7 Different Ways to Dine Out on Thanksgiving

Why fuss with a turkey when you can let chefs handle the pressure of holiday cooking? Here's a guide to where to dine on Thanksgiving Day.

Photo courtesy of Salt Creek Grille.

Thanksgiving might be the one time of year when we welcome the headache: we buy (or “earn”) the biggest bird, we under-prepare (when in fact you can never have enough warm chicken stock on standby), and we over-extend (“Kristen’s vegan now? Sure, I can convert one of the pies…I think…?”). Try to fit in a last-minute liquor store run and a peek at the Parade and it’s a miracle we don’t crash before the crudités are finished.

Good news: it’s not too late—really—to change your plans, to give tradition a break and dine out this Thanksgiving. Lots of New Jersey restaurants are offering Thanksgiving dinner menus. We chose to highlight this year, is that New Jersey has such a delicious amount of variety when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal. Not that anyone’s veering too far from tradition (not one menu below fails to offer up the requisite bird and only one, we’re pretty sure, is pumpkin dessert-less—see: Anthony Bucco). And maybe it’s no wonder that on the sturdy backbone of the great American food holiday, we’ve built in so many different flavors, new traditions, and even settings. From a bucolic getaway in Hope to pristine and seasonal in Ridgewood to warmly familiar in Rumson, where they’re doing a classic Turkey Day by the sea, here are seven very different ways to dine out—and leave your nice dishes alone—this Thanksgiving in the Garden State.

Refined Family-Style Italian at Felina in Ridgewood

It’s a three-course family-style meal from executive chef Anthony Bucco and chef Martyna Krowicka at Felina this Thanksgiving. And while the menu lists “traditional turkey dinner with the trimmings,” you’ll miss out if you stick squarely to poultry. Flavors, no surprise, are sharp, fresh, confident, gracefully seasonal: Romanesco Cauliflower with Buttermilk Dressing and Pomegranate, Monkfish with Celeriac Puree, Burrata with Kabocha Squash and Lentils, Short Rib with Pickled Red Onion and Charred Broccoli (and yes, there will be pasta—Fusilli with Delicata Squash, Pearl Onion, and Pumpkin Seeds). Dessert will be served, but it’s not pumpkin pie, so prepare any children. Speaking of, it’s $69 for adults and $29 for kids 12 and under and dinner runs 1pm to 7pm. Felina, 54 E. Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 561-276-5454

A la Carte Americana at the Blue Pig Tavern in Cape May

The Ebbitt Room is also doing a Thanksgiving prix fixe this year (groups of six or more can pre-order a whole roasted turkey to eat at the restaurant) but the Blue Pig Tavern has the kind of laid back rusticity that suits a holiday like Thanksgiving—where we’re encouraged to both dress nicely and eat ourselves out of our belts and zippers. Unlike the Ebbitt Room—and most places going buffet style—this is a la carte, meaning you can get any dish you want in their very reasonable price range of $8 (for dishes like Root Vegetable Soup with Four Spice Apples) to $36 (for NY Steak with Wild Mushroom-Brandy Sauce). There is, of course, a Traditional Thanksgiving Roast Turkey Dinner for $29 (with all the fixings) and a Pilgrim Clam Chowder starter for just $8. Definitely a casual option, elegance without fuss, like corduroy pants. Dine anywhere from 2pm to 8pm. Blue Pig Tavern, 200 Congress Place, Cape May; 609-884-8422

Clever and Creative in Haddonfield

Denim has been taking reservations for Thanksgiving for a while now (since October 13 at least), but there’s a chance you might still snag a seat. And what better venue for a cozy, small-scale evening of culinary Americana than David Murray’s chic new incarnation of Denim, with 80-ish seats, chic but charming digs, and a holiday menu that gamely re-energizes Thanksgiving flavors? The day dining includes flavor-packed dishes like Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pepitas and Bacon Vinaigrette, Turkey Bacon-wrapped Turkey Tenderloin, even a vegan Faux Meatloaf with Beet Bordelaise. Round out your night with Modernist Pumpkin Pie, because it’s 2019 and pie isn’t just a tasty circle anymore. Seatings are from 2pm to 7pm and dinner is $45 for adults, $15 for kids, with some vegan and gluten-free options available. Denim BYOB, 116 King’s Highway East, Haddonfield; 856-520-8114

