The Cool Kids’ Table: A Field Guide for Your Virtual School Lunches

No trading lunches here; Goodfriend Package's pastrami is a keeper.
No trading lunches here; Goodfriend Package's pastrami is a keeper. Brian Reinhart
So you never thought you’d be a teacher, but here you are. And you’re doing great, and we're honestly proud of all of you. Gold stars for you.

In full admiration and respect to all public school guardians who are managing virtual learning right now, we’ve come up with some ideas for lunch that will, hopefully, give you all a little midday break. Hangry bellies don't learn and starved parents find that "up to here" place much more quickly.

While margarita lunches might be out of the question, getting out of the house for a change of scenery is highly recommended. Besides, exposing kids to good food enhances their metacognitive skills. (Don’t Google that.) And don't forget about recess — your kids probably haven't played much dodge ball and now is a great time to capitalize on that learning gap.

Here are eight great lunch field trips for both parents and kids.

The qualifications for this list include the ability to preorder (online or phone) because dragging kids around and waiting for an order isn't going to help anyone's docile mental state. Curbside pickup is an utter godsend here (though not exclusive). Also, these suggestions are for all parties involved (no chicken strips or nuggets here. Because we said so,). Finally, these are locally owned and reasonably priced.

click to enlarge
Half a Stallion (left) and muffuletta from Jimmy's Food Store in East Dallas
Philip Kingston

Jimmy’s Food Store

4901 Bryan St. (Old East Dallas)

Perusing the aisles while waiting for your lunch to be made here use to be an experience in itself, but those were the Before Times. Now at least you can place an order ahead by emailing, then schedule a curbside pick-up.

If a muffuletta is a stretch for younger pallets, they have three different subs that are under $5, including the turkey, cheese and Italian subs. They're not making hot sandwiches right now, which is a huge bummer, but they have sandwiches in the cooler just inside.

Check out their full menu

The beautiful food of Jose is now available curbside.
Alison McLean


4931 W. Lovers Lane (North Dallas)

Now, we realize it's possible the first thing you thought about is their tequila selection, but stay focused here. José offers online ordering and curbside pickup (they call it valet). They have a few kids meals on the menu (quesadillas are $7) and the family-style fajitas at $26 isn't a bad deal at all.

Plus, you can order bottles of wine to go. Add a tres leches cake to our order for yourself because you’ve earned it. As one of the best restaurants in Dallas in terms of food and hospitality, this is solid lunch option. 

click to enlarge
Pork dumplings ($8) explode with savory juices after every bite.
Beth Rankin

Hello Dumpling

1146 Peavy Road (East Dallas)

This East Dallas spot will fill a dumpling-sized hole in your soul. Warm, tender dumplings are served in orders of 8 for $8. They have gluten-free, handmade chicken-rice dumplings, too. The skewers of meat are a great high protein option (and also gluten-free).

Our food critic called their Peking noodles ($8) excellent. The Shanghai noodles swimming in a sweet and savory shallot oil sauce for just $6 will make any virtual school quagmire quickly fade away.

Call 469-779-1551 to place your order ahead of time and pick up curbside.

MORE: Check our database of restaurants that are open for dine-in, takeout and delivery.

click to enlarge
Smokey John's three-meat plate is better than ever.
Dalila Thomas

Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and Home Cooking

1820 W. Mockingbird Lane (Medical District)

Two years ago this spot endured a pretty serious fire and rebounded in full force. Since the pandemic, they've worked hard to stay open; we love their fighting spirit and will to make the world a better place.

They don’t offer curbside service, but customers can place an order through their ChowNow site and choose a specific pickup time. What we really like is the totally affordable kid lunches on the menu, such as the kid’s BBQ sandwich for just $6.95; choose from brisket, sausage, turkey or ham along with a side and a drink.

Tia Dora’s Bakery

2478 W. Illinois Ave. (Oak Cliff)

This bakery and restaurant has been serving Oak Cliff since 1955. Let the kids pick out a giant pastry as a reward for putting up with you every day, and then get yourself some tacos.

Aside from the well known and loved pan dulce and tamales (weekends only), the entire menu is satisfying. The chicken quesadillas are just $5.95 and chicken flautas served with rice and beans is $7.35. Call in orders at 214-330-3013 or 214-333-4254.

click to enlarge
The No. 5 honestly isn't very photogenic, but that's what makes it so delicious.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Keller’s Drive-In

10554 W. Harry Hines Blvd., 6537 E. Northwest Highway and 10226 E. Garland Road

Being trapped in your car for lunch with your kids may or may not be your idea of a good time right now, but the drive-in experience at Keller’s is something all should experience. Plus, it’s so crazy cheap and so amazingly yummy. Go for the No. 5, a double cheeseburger with special sauce (Thousand Island dressing). Remember to bring cash and don’t get out of the car; they'll come to you.

Goodfriend Package Store

1155 Peavy Road (East Dallas)

The sister-ish store to Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger Bar serves breakfast, lunch and prepackaged meals for dinner, including meat lasagna, enchiladas and a King Ranch chicken casserole. So, you could essentially take care of two meals at once.

Get the kids a PB&J ($4) or grilled cheese ($5.50) while you nosh on a Brooklyn Zoo — pastrami, turkey, Swiss, coleslaw, "million island" on griddled rye bread. 

Order ahead online through the GoodCitizen site.

click to enlarge
The Chocolate Glob to go from Parigi's. Can't decide if this photo is beautiful or terrible.
Lauren Drewes Daniels


3311 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn)

You’re like, what's school-lunch affordable here? We hear you. Well, this choice isn’t about the kids. It's you. Trying times call for soul-soothing bowls of Chocolate Glob from Parigi’s. They’ll even bring it out to your car.

You’ve earned it. Dig in. And we’ll just leave their wine and beverage curbside menu here in case you need that, too.

Now let’s get smarter.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.