The Last-Minute Guide to Dining Out on Thanksgiving

By Amy Zimmer | November 23, 2011 7:32am
Virgil's BBQ is serving up an 18-pound smoked turkey for groups on Thanksgiving.
Virgil's BBQ is serving up an 18-pound smoked turkey for groups on Thanksgiving.
View Full Caption
Virgil's BBQ

MANHATTAN — There's no need to cook a big turkey in a small New York City apartment when so many restaurants are open on Thanksgiving.

Families who choose to eat out or get delivery on the holiday are part of a growing phenomenon. An estimated 14 million Americans will dine out for Thanksgiving this year and 16 million more will order in to supplement a meal at their own or someone else’s home, according to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association.

New Yorkers are lucky to have options to suit a range of palates and needs.

For meat lovers...

Renowned chef AJ Black has brought Italy’s slow food movement to the Upper East Side’s Il Tesoro, at 1578 First Ave., at East 82nd Street. His Thanksgiving menu will feature "whole animal" tasting menus of wild turkey, suckling pig or lamb (four courses for $70 to $85).

Black, who grew up in the restaurant business in Rome, said that nothing from the animal goes to waste. The bones from the turkey, for instance, are used to make cognac-based gravy.

"We're trying to revive a style that's been around a long time," Black said of his animals. "First you sear it, then you work your way down to make sure it's moist from the inside. … You have to do things slowly. You have to romance your food."

There is also a "traditional" turkey prix-fixe dinner for $50 a person, and vegetarians will have options too, including a cranberry risotto.  

For those who don't eat animals…

The Upper West Side's Peacefood Café, at 460 Amsterdam Ave., at West 82nd Street, will be serving a vegan feast from noon on with such starters as chestnut apple soup ($7.50) and an entrée of toasted tofurkey, crispy "unchicken" cutlet or a "peace loving" lentil loaf made with carrots, celery, cranberries and wheat ($22.50 each.) The entrées come with handmade stuffing, porcini mushroom gravy, kale and mashed purple sweet potatoes.

"Most of the people who come here are either vegan or exploring it, so they’re very excited about the menu," said Kate Skwire, who works at Peacefood. The two-year-old restaurant is hosting its second Thanksgiving. Reservations are still open but, she said, it’s a popular day at the café. "It's a pretty full house because there are not a lot of vegan options around."

For groups or kid-friendly options…

Times Square is a good option for families trekking to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Big groups are welcomed at Virgil’s BBQ, the cavernous restaurant at 152 West 44th St., between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, or for take out. Barbecue and Southern comfort food takes center stage, with an 18-pound smoked turkey the star, next to sides such as the Bayou-inspired crawfish and duck gumbo. It cost $195 for a group of eight to 10 people.

Carmine’s, nearby at 2450 Broadway, is offering a similar deal for a family-style feast ($195 for eight to 10 people) with an 18-pound turkey. The tourist Mecca will be serving up traditional American fare, Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes and apple pie, instead of its usual Italian food.

To escape the Midtown crowds, head to the Lower East Side where Keith McNally's popular Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria, at 282 Bowery, at East Houston Street, is still taking reservations for Thanksgiving. The trendy eatery will be serving its regular menu from 2 to 10 p.m., and will also have a turkey platter with sides like spinach and mashed potatoes for the more traditional-minded ($32).

At Neely’s Barbeque Parlor at 1125 First Ave., executive chef Wade Burch is serving up a three-course meal for $29.95 that includes spinach salad with spiced pecans, slow smoked turkey with cornbread dressing and glazed yams, topped off with pumpkin pie.  The Upper East Side restaurant is also taking orders until 8 p.m. on Wednesday for take out, including a deep-fried turkey and nine sides to feed four ($160).

For those dining solo…

Thanksgiving doesn't need to be a family affair, and many restaurants that are already booked for Thanksgiving accept walk-ins at the bar.

"We have a big bar," said Chris, the manager of Henry's, an American bistro at 2745 Broadway at West 105 Street, which will be serving a three-course turkey dinner ($39 per person or $59 paired with American wines) that will include a warm goat cheese salad, organic roast turkey and a winter fruit cobbler.

"We do a huge Thanksgiving," Chris, a manager of Henry's, said. "We have a waitlist of 40 people, but we have a big bar and are constantly accepting walk-ins. It's first come, first served. … We have no judgments in terms of the size of the party — or the size of cash, for that matter."

Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Harlem, at 310 Lenox Ave., between 125th and 126th streets, is also booked for tables but is accepting walk-ins for its Thanksgiving brunch buffet ($45 from noon to 3 p.m.) and dinner buffet ($55 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.), which will include mac & greens, french toast with cinnamon raisin and nutella whip, and roast turkey with sausage and cornbread stuffing.

The elegant and sleek Americano, at Chelsea's Hotel Americano at 518 West 27th St., will make solo diners feel at home. It's serving a three-course dinner of French-inspired dishes including Duck Foie Gras Terrine and holiday favorites such as roasted turkey with giblet gravy and citrus-cranberry sauce ($65).

For a last-minute meal at home…

Though Butterfield Catering stopped accepting catering orders on Saturday, its Butterfield Market at 1114 Lexington Ave. will have plenty of options to choose from until 1 p.m. on Thursday, said co-owner Joelle Obsatz. Butterfield's catering arm took 600 orders for the holiday.

"We are cooking 190 turkeys, 1,200 pounds of stuffing, 900 pounds of mashed potatoes, 200 sweet potato praline, and over 700 pies — including those sold at the market," according to Obsatz. A "deluxe" dinner package for 12, with whole roasted turkey, sides and apple and pumpkin pies costs $475.

"Thanksgiving is our busiest day," she said. "It's small orders, but a lot of them."

New Yorkers can also choose from nearly 700 restaurants and gourmet groceries through Delivery.com, which will be fully functioning over the holiday.

The site is featuring merchants with special Thanksgiving dinners such as the Amish Market, Kitchenette, and Atomic Wings, which is offering a 12-pound deep fried turkey for $49.99 until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving.