It’s starting to become a new tradition: celebrating Thanksgiving with “dinner out” or with home dinners utilizing restaurant takeout. More and more restaurants have jumped on this cash, uh, turkey. The list below begins with some takeout options for tackling the feast. Then comes a longer list featuring restaurants known for good food, plus some that sound like special fun. By the way, if you’re looking for dark-meat turkey as well as breast, most buffets carve whole birds; wherever possible we’ve included this detail for sit-down dinners as well.
Nearly every restaurant open for T-Day is also likely to serve meals on Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s, Easter, Mom’s Day, Songkran, Divali, Eid al-Fitr, and Yom Kippur. (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.
Reserve your T-Day choice today, if not yesterday. Some restaurants may be fully booked already. Many require a credit card number, which may be charged if you’re a no-show.
The restaurants listed below are arranged by geographical area, so you need not drive vast distances drowsing from turkey tryptophan. At the end of the detailed list, you’ll find groups of restaurants (that I can’t vouch for personally) appealing to specific needs and tastes. Most large hotels (check the Yellow Pages), resorts, and gambling casinos also offer Thanksgiving dinners. If you’re stuck in a restaurant-starved region, many casual-dining chains serve holiday dinners of their customary quality. (According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, Mimi’s, with many local branches, is among its readers’ favorites of this ilk.)
Prices quoted below do not include tip, tax, or beverages. “Kiddie prices” generally apply to ages 5–12 (sometimes 3–11). Rug rats usually eat free. Most prices are for multicourse meals or all-you-can-eat buffets, but a few are for à la carte entrées only.
Take-out options 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. Choices include:
Authentic Flavors, 7004 Carroll Road, Miramar, 858-404-0606. Free-range turkey dinner, $200 to serve 8–10, $300 for 12–15. Turkey only, $75–$125. Trimmings only, no turkey, $200 to serve up to 15. Preorder up to November 20, pick up in Miramar, or get delivery for $50 more.
Barnes BBQ, 7820 Broadway (at Lemon Grove Avenue), 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.) Call no later than November 23 to reserve your smoking time. You can pick it up on Wednesday, along with yummy sides of cornbread, pies, veggies, etc.
D.Z. Akin’s, 6930 Alvarado Road, off 70th Street/Lake Murray Boulevard, San Diego, 619-265-0218. Turkey and trimmings, plus breads, rolls, pastries, for pickup on Wednesday. Call daytimes for details and prices; order as soon as possible.
Indigo to Go, 1536 India Street (Cedar), San Diego, 619-234-6802. Butternut-squash soup, corn pudding, and Indian bread pudding to go, in oven-ready reheatable containers. Order before November 22, pick up Tuesday or Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Magnolias, Market Creek Square, 342 Euclid Avenue (off Market Street), Lincoln Park, 619-262-6005. A soul-satisfying Cajun-Creole dinner is yours for $199 (to feed 10–12), or you can just pick up desserts, such as pecan pie. Call by November 20 to reserve dinner; pick it up hot on T-day.
Mardi Gras Café and Marketplace, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501. Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey, $5 per pound ($4 per pound if you BYO 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 dinners available to pick up on T-Day from this famed destination at $50 per person for a full meal. Call at least two days before T-day, minimum order for six persons ($300).
St. Tropez Bakery and Bistro, 858-404-0606. 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 alone, $75 (for 8–10) or $125 (for 12–15); sides also available separately. Order 72 hours in advance, pick up Wednesday or Thursday at the Miramar location, or get delivery for $50.
Savory (see North Coast). Take-home dinner serving 15–16 people for $250, including a roast turkey with all the trimmings and dessert. Whole turkey alone is $90, a half-gobbler is $45, side dishes available à la carte. Order by Sunday night, pick up on T-Day.
Whole Foods Market, locations in Hillcrest (619-294-2800) and La Jolla (858- 642-6700) offers full Thanksgiving meals, available for ordering starting November 10, at live stands in the stores, in-store automated kiosks, or over the internet. (Free tasting in Hillcrest, November 14, noon to 3:00.) Get a natural turkey dinner for six (starting at $100, more for larger groups), a ham dinner, or the turkey-less trimmings for six for $45. Whole meals for one person (turkey, ham, or vegan) also available. Partly cooked whole natural turkeys are $3.99 lb., or $7.99 lb. for organic birds. Pickup available on Wednesday 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. and Thanksgiving Day 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
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, several choices including boned, smoked free-range turkey roulade (light and dark meat together), sized to give diners nice doggie bags, $40, kids $20, 3:00–7:00 p.m.
