliver outside of downtown and whether they maintain their no no service/delivery-/tip fees remains to be seen.

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