Printing a list of restaurants open for Thanksgiving has become a Reader tradition, and it’s worth noting up front that nearly every restaurant open for T-Day is also likely to serve brunch or dinner on Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s, Easter, Arbor Day, Songkran, Divali, Eid al-Fitr, and Yom Kippur. (Well, when the fast’s finished, folks feel famished!) So clip and save this article if you’re looking ahead to eat out on future holidays.
With increasing numbers of busy people celebrating Thanksgiving with “dinner out,” more and more restaurants have jumped on what is, after all, a potential cash cow. In past years, we tried to make our list as inclusive as possible, until it swelled to the size of the Goodyear blimp. Everyone at the paper who had to deal with it — from my saintly copy editor to perfect proofreader to the makeup guys trying to put lipstick on the wriggling, bloated pig — was moaning about the monster.
Well, times are leaner this year, and so is this column. Sorry I’ve got to cut you loose a bit, but the detailed list is down to restaurants known for good food (plus a few whimsies that sound like special fun). At the end you’ll find groups of restaurants I can’t necessarily vouch for personally (so caveat emptor), under the categories Cheap and Friendly, Convivial Community Favorites, and Views While You Chew, plus a few listings each for Singles’ Scenes and Seniors’ Scenes. I know you’re intelligent people (after all, you read the Reader), so I trust you can find your way to the website (SDReader.com), where you will find basic information on most of these places, or to the phone book to call for specifics and reservations.
Yes, you really do have to reserve at nearly any restaurant for T-Day, and it’s best to call ASAP. Some top restaurants may be fully booked already, and many require a credit card number, which will be charged if you’re a no-show.
The restaurants listed below are arranged by geographical area, so you need not drive vast distances while drowsy. If there’s nothing in your area, or you’re planning on a nearby getaway, most large hotels (check the Yellow Pages), resorts, and gambling casinos offer Thanksgiving dinners. If you’re desperate and stuck in a restaurant-starved region, many suburban 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. “Kiddie prices” generally apply to children 5–12 (sometimes 3–12). Most prices are for multicourse meals or all-you-can-eat buffets, but a few are for à la carte.
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 the entire meal — often for little more than you’d spend to cook it all yourself. The following sources all offer reliably 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. (They do this for Christmas, too.) You can pick it up on Wednesday, along with sides of cornbread, pies, veggies, etc. Call before Tuesday morning to reserve your smoking time.
D.Z. Akin’s, 6930 Alvarado Road, off 70th Street/Lake Murray Road, San Diego, 619-265-0218. Turkey and trimmings, plus breads and rolls, for pickup on Wednesday. Call daytimes for details and price; order as soon as possible.
Magnolias, Market Creek Square, 342 Euclid Avenue (off Market Street), Lincoln Park, 619-262-6005. A soul-satisfying Cajun-Creole dinner is yours to take home for $197 (to feed 10–12), or you can just pick up some sublime Southern desserts such as pecan pie. Call by November 21 to reserve dinner, and pick it up hot on Thursday.
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. Order up to two days before. They can also furnish tasty Louisiana-style side dishes.
Pamplemousse (see North Coast). Gourmet takeout T-Day dinners for six people or more are available from this famed destination at $50 per person for a full meal. Reserve until November 25, and pick up on T-Day.
St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro, locations in Encinitas, Rancho Bernardo, Hillcrest, Horton Plaza, and downtown on Broadway and in Little Italy, call 1-800-NEXTPARTY. 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). Take home a hot dinner serving 10–12 for $290, including a 15-pound roast turkey with all the trimmings and dessert. Order by Sunday night, pick up on T-Day.
Whole Foods Market, locations in Hillcrest (619-294-2800) and La Jolla (858-642-6700) will have full Thanksgiving (and Christmas) meals, available for ordering starting November 13. Get an organic turkey dinner for six (starting at $110), a ham dinner, or a festive vegan meal for one. Order deadline is the Monday prior to the holiday. Pick-up available on Wednesday and during Thanksgiving Day (open 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Hillcrest and 7:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. La Jolla).
Arterra, San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley, 858-369-6032. Three-course prix-fixe dinner with fresh farm-to-table produce, $40, kids $20, 1:00–6:00 p.m.
Dining Room at the Inn, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-1131. Huge buffet in beautiful setting, $60, kids $24, 11:00 a.m.–6:30 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.–7:00 p.m. and California Bistro 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Buffet, $85, kids $42.50, with kids’ activities and optional kiddie buffet table. Vivace Restaurant, deluxe four-course menu, $110, kids $38, 3:00–8:00 p.m.