I was recently in for a dental cleaning and my hygienist was full of plans for Thanksgiving, discussing who in her family was hosting, what dishes she was bringing, what dish she would bring if she had more time, what her mother always brings, etc. She asked me what my plans were. “Adnnow but inghg rff brrgnng rsththerant,” I tried, which of course translates into “I don’t know, but I would rather be going to a restaurant,” a sentiment I felt comfortable admitting only because I knew she couldn’t understand what I’d said.
Most of Madison’s long-running restaurant hosts for Turkey Day are back, “post-pandemic,” serving in their dining rooms. But in a pivot perhaps picked up during the pandemic, many others are now offering pre-ordered meals you can pick up in advance of Nov. 23. If you have a favorite restaurant, call or check their website to see if that’s an option.
Some do both. A good idea is to make reservations right now. There are also several options for free meals on Thanksgiving for those without the means to otherwise indulge in the traditional harvest banquet. Here’s what we know:
All locations of the Great Dane Pub will be open on Thanksgiving, serving a traditional meal (roast turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, and a slice of pie, $20) or roasted root veggie pot pie (with side of apple sauce and a slice of pie, $18), not a bad deal. Less conventionally there will also be a braised short rib option ($24) and, at Hilldale and Fitchburg only, prime rib ($35). Downtown and Jupiter Drive will be serving 3-8 p.m. while Fitchburg and Hilldale will be serving 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Reservations are accepted. Preorders for take home feasts are available, too.
Liberty Station American Tavern and Smokehouse will be serving a three-course Thanksgiving meal (noon-4 p.m., $39/$19 12 and under) with choice of turkey or prime rib and all the expected sides. Pre-order for take-home dinners: 608-286-1019. Reservations at libertystationtavern.com.
Essen Haus has its traditional turkey dinner with dressing, mashed potatoes, and the rest (11 a.m.-4 p.m., $30/adults, $15/children 6-10.) Reservations are required: 608-255-4674.
Erin’s Snug Irish Pub will be open for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and all the expected sides and pumpkin pie (11 a.m.-3 p.m.); the regular menu is also available. Reservations are recommended: 608-242-7616 or email@example.com.
Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie serves its Thanksgiving buffet, with not just turkey but smoked pork shoulder, pot roast, mushroom strudel, a cornucopia of sides and its bread pudding for dessert. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., $30/adults, $28 seniors and $14/14 and under.
Rex’s Innkeeper in Waunakee will serve a Thanksgiving brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ($25).
The Dorf Haus in Roxbury is back with its Thanksgiving buffet. The restaurant donates 15 percent of its proceeds to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to honor restaurant founder Betty Maier. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $28/adults; $12/children 5-l2 and $5 for all other tots. There are still some open slots. Reservations: 608-643-3980.
Rare Steakhouse, with an option of turkey or steak, is open 3-7 p.m., reservations required.
Two lavish spreads will be on hand at the Edgewater Hotel, but, sorry spontaneous folks, dinner is already full. You can still make reservations for Thanksgiving brunch (8 a.m.-10 a.m.)
Thanksgiving at CIRC at the Concourse Hotel is sold out too; take a chance on the waiting list by emailing your party size to Elena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a vegan repast
Green Owl Cafe is taking orders for its vegan take-and-bake Thanksgiving diner ($45/person) by phone only; call 608-285-5290. Tofu turkey, seitan ham and all the expected sides, all vegan. This used to be a dine-in event; note, it’s now take-home only.
Delta Beer Lab’s fifth annual community Thanksgiving is taking place on Turkey Day from 3-5 p.m. (the taproom will be open 1-7 p.m.). The meal, a traditional turkey dinner, is served cafeteria style, and is free but donations are encouraged. Tickets must be ordered here or by calling Delta at 608-640-4500. Others will be admitted after the ticketholders have gone through the line. Delta chooses to use this opportunity to shift the narrative around the holiday to “celebrate community, diversity, togetherness, and good food.”
Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County hosts the free Sina Davis Community Meal for Thanksgiving from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. at the Allied Family Center, 4619 Jenewein Road. Pre-registration is required
First Congregational United Church of Christ-Madison is offering a free traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, vegetables, potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, and pie. Meals are available for delivery by volunteers or pick up at the church on Thanksgiving between noon and 3 p.m. RSVP required; call 608-233-9751, go to firstcongmadison.org, by 5 p.m. Nov. 16 to place your order.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 5701 Raymond Road hosts its traditional free Thanksgiving meal from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Nov. 23. No RSVP necessary.
Slice’s Bar & Grill serves a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 1-6 p.m. but it’s all carryout; call the bar at 608-243-6925 before Nov. 21 to reserve a meal. Free, but donations are appreciated and will go to the Goodman Food Pantry.