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Thursday, November 7, 2013

East Bay Bite of the Week: SpoonRocket's Turbo-Speed Delivery

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge SpoonRocket's beef with Korean BBQ sauce, brown rice, and spinach - MOLLY GORE
  • Molly Gore
  • SpoonRocket's beef with Korean BBQ sauce, brown rice, and spinach
Anton Tsui and Steven Hsiao have been riding an entrepreneurial spree since their undergrad days, when they began granting the food dreams of every lazy, hungry, hungover college student in Berkeley. The pair, under the brand name Late Night Option, developed a handful of late night delivery services that helped to bring everything from carne asada fries to burritos to pho, all cooked in the company's commissary kitchen, into the pajama'd laps of East Bay students. They called the services things like Munchy Munchy Hippos and Burrito Supremo. After a while, the two (UC grads themselves) started to feel bad about encouraging the deep-fried oil diet, and so they dropped it all to work on SpoonRocket, a healthier iteration of the whole scheme.

See also: East Bay Bite of the Week: "I Am Transparent" at Café Gratitude

East Bay Bite of the Week: Mama T's Tea-Smoked Salmon

East Bay Bite of the Week: Eritrean Breakfast at MLK Cafe

The idea was accepted into Y-Combinator, launched not six months ago, and quickly started gaining stake in the East Bay lunch and dinner delivery market. Just this week, the company expanded delivery from Berkeley and Emeryville into Oakland. This time, their target is older and busier, aiming to bring young professionals with healthful priorities the nutritious, locally-sourced food they have no time to cook. You might think this means they would charge more, but no. Every meal is $6. As my diligent, broad, and repeated sampling proves, the food is really, really good. The quality is a product of hiring high-end chef David Cramer.

I live in a house of young and busy professionals with healthful priorities and pipe dreams of cooking hogs in pits. And even though we're the kind who care enough about food to tear up the tacky wood chips in our front yard to plant six edible garden beds, the kind who care enough about cooking that we make it a non-negotiable task, there is a teetering stack of SpoonRocket containers in our recycling bin (though returnable would be nice). Before SpoonRocket, we never ordered out because it usually meant spending more money on oilier food, cracking both our budget and healthful principles in half. With SpoonRocket, you're not sacrificing anything.

SpoonRocket charmed me for a few reasons: it's simple, it's cheap, it's delicious, and it's incredibly fast. My first order -- green curry on quinoa-specked brown rice -- came in five minutes flat. A tray of succulent beef in a lovely, not too sweet Korean BBQ sauce with a pile of plump, sautéed spinach, arrived in nine minutes. The secret lies in SpoonRocket's fleet of cars that seem always in motion, all around the East Bay. Every car holds a heated safe full of the day's two SpoonRocket options, meaning the food is always ready and close by before you order. All it takes is a tap on the app to turn the steering wheel your way.

The launch of SpoonRocket coincides with the beginning of two other like-minded operations, Munchery and Sprig. Munchery's menu is larger and cooked by "partner chefs." It's a fancier affair that is exclusive to San Francisco, comes with a slightly higher price point (~$11), and includes pre-made products like cold-pressed juice from Coffee Bar. Sprig launched earlier this week and is still in soft-opening mode, operating only a few hours every night. Sprig (also based in the city) is more like SpoonRocket, but offers three pricier options ($12 plus $3 delivery fee), and adheres to a similar set of principles focusing on healthy, locally-sourced, homemade food.

One of the gremlins hampering reform in our food system is our collective addiction to convenience. Sure, slow roasting pork shoulder and chard from the backyard sounds wonderful, unless you're pulling in 60 hours a week at a tech start-up and coming home depleted. (On a related note, Happy IPO day, Twitter! Buy me a drink). SpoonRocket gives me a tingly kind of hope that maybe, maybe, this might be an answer to scaling good, healthy food to the masses.

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Molly Gore

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