Think about it. No shopping. No recipe research. No logistical puzzles: What goes in the oven when? Who brings the pie? Do I need to set up card tables? Who sits at the children’s table? No dishes. No anxiety.
Yes, you can go out for Thanksgiving dinner in San Francisco and actually eat well because so many top kitchens are preparing the iconic meal. The chefs at these restaurants shop the San Francisco way — locally.
They feel the pull of tradition, but still cook with their own voices. Dare I say it, the food might even be better than at home? Especially when Aunt Jean insists on bringing her frozen green bean and canned mushroom casserole, and sis insists on tofurkey.
The advantages of picking up the phone — which you should do right now — over starting a to-do list are legion. You can go to a movie, take a walk, watch the Niners play the Baltimore Ravens at 5:20 p.m. You, and everyone else, can relax.
If you do an honest comparative cost analysis, factoring in time, transportation, energy, not to mention food and drink, you just might discover that eating out may be cheaper than cooking at home.
While I recommend the restaurants listed below, I have never had Thanksgiving at them. Maybe next year.
1 Market St., San Francisco, (415) 777-5577: Chef Mark Dommen cooks luscious, innovative, locally focused food in this expansive, glassed-in dining room just off The Embarcadero — a wonderful setting-off-point for a stroll along the water. The $59 prix fixe menu ($29 for children 12 and under) offers options for all courses plus a little amuse bouche at the beginning to get things going. I’d be torn between lentil soup with Indian spices and a yogurt cloud, and warm quince and Point Reyes blue cheese salad. Of course, I would choose Willie Bird turkey with cornbread and bacon stuffing and creamed spinach. Vegetarians get pumpkin ravioli; non-traditionalists spit-roasted pork loin or Asian-style mahi mahi. There’s no pumpkin pie, but there is triple-layer pumpkin cheesecake, pear dumpling and chocolate souffle cake, all served with appropriate housemade ice creams.
160 Jefferson St., San Francisco, (415) 928-1849: The Boudin sourdough company, founded in 1849, shut down its commercial operations on Fisherman’s Wharf six years ago to open a restaurant with a view of Alcatraz, a demonstration bakery and bread museum. The food is fresh and appealing. On Thanksgiving they will be serving turkey with apple, sourdough and sausage stuffing; jalapeño-cranberry chutney; mashed potatoes; roasted carrots and squash; and giblet gravy for $21.95. You can’t do it at home for this price. Finish with a slice of warm caramel crumble apple pie a la mode ($5.95), or anything else from Bistro Boudin’s regular menu, which they will be serving all day.
1 Yerba Buena Lane (at Market Street), San Francisco, (415) 547-1111: At this brand-new, two-story restaurant with outdoor seating, Chef Sean Canavan cooks meat and poultry with deep understanding. On Thanksgiving, his $65 prix fixe meal begins with bites in the bar area, then moves to a sit-down dinner: butternut squash soup to begin, then endive, pear and cranberry salad in a pomegranate vinaigrette, followed by traditional turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread stuffing and roasted root vegetables, or cedar-plank-baked salmon with trimmings. You can look forward to superstar pastry chef James Ormsby’s voluptuous take on pumpkin pie. Kids eat for $30. There will be two seatings, at 2 and 6 p.m.
Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
252 California St., San Francisco, (415) 397-9222
Price: $125 prix fixe with additional $75 wine pairing
Highlights: Foie gras and ham hock terrine; pumpkin souffle with lobster cream
Thanksgiving with an Ocean View
1000 Great Highway, San Francisco, (415) 386-8439
Price: $43 prix fixe, $10 for kids under 12
Highlight: The view
Cozy Neighborhood Thanksgiving
699 Chenery St., San Francisco, (415) 334-3235
Price: $35 prix fixe with a glass of Champagne
Highlight: Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream
689 Mission St. (at Third Street), San Francisco, (415) 284-4040
Price: $92 Thanksgiving tasting menu with additional $67 wine pairing
Highlight: Hiro Sone’s cooking, foie gras stuffed quail instead of turkey