Tso Good, Y’all! New Delivery Brings Chinese-American Food to Cherrywood

By Leah Fisher Nyfeler
Originally published in the November 2018 issue of The Flea

I have this weird fondness for takeout Chinese food. Give me a white cardboard container full of fluffy rice and a pair of paper-wrapped chopsticks and an eggroll, and I’m a happy woman. I’d actually rather eat in than go out for Chinese. So it was with pleasure that I gave newly opened Tso Delivery a thorough tasting.

Deep in the Heart of Cherrywood

Less than six months ago, Tso Delivery opened their first storefront, tucked two doors down from Fiesta Mart. But don’t expect to go in and eat; this Chinese-American kitchen is purely takeout and delivery. Cherrywood sits in the heart of their service area, which is roughly bounded by Hwys. 290 and 183, Lamar Blvd., and Cesar Chavez.

Tso Delivery is a hyper-local business and completely “home-grown” concept. The ownership team, with deep Austin roots, includes Min Choe, Jenna Choe, Gabe Ahn, Angell Tsang, Eunice Tsang, Gavin Booth, and Karen Reinsberg (Jenna Choe, “the culinary side,” is executive chef and owner of Jenna’s Asian Kitchen in northwest Austin). The ownership team chose this location because, as Booth (fun fact: he and Reinsberg also comprise Austin’s popular food blogging duo, Couple in the Kitchen) explained, “Everyone we heard from in East Austin said they needed some good Chinese-American food.”

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The Business of Delivery

Perhaps you’ve spotted Tso Delivery’s cars. These cute, colorful hybrids model their ethos of efficiency, good taste, and Austin-flavored fun. Kitchen efficiency means almost zero waste, less business expense, and an ability to roll costs into price per dish. Their forward-thinking business model includes no fees and no tipping. Tax is included, and delivery staff drives company cars. “We wanted to pay our workers a real wage,” said Booth. “I always thought it kind of sucked that [with traditional delivery services] by the time you’re finished paying for everything, your $6 burrito costs $28. With our pricing, what you see is what you get.”

Tso Delivery’s entrees fall in the $10 to $13 range, with appetizers around $3 to $8. The online menu has beautiful photos to aid decisions. I was pleased to discover ample vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options (click on “customize” to see each dish’s allergy information and spice rating). Booth said the team was surprised at the positive response: “We didn’t think gluten-free and vegetarian would be such a major aspect of the business, but people are really happy to have these options with Chinese-American food.”

Austin’s known as Silicon Hills, so naturally there’s a tech aspect to Tso Delivery. Their custom mobile-optimized website made ordering uneventful, though I soon became annoyed with my husband’s gleeful minute-by-minute updates (“They’re cooking our food!”) and, naturally, he evaluated delivery time estimate for accuracy (thumbs up). Eunice Tsang, one of the founders, actually brought our order, just to say “hi.” When we talked later, Booth provided a bonus Cherrywood neighbor tip: Take advantage of takeout. During heavy demand (think special events—i.e., Super Bowl—and bad weather), delivery time can get pretty lengthy. Onsite pick-up orders, however, are still ready within twenty to thirty minutes.

Trying Out Tso Delivery

I wanted to sample a wide representation (spicy/not spicy, gluten/gluten-free, meat/no meat), so we nibbled our way through five appetizers and five entrees, plus steamed and fried rice. No, we couldn’t remotely eat all of it. We barely made a dent. Appetizers are portioned for two people, and two adults can make a good meal out of one entrée. Quality plastic packaging, the kind you can wash and reuse, means leftovers are a snap. (And, yes, I got my beloved white boxes of rice and paper-wrapped chopsticks.) We had some delicious lunches later.

My husband loves spicy things, and he felt dishes were true to the spice scale. His favorite appetizer was the Tso My Goodness Chicken Wings; mine, the Blue Crab Rangoons (a perfect pairing of crispy fried wonton and soft, crabby, cheesy center). The one disappointment: Green Bean Fries, which were a bit chewy and bland.

We completely agreed on the entrée star—Orange Beef. I typically don’t care for orange flavoring, but the beef was tender and sauce tangy with an understated bite. Piled on a soft bed of perfectly prepared white rice, it was heavenly. I also really enjoyed the Drunken Beef, with its hefty chunks of fresh, al dente veggies; though I’d opted for “mild,” it still had a touch of heat. And while I’m not one who usually goes for tofu, the Tofu Fried Rice was so delicately flavorful that I’d go there again.

Write Your Own Fortune

Tso Delivery was a hit at our house. Fresh ingredients (that’s real crab and cream cheese in those rangoons), allergen-free options, and subtle flavors lift dishes beyond cheap Chinese buffet. I like the business model, with its emphasis on better employee compensation and lack of extra delivery fees and additional charges. And in this age of chain stores, it means something that Tso Delivery is Austin born and bred.

“We want to build on community,” said Booth. “Fun, quirky, and always trying to stay local. Like the fortunes in our fortune cookies, sourced straight from our fans.”

Jennifer Potter-Miller

About Jennifer Potter-Miller

Chair, Friends of Patterson Park, Social Media Chair, Maplewood Elementary School PTA, and Content Editor, Flea newsletter

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