It’s no longer difficult to find a restaurant serving Thanksgiving dinner, in part because, in these hard times, it’s a good opportunity (like Valentine’s Day) for a restaurant to reap a little profit and possibly even goodwill. And the demand is ever-growing, what with smaller, scattered families, longer working hours, and the current obsession with watching chefs cook on TV rather than trying it yourself at home.
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, Dad’s Day, Songkran, Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, and Yom Kippur. (When the fasts are 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 ASAP; some restaurants are already fully booked. Many require a credit-card number, which may be charged if you’re a no-show.
The list below begins with some takeout options for tackling the feast, presumably in finer form than supermarket versions. (Most use tastier free-range turkeys.) Next comes a long list of restaurants known for good food and/or fun atmospheres. (If you’re looking for turkey dark meat, wherever possible we’ve included this detail for sit-down dinners; buffets usually carve the whole bird.) Restaurants are arranged by geographical area, so you need not drive too far while drowsy.
Prices quoted do not include tip, tax, or beverages. Kiddie prices generally apply to ages 5–12 (sometimes 3–11). Rugrats often eat free. Alas, at many restaurants, the kiddie meal offers chicken nuggets, mac ’n’ cheese, etc., rather than a yummy mini-portion of traditional turkey and trimmings. So ask before you reserve.
Some of the listed restaurants are coded as follows: “KA” indicates a place with special appeal to children, such as special activities or runaround space outside. “VE” is for restaurants promising a vegetarian (not necessarily vegan) entrée on their prix-fixe menus. “VU” indicates a beautiful view or unique setting.
Most large hotels and gambling casinos also offer Thanksgiving dinners, and many casual-dining chains (e.g., Marie Callender’s and Mimi’s, which also do takeout) serve dinners of their customary quality.
Authentic Flavors/St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro, 7004 Carroll Road, Miramar, 858-404-0606. Free-range roast-turkey dinner, $199 to serve 8–10, $299 for 12–15. Turkey only, $125 to feed 8–10. Trimmings only, no turkey, $200, serves up to 15. Pre-order by November 21, 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 by November 22 to reserve your smoking time. Bring it in by Tuesday morning to pick it up Wednesday, along with yummy Southern sides of cornbread, pies, veggies, etc.
D.Z. Akin’s, 6930 Alvarado Road, off 79th Street/Lake Murray Road, San Diego, 619-265-0218. Turkey, trimmings, sides, rolls, pastries, all made from scratch, for pickup any day through Wednesday, or even through the following week, in case you’re stuck meeting the president of Uzbecki-becki-stan-stan on T-Day. Full feast for 8–10 for $150 ($5 extra for pecan pie, versus pumpkin); everything also available à la carte. Call one day ahead to order.
Elijah’s, 8861 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 858-455-1461. For $100, the whole meal to feed 10, including turkey or beef brisket, trimmings, and pie. (Prime rib extra, veggie option available.) Call to order a few days ahead. (Also serving in the restaurant on T-day, a three-course turkey dinner, $20, kids $13.) Delivery available, with a charge. VE
French Gourmet, 960 Turquoise Street, Pacific Beach, 858-488-1725. Whole free-range Diestel roasted turkeys with stuffing and gravy, $218–$359 to serve 14–28. Trimmings $56–$132, serving 6–20; Complete turkey dinners from $27 for one, to $101 to serve four (each add’l $20). Beef Wellington $28 per person, $234 for whole filet. Appetizers, breads, tarts, pies, cheesecakes to order. Place order by November 18 (form available online, thefrenchgourmet.com). Pick up 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on Thursday. Delivery available for a fee.
Indigo Grill, 1536 India Street, 619-234-6802. Butternut-squash soup, corn pudding, Indian bread pudding. Order by phone before November 20, pick up on Tuesday or Wednesday before 6 p.m. VE
Mardi Gras Cafe & Marketplace, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501. Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey, $5.75 per pound (less if you BYO thawed bird). Pick up on Wednesday or early Thursday. Order up to two days in advance. They can also furnish tasty Louisiana-style side dishes.
