My heart goes out to all who will have to give thanks for their lives and families in restaurants this year instead of at home, as a result of the fires.
For whatever the reason, more and more people are choosing to eat Thanksgiving dinners out, so as usual, it's best to get your reservations in ASAP. The fancier the destination, the longer ahead you need to stake your claim. (Many top restaurants are already fully booked, and 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 on Christmas Eve or Day, ditto New Year's, Easter, Mother's Day, etc.
As a result of the fires, many restaurants were not able to give complete plans for hours and prices in time for our deadline. Please call for any missing information. Restaurants are arranged by geographical area; you need not drive long distances while drowsy. I haven't eaten at all of them, so caveat emptor. The list includes numerous community favorites where the warm feeling is as much a draw as the fare. If there's nothing listed in your area or you're planning on a nearby getaway, nearly all large hotels, resorts, and gambling casinos unaffected by the fires offer Thanksgiving dinners, often as buffets. If you're in a restaurant-starved region, several suburban "family-style" chains (Boston Market, 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 from 5--12; toddlers usually eat free. While most prices are for multicourse meals or all-you-can-eat buffets, a few buy only well-laden entrée plates.
Enjoying ready-made feasts at home is a growing option. Choices range from buying side dishes and desserts, to purchasing a turkey that's more savory than a supermarket-roasted bird, on up to taking home the entire meal. The following places are all known for good cooking:
Barnes BBQ, 2625 Lemon Grove Avenue (at Cypress, tucked in the back of Liquor Mart Square), Lemon Grove, 619-462-9206. BYO Bird: 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 November 16--18 to reserve your smoking time.
Estancia (see La Jolla). Full turkey feast to go, whole bird serving 8--10 for $120, half-bird serving 4--7 for $70, extra pies $15 each. Order by noon November 18, pick up on T-day before 3:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara (see North Coast). Full feasts to go (10--15 pounds) $250 to serve 4--8, $408 for 7--10. Pick up on T-Day. Call 72 hours ahead.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort (see South Bay). "Turkey to Go" full dinner for five is $175; for 7, $225. Reserve 48 hours in advance.
Magnolias, Market Creek Square, 342 Euclid Avenue (off Market Street), Lincoln Park, 619-262-6005. No turkeys this year, but you can pick up sweet-potato pies, fruit cobblers, and side dishes to go. Call a few days ahead to reserve the pastries, and pick up all items on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.
Mardi Gras Café & Marketplace, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501. Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey, $5 per pound ($4 per pound if you bring a thawed bird), pick up on Wednesday or early Thursday morning. Order up to a week before. They can also furnish Louisiana-style side dishes.
Pamplemousse (see North Coast). Gourmet takeout T-Day dinners for six people or more are available from this famed destination. Call for details. Order at least 48 hours ahead.
St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro, locations in Encinitas, Rancho Bernardo, Hillcrest, Horton Plaza, and Little Italy, call 858-404-0642 to order. You can get the whole megillah, including roast free-range turkey to feed 8--10 for $199, or to feed 12--15 at $299, with all the trimmings and choice of house-baked pies. Turkey and/or sides also available separately. Order 72 hours in advance, pick up Wednesday or Thursday at the nearest location, or get delivery for $50 more.
Savory (see North Coast). Order up a roasted turkey dinner serving 10--12. Call for price and menu. Phone at least 72 hours ahead to reserve your feast.
North Coast and Gold Coast
Addison, Grand Del Mar, 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Del Mar, 858-369-6032. New luxury restaurant, four courses $105, five courses $120 (no kiddie prices), noon--7:00 p.m.
Bellefleur, Carlsbad Company Stores, 5610 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, 760-603-1919. Buffet $40, $13 kids, 11:00 a.m.--6:00 p.m.
Chart House, 2588 South Coast Highway 101, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, 760-436-4044. Regular à la carte menu, turkey entrée $25, kids $10, 11:00 a.m.--8:00 p.m.
Dining Room at the Inn, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-1131. Champagne buffet in beautiful setting $60, kids $24, 11:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Encinitas Café, 531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-632-0919. Full turkey dinner including dessert about $14, 1:00--8:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, 760-603-3773 for all restaurants. Argyle Cafe (on golf course) 11:00 a.m.--8:00 p.m., and California Bistro 11:30 a.m.--8:00 p.m. Champagne buffet $85, kids $42.50. Vivace Restaurant, deluxe four-course menu with many choices $110, 4:00--9:00 p.m.
Karl Strauss Brewery and Restaurant, 5801 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, 760-431-2739. Regular à la carte menu, 11:30 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
La Costa Resort and Spa, Costa Del Mar Road, La Costa, 760-438-9111. Legends: buffet $65, kids $33, plus 20 percent gratuity, 11:30 a.m.--6:00 p.m. Blue Fire Grill: buffet $60, kids $25, plus 20 percent gratuity, 1:00--6:00 p.m.
Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-3085. Three-course dinner by renowned chef Martin Woesle. Call for hours and exact price (about $60). Reserve ASAP, this one always fills up early.
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 $25, little kids $15, under 3, $4, 9:30 a.m.--3:30 p.m. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner à la carte, $21 or less, 3:00 p.m.--midnight.