Can you believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner? If cooking the big holiday meal stresses you out, don’t fear: everyone from your local deli to your favorite restaurant will likely offer Thanksgiving meals.
But, even if you leave all the cooking to the professionals, you’ll need a strategy and some preparation. Here are four tips gathered from top New York area chefs and a Michelin inspector to ensure the most stress-free, cook-free and festive Thanksgiving ever.
Tip #1: If you want to go out, book ASAP. “By now, most restaurants are filling up or almost full. For sure if you have a party over two or three, I would call your favorite restaurant and ask to pull some favors,” said Willis Loughhead, executive chef at The Plaza, which has been hosting Thanksgiving since 1899. If your favorite restaurants are booked, your best bet for a table is “very early or toward the end of service,” Loughhead said, but call first.
Tip #2: If you can’t go out, bring the restaurant home. “Taking prepared foods home, or having food catered allows you to enjoy a part of that restaurant experience, but at your leisure and in your own space,” said celebrity chef Todd English, whose The Plaza Food Hall by Todd Englishwill offer an “everything but the oven” gourmet dinner to go for six to eight (His other restaurants, Ca Va Brasserie and Olives will serve Thanksgiving meals). Loughhead suggested the Plaza’s first-ever takeout meal, as well as those at Zabar’s and Dean & DeLuca.
Tip #3: Go for easy, ready-made snacks to start the meal. “I love Trader Joes’ tapenades, cheeses, dips and already-sliced salamis from Murray’s and fresh bread from Amy’s,” said Robb Garceau, executive chef at Union Square Events, the catering arm of Danny Meyer’s restaurant group. But in order to avoid a last-minute rush, “make sure you call ahead for their hours,” Garceau said.
Tip #4: Pick the perfect ready-made dessert. Sure, homemade pumpkin pie would be nice, but pastry chef Andrea Lekberg, of The Artist Baker in Morristown, N.J., who also sells her confections at Dean & DeLuca, likes the pumpkin, southern pecan pie and sour cream apple pies at D&D. She also recommends Sweet Revenge (62 Carmine St., 212-242-2240), which “makes great anything. I would get the Pumpkin Crumble and Apple Cranberry pies,” she said. Need cheesecake? Lekberg loves the Pumpkin Nuage cake at Lady M Confections (41 E. 78th St., 212-452-2222).
Michelin tips on where to dine:
Michelin’s “famously anonymous” inspectors gave us some traditional, if pricey, Thanksgiving restaurant recommendations:
Jean-Georges: “Not only will you feast on the most exquisite Thanksgiving meal — certain to contain some foie gras — but you will have a front row [seat] to the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.” (1 Central Park W., 212-299-3900, Four seatings are offered from 12 noon through 10:30 p.m. The pre-fixe four-course meal is $128.)
Gordon Ramsay at The London: “The luxurious menu … is fitting for this unique and special setting. I can almost guarantee that the in-laws will be joyous company [here].” (151 W. 54th St., 212-468-8888, Reservations are available from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and t the prix-fixe is $150)
Aureole: “Whether you get here dressed up or want to show up dressed down … Aureole will offer a progressive Thanksgiving menu.” (135 W. 42nd St., 212-319-1660. A Thanksgiving brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at $250 per person; a Thanksgiving three-course prix fixe dinner will be served from 1:30 to 9 p.m. Prix-fixe is $115).
Or... go untraditional
Traditional turkey not your thing? Here are some offbeat, and less expensive, ways to spend Thanksgiving, according to one Michelin inspector.
At Al Bustan (319 E. 53rd St., 212-759-5933)
“take a tour of the rich cuisine of Lebanon.” Here, you can take advantage of an “excellent, traditional, family-style menu, with warm hospitality all day on Thanksgiving.”
If a Mexican fiesta is more your style, consider El Paso Taqueria (several locations, but the inspector calls the 237 E. 116th St. one, "the sweet spot”). “Get ready for a mouthwatering turkey dinner with Mexican fixin’s… think rich, dark mole, wild pumpkins, tamales from the Gods.”
At Christos Steakhouse (4108 23rd Ave., Astoria, 718-777-8400) in Queens, try a spit-roasted baby lamb instead of oven-roasted turkey.
At “stellar steakhouse” Peter Luger Steakhouse (178 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-387-7400), “porterhouse-by-the-person is business as usual . Though offbeat, this choice is popular. Reservations are highly recommended.