Printing a list of restaurants open for Thanksgiving has become a Reader tradition, and it’s worth noting up front that nearly every restaurant open for T-Day is also likely to serve brunch or dinner on Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s, Easter, Arbor Day, Songkran, Divali, Eid al-Fitr, and Yom Kippur. (Well, when the fast’s finished, folks feel famished!) So clip and save this article if you’re looking ahead to eat out on future holidays.
With increasing numbers of busy people celebrating Thanksgiving with “dinner out,” more and more restaurants have jumped on what is, after all, a potential cash cow. In past years, we tried to make our list as inclusive as possible, until it swelled to the size of the Goodyear blimp. Everyone at the paper who had to deal with it — from my saintly copy editor to perfect proofreader to the makeup guys trying to put lipstick on the wriggling, bloated pig — was moaning about the monster.
Well, times are leaner this year, and so is this column. Sorry I’ve got to cut you loose a bit, but the detailed list is down to restaurants known for good food (plus a few whimsies that sound like special fun). At the end you’ll find groups of restaurants I can’t necessarily vouch for personally (so caveat emptor), under the categories Cheap and Friendly, Convivial Community Favorites, and Views While You Chew, plus a few listings each for Singles’ Scenes and Seniors’ Scenes. I know you’re intelligent people (after all, you read the Reader), so I trust you can find your way to the website (SDReader.com), where you will find basic information on most of these places, or to the phone book to call for specifics and reservations.
Yes, you really do have to reserve at nearly any restaurant for T-Day, and it’s best to call ASAP. Some top restaurants may be fully booked already, and many require a credit card number, which will be charged if you’re a no-show.
The restaurants listed below are arranged by geographical area, so you need not drive vast distances while drowsy. If there’s nothing in your area, or you’re planning on a nearby getaway, most large hotels (check the Yellow Pages), resorts, and gambling casinos offer Thanksgiving dinners. If you’re desperate and stuck in a restaurant-starved region, many suburban chains (Boston Market, Marie Callender’s, Mimi’s, et al.) will also be serving a holiday menu of their customary quality.
Prices quoted below do not include tip, tax, or beverages. “Kiddie prices” generally apply to children 5–12 (sometimes 3–12). Most prices are for multicourse meals or all-you-can-eat buffets, but a few are for à la carte.
Enjoying ready-made feasts at home is a growing option. Choices range from buying side dishes and desserts, to purchasing a turkey that’s more savory than a supermarket-roasted bird, on up to the entire meal — often for little more than you’d spend to cook it all yourself. The following sources all offer reliably good cooking:
Barnes BBQ, 2625 Lemon Grove Avenue (at Cypress, tucked in the back of Liquor Mart Square), Lemon Grove, 619-462-9206. BYO Bird: Tote a fully thawed raw turkey to the BBQ, and they’ll smoke-cook it for you for $1.25 per pound. (They do this for Christmas, too.) You can pick it up on Wednesday, along with sides of cornbread, pies, veggies, etc. Call before Tuesday morning to reserve your smoking time.
D.Z. Akin’s, 6930 Alvarado Road, off 70th Street/Lake Murray Road, San Diego, 619-265-0218. Turkey and trimmings, plus breads and rolls, for pickup on Wednesday. Call daytimes for details and price; order as soon as possible.
Magnolias, Market Creek Square, 342 Euclid Avenue (off Market Street), Lincoln Park, 619-262-6005. A soul-satisfying Cajun-Creole dinner is yours to take home for $197 (to feed 10–12), or you can just pick up some sublime Southern desserts such as pecan pie. Call by November 21 to reserve dinner, and pick it up hot on Thursday.
Mardi Gras Café & Marketplace, 3185 Midway Drive, Loma Portal, 619-223-5501. Cajun-style marinated deep-fried turkey, $5 per pound ($4 per pound if you bring a thawed bird), pick up on Wednesday or early Thursday. Order up to two days before. They can also furnish tasty Louisiana-style side dishes.
Pamplemousse (see North Coast). Gourmet takeout T-Day dinners for six people or more are available from this famed destination at $50 per person for a full meal. Reserve until November 25, and pick up on T-Day.
St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro, locations in Encinitas, Rancho Bernardo, Hillcrest, Horton Plaza, and downtown on Broadway and in Little Italy, call 1-800-NEXTPARTY. You can get the whole megillah, including roast free-range turkey to feed 8–10 for $199, or to feed 12–15 at $299, with all the trimmings and choice of house-baked pies. Turkey and/or sides also available separately. Order 72 hours in advance, pick up Wednesday or Thursday at the nearest location, or get delivery for $50 more.
Savory (see North Coast). Take home a hot dinner serving 10–12 for $290, including a 15-pound roast turkey with all the trimmings and dessert. Order by Sunday night, pick up on T-Day.