Dining Room at the Inn, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-1131. Huge buffet in beautiful setting, $60, kids $24, under 5 free, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, 760-603-6800 for all restaurants. Buffets at Argyle Cafe (on golf course) 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and California Bistro 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m., $85, kids $42.50; the Bistro offers kids’ activities and optional kiddie buffet table. Vivace Restaurant, deluxe four-course menu, $75, kids $38, 5:00–8:00 p.m.
Grand Del Mar, 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Carmel Valley, 858-314-2000. Addison: four courses, $98, no kiddie price, 2:00–8:00 p.m. Amaya: three-course meal noon–9:00 p.m., $65, $90 with matched wines, $25 kids. La Capella: brunch buffet (a staffer-mom’s favorite), $85, $25 kids, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-793-6460. In newly renovated setting, chef Paul McCabe’s three-course prix-fixe dinner, several selections including dark- and light-meat turkey, $54, kids $24, noon–8:00 p.m.
Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-3085. Chef Martin Woesle’s four-course dinner includes dark- and light-meat turkey, $55, plus à la carte choices, 1:30–7:00 p.m.
Pacifica Del Mar, Del Mar Plaza, 1555 Camino Del Mar (at 15th Street), Del Mar, 858-792-0476. Chef Chris Idso’s three-course dinner, choice of entrées, $38 (for turkey) up to $49, kids $15, 1:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
Pamplemousse, 514 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-792-9090. Chef Jeffrey Straus’s magnificent four-course dinner with choice of entrées (turkey is breast only), $55, kids $25, 2:00–7:00 p.m.
Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-759-6216. Four-course meal from hotsy-totsy new chef, with several entrée choices, including whole roast turkey, in beautiful surroundings, $75, kids half-price, toddlers less, noon–8:30 p.m.
Red Tracton’s, 550 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-755-6600. Reserve early — fills up! Traditional Thanksgiving dinner $31 per person (including dark meat); whole turkey carved at table for $36 per person ($27 kids) for tables of four or more (reserve five days ahead), seatings at 2:00, 4:30, 7:00 p.m.
Savory, 267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-5556. Chef Pascal Vignau’s three-course meal with choice of entrées, $39.50–$46, 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., including dark- and light-meat turkey; à la carte regular menu available after 3:30 p.m.
333 Pacific, 333 North Pacific, Oceanside, 760-433-3333, three-course prix fixe $50, $70 with matched wines, kids $14; mushroom-stuffed turkey breast roulade and five other choices, seaside view, 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Bernard’O, 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, Rancho Bernardo, 858-487-7171. Tasteful live music, lovely room, super-chef Patrick Ponsaty’s à la carte menu ($20–$28 entrées), 1:30–7:30 p.m.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive (at Rancho Bernardo Road), Rancho Bernardo, 858-675-8500. Aragon Ballroom buffet brunch, $55, kids $25 (including free pony rides and petting zoo!) to age 14, a famously lavish spread, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Veranda Bar and Grille, 858-675-8555, three-course meal, dark turkey by request, $46, kids $25, 11:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m. El Bizcocho, four courses, $75 adult, $110 with matching wines, kids $25, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Wild Animal Park, Nairobi Pavilion, 760-738-5055 (call 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.). Buffet dinner $40, kids $15 (age 3–11), seatings at noon and 3:00 p.m. Reservations required. Free entry for members; nonmembers pay regular park admission.
La Jolla and Golden Triangle
Adobe Restaurant at Estancia La Jolla, 9700 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-550-1000. À la carte breakfast 6:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Brunch 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., with optional free-range turkey entrée. Three-course prix fixe, $48 (kiddie price TBA), 4:00–11:00 p.m.
A.R. Valentien, Lodge at Torrey Pines, 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-777-6635. Chef Jeff Jackson’s three-course holiday dinner with four options for every course (including dark meat), beautiful setting, $75, kids $30, noon–9:00 p.m.
