Christmas just isn’t complete until I sit down with an oversized mug of spiked sipping hot chocolate and watch the ’80s classic, “A Christmas Story.” Seeing Ralphie struggle through the holidays and pine over the coveted Red Ryder BB gun always reminds me of my childhood and the year I petitioned Santa for a brass and pewter Matfer Bourgeat duck press. Unlike Ralphie, I was not rewarded for my good behavior and did not receive a shiny canard presse that year. Instead, I had to settle for an Evil Knievel stunt cycle which I used to torment my mother who I still blame for the duck press shaped hole in my heart that remains to this day.
The final, and funniest, scene in “A Christmas Story” takes place in a small Chinese restaurant (called Chop Suey Palace for you trivia buffs) on Christmas Day. While I have no serious interest in eating westernized Chinese food on Christmas Day while a trio of waiters with a tenuous grasp on English belt out Christmas carols, I do get a craving for Asian food during the hustle and bustle of trying to pick out just the right slab of gift bacon for that special lady. Of course, after a long day of battling soccer moms for a parking space at World Market I just want to get home as quickly as possible, slip into a nice smooth glass of brown liquor and have food brought directly to my front door. But there is a problem with this perfect post-modern holiday scenario—Asian restaurants in Chattanooga don’t deliver.
How can this be? What have we done to anger the delivery gods? What sacrifices must be made to appease the lords of takeout so that my fellow Chattanoogans and I can have General Tso’s Chicken and other Asian delights brought straight to our doorstep? It’s not as though Asian food delivery is a new or unusual concept. There are print references to Chinese food delivery from the Kin-Chu Cafe in Los Angeles from as early as 1922. The earliest reference for pizza delivery only goes back to 1953, but you can’t swing a pizza peel around in Chattanooga without hitting a pizza place that delivers.
To be fair, there are ways to get Asian food delivered to you in Chattanooga, but the criteria are narrow and strict. Restaurants such as Hunan Wok on 23rd Street offer delivery, but only when they have the staff available or when the owner is in a good mood—or when the moon is in the right phase. They have a strict $15 minimum order, which seems like pocket change when compared to Panda Chinese in Hixson, who will deliver as long as you’re ordering at least $40 worth or more. There’s always Dinner Delivered, who have a decent selection of Asian restaurants to choose from for a $5 delivery fee and a $15 minimum order, but they are essentially picking up your to-go order from restaurants that do not deliver. If we wanted to get technical geographically, University Pizza on Vine Street delivers Middle Eastern food and the Middle East is technically Asia, but when I want Asian food delivered I’m not usually thinking falafel or baba ganoush, even if it is delicious and delivered.
So the question remains why, in a city the size of Chattanooga, do we not have dependable, affordable and plentiful Asian delivery restaurants? Where are the fleets of cars delivering sacks of white Fold-Pak take-out cartons full of sweet and sour pork or dim sum? (Interesting fact: Those clever, white, wire-handled take-out cartons are called “food pails” and were originally invented as oyster pails.) It’s not that Chattanooga is too spread out or that we’re bad tippers, or that insurance rates are higher here than in other cities. The reason we are in an Asian food delivery desert is a perceived lack of demand.
When I’ve asked owners of Asian restaurants here in Chattanooga why they don’t deliver, the most common answer comes down to demand; they do not believe enough Chattanoogans want Asian food delivered to make it viable for their business. So, People of Chattanooga, let your voices be heard! Tell the owners and managers of your favorite Asian restaurants that you want delivery and encourage your friends to do the same. We have to show these business owners that Chattanoogans deserve more choice from their delivery options than just thin crust or thick. Say it with me now: What do we want? Asian food delivery! When do we want it? Now!
Join Mike McJunkin in demanding Asian food delivery in Chattanooga by visiting him on Facebook.com/SushiandBiscuits.