Have you suddenly found yourself planning to stay in NYC for Thanksgiving? Are you unskilled in the kitchen and/or lacking anyone willing or able to host you? Is your family coming into town and expecting you to plan the entire meal?
There are certainly worse things that could happen. You live in the greatest food city in the world, and many of the best restaurants serve Thanksgiving dinner. Whether you’re looking for the perfect spot for just two of you, or your group of eight, follow this guide (just updated for Thanksgiving 2016) and you’ll end up with a delicious, memorable, not-sad-in-the-slightest dinner of your own.
Cookshop is a restaurant we turn to again and again, because it’s useful for all kinds of situations - including Thanksgiving. Celebrating with soon-to-be in laws? Or maybe your divorced parents who try to be civil? The vibe here is festive, but not fancy or stuffy in any way that will make things (more) awkward (than they already are). Is your sister who refuses to eat anything that’s not a vegetable going to be joining you? There are plenty of healthy options for her too. And most importantly, because it’s your Thanksgiving dinner too: you can count on the food being great.
The meal: 3-course, $65 prix fixe
Friendsgiving is such a nice idea. Your friends come over, you eat a home-cooked meal, and you bask in the glory of your domestic abilities. It’s all so perfect - until you overdo the turkey, your mashed potatoes look like dog gravy, and the pecan pie actually lights on fire. Best to just be realistic about your own abilities - and if your reality is that you don’t really know how to cook, take your Friendsgiving to a casual, fun spot like Root & Bone. Your friends will thank you.
The meal: 3-course, $45-$65 prix fixe (exact prices unconfirmed)
In our minds, Betony is the fine dining establishment you choose when, above all, you’re looking to be taken care of. If you so much as look like you’re about to sneeze here, you’ll probably have three servers at your side with two brands of tissues at the ready. And on Thanