As more of us work longer hours, increasing numbers of restaurants are ready to rescue us from our T-Day time-crunch by serving Thanksgiving Day dinner, either to eat-in or take home. To snag a table, better grab your phone and reserve right now -- only a few neighborhood places take walk-ins, and the more popular the destination, the longer ahead you need to stake your claim. (Many require a credit card number, which will be charged if you're a no-show.) Save this article if you're looking ahead: Most restaurants open on T-Day are likely also to serve meals on Christmas Eve or Day, ditto New Year's, Easter, etc.
The restaurants are arranged by geographical area, so you need not drive long distances while drowsy. I haven't eaten at all of them, so caveat emptor. If there's nothing listed in your area, or you're planning a getaway, nearly all large hotels, resorts, and gambling casinos (not just those listed below) offer Thanksgiving dinners, often as buffets. If you're in a restaurant-starved region, most suburban "family-style" chains (Boston Market, Coco's, Marie Callender's, Mimi's, et al.) will also be serving a holiday menu of their customary quality.
Prices quoted below do not include tip, tax, or beverages unless so noted. "Kiddie prices" generally apply to children 5--12; toddlers usually eat free. While most prices are for multicourse meals or all-you-can-eat buffets, a few buy well-laden entrée plates.
Enjoying ready-made feasts at home is a growing option. Choices range from buying a turkey that's more savory than a supermarket-roasted bird on up to purchasing the entire meal. These include:
Barnes BBQ, 2625 Lemon Grove Avenue (at Cypress, tucked in the back of Liquor Mart Square), Lemon Grove, 619-462-9206. BYOBird: Tote a fully thawed raw turkey to the BBQ, and they'll smoke-cook it for you for $1.25 per pound. You can pick it up on Wednesday, along with sides of cornbread, pies, veggies, etc. Call at least a week ahead of T-Day to reserve your smoking time.
Big Jim's (see North Coast, below, for location and phone): Southern-style deep-fried whole turkeys to go, with a full dinner to feed eight for $89, to pick up on Thursday morning. Order by the 18th.
Estancia (see La Jolla): Full turkey feast to go; a whole bird serving 8--10 is $90, a half-bird serving 4--6 is $50, extra pies $15 each. Order by noon, the 18th, pick up on T-day before 3:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara (see North Coast, below): Full feasts to go (10--15 pounds), $210 to serve 4--6, $350 for 7--10. Call 72 hours ahead.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort (see South Bay): "Turkey to Go" full dinner for five, $175; for seven, $225. Reserve 48 hours in advance.
Magnolias, Market Creek Square, 342 Euclid Avenue (off Market Street), Lincoln Park, 619-262-6005: Your choice of a 10--12-pound roast turkey or baked ham, plus four large Southern-style side dishes to feed 8--10 people, price TBA (moderate), for pickup on Wednesday. Call a week ahead to order.
Mardi Gras Café, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501: Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey, $4.50 per pound ($3.50 per pound if you furnish a thawed bird), pick up on Wednesday or early Thursday morning. They can also furnish Louisiana-style side dishes. Reserve up to the day before.
Pamplemousse Grille (see North Coast, below): Gourmet takeout T-Day dinners for six people or more are available from this famed destination at $50 per person. Order at least 48 hours ahead.
St. Tropez, five locations in Encinitas, Rancho Bernardo, Hillcrest, and downtown, call 858-404-0642 to order: You can get the whole megillah to feed 8--10, $199, or to feed 12--15 at $299. Turkey alone is $75 or $125 by size, and sides only, feeding 15, go for $200. Order 72 hours in advance; pick up Wednesday or Thursday at the restaurant's nearest location, or get delivery to your home for $50 more.
Savory (see North Coast, below): A roasted turkey dinner serving 10--12 is $235 plus tax. Call 72 hours ahead to reserve your feast.
North Coast and Gold Coast
Addison, Grand Del Mar, 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Del Mar. New luxury restaurant, five-course tasting menu with beef, $95 ($175 with matched wines), eight courses with turkey, $125 ($230 with wines), 4:00--9:00 p.m.
Bellefleur, Carlsbad Company Stores, 5610 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, 760-603-1919. Buffet, $33 adults, $13 kids, noon--6:00 p.m.
Big Jim's Old South Bar-B-Q, 190 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-635-1166. Southern-style deep-fried turkey dinner, $14, 11:00 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, $24; kids, $10, 11:00 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
Dining Room at the Inn, Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, in "the Village" on Paseo Delicias, 858-756-1131. Champagne buffet, $52; kids, $21, noon--6:00 p.m.
Encinitas Café, 531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-632-0919. Full turkey dinner including dessert, about $13; 1:00--8:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, 760-603-3773 for all restaurants. Argyle Café (on golf course), 10:00 a.m.--4:00 p.m. or California Bistro, 10:30 a.m.--8:00 p.m., champagne buffet, $80; kids, $32.50. Vivace Restaurant, deluxe five-course menu with many choices, prices TBA, 5:00--9:30 p.m.
J. Taylor's at L'Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-793-6460. Buffet meal in elegant inn, $65; kids, $32, noon--8:00 p.m.
Karl Strauss Brewery & Restaurant, 5801 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, 760-431-2739. Turkey dinner, $20; kids, $10, and regular à la carte menu, 11:30 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
La Costa Resort and Spa, 2100 Costa Del Mar Road, La Costa, 760-438-9111. Blue Fire Grill buffet, $60; kids, $25; 20 percent gratuity added; 11:00 a.m.--3:00 p.m.
Market Restaurant, 3702 Via De La Valle, Del Mar, 858-523-0007. Chef Carl Schroeder (ex-Arterra) in his new restaurant features a three-course dinner, $55, $75 with wines; kids, $25, 1:00--8:00 p.m.
Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-3085. Three-course dinner by renowned chef Martin Woesle, $58, 1:30--7:30 p.m.
Ocean House, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive (at
Highway 101), Carlsbad, 760-729-4131. Champagne-brunch buffet in a historic Victorian seaside mansion (under new ownership), $40; kids, $15, tots, $4; 9:30 a.m.--3:00 p.m. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, $8.95--$25, 3:30--9:00 p.m.