Is Thanksgiving the new New Year's Eve? Increasing numbers of folks, from empty nesters to newcomers far from home, are opting to have restaurants cook their feasts.
Many of you start e-mailing me as early as mid-October to ask which restaurants are "doing Thanksgiving." Here is this year's list. (Restaurants cooking on Turkey Day are also likely to be serving on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so you may want to clip the list if you're thinking ahead.) I haven't eaten at all of them, so caveat emptor. (Check www.sdreader.com for capsule reviews.) Also note that some prices are for multicourse meals, others for entrée plates only. The restaurants are arranged by geographical area, in hopes that you won't do much driving under the influence of turkey -- or prime rib, filet mignon, ham, etc., since most eateries offer at least one alternative to Big Bird.
At our deadline, some of the owners had not yet settled on the price or the hours of the feast, but you can find out when you call for reservations -- which you need to do right now. Some restaurants may be sold out already, especially those in restaurant-challenged communities and those charging an arm and a leg. (The higher the price, the more likely the full house.) Have your credit card ready; many restaurants require the number and may charge if you're a no-show. (Can you blame them?) Prices quoted below do not include tip or tax unless so noted. "Kiddie prices" at most restaurants apply to children between their 5th and 12th birthdays. Toddlers can usually nibble for free.
Also keep in mind that nearly all large hotels (not just those listed below) offer Thanksgiving buffets, and the quintessential family holiday is also a feast day at the local casinos. Most offer giant-sized, affordable buffets for those aged 21 and up. Call your favorite to learn more.
There's also the option to enjoy a restaurant feast at home. For something more interesting than a supermarket ready-roasted turkey, chef Pascal Vignau at Savory (see North Coast, below) is offering a complete take-out roast turkey dinner for 10-12 for $195; call them at least three days ahead to order. Also in Encinitas, at Big Jim's (North Coast), you can find that terrifying Cajun treat (what's scarier is trying to do it yourself), a deep-fried 12-pound bird, either flying solo ($60) or as the main course of a complete dinner for 8 ($80). Reserve your take-out or eat-in by November 21. Metro area customers looking to nab a fried gobbler can get one at Mardi Gras Cafe, 3185 Midway Drive, 619-223-5501. The price is $4.50 per pound, or you can BYO bird and they'll fry it for $3.50 per pound; you pick it up the day before the feast. In East County, the take-out specialty is smoked turkey. You can tote your own fully thawed bird to Barnes Bar-B-Que, 2625 Lemon Grove Avenue (at Cypress, tucked in the back of Liquor Mart Square), Lemon Grove, 619-462-9206. They'll smoke it for you for $1.25 per pound, and you can pick it up on Wednesday along with sides of cornbread, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, etc. The deadline for giving them the bird is Monday.
Big Jim's Old South Bar-B-Q, 190 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-635-1166. Sit-down deep-fried turkey dinner, $13, 11:45 a.m.--4:00 p.m.
Chart House, 2588 South Coast Highway 101, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, 760-436-4044. Regular à la carte menu, turkey entrée $22, 11:00 a.m.--8:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, 760-603-6800.
Vivace Restaurant, 760-603-6999. Four-course prix fixe Italian feast $65 ($84 with wine pairings), 4:00--8:30 p.m.
California Bistro, 760-603-6868, buffets $55 ($65 with champagne), 4:30--8:00 p.m.
Hershel's Deli Restaurant, 1486 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas, 760-942-9655. Casual atmosphere, regular menu including a traditional turkey dinner for $13, 10:00 a.m.--10:00 p.m.
Karl Strauss Carlsbad, 5801 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, 760-431-2739. Regular à la carte menu, 7:00 a.m.--10:00 p.m.
La Costa Resort and Spa, Costa del Mar Road, La Costa, 760-438-9111. Champagne brunch buffet in Poinsettia Ballroom, $49.50, kids $25, 11:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m. Legends Restaurant, three-course meal, $32, 5:00--10:00 p.m.
Neimans, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive (at Highway 101), Carlsbad, 760-729-4131. Champagne brunch in a historic Victorian seaside mansion. $35, kids on a sliding scale by age, 10:00 a.m.--3:00 p.m. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner plus normal à la carte choices, $15--$25 per entrée, 6:00--9:00 p.m.
Savory, 267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-5556. Three-course sit-down meal, choice of entrées includes roast turkey with sausage stuffing, $37.50--$43, 11:00 a.m.--7:00 p.m.
Bernard'O, 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, Rancho Bernardo, 858-487-7171. Three courses, with choice of entrées, live harp music, prices in $30s, 1:00--7:00 p.m.
Café Champagne, Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Road, Temecula, 951-699-0088. Three courses, four entrée choices, $54, kids $17, noon--5:30 p.m.
Centre City Cafe, 2680 South Escondido Boulevard, Escondido, 760-489-6011. À la carte choices include turkey, informal atmosphere, prices inexpensive, 6:00 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
The Fireside, 439 West Washington Avenue (at Centre City Parkway), Escondido, 760-745-1931. À la carte traditional holiday meals, about $16, noon to 8:30 p.m.
Kountry Kitchen, 826 Main Street, Ramona, 760-789-3200. Soup or salad and turkey, $10, 11:30 a.m.--3:00 p.m.
Quails Inn, 1035 La Bonita Drive, Lake San Marcos, 760-744-2445. Buffet with a lake view, $25, kids $10, 11:00 a.m.--7:00 p.m.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive (at Rancho Bernardo Road), Rancho Bernardo, 858-675-8500. Ballroom buffet brunch, $42, kids $18 to age 14, a famously lavish spread, 11:30 a.m.--5:30 p.m.
Veranda Bar and Grille, 858-675-8555, three-course Fall Harvest Meal, casual atmosphere, $42, kids $18, 11:30 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
El Bizcocho, 858-675-8550, five-course feast, $60 adult, $90 with matching wines, kids $18, 2:00--8:00 p.m., jacket required.
Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-759-6216. Four-course meal with several entrée choices in beautiful surroundings, $75, kids half price, noon--7:00 p.m.
Temet Grill, Temecula Creek Inn, 44501 Rainbow Canyon Road, Temecula, 951-694-1000. Brunch buffet $35, kids $18, 11:00 a.m.--6:00 p.m. Sit-down dinner 7:00--9:00 p.m., call for details.
J. Taylor's at L'Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-793-6460. À la carte regular menu with seasonal dishes (expensive), 2:00--10:00 p.m.