Let’s get this not-so-surprising fact out of the way right up front: Not everyone likes preparing and serving Thanksgiving dinner.
But surely almost everyone enjoys eating it.
“I highly recommend letting professionals cook this meal for you, and there are some real advantages to going out,” said Arthur Gordon, owner of Raleigh’s Irregardless Café, which will serve more than 700 people in the 125-seat restaurant this Thanksgiving Day. “Not everyone likes to eat the same thing. Plus, you can just sit down and relax, and nobody is stuck in the kitchen having to clean up afterward.”
Apparently folks in the Triangle have received the memo. By mid-September, Raleigh’s Angus Barn was fully booked for Thanksgiving with a jam-packed waitlist to boot.
Other area restaurants are seeing increasing interest from customers wanting to dine out for the holiday. At Chef’s Palette in Cary, proprietor Kathie Clark has noticed a continuing upward trend in receiving reservations.
“People are realizing that it’s more important to be with family and enjoy themselves rather than worrying about all the other hassle involved,” Clark said.
Here’s the good news: We found plenty of places that are open and ready to serve you on Thanksgiving Day. Choose quickly, though. Seats fill up faster than your uncle Bob after going back for seconds.
3460 Ten Ten Road, Suite 118, Cary
Setting: Open since 2010, what once leaned heavily toward Cajun-inspired cuisine has evolved into a Southern American bistro. The regular menu ranges from specialties like pan-seared duck breast and filet mignon to casual favorites such as fish ’n’ chips and pulled pork nachos.
“What I love about chef Ryan Summers is his passion for creating exceptional dishes from scratch,” Clark said.
The warm, inviting dining room features blown-glass light fixtures and exquisite, gallery-worthy local artwork.
“A feature wall is dedicated to a different artist each month,” she said. “Everything is for sale, and I don’t take a commission.”
Distinctive Thanksgiving offerings: Don’t miss the melt-in-your-mouth slow-roasted New York strip. “It’s seasoned with rosemary, sage, kosher salt, onion, white and black pepper and garlic salt,” said Summers. “I cook it low and slow in the Alto-Shaam (oven) for four to five hours.”
Traditional items include honey-glazed ham, oven-roasted turkey breast, sage and sausage stuffing, Boursin mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and orange cranberry relish.
Dessert anyone? You’re more than covered with creme brulee, flourless chocolate torte, chocolate and pumpkin mousse, petit fours, turtle cheesecake — and pumpkin and pecan pies, of course.
Price and particulars: $37 for adults; $18 for children aged 6-12; kids aged 0-5 eat free.
Served from noon to 5:30 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended.
Deans Kitchen + Bar
1080 Darrington Drive, Cary
Setting: This modern American restaurant procures seafood, meats, vegetables, dairy and fruit from North Carolina farmers and suppliers. The commitment to local and regional sourcing provides Dean’s the flexibility to offer a menu that changes with the seasons.
Standout dishes include grilled fish tacos, buttermilk chicken and waffles, and lobster and blue crab mac’n’cheese. Think elevated comfort food. Build your own entree by choosing from among more than a dozen proteins plus two sides.
“Our weekend brunch is extremely popular and draws big crowds,” said manager Ben Ryan.
Distinctive Thanksgiving offerings: From the well-stocked buffet, get your fill of made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes, fried chicken, salmon and even raw oysters on the half shell.
“We have some guests who come in just for the oysters,” said Ryan.
Craving conventional Thanksgiving fare? You’ll find turkey, ham, stuffing and other requisite sides plus pies, cake and fresh fruit. And perhaps you can start a new tradition at the make-your-own s’mores station.
Price and particulars: The buffet is $45 for adults; $15 for children aged 3-10. Served from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call for reservations.
901 West Morgan St., Raleigh
Setting: Trailblazer Arthur Gordon started Irregardless as Raleigh’s first vegetarian restaurant in 1975. The venerable farm-to-table restaurant has expanded its menu over the years and offers live music every night.
“We like to think of ourselves as having a plant-based menu,” Gordon said. “If you want protein, you can add whatever one you like – beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, shrimp, scallops or duck. But we still feature the vegetables.”
Distinctive Thanksgiving offerings: Try the stuffed acorn squash (or pumpkin, if it is offered) suffused with mango salsa and quinoa.
“We’ll offer prime rib, fresh fish and several other vegetarian options, but most people will order our standard turkey dinner,” said Gordon. “Our secret to serving moist, tender turkey is to brine it and to wait for an hour or so after it comes out of the oven to carve it.”
If you enjoy leftovers, consider the convenient takeaway option.
“We’ll sell you half a pound of turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce and bread, and you can enjoy it the next day,” said Gordon.
Price and particulars: Order from the menu a la carte or pay $30 a person for the turkey dinner. Service is from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Live entertainment (soft background music) will be presented. Call early for reservations. Takeout Thanksgiving meals for six to eight people are available. Irregardless is also open on Christmas Day.
301 South Academy St., Cary
Setting: Situated inside the Mayton Inn, downtown Cary’s stylish boutique hotel, Verandah offers guests finely executed contemporary Southern fare. Ingredients are locally sourced, and you can taste the freshness whether you order the Joyce Farms chicken breast or the signature shrimp and grits.
It’s all served in a relaxed yet posh environment.
“We encourage people to come as they are, and enjoy a comfortable experience,” said Deanna Crossman, who owns the business with her husband Colin.
Executive chef Steve Zanini honed his culinary skills at Jimmy V’s Steakhouse, Midtown Grille and his own family’s restaurant. At Verandah, he stays true to his roots while executing innovative twists to classic dishes.
Distinctive Thanksgiving offerings: An imaginative duck confit hash features fingerling potatoes, roasted tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Vegan-friendly selections abound, including squash and black-eyed-pea succotash, braised collard greens and arugula-laced quinoa salad with dried apricot, tomato, cucumber and a charred ginger dressing.
Be sure to indulge in the rewarding sweet potato hash with apples, pecans and a graham cracker crust.
“We use Granny Smith apples, brown sugar and a pumpkin spice that we make in house,” Zanini said.
Traditional meats like turkey breast with giblet gravy and prime rib with mustard horseradish, horseradish cream and au jus will be front and center. They match nicely with whipped sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and green bean casserole.
Price and particulars: The buffet is $55 for adults; $10 for kids under 12. Served 11 a.m-3 p.m. Thanksgiving specials are available for dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended. Verandah’s spacious outdoor terrace will be accessible if weather permits.
“We also serve a buffet at Christmas, just with different items,” Deanna Crossman said.
Additional Restaurants Open for Thanksgiving
D & S Cafeteria, Raleigh
Traditional items including turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole
Herons at The Umstead Hotel and Spa, Cary
Buffet featuring carved turkey, truffle macaroni and cheese, and cornbread stuffing
Kababish Café, Cary
Indian/Pakistani buffet with tandoori masala turkey, roasted butternut squash and more
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, Cary
Serving regular menu plus traditional turkey dinner
Rye Bar and Southern Kitchen
A family-style meal from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner specials featuring ham or turkey and traditional Southern sides
Rey’s Restaurant, Raleigh
Serving a four-course meal including soup, salad, ham or turkey (or both) with two sides and dessert.