Favor, Uber Eats and Postmates have made food delivery easier than ever for lazy or drunk Austinites, but they’ve also been known to ramp up meal prices through delivery fees. Austin’s newest delivery concept, Tso Chinese Delivery, is setting out to change that narrative for people on a budget.
Tso, a delivery-only Chinese restaurant, has sidestepped third party delivery services to offer their own online platform that gives customers a much more affordable takeout option.
“I remember ordering delivery from a Chinese restaurant on the Drag, and the meal was somewhere around eight or nine bucks, but between delivery fees and the expected tip, one meal would end up costing 15 to 20 bucks,” co-owner Min Choe said. “So I realized this is really difficult for a lot of students. Our concept is designed to be very transparent. What you see is what you get.”
In order to keep things more cost-efficient for customers, the folks at Tso refrain from charging delivery fees and even enforce a no-tipping policy.
“People shouldn’t feel obligated to tip,” Choe said. “We would really rather our customers just save their money and place another order tomorrow.”
In addition to seeing a need for cheap delivery in Austin, the partners at Tso also spotted a lack of good-old Chinese-American food, so they wanted to start a revival for simple favorites such as crab rangoon, lomein noodles and General Tso’s chicken.
“American Chinese food is iconic because it’s something that everyone grew up with and it’s not just geared towards one culture,” co-owner Gavin Booth said. “We’re not trying to change things, but it’s the culture that we grew up in and we want to do that culture better.”
Choe said he wants the Tso concept to mirror the convenience of popular pizza delivery businesses such as Domino’s or Pizza Hut.
“For us, we’re not really competing with other Asian restaurants,” Choe said. “We like to think of ourselves more as an alternative to pizza, which is one of those cuisines that’s great for on-demand service or impulse dining.”
Like Booth said, most of the menu items at Tso are nothing new or crazy. They’re generally the popular dishes that we all grew up eating at our neighborhood strip mall Chinese restaurants. What sets the food apart, though, is that the ingredients used are clearly fresh and everything is made to order.
The crab rangoons, for example, are made with real crab and Philadelphia cream cheese, which makes for a much more savory and enjoyable appetizer than a typical imitation crab rangoon. A less traditional appetizer worth trying is the green bean fries. They’re essentially just breaded and deep fried green beans with a sesame soy dipping sauce, but the simplicity of their flavor in comparison with some of the more salty or spicy main courses is oddly satisfying.
A major highlight in the entree selection is the drunken noodles. With large flat rice noodles, fresh veggies and a generous helping of Thai chili, this deliciously spicy dish is a great option for people who don’t have much of a fancy for sweet or salty Chinese-American dishes.
Across the board, the food that Tso delivers is very tasty. The meat is juicy and tender, the sauces are flavorful and the portions are generous. The only noticeable shortcoming was the tofu, which was unfortunately a bit overcooked and firm, though that is a very simple fix.
With prices mostly staying in the $10–$12 range, no delivery fees and their no-tipping policy, Tso is a solid value and also a super convenient choice for students craving Chinese-American food who don’t want to go through the whole charade of putting on pants and leaving their apartments.