Brined bone-in turkey breast with gravy, charred Brussels sprouts with bacon gremolata, cornbread dressing with roasted mushrooms and artichoke hearts, homemade cranberry sauce, and pumpkin cheesecake with a Biscoff crust. That is the menu at our house next Thursday. I regret to write that our little bungalow is too small to seat all of you, even in Mrs. Wilkes-ean shifts, so you will have to trust the post-meal reviews from my wife and her sister.
Do not despair, food friends. If your own Thanksgiving plans are yet to be plucked or you have not gone shopping yet, maybe this is the year that you forgo the preparations, the hosting, and the sink-filled aftermath. Join the thousands who will be vacationing in Savannah over the long holiday weekend and treat yourself to this annual feast by dining out at one of the many local restaurants that will be open next Thursday and that have designed special Thanksgiving Day menus.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and Dine newsletters
To save you the Googling or a phone call, I confirmed that these favorites will be closed, giving their respective staffs a well-earned day off on Thursday: Atlantic, Cha Bella, Churchill’s, Circa 1875, Cohen’s Retreat, Cotton & Rye, Elizabeth on 37th, 45 Bistro, The Grey, Husk, La Scala, Prohibition, Vic’s, and the three Daniel Reed Hospitality properties (Local 11ten, The Public, and Soho South).
Among those still to pick from are a number of the city’s most reliable kitchens. If any of the following eateries are on your four-star shortlist, imagine what these chefs and their teams will do with a turkey and all the fixins.
As of last week, The Pirates’ House was already booked solid for its huge buffet, which is no great loss for locals because of the other options out there. The Olde Pink House is also open but also is full in its main dining room, though the first-come, first-served Arches Bar - both indoors and out - will be offering the same three-course menu ($60 a person) with no reservations required. If I were not roasting a bird myself, I would hurry up and call Geneva Wade at her eponymous Famous Chicken & Cornbread Co. to place my catered order. Tender for tender and yam for yam, the Wades make Savannah’s best food, so whether you order the holiday package starring a baked ($125), boneless ($99), or fried turkey ($135) or a roasted chicken ($85) or baked ham ($99), each accompanied by dressing, your choice of two sides, two loaves of cornbread, and a gallon of tea, you and yours are going to eat well. Call now because Miss Geneva and her wonderful family are not going to be able to feed all y’all.
PRETEND YOU ARE ON VACATION
As expected, the restaurants housed in Savannah’s bigger or boutiquier hotels will be open and have planned special Thanksgiving menus. My ‘eat-search’ yielded an enticing array of alternatives, including Aqua Star (The Westin), The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market (Perry Lane), 1540 Room (The DeSoto), Moss + Oak (Hyatt Regency), Pacci (The Klimpton Brice), Rhett (The Alida), Rocks on the River (The Bohemian), 700 Drayton (The Mansion on Forsyth Park), St. Neo’s (The Drayton), and 22 Square (Andaz).
Remember my refrain, food friends: the restaurant in the hotel is not merely a ‘hotel restaurant’. Whether you live in Isle of Hope or on Islamorada, you will be treated to a quality dining experience at any of these establishments. If it were my money and my tummy, I would start with 1540 Room, St. Neo’s, Rhett, and The Emporium, probably but loosely in that order.
Whether you want to dine early or late in the day, The DeSoto Hotel is a great choice. A buffet will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($65 per adult, $18 per child) in the Oglethorpe Ballroom and features four meat mains at the carving stations, seven other substantial entrées and sides at the main buffet, and a half-dozen desserts. From 5 to 9 p.m., executive chef Will Bunting and his talented team will be serving a Thanksgiving ‘Pre-Fixed’ Menu in 1540 Room ($55 per adult with wine pairings per course at an additional $25; $21 per child). The items on the two cartes are different enough that you could have your first Thanksgiving fill at midday, take a nap in one of the rooms upstairs, and elevator door a few hours later for Round Two.
At the newly christened St. Neo’s in The Drayton Hotel, head chef Chris Meenan and pastry chef Brittany Iannarelli have a family style lineup that would be a great way for locals and tourists to introduce themselves to this new restaurant. From noon until 8 p.m., the menu will offer turkey breast and leg confit, prime rib with veal jus, and striped bass with black-eyed pea vinaigrette for the mains, accompanied by mushroom stuffing, oyster and cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes with rosemary marshmallows, and charred broccoli with chili flake and preserved lemon. Save room for apple pie crisp with cinnamon whipped cream and toasted streusel, bourbon-citrus pecan pie, or pumpkin pie with toasted meringue.