George’s at the Cove, 1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858-454-4244. À la carte menu of chef Trey Foshee’s seasonal specials in the dining room, entrées mainly $30 and up; more casual, moderately priced menu in George’s Bar, 11:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m., or lunch on the Ocean Terrace, 11:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect Street (at Herschel), La Jolla, 858-454-0771. Buffets at Ocean View Terrace, Whaling Bar, Mediterranean Room, seatings at 1:00, 3:30, 6:00, $75 adults, $28 kids. Sky Room four-course prix fixe $95, 5:00 p.m. (later seating sold out); à la carte lunch 11:00–2:00, including $42 turkey entrée (light and dark).
Marine Room, 2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, 858-459-7222. Chef Bernard Guillas’s à la carte holiday menu with a close-up ocean view and adventurous cuisine; turkey breast entrée $31, noon–7:00 p.m.
Nine-Ten, Grande Colonial Hotel, 910 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858-964-5400. Chef Jason Knibb’s three-course Thanksgiving menu with a choice of entrées including light and dark turkey, $52, kids $18, 3:00–8:00 p.m.
Sante, 7811 Herschel Avenue, La Jolla, 858-454-1315. Regular menu with T-Day specials at local Italian favorite, à la carte three courses about $40 including roast turkey entrée, 11:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
The Shores, 8110 Camino del Oro (at Avenida de la Playa), La Jolla, 858-456-0600. Newly upgraded food and wine overlooking beach, with buffet $41, $19 kids 7–12, or $3 per year; optional kid-station buffet, 10:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Torreyana Grille, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, 10950 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-450-4571. Lavish holiday buffet, $58 including glass of champagne, kids $20, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Atoll at Catamaran Resort, 3999 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach, 858-539-8635. Brunch buffet, live music, $43 adults, kids $21, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. with free sternwheeler cruises until 5:45.
Bahia Resort Hotel, 998 West Mission Bay Drive, Mission Beach, 858-539-7635. Champagne brunch buffet and live music in ballroom, $40, kids $20, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., with free sternwheeler cruises.
Baleen, Paradise Point Resort, 1404 Vacation Road, Mission Bay, 858-490-6363. Hot new chef’s buffet in charming indoor-outdoor resort bedecked with monkey-theme decor, bayside firepits, $68, kids $28, noon–7:00 p.m. Casual, lower-priced Barefoot Bar and Grill, 858-274-4630, serving an à la carte menu including turkey entrée; call for details.
Humphrey’s by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 619-224-3577. Champagne brunch with a marina view and live jazz, $50, kids $17, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Island Prime/ C-Level Lounge, 880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island, 619-298-6802. Chef Deborah Scott’s three-course menu in scenic bayside setting, six choices (including turkey breast), $50, kids $13. 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Jordan (JRDN), 4551 Ocean Boulevard, Pacific Beach, 858-270-5736. À la carte brunch 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. (usual dishes); indoor-outdoor oceanside dinner, three courses, $45, kids $25, 3:00–8:00 p.m.
Red Marlin, Hyatt Hotel, 1441 Quivira Road, Mission Beach, 619-221-4810. Buffet $42, kids $21 (with optional special kiddie buffet) in scenic indoor-outdoor waterside venue, 4:00–9:00 p.m. Ask for parking directions when reserving or face long walk from front entrance.
Thee Bungalow, 4996 West Point Loma Boulevard, Ocean Beach, 619-224-2884. Three-course dinner in cozy cottage, four entrée choices (including turkey breast, duck), $50, kids $15, 1:00–8:00 p.m.
Mission Valley and the Mesas
94th Aero Squadron, 8885 Balboa Avenue, Kearny Mesa, 858-560-6771. Traditional buffet including one glass of champagne in a fab faux-farmhouse with airport view, $29, kids $14, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Metropolitan San Diego
Bertrand at Mister A’s, 2550 Fifth Avenue, uptown, 619-239-1377. A spectacular view and a three-course dinner with many choices, including whole roasted Diestel natural turkey, $55, kids’ menu $20–$25, 1:30–8:00 p.m.