Whole Foods Market, locations in Hillcrest (619-294-2800) and La Jolla (858-642-6700) will have full Thanksgiving (and Christmas) meals, available for ordering starting November 13. Get an organic turkey dinner for six (starting at $110), a ham dinner, or a festive vegan meal for one. Order deadline is the Monday prior to the holiday. Pick-up available on Wednesday and during Thanksgiving Day (open 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Hillcrest and 7:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. La Jolla).
Arterra, San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley, 858-369-6032. Three-course prix-fixe dinner with fresh farm-to-table produce, $40, kids $20, 1:00–6:00 p.m.
Dining Room at the Inn, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-1131. Huge buffet in beautiful setting, $60, kids $24, 11:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, 760-603-3773 for all restaurants. Argyle Cafe (on golf course) 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. and California Bistro 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Buffet, $85, kids $42.50, with kids’ activities and optional kiddie buffet table. Vivace Restaurant, deluxe four-course menu, $110, kids $38, 3:00–8:00 p.m.
Grand Del Mar, 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, Carmel Valley, 858-314-2030. Addison: à la carte or seven-course taster menu $150, $285 with matched wines, no kiddie prices, 5:30–10:00 p.m. Amaya: three-course meal noon–8:00 p.m., $65, $100 with wine. Manchester Salon: buffet, $85, $40 kids, 11:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-793-6460. In newly renovated setting, chef Paul McCabe’s three-course prix-fixe dinner, $49, $24 kids, noon–8:00 p.m.
Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-756-3085. Four-course dinner by renowned chef Martin Woesle, call for price (expensive), 1:00–7:00 p.m. Reserve ASAP; this one always fills up early.
Pacifica Del Mar, Del Mar Plaza, 1555 Camino Del Mar (at 15th Street), Del Mar, 858-792-0476. Chef Chris Idso’s three-course dinner, choice of entrées, $38–$48, kids $16, noon–9:00 p.m.
Pamplemousse Grille, 514 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-792-9090. Chef Jeffrey Strauss' magnificent four-course dinner with choice of entrées, $55, kids $24, 2:30–7:00 p.m.
Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 858-759-6216. Four-course meal with several entrée choices in beautiful surroundings, $78, kids half-price, toddlers less, noon–7:30 p.m.
Red Tracton’s, 550 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-755-6600. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner $30 per person; whole turkey carved at table for $35 per person ($27 kids) for tables of four or more (reserve five days ahead), seatings at 2:00, 4:00, 6:30 p.m.
Savory, 267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-5556. Chef Pascal Vignau’s three-course à la carte meal with choice of entrées, $39.50–$46, 11:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Bernard’O, 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, Rancho Bernardo, 858-487-7171. Tasteful live music, lovely room, super-chef Patrick Ponsaty’s à la carte menu (turkey entrée, $20), three-course dinner, $35–$40 plus tip, tax, bev; regular kiddie menu available, 1:00–7:30 p.m.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive (at Rancho Bernardo Road), 858-675-8500. Aragon Ballroom buffet brunch, $66, kids $25 (including free pony ride!) to age 14, a famously lavish spread, 11:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Veranda Bar and Grille, 858-675-8555, three-course meal, $46, kids $25, 11:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m. El Bizcocho, 858-675-8550, four courses, $75 adult, $110 with matching wines, kids $25, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Wild Animal Park, Nairobi Pavilion, 760-738-5055 (call 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.). Buffet dinner $43, kids $18 (aged 3–11), seatings at noon and 3:00 p.m. Reservations required. Free entry to park for members; nonmembers must pay regular admission.
La Jolla and Golden Triangle
A.R. Valentien, Lodge at Torrey Pines, 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-777-6635. Beautiful spot, fabulous food: chef Jeff Jackson’s three-course holiday dinner, $75, kids $30, noon–9:00 p.m.
Estancia La Jolla, 9700 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-964-6500. À la carte breakfast 6:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Prix-fixe three courses, $49, $75 with wine, kiddie menu à la carte, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
George’s at the Cove, 1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858-454-4244. À la carte menu of chef Trey Foshee’s seasonal specials in the California Modern dining room, entrées alone, $26–$44; more casual, moderately priced menu with a view at theOcean Terrace, 1:00–9:00 p.m.
Jack’s La Jolla, 7863 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, 858-456-8111. Chef Tony DiSalvo’s à la carte menus with Thanksgiving specials, expensive. Ocean Room 3:00–7:00 p.m.; Viaggio 4:00–8:00 p.m.
La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect Street (at Herschel), La Jolla, 858-454-0771. Mediterranean Room buffet 1:00, 4:00 p.m. (sold out for 6:30 p.m.), $69, $35 kids. Call for details on Whaling Bar and Grill and Sky Room.