Noting how Chef Jason Starnes and the kitchen at Rhett have re-imagined upscale down-home cuisine, you will leave stuffed and truly satisfied if you tuck into their three-course prix fixe Thanksgiving Feast ($45 per adult, $22.50 per child). Five first plates and five main courses will be offered before you choose one of three desserts. I would go all in with the roasted corn spoonbread with pork belly burnt ends, garlic collards, and potlikker, followed by the molasses-brined pork chop served with cinnamon-roasted apples, leek bread pudding, and apple mostarda, and finish it off with a bourbon pecan pie donut. Because Chef Starnes prides himself on plating big portions, $45 a head for what he is going to put in front of you is a holiday steal.
The Emporium’s Thanksgiving Menu is just one of three holiday happenings already on tap at Perry Lane Hotel’s destination dining room. For $65 per adult and $25 for children twelve and under, guests will choose from one of four first courses, one of four entrées, and one of three desserts, many of which play familiar fall tunes with elevated airs and signature spins. Butternut squash bisque with brioche croutons, spiced crème fraîche, sage, and pecan oil sounds like the perfect starter, and though it is difficult not to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, I would not be mad at the Brasstown Beef filet mignon served with Yukon gold purée, parsnips, bone marrow butter, and red wine Bordelaise. Dinner will be served from noon until nine p.m.
The remaining six restaurants located in downtown hotels have events ranging from Aqua Star’s Thanksgiving Jazz Brunch, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and features the Fabulous Equinox Trio ($79 per adult, $38 children ages 6-12), to Moss + Oak’s Thanksgiving Buffet, served from 1-7 p.m. and may well be the city’s cheapest adult prix fixe at $42 ($30 per child). At 700 Drayton, dinner is already booked, but for $72, you can plate up at its Thanksgiving Grand Buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
OTHER SPECIAL OPTIONS
All three of Southern Cross Hospitality’s restaurants will be open next Thursday, serving Thanksgiving fare at The Collins Quarter, The Deck Beachbar and Kitchen, and The Fitzroy. Folks looking for a bit more relaxed setting may enjoy going to The Deck (Tybee Island), where the buffet will be available from noon until 5 p.m. ($35 per adult, $12 for children), starring all of the usual Turkey Day suspects plus bourbon-glazed ham and Angus prime rib.
Dinners at both The Collins Quarter and The Fitzroy are quite different set menus ($55 per person) that will be served from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The carte at Collins Quarter, especially, features an incredible cornucopia of vegetarian options from all four courses, though I would be hard-pressed not to head to The Fitzroy for double first courses of roasted Brussels sprouts - topped with cranberry gastrique, blue cheese crumbles, and toasted pepitas - and turkey poutine: chopped turkey, turkey gravy, and cheese curds. Reservations at these two eateries are strongly encouraged, as are post-meal naps. Belford’s Thanksgiving Dinner menu is a pared-down autumn version of their regular bill of fare with oven-roasted turkey breast and turtle cheesecake joining the party ($55 per person). The prix fixe at Garibaldi ($60 per person, $20 for children under 12) is similarly constructed, as crab chowder, butternut squash soup, caprese salad, banana pudding, pumpkin pie, and the compendious Garibaldi Turkey Plate - white and dark meat, cornbread pecan stuffing, collards, sweet potatoes, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and gravy - are special holiday additions to a more concise menu.
If you want to enjoy a brunch out before you head home to fire up the oven in your own kitchen, Michael Vaudrin’s Broughton Street bookends, The Ordinary Pub and The Broughton Common, are “where to go for Thanksgiving Brunch Life,” according to Director of Events Mickey Hickey. Both restaurants will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Thanksgiving “twists” to their usual menus and, of course, bottomless mimosas. I have to confess that until I started ‘eat-searching’ this article, I never gave much thought to dining out at a local restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. I love to cook, I only roast a turkey this one time every year, and my wife and I - like everyone - love the full weekend of leftovers.
Starting next November, though, we might have to do Thanksgiving at our house in early December so that we can be thankful to have all of these places here in Savannah - one turkey at a time.