El Fandango, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 2734 Calhoun Street, Old Town, 619-298-2860. Whole turkey and trimmings, $23 per person for four or more, $15 kids, you take home the leftovers; singles and smaller groups get entrée plates for $23 each, noon–7:00 p.m.
Grant Grill, 326 Broadway, downtown, 619-744-2077. Lavish holiday buffet, beautiful room with live jazz, $62, seniors $57, kids $22, seatings at noon, 1:00, 3:00, and 4:00 p.m.
Imperial House, 505 Kalmia (at Sixth Avenue), uptown, 619-234-3525. Four-course dinner by Balboa Park, many entrée choices including light and dark turkey, $30, kids $20, 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Inn at the Park, 525 Spruce Street (Fifth Avenue), Hillcrest, 619-291-0999. A jolly atmosphere with singalong show tunes from the piano bar; T-day spread includes light and dark turkey, $29, kids $14.50, with seatings at 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m.
Lael’s Restaurant, Manchester Grand Hyatt, One Market Place, downtown, 619-358-6735. Huge buffet, $59, seniors $49, kids $10, 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Maryjane’s Coffee Shop, Hard Rock Hotel, 207 Fifth Avenue (L Street), Gaslamp Quarter, 619-764-6950. No reservations taken. In a ’50s soda-shop atmosphere, three courses for $28 (brined roasted breast or braised leg), 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
McCormick and Schmick’s, Omni Hotel, 675 L Street (at Sixth Avenue), downtown, 619-645-6545. Three-course prix fixe $23, kids $16, or à la carte (turkey entrée, $18), 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
The Prado, House of Hospitality, Balboa Park, 619-557-9441. Three courses in beautiful park setting and garden patio, with a glass of champagne, four entrée choices including turkey breast, $55, kids $15 including beverage, 3:00–8:00 p.m.
Quarter Kitchen, Ivy Hotel, 600 F Street at Sixth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-814-1000. Local favorite chef Nathan Coulon’s à la carte dinner including light and dark turkey entrée with chestnut stuffing ($22, $10–$12 kiddie plate), noon–9:00 p.m.
Rei Do Gado, 939 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-702-8464. Brazilian skewer-grilled meats including turkey breast, plus side dishes. Lunch $28.50, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Dinner, $48, 4:00–about 10:00 p.m. Kids half-price at both meals.
Sally’s, Manchester Grand Hyatt, 1 Market Place, downtown, 610-358-6740. Prix fixe four courses, $40, three courses, $30, regular menu also available, 5:30–10:00 p.m.
San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, 619-557-3964 (call 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.). Sit-down dinner at Albert’s, $38, kids $13, noon–4:00 p.m. Buffet at Treetops, $40, kids $15, same time frame. Zoo admission for nonmembers is extra. Reservations required.
Sevilla, 555 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-5979. Three-course prix fixe, $28, kids $12, with live music, 1:00–9:00 p.m. Nightclub buffet, 8:00–10:00 p.m., $5 cover charge.
Suite and Tender, Se San Diego Hotel 1047 Fifth Avenue (Broadway), downtown, 619-515-3003. Weeklong menu (November 20–29) of seasonal treats including entrée of herbed turkey breast and leg confit ($30), available on T-Day for both lunch and dinner.
Terra, 1270 Cleveland Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-293-7088. Three-course holiday dinner with main-course choices including dark and light turkey and vegetarian entrée, $39, kids $12.50, 12:30–8:00 p.m.
Vela, San Diego Bayfront Hilton Hotel, 1 Park Boulevard at Harbor Drive, 619-564-3333. Indoor-outdoor venue with bayfront view, three-course prix fixe (plus regular menu), $45 adults, $60 with wines, discount for kids TBA, noon–7:00 p.m.
Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue, downtown, 619-557-3655. Le Fontainebleau and Versailles Ballroom, champagne buffet, $65, kids $32.50, 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. Westgate Room, four-course prix fixe, $59, kids same, 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Coronado and South Bay
Coronado Boathouse 1887, 1701 Strand Way, Coronado, 619-435-0155. Prix-fixe dinner with traditional turkey entrée (light and dark), $30, kids $15, in casual bayfront setting, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-522-8490 and 435-6611. Holiday buffets in both the Ballroom, noon–4:00 p.m., and the gorgeous Crown Room, noon–6:00 p.m., $85, kids $37.50. Sheerwater, à la carte, regular hours and menu with holiday specials. 1500 Ocean, deluxe four-course menu from fine chef Brian Sinnott, $80, kids $30, 4:00–9:00 p.m.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Road, Silver Strand, Coronado. 619-424-400. French master chef Marc Ehrler is new top toque over huge brunch buffet in Constellation Ballroom, $52, kids $25, noon–5:00 p.m.