History and Romance at the Inn at Millrace Pond in Hope

If you don’t have any nuptials (yours or someone else’s) coming up, Thanksgiving might be the next best occasion to soak in the romantic rusticity they’ve got going on at the Inn at Millrace Pond in Hope. Lucky for you, they’re doing three seatings for a buffet Thanksgiving dinner in their main dining room. Suiting the surroundings, the night’s menu is nostalgic, homey and comforting (but not lacking elegance). Among the dishes you’ll see on the spread are things like the Inn’s own Butternut Squash Soup, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Hazelnuts, requisite turkey yes but also Applewood Honey Mustard-Glazed Ham and Slow-Roasted Berkshire Pork Roast with Pumpkin Ale Gravy, and desserts including mini pies and cannolis. It’s $49 for adults and $19.95 for kids, with a full cash bar for those so inclined and over 21. Seatings are 11:30am, 2pm, and 4:30pm. Call to make a reservation. The Inn at Millrace Pond, 313 Johnsonburg Road, Hope; 908-459-4884

Eclecticornucopia at the Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick

If this pretty little Instagram post is any indication, Thanksgiving at the Frog and the Peach is going to be like nostalgic flavors wrapped up with a really sleek bow. It’s $58 for three courses here (no word on “kids menu” pricing, or menu, for that matter), and while you’ll definitely find turkey among the Main Course options (Free Range Organic with Black Truffle Stuffing and Cranberry Compote), the menu ranges far more eclectic than your average Turkey Day affair. Jumbo Lump Crab Bowl with Edamame, Pickled Mushrooms, and Old Bay Sushi Rice, Duck and Foie Gras Sausage (a controversial bite given the recent NYC ban), and even Cacio e Pepe with fresh cut, house-made spaghetti among the mains. There is a deconstructed Pumpkin Pie with Pumpkin Custard, Gingerbread, and Maple Yogurt available at dessert, but the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Spiked Eggnog Ice Cream looks a bit more…tempting. Again that’s $58, no drinks or gratuity included, with dinner served from noon to 7pm. The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick; 732-846-3216

Homey Shoreside at the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson

Things are simple—in a good way—at Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, where executive chef Bob Belt has set up a menu that functions both a la carte (go for the Faroe Island Salmon, why not?) or buffet-style, as in the “All You Can Eat” Roast Turkey, which comes with sides like Butternut Squash Soup, Apple Rosemary Stuffing, Sage-Candied Yams, and, intriguingly, Yukon Gold Smashed Apple Pie (there’s also pumpkin, ahem). That option is $35 for grown-ups and $14 for kids, but again you’re welcome to get any of the other a la carte options available during the noon to 7pm service—aforementioned salmon, Mesquite-grilled Filet Mignon, oven-roasted gluten-free Cauliflower Steak for the vegetarian or cauli-phile in your life. No drinks included in the price, but the view is, as always, free. Salt Creek Grille, 4 Bingham Avenue, Rumson; 732-933-9272

Kosher Turkey Asian Fusion at Estihana in Teaneck

Estihana in Teaneck has one of the less traditional—but much more Northern Jersey—Thanksgiving Day menus you’ll find out there. The Kosher Asian and sushi restaurant has a $50 prix fixe menu (plus their regular menu) set up for the holiday. And yes, you’ll absolutely find typical fall flavors like Butternut Squash Soup and Traditional Stuffed Turkey, but then—well, tradition gives way to dishes like the Mini Asian Sampler to start, Crescent Steak, Barbecue Ribs, Salmon Teriyaki, even a Pumpkin Spring Roll for dessert. The first seating is at 12:30pm. Call for your reservation and enjoy a new kind of holiday memory. Estihana, 515 Cedar Lane, Teaneck; 201-530-5665

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