Order takeout from these local restaurants to boost dinnertime inspiration

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If you're rushing home, exhausted, only to find leftovers or an empty fridge instead of mealmaking motivation, you're not alone. Some local favorites that offer takeout can offer a boost of time-saving inspiration. Rather than dressing up for a night out or spending your precious evening hours braising barbecue, opt for one of these locally inspired ingredients to kick-start an elegant dinner. Picking up a component from one of these restaurants shaves minutes off meal-time prep, while a homemade touch helps save money — and in some cases, calories — compared to a full takeout meal or sit-down dinner.

4 Rivers pulled barbecue corn bread sliders

14330 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; 623 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; toll-free 1-844-474-8377

Smoky, tender barbecue and drizzled butter elevate humble corn bread mix to transcendent summer picnic fare. Skip the hours of braising and dive right into this delicious snack by picking up the pulled meat ahead of time. Don't forget the extra sauce.

Get this to go: Pulled pork or other meat of your choice (½ pound per person), barbecue sauce

At home ingredients: 

Corn bread mix

Melted butter

Make the meal: Prepare corn bread mix according to package directions and bake in a greased muffin tin. Split each cooked corn bread muffin, drizzle with melted butter and add 2 heaping tablespoons of pulled pork and a splash of sauce to each slider.

 

First Watch pancake perfection

5310 East Bay Drive, Clearwater, (727) 535-3447; 35146 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, (727) 789-3447; other locations (firstwatch.com)

If I told you within 10 minutes of a single phone call that you could be eating the restaurant-quality pancakes for the price of breakfast at McDonald's, you might not believe it. But it's true: First Watch has a to-go menu, and it can customize its plate-defying pancake portions to your whims, including pecan, blueberry, lemon-ricotta and chocolate chip. Pair with a homemade smoothie, and Saturday mornings have never been sunnier.

Get this to go: Pancakes, customized however you want (1 per person)

At home ingredients:

1 cup frozen strawberries

½ frozen banana

1 tablespoon almond butter

½ cup almond milk

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Make the meal: Mix smoothie ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a glass. Serve with pancakes. (First Watch includes butter, syrup and a fork with to-go orders.)

 

A.J.'s Press grilled cheese

4406 N Cortez Ave., Tampa, (813) 870-0530

A.J.s' Press, a humble family-owned sandwich shop, serves up not only some of the best grilled cheese in Tampa, but in the United States, according to Yelp.com's Top 100 List. Pair a mouth-watering cream of tomato soup with A.J.'s free delivery, and lunch is just minutes away. Local delivery on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is free to Drew Park area residents.

Get this to go: 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese or Luis' Ham and Cheddar (1 sandwich per person)

At home ingredients:

1 (32-ounce) box tomato soup, like Pacific's Organic Creamy Tomato Soup (serves 2 to 4)

Make the meal

Warm tomato soup in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Serve with sandwiches.

 

Nothing Bundt Cakes and glazed strawberry lemonade compote

13252 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, (813) 999-4024

The moist richness of a buttery lemon Bundt cake meets its match: this glazed strawberry lemonade topping. Simple, elegant and bake-free, this dessert is an easy way to end the meal.

Get this to go: 1 (8-inch) lemon Bundt cake, no frosting (serves 5 to 7)

At home ingredients:

1 pint strawberries

1 cup sugar

2 lemons

Make the meal: Roughly chop strawberries and add to a saucepan with the sugar and juice of the lemons. Bring to a simmer over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slice cake and serve with compote.

 

Yummy House Shrimp and Steamed Veggies

2620 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 237-3838

Frozen, microwave-in-bag veggies are transformed into a special weekend meal when paired with Yummy House's crunchy, famous salt and pepper shrimp (or tofu) appetizer. Round out the meal with authentic wonton soup, or pick up some steamed dumplings for dim sum or steam garlic rice for a complete Chinese takeout meal.

Get this to go: Salt and Pepper Shrimp, or Salt and Pepper Tofu (1 order per 2 to 3 people), Wonton soup (1 order per 2 to 3 people)

At home ingredients: 

Steam-in-bag (or another quick-cook) rice

Steam-in-bag broccoli

Soy sauce

Minced garlic

Make the meal: Cook rice and broccoli according to package directions. Add to a large bowl, then toss with salt, pepper, soy sauce and minced garlic to taste. Serve with warmed shrimp and soup.

 

Mazzaro's famous sandwiches and tossed salad

2909 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 321-2400

The wait in the deli line at St. Petersburg's signature Italian market is worth it — the sandwiches will impress guests and placate picky eaters alike. Pick up a lasagna, baked ziti or Sicilian pizza while you're there for the next night, and it will be time well spent.

Get this to go: Muffaletta sandwich, meatball sub or Hot Italian sandwich (1 per person, or Muffaletta can be shared)

At home ingredients:

Prepared salad mix, like Fresh Express' Caesar Supreme

Make the meal: Toss salad with included dressing and ingredients and serve with sandwiches or subs.

 

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