Peohe’s, Ferry Landing Marketplace, 1201 First Street, Coronado, 619-437-4474. Waterfront view, tropical decor, special holiday menu, and á la carte, including turkey entrée, $28, kids $10, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
East County and Far East
Barona Valley Ranch Resort, 888-722-7662. Popular local chef Jim Phillips is new top toque. Barona Oaks, à la carte turkey tenderloin entrée $28, 5:00–10:00 p.m. Ranch House, buffet, $30 all ages, 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m., no kids after 8:00 p.m.
Rongbranch Restaurant, 2722 Washington Street, Julian, 760-765-2265. Turkey dinner, $22, $17 kids, à la carte also available, 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Recommended for Kiddies
These restaurants offer special features for kids or whole turkeys for families (see above listings for details).
Four Seasons Aviara California Bistro (Carlsbad) –optional kiddie buffet; Red Tracton’s (Del Mar)–whole turkey; Wild Animal Park–it’s a jungle out there; Rancho Bernardo Inn Aragon Ballroom (RB)–free pony rides, petting zoo; the Shores (La Jolla)–beach access, optional kiddie buffet; 94th Aero Squadron (Mission Valley/Mesas)–fun atmosphere; Baleen (Paradise Point)–monkey decor, crayons, outdoor firepit seating; Atoll at Catamaran Resort and Bahia Resort (Mission Bay)–free sternwheeler cruises; Red Marlin (Mission Beach)–optional kiddie buffet, outdoor seating; San Diego Zoo–the place is a zoo!; El Fandango (Old Town)–whole turkey; Mary Jane’s (downtown)–no res needed, soda-shop decor; Prado (Balboa Park)–park setting; Coronado Boathouse (Coronado)–bay view, aloha atmosphere; Peohe’s (Coronado)–indoor waterfall, fun decor, outdoor seating overlooking the bay.
The following restaurants are traditionally open for T-Day. Call to verify and reserve. You can find most on the Reader website (SanDiegoReader.com) under Restaurants. If not, check the phone book for their area. They’re listed in geographical order.
Cheap and Friendly (Meals Under $25): Tip-Top Meats (Carlsbad); Encinitas Cafe (Encinitas); Centre City Café (Escondido); Nick’s at the Beach (Pacific Beach, open late, football on TV); Nick’s at the Pier (Ocean Beach, football there, too); Bali Hai (Shelter Island); Red Sails Inn (Shelter Island); the Boathouse (Harbor Island): Tickled Trout, Ramada Plaza (Mission Valley); Valley Kitchen, Mission Valley Resort (MV); Crest Cafe (Hillcrest); Hob Nob Hill (uptown); Johnny R’s (North Park).
Additional Convivial Community Favorites: The Quail Inn (two dining venues) (San Marcos); Bellefleur (Carlsbad); Karl Strauss Brewery (Carlsbad); Chart House (Cardiff); World Famous (Pacific Beach); Butcher Shop Steakhouse (Kearny Mesa); Kaiserhof (Ocean Beach); Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (Harbor Island); Antique Row Cafe (Normal Heights); Cafe La Maze (National City); Thornton’s Irish Pub (El Cajon); Alpine Bread Basket (Alpine).
Views with Your Chews: Quail Inn (San Marcos); Ocean House (Carlsbad); La Costa Resort (La Costa); Poseidon (Del Mar); World Famous (Pacific Beach boardwalk); Blue Pearl Restaurant, the Dana Hotel (Mission Beach); Nick’s at the Pier (Ocean Beach); Bali Hai (Shelter Island); Harbor’s Edge, Sheraton Hotel (Shelter Island); Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (Harbor Island); the Boathouse (Harbor Island); Buster’s Beach House (Seaport Village); Hornblower Cruises (book at hornblower.com).