7 Trip-Worthy Thanksgiving Meals

Start a new tradition at one of these restaurants.

It's easy to romanticize Thanksgiving at home: family members happily gathered around the table, endless dishes paraded from the kitchen, and a perfectly cooked turkey presented as the pièce de resistance. The reality tends to be a little different: family squabbles over who sits where, endless dishes to clean up, and a turkey that takes twice as long to cook. Forgo these headaches by allowing some of the country's best restaurants to do the work for you. Perhaps you'll even start a new family tradition in the process.

Muriel's Jackson Square

Put a Creole spin on Thanksgiving by heading to NOLA institution Muriel’s Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. The special three-course menu provides multiple options for each course; debate between turtle soup, fried oyster chowder or duck rilletes—and that’s just the first course. Traditionalists will be glad to find oven-roasted turkey with all the fixings as an entrée option, but don’t rule out the blackened salmon or pecan-coated baby drum instead. Muriel’s is known for its bread pudding, but pumpkin cheesecake pie is on offer too. While dining, keep an eye and ear out for the restaurant’s resident spirits. For better luck, head upstairs to the Séance Lounge afterward, where the manse’s 19th-century owner tends to hang out.

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Bo Zaunders

If you can’t make it to the birthplace of Thanksgiving, enjoy the next best thing at the James Beard House, which hosts a rotating cast of chefs throughout the year. For $170, the New England Thanksgiving menu is the brainchild of Boston-area restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell (Ceia Kitchen + Bar, Brine, Oak + Rowan). Try not to fill up on passed hors d’oeuvres, tempting as it may be to gorge on oyster stuffing in shells and fried turkey with cranberries and sage. The six-course menu awaits with squab breast and fermented corn, brown-butter poached skate and a pumpkin-acorn financier for dessert. (You may also want to pace yourself with the wine pairings that accompany each course.) If you’ve never been, dining in James Beard’s former townhouse is an experience in itself, and you can even watch the chefs prepare the meal in the walk-through kitchen before admiring the courtyard view.

Simon Hare Photographer / The Forge Restaurant

Even if you’re lucky enough to spend the holidays in a bathing suit, make the effort to dress up a bit for Thanksgiving at The Forge, a Miami institution in trendy Mid-Beach. Although it’s best known as a steakhouse, don’t worry because roast turkey breast is the star of the four-course menu, complete with fennel sausage stuffing and giblet gravy. A pumpkin roll with cream cheese and spiced walnuts tops off the feast. In between bites, ogle at the over-the-top décor—think Murano glass chandeliers—the result of a $10 million renovation back in 2010. (Mind you, the current design is toned down from its earlier heyday.) While there, be sure to ask about its history, which, at different points in time, was the hangout spot for everyone from the Rat Pack to Madonna.

Salish Lodge & Spa, Snoqualmie, Washington

Thomas M. Barwick / Salish Lodge and Spa

Get off the grid at this four-star property half an hour from Seattle. In a refreshing change, the four-course, prix-fix menu not only serves the turkey entrée family style, but carves it tableside as well. The fixings entail cranberry relish, pan gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, honey-glazed baby carrots and sage and sausage stuffing. Vegetarians can opt for butternut squash risotto or pan-seared salmon. Other menu highlights are foraged mushroom bisque and good ol’ pumpkin pie with whipped cream. (Get the chocolate pecan pie too.) Continue the indulgent theme by spending the rest of your time decompressing at the on-site, full-service spa. 

Brasserie Jo, Boston

Brasserie Jo

True, Brasserie Jo specializes in French fare, but this also gives you the opportunity to order the French Turkey Dinner. This option includes twists on your favorites, including Brussels sprouts with lardons, sweet potato croquette and cauliflower gratin. However, Thanksgiving purists in the group can opt for the traditional turkey menu, with familiar mashed potatoes, maple squash and wild mushroom stuffing accompanying the turkey breast. Purist or not, pumpkin rum cake is a worthwhile take on the classic dessert. Thanksgiving reservations will be included for guests who choose the Turkey and Tots package while staying at the attached Colonnade Hotel. As a bonus, the package deal means that pumpkin rum cake (or any dessert) is free.

Nico Osteria, Chicago

Fogelson Jetel

Combine your love of Italian and turkey at this rustic space inside the Thompson Hotel (which is convenient if you prefer to immediately sleep off the annual eating frenzy). Besides the obligatory turkey entrée (or a smoked pork chop with polenta if that’s your thing), indulge in sweet potato ravioli, butternut squash bisque with pancetta or mafalda with turkey Bolognese. The grand finale on the $85 prix-fix menu is pumpkin pie with spiced gelato and caramel sauce.

Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg, California

Enjoy a very wine country Turkey Day at this Sonoma County favorite owned by celeb chef Charlie Palmer. Give thanks for a bountiful three-course menu where the starters alone will stump you: will it be pheasant and prosciutto tortellini, house-cured lamb with a pumpkin-spiced yeast roll, or a butterhead salad with a pomegranate reduction dressing? Deciding on an entrée might be easier since BN Ranch turkey with sweet potato shepherd’s pie and orange-cranberry relish is a signature dish. Then again, so is the 48-hour shortrib with sautéed bone marrow and charred endive. Either way, save room for marbled pumpkin cheesecake and old-fashioned apple crisp—and their accompanying ice creams. Even better, Dry Creek Kitchen is located smack dab in the town square; beyond prime people watching thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, there are enough boutique-filled blocks to walk off the inevitable food coma.

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