Savory (see North Coast for info). Take-home dinner with 16–18 pound turkey, serves 15–18 people for $250, including a rosemary roast turkey with all the trimmings (artichoke and andouille stuffing!) and two pies. Whole turkey and gravy alone is $65; all trimmings (including gravy), side dishes, and desserts available à la carte. Full dinner for one, $21 (or entrée only, $17). Order by Sunday night 6 p.m., pick up on T-Day.
Seaside Market, 2087 San Elijo Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, 760-753-5445. Full Thanksgiving feast with roast Diestel free-range turkey, $20 per person, minimum of 6 persons. Order ASAP, online at seasidemarket.com, or by phone.
Terra American Bistro, 7091 El Cajon Boulevard, La Mesa, 619-293-7088. À la carte takeout, several entrée choices (turkey $100, to serve 10). Order by 4 p.m. November 18, pick up after 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Whole Foods Market, locations in Hillcrest (619-294-2800) and La Jolla (858- 642-6700). Offers Thanksgiving meals of Diestel natural roast turkey, stuffing, mash, gravy, and cranberry sauce (other sides extra, available in store) for 6 or more, from $100–$120, or trimmings only for $40 to serve 6. Free whole meals for one person (turkey or vegan) also available in stores, along with partially cooked roasted and smoked turkeys. Raw turkeys $2.69–$6.99 (for Heritage turkeys) per pound. Order by phone or online at wholefoodsmarket.com/shop. Pick up on Wednesday, November 23, or until 4 p.m. on T-Day. VE
333 Pacific, 333 North Pacific, Oceanside, 760-433-3333. Three-course prix fixe $50, kids $14; stuffed turkey breast and six other choices, including duck and tofurkey; seaside view, 1–7 p.m. VE, VU
Arterra, San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley, 858-369-6032. Three-course prix fixe featuring turkey or rib-eye steak, $30–$35, kids’ menu $10, plus limited à la carte menu, 3–8 p.m.
Dining Room at The Inn, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-1131. Huge brunch buffet in beautiful setting, $60, kids $24, under 5 free, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. VU
Aviara, 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, 760-603-6800 for all restaurants. Brunch buffets at Argyle Cafe (on golf course), 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; California Bistro 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; $85, kids $42.50, toddlers $21. Argyle dinner (including turkey breast and stuffed leg roulade), 5–8:30 p.m., $38 (à la carte menu also available). At elegant Vivace Restaurant, deluxe four-course menu, plus regular menu, $75, kids TBA, 4–8 p.m.
Grand Del Mar, 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Carmel Valley, 858-314-1900. Addison: prix-fixe feast $165 ($290 with wines), no kid price, 3–8 p.m. Amaya (858-314-2727), three-course meal noon–8 p.m., $70, $95 with matched wines, $30 kids’ menu. VU
Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-793-6460. Chef Paul McCabe’s three-course prix fixe, several selections, including dark and light meat free-range turkey, $65, $32 kids, noon–8 p.m.
La Costa Resort, 2100 Costa Del Mar Road, Carlsbad, 800-854-5000. Legends Bistro buffet 11 a.m.–5 p.m., $65, kids $27. Dinner, prix-fixe turkey, $39, 5–10 p.m. BlueFire Grill, three-course prix fixe, $45, 5–10 p.m. VU
Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-3085. Chef Martin Woesle’s three-course dinner includes a turkey entrée, both light and dark, $59,50, plus exquisite à la carte additions, 1–7 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, with numerous choices, $39 for organic free-range roast turkey (white and dark), $49 with other choices, kids $15, noon–9 p.m.
Pamplemousse Grille, 514 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-792-9090. Chef Jeffrey Strauss’s three-course dinner with choice of entrées (free-range turkey includes light and dark meat), $55, kids’ price variable, 2–8 p.m.
Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-759-6216. Buffet $79 (with champagne $87), kids $29, beautiful setting, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. VU
Red Tracton’s, 550 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-755-6600. Reserve early — fills up! Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, $34 per person (including dark meat); whole turkey carved at table for $38 per person ($27 kids) for tables of four or more (reserve five days ahead), seatings 2–6:30 p.m.
Savory, 267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-5556. Chef Pascal Vignau’s three-course meal with choice of entrées, $34.50–$42,50, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m., including dark and light meat rosemary-roasted turkey and trimmings (e.g., artichoke-andouille stuffing), or beef tenderloin; à la carte regular menu with holiday specials available 5–8 p.m.
Bernard’O, 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, Rancho Bernardo, 858-487-7171. Tasteful live music, lovely room. New chef Vincent Viale (from Tapenade) offers three courses for $32.50, kids $14.50, 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. VU
Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive (at Rancho Bernardo Road), 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 a.m.–3 p.m. Veranda Bar and Grille (858-675-8555), three-course meal, dark turkey by request, $50, kids $25, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. El Bizcocho, four courses, $75, $110 with matching wines, kids $35, 2–6 p.m. KA
San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Nairobi Pavilion, Escondido, 760-738-5055 (call 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.). Buffet dinner $46, kids $16 (ages 3–11), seatings at noon and 3 p.m. Reservations required. Free entry for members; non-members pay regular park admission. KA, VU
La Jolla and Golden Triangle
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 options for every course (including dark meat), beautiful setting, $75, kids TBA, noon–9:00 p.m. Golfer’s Grill, three-course meal $45, 4–10 p.m., craft-beer tasting $10; lunch à la carte. VU
Elijah’s, 8861 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 858-455-1461; 2638 Del Mar Heights Road, Del Mar, 858-259-4880. Three-course turkey dinner $20, kids $13, open 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
George’s California Modern, 1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858-454-4244. À la carte menu of chef Trey Foshee’s seasonal specials, entrées $28–$48 (including free-range roasted breast and braised leg), 1–9 p.m. VU
La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect Street (at Herschel), La Jolla, 858-454-0771. All venues (except for the Sky Room, which will be closed), buffet, seatings at 1, 3, and 6 p.m., $75 adults, kids $38.
Marine Room, 2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, 858-459-7222. Chef Bernard Guillas’s à la carte holiday menu, close-up ocean view and adventurous cuisine, free-range turkey breast entrée, $32, noon–7 p.m. VU
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 free-range turkey breast, leg roulade, $55, $75 with wine, kids $18, 3–8 p.m.
The Shores, 8110 Camino del Oro (at Avenida de la Playa), 858-456-0600. Newly upgraded food and wine served overlooking the beach, buffet $44, kids (6–12) $22, or $4 per year under age 6; optional children’s buffet, 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Easy beach access for restless little ones. KA, VU
Torreyana Grille, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, 10950 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-450-4571. Lavish holiday buffet, $67 including glass of champagne, kids $19, noon–6 p.m.
Baleen, Paradise Point Resort, 1404 Vacation Road, Mission Bay, 858-490-6363. Buffet in charming indoor-outdoor resort bedecked with monkey-themed decor, bayside fire pit, three courses, $35 (dark turkey included), kids TBA, 5–10 p.m. KA, VU
Red Marlin, Hyatt Hotel, 1441 Quivira Road, Mission Beach, 619-221-4810. Buffet $36, kids $18, in scenic indoor-outdoor waterside venue, 5:30–10 p.m. Ask for parking directions when reserving, to avoid long walk from front entrance. VU
BO-Beau, 4996 West Point Loma Boulevard, Ocean Beach, 619-224-2884. The Cohn Restaurant Group’s remake of Thee Bungalow offers roast turkey breast, four other choices, in a three-course meal for $40, kids $13, 3–8 p.m.
Humphrey’s by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 619-378-4281. Champagne buffet with a marina view in the dining room and live jazz in the lounge, $50, kids $20, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. VU
Island Prime and C-Level, 880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island, 619-298-6802. Chef Deborah Scott’s three-course menu in scenic seaside setting, six choices (including turkey breast), $50, kids $13, 1–7 p.m. VU
Jordan (JRDN), 4551 Ocean Boulevard, Pacific Beach, 858-270-5736. Indoor-outdoor oceanside dinner, feet can touch the beach on the patio, three-course turkey dinner, $45, kids $21, 3–8 p.m. KA, VU
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, $30, kids $14, 12:30–9 p.m. KA, VU
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 roast Diestel natural turkey, $55, kids’ menu $20–$25, 1:30–8 p.m.
Bice, 425 Island Avenue, Gaslamp, 619-239-2423. Five-course family-style dinner, partly Italian, partly American, with generous communal pasta course (can be vegetarian entrée) and several entrée choices, including turkey stuffed with pancetta, chestnuts, berries. Adults $50, kids up to 15 free with purchase of one adult prix fixe, noon–8 p.m. VE
Cosmopolitan, 2600 Calhoun Street (at Juan Street), Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 619-297-1874. Three-course feast in restored stately hotel with huge patio, fire pits, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. prix-fixe dinner, $34.95, kids $14.95, numerous choices for every course (turkey is breast only, but there’s duck-leg confit). KA, VU
El Fandango, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 2734 Calhoun Street, 619-298-2860. Whole turkey and trimmings, $25 per person for four or more, kids TBA, you take home the leftovers; singles and smaller groups get entrée plates for $25 each, noon–7 p.m. KA, VU
US Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, Downtown, 619-744-2077. Lavish champagne buffet in Grand Lobby, beautiful room with live jazz, $67, seniors $57, kids $24, seatings noon–4 p.m. Grant Grill offers a gala tasting menu, including chestnut-sausage stuffed turkey leg, five courses for $85, noon–7 p.m.
Hob Nob Hill, 2271 First Avenue, Bankers Hill, 619-239-8176. Three-course prix fixe with roast turkey (light and dark), plus other choices, $22–$24, 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Dinners also available for takeout.
Imperial House, 505 Kalmia Street (at 6th Avenue), Uptown, 619-234-3525. Three-course dinner near Balboa Park, many entrée choices, including light and dark turkey, $30, kids $20, 1–6 p.m.
Inn at the Park, 525 Spruce Street (5th Avenue), Hillcrest, 619-291-0999. A jolly atmosphere with sing-along show tunes from the piano bar; three-course T-day spread with four entrée choices, including light or dark turkey or vegetarian, $36, kids half price, with seatings at 3, 5, and 7 p.m. VE
Lael’s Restaurant, Manchester Grand Hyatt, One Market Place, Downtown, 619-358-6735. Huge buffet includes sushi, free-range turkey, volcanic salt–crusted roast beef, $65, seniors $45, kids $25, 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
McCormick and Schmick’s, Omni Hotel, 675 L Street (at 6th Avenue), Downtown, 619-645-6545. Three-course prix fixe $24, kids $8, or à la carte, 11 a.m.–8:30 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, five entrée choices, including turkey breast and leg roulade, and a vegetarian pumpkin risotto $50, kids $13, includes beverage, 3–8 p.m. VE VU
Sally’s, Manchester Grand Hyatt, 1 Market Place, Downtown, 610-358-6740. Prix-fixe four-course dinner, $45, three courses for $40, kids $15; regular menu also available, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. VU
San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, 619-557-3964 (call 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.). Sit-down dinner at Albert’s, $38, $14 kids, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Buffet at Treetops, $43, kids $16, 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Zoo admission for non-members is extra. Reservations required. KA, VU
Vela, San Diego Bayfront Hilton Hotel, 1 Park Boulevard at Harbor Drive, 619-564-3333. Indoor-outdoor venue with bayfront view, brunch buffet, $70 (with bottomless booze), kids $15, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Westgate Hotel, 1055 2nd Avenue, Downtown, 619-557-3655. Le Fontainebleau champagne buffet, $65, kids $32.50, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. (last seating at 5:00 p.m.); Westgate Room, four-course prix fixe, $59, kids TBA, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Coronado and South Bay
Café La Maze, 1441 Highland Avenue, National City, 619-474-3222. Prix-fixe three-course turkey dinner in historic old steakhouse, $17, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Coronado Boathouse 1887, 1701 Strand Way, Coronado, 619-435-0155. Prix fixe with traditional turkey entrée (light and dark), $35, kids $15, in casual bayfront setting, 2–8 p.m.
Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-522-8490 and 435-6611. Holiday buffets in both the Ballroom, noon–4 p.m., and the gorgeous Crown Room, noon–6 p.m., $90, kids $38. Ice-skating rink outdoors (price not covered in dinner). KA VU
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Road, Silver Strand, Coronado, 619-424-400 x6300. Mistral features chef Patrick Ponsaty’s spectacular three-course prix fixe for $49 (plus regular fall menu), 5–9 p.m. Market Cafe offers a champagne buffet (with “chocolate fountain” for the youngsters) from 1–5 p.m., $59, kids $29. KA VU
Peohe’s, Ferry Landing Marketplace, 1201 First Street, Coronado, 619-437-4474. Waterfront view, tropical decor with waterfalls, turkey dinner with all the trimmings (dark and light meat), $28, kids $11, 11 a.m.–9:00 p.m. KA VU
East County and Far East
Note: Most casinos are in this area and serve lavish T-day dinners in their various venues. Barona (888-722-7662) and Viejas (619-445-5400) are especially known for good food at reasonable prices. Phone for details, hours, and policies regarding children.
Andiamo, 5950 Santo Road, Tierrasanta, 858-277-3501. Three courses, $26, kids $15, 4–9 p.m.
Terra American Bistro, 7091 El Cajon Boulevard, La Mesa, 619-293-7088. Three-course prix fixe, $35 (kiddie meals TBA), seatings at noon, 2:30, 5 p.m.
Pine Hills Lodge, 2960 La Posada Way, Julian, 760-765-1100. Buffet, with seatings at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4 p.m., $40, kids $25.
Rongbranch Restaurant, 2722 Washington Street, Julian, 760-765-2265. Roast-turkey dinner (light and dark), $22, kids $16, à la carte also available, noon–7 p.m.
Most restaurants offering prix-fixe meals include a fish entrée among the choices, and buffets have lavish seafood bars. Top farm-to-fork restaurants (e.g., 1500 Ocean, A.R. Valentien, George’s Modern, Kitchen 1540, Mille Fleurs, Mistral) may be able to accommodate vegetarians with something splendidly meatless; call to inquire (and/or reserve) ASAP. Buffets typically offer numerous meatless choices, but strict vegans need be cautious as ’tis the season for heaps of cream among the greens. Whole Foods has a vegan feast (for one) to go.
The following restaurants are also traditionally open for T-Day. Call to verify and reserve. You can find most at sandiegoreader.com under “Restaurants.” If not, check the phone book or Google.com. They’re listed in geographical order.
Cheap and Friendly (meals $25 or less): Tip-Top Meats (Carlsbad); Encinitas Cafe (Encinitas); Centre City Cafe (Escondido); Nick’s at the Beach (Pacific Beach, open late, football on TV, view); Nick’s at the Pier (Ocean Beach, football there, too, view); Red Sails Inn (Shelter Island); Tickled Trout, Ramada Plaza (Mission Valley); Valley Kitchen, Mission Valley Resort, (Mission Valley); Crest Cafe (Hillcrest); Johnny R’s (North Park).
Convivial Community Favorites: Karl Strauss Brewery (Carlsbad); Chart House (Cardiff); World Famous (Pacific Beach boardwalk, with view and kiddie appeal); Butcher Shop Steakhouse (Kearny Mesa); Kaiserhof (Ocean Beach); Antique Row Cafe (Normal Heights); Thornton’s Irish Pub (El Cajon); Alpine Bread Basket (Alpine).
More Views with Your Chews: Poseidon (Del Mar); Blue Pearl Restaurant, The Dana Hotel (Mission 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). ■