Marine Room, 2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, 858-459-7222. Chef Bernard Guillas’s à la carte holiday menu with a close-up ocean view and adventurous cuisine, expensive, noon–7:00 p.m.
Nine-Ten, Grande Colonial Hotel, 910 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858-964-5400. Chef Jason Knibb rides the range at a three-course Thanksgiving menu with a choice of entrées, $49, kids $25, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Sante, 7811 Herschel Avenue, La Jolla, 858-454-1315. Regular menu with T-Day specials at local Italian favorite, three courses about $50, 11:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Torreyana Grille, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, 10950 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858-450-4571. Lavish holiday buffet, $54 including glass of champagne, kids $24, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Bahia Resort Hotel, 998 West Mission Bay Drive, Mission Beach, 858-539-7635. Champagne brunch buffet in ballroom, $40, kids $20, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., with a free cruise on a sternwheeler.
Baleen, Paradise Point Resort, 1404 Vacation Road, Mission Bay, 858-490-6363. Brunch buffet in charming resort setting bedecked with monkey-theme decor, $68, kids $28, noon–7:00 p.m.
Humphrey’s by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island, 619-224-3577. Champagne brunch with a marina view and live jazz, $50, kids $17, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Island Prime, 880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island, 619-298-6802. Chef Deborah Scott’s three-course menu in scenic setting, $50, kids $13, two-hour time limit for eating, 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Jordan (JRDN), 723 Felspar Street, Pacific Beach, 858-270-5736. À la carte oceanside dinner, upper moderate to expensive, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Red Marlin, Hyatt Hotel, 1441 Quivira Road, Mission Beach, 619-221-4810. Buffet $39, kids $15 (with optional special kiddie buffet), 4:00–8:00 p.m.
Thee Bungalow, 4996 West Point Loma Boulevard, Ocean Beach, 619-224-2884. Three-course dinner in cozy cottage, entrée choices including duck, turkey, sirloin, bass, $50, kids $15, 1:00–8:00 p.m.
Mission Valley and the Mesas
94th Aero Squadron, 8885 Balboa Avenue, Kearny Mesa, 858-560-6771. Traditional buffet including a glass of champagne, plus eggnog and fruit punches, in a fab faux-farmhouse with airport view, $28, kids $14, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Metropolitan San Diego
Bertrand at Mister A’s, 2550 Fifth Avenue, uptown, 619-239-1377. A spectacular view, and chef Stéphane Voitzwinkler’s three-course dinner, $55, kids’ menu $20–$25, 1:30–8:00 p.m.
El Fandango, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 2734 Calhoun Street, 619-298-2860. Whole turkey and trimmings, $27 per person for three or more, you take home the leftovers, noon–5:00 p.m.
Imperial House, 505 Kalmia (at Sixth Avenue), uptown, 619-234-3525. Four-course dinner by Balboa Park, many entrée choices, $30, kids $20, 1:00–7:00 p.m.
Inn at the Park, 525 Spruce Street (Fifth Avenue), Hillcrest, 619-291-0999. A jolly, gay atmosphere (in all senses of the word) with sing-along show tunes from the piano bar and a T-day spread for $29 (no kid price), with seatings at 2:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m.
Lael’s Restaurant, Manchester Grand Hyatt, One Market Place, downtown, 619-358-6735. Huge buffet, $59, seniors $54, kids $28, 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Maryjane’s Coffee Shop, Hard Rock Hotel, 207 Fifth Avenue (L Street), Gaslamp Quarter, 619-764-6950. All-American basics in a jokey ’50s soda-shop atmosphere, three classic courses for $26, 6:30–10:00 p.m.
McCormick and Schmick’s, Omni Hotel, 675 L Street (at Sixth Avenue), downtown, 619-645-6545. Three-course prix-fixe $30, kids $13, plus regular à la carte (turkey entrée, $20), 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
The Prado, House of Hospitality, 1549 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-557-9441. Three courses in beautiful park setting, garden patio, with a glass of champagne, $55, $15 kids.
Quarter Kitchen, Ivy Hotel, 600 F Street at Sixth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-814-1000. À la carte dinner from famed British chef. Call for hours, prices, reservations.
Rei do Gado, 939 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-702-8464. Brazilian skewer-grilled meats including turkey, plus side dishes. Lunch $28.50, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Dinner $48, 4:00–about 10:00 p.m. Kids half-price at both meals.
San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, 619-557-3964 (call 10 a.m.–4 p.m.). Sit-down dinner at Albert’s, $40, $15 kids, noon–4:00 p.m. Buffet at Treetops, $43, $18 kids, same time frame. Zoo admission for nonmembers is extra. Reservations required.
