If you want to have a toil-free T-Day turkey (or ham, filet mignon, whatever), numerous restaurants will cook your Thanksgiving dinner for you -- to eat in, or, increasingly, take home. This year's list is longer than ever. But to ensure you get a table, better grab your phone and your best credit card and reserve immediately -- the choicest destinations fill up fast! (Most now require a credit card number, which will be charged if you're a no-show. Can you blame them?)
The restaurants are arranged by geographical area, in hopes that you won't have a long journey while DUIT (Driving Under the Influence of Tryptophan -- the amino acid in turkey that makes you feel sleepy). I haven't personally eaten at all of them, so caveat emptor. (Check www.sdreader.com for capsule reviews.) Since these eateries are also likely to serve feasts for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (not to mention Easter Sunday and Mother's Day next year), you may want to clip the list for future reference.
Prices quoted below do not include tip or tax unless so noted. "Kiddie prices" generally apply to children between their 5th and 12th birthdays. Toddlers can usually nibble for free. Also note that some prices are for multi-course meals, others merely buy well-laden entrée plates.
Also keep in mind that nearly all large hotels and gambling casinos (not just those listed below) offer Thanksgiving dinners, most often as buffets. And if you're in a restaurant-starved suburb but still can't bring yourself to face the oven, most chain "family style" restaurants (Boston Market, Coco's, Carrow's, Callender's, et al.) will be serving a holiday menu of their customary quality.
Enjoying restaurant vittles at home is a growing option. Choices range from buying a turkey that's more savory than supermarket-roasted birds on up to purchasing the entire feast. 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 Q 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 immediately (a week ahead of T-Day) to reserve your smoking time.
Big Jim's (see North Coast listing 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 before Sunday.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara (see North Coast, below): "Room Service" turkeys (10--15 pounds) and trimmings to go, $125 to serve 4--6, $175 for 7--10. Call 72 hours ahead.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort (see South Bay): "Turkey to Go," full dinner for 5, $175, for 7, $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, $13 per person ($130), for pickup on Wednesday. Call immediately (a week ahead of T-Day) to order your dinner.
Mardi Gras Cafe, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501: Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey is on offer here, for $4.50 per pound (or $3.50 per pound if you bring your own thawed bird), pickup on Wednesday or early Thursday morning. They can also furnish Louisiana-style side dishes. Reserve yours up to the day before you want it.
Pamplemousse (see Gold Coast, below): Gourmet take-out T-Day dinners for six people or more are available from this popular destination at $50 per person. Order before Sunday.
Savory (see North Coast, below): A roasted turkey dinner serving 10--12 is $235 plus tax. Call 72 hours ahead to reserve your feast.
Big Jim's Old South Bar-B-Q, 190 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-635-1166. Sit-down 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, $23, kids $10, 11:00 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
Encinitas Café, 531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-632-0919. Full turkey dinner including dessert, $13, 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), brunch buffet, $65 ($70 with champagne), kids $32.50, 10:00 a.m.--3:00 p.m. California Bistro, same prices as above, 10:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m. Vivace Restaurant, five-course menu with many choices, $95 ($120 with matching wines), kiddie menu available, 4:00--9:00 p.m.
Karl Strauss Brewery & Restaurant, 5801 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, 760-431-2739. Turkey dinner (price TBA) and 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. Blue Fire Grill, buffet $85, kids $42, noon--9:00 p.m. Legends Restaurant, four-course meal, $35, kids $6--$25 depending on age, 9:30 a.m.--3:30 p.m.
Neimans, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive (at Highway 101), Carlsbad, 760-729-4131. Champagne brunch buffet in a historic Victorian seaside mansion (under new ownership), $35, kids $6--$25 on a sliding scale by age, 9:30 a.m.--3:30 p.m. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner plus usual à la carte choices, $18 for turkey entrée, 5:00--9:00 p.m.
Savory, 267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-5556. Chef Pascal Vignau's three-course meal. Choice of entrées includes roast turkey with sausage stuffing or beef tenderloin $37.50--$43, or à la carte meals, 11:00 a.m.--3:00 p.m.
Bernard'O, 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, Rancho Bernardo, 858-487-7171. Live music and à la carte dinner; turkey entrée, $22, 1:30--7:30 p.m.
Café Champagne, Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Road, Temecula, 951-699-0088. Four courses, four entrée choices, $45, kids $20, noon--5:30 p.m.
Centre City Cafe, 2680 South Escondido Boulevard, Escondido, 760-489-6011. Informal atmosphere, affordable ($15 and under), à la carte holiday choices include turkey entrée, 6:00 a.m.--9:00 p.m.
La Bastide Bistro, 10006 Scripps Ranch Blvd. #104, 858-577-0033. Chef Patrick Ponsaty (formerly of El Bizcocho) cooks up four courses, $32.50, kiddie menu $5.50, 11:00 a.m.--10:00 p.m.
The Quail, 1035 La Bonita Drive, Lake San Marcos, 760-744-2445. Buffet with a lake view, $35, kids $20, 11:00 a.m.--7:00 p.m.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive (at Rancho Bernardo Road), 858-675-8500. Ballroom champagne buffet brunch, $44, kids $20 to age 14, a famously lavish spread, 11:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m. Veranda Bar and Grille, 858-675-8555, three-course meal, $42, kids $20, 11:30 a.m.--9:00 p.m. El Bizcocho, 858-675-8550, four courses, $60 adult, $90 with matching wines, kids $18, 2:00--8:00 p.m.