Sevilla, 555 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-5979. Spanish food with some seasonal specials, à la carte, 5:00–11:00 p.m.
Terra, 1270 Cleveland Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-293-7088. Three-course holiday dinner with main-course choices and creative twists, including optional vegetarian entrée, $39, kids $12.50, seatings at 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, and 6:30 p.m.
Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue, downtown, 619-557-3655 for any of the three venues. Le Fontainebleau and Versailles Ballroom, champagne buffet, $65, kids $32.50, 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. Le Grand Café, four-course prix-fixe, $59, kids half price, 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Coronado and South Bay
Coronado Boathouse 1887, 1701 Strand Way, Coronado, 619-435-0155. À la carte with traditional turkey entrée, $30, kids $16, in charming, view-endowed casual bayfront setting.
Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-522-8490 and 435-6611. Holiday buffets in both the Ballroom and the gorgeous Crown Room, $84, kids $37.50, prepaid (credit cards charged immediately over phone), November 23 is last chance to back out. Sheerwater, à la carte, regular hours and menu with holiday specials. 1500 Ocean, deluxe four-course menu from fine chef Brian Sinnott, $75–$90, kids $35, 4:00–9:00 p.m.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Road, Silver Strand, Coronado. Market Café, 619-424-4444, family atmosphere, huge brunch buffet, $62, kids $31, noon–5:00 p.m.
Peohe’s, Ferry Landing Marketplace, 1201 First Street, Coronado, 619-437-4474. Waterfront view, tropical decor, special holiday menu, and à la carte, including turkey dinner entrée, $27, kids $10, 11:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
East County and Far East
Barona Valley Ranch Resort, 888-722-7662. Barona Oaks, prix-fixe three courses, $42, $70 with wine, plus à la carte choices, 5:00–10:00 p.m. Ranch House, buffet, $30, 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Rongbranch Restaurant, 2722 Washington Street, Julian, 760-765-2265. Turkey dinner, $22, $17 kids, à la carte also available, 1:00 –7:00 p.m.
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The following restaurants traditionally have been open on Thanksgiving Day. Call for details of this year’s feast and to reserve. Some are listed in more than one category because they fit more than one. You can find most on the Reader website (SDReader.com) under “Food & Drink,” on the top far right of the site; many have capsule reviews. The few that may have escaped our octopoidal embrace can be found in the phone book for their area. They’re listed below in geographical order, roughly north to south, coast to far east.
Cheap and Friendly (Meals Under $25): Tip-Top Meats (Carlsbad); Encinitas Cafe (Encinitas); Centre City Café (Escondido); Nick’s at the Beach (Pacific Beach, open late, football on TV); Nick’s at the Pier (Ocean Beach, football there too); Bali Hai (Shelter Island); Red Sails Inn (Shelter Island); the Boathouse (Harbor Island): Tickled Trout, Ramada Plaza (Mission Valley); Valley Kitchen, Mission Valley Resort, (MV); Crest Cafe (Hillcrest); Hob Nob Hill (uptown); Johnny R’s (North Park).
Convivial Community Favorites: The Quail Inn (two dining venues) (San Marcos); Bellefleur (Carlsbad); Karl Strauss Brewery (Carlsbad); Chart House (Cardiff); World Famous (Pacific Beach); Butcher Shop Steakhouse (Kearny Mesa); Kaiserhof (Ocean Beach); Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (Harbor Island); Antique Row Cafe (Normal Heights); Crest Cafe (Hillcrest); Hob Nob Hill (uptown); Cafe de la Maze (National City); Thornton’s Irish Pub (El Cajon); Alpine Bread Basket (Alpine).
Views with Your Chews (Beautiful Settings and/or Decor): Quail Inn (San Marcos); Ocean House (Carlsbad); La Costa Resort (La Costa); Paradise Grill (Del Mar, ask for patio); Poseidon (Del Mar); World Famous (Pacific Beach boardwalk); Atoll Restaurant, Catamaran Resort (Mission Beach); Blue Pearl Restaurant, the Dana Hotel (Mission Beach); Bali Hai (Shelter Island); Harbor’s Edge, Sheraton Hotel (Shelter Island); Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (Harbor Island); the Boathouse (Harbor Island); Buster’s Beach House (Seaport Village); Hornblower Cruises (book at hornblower.com).
Some Singles Scenes: Poseidon (Del Mar); Nick’s (OB and PB); World Famous (PB); Mary Jane’s (Gaslamp); Sevilla (Gaslamp).
Some Seniors Scenes: Quail Inn (San Marcos); the Shores (La Jolla); Red Sails (Shelter Island); Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (Shelter Island); Hob Nob Hill (uptown); Le Grand Café, Westgate Hotel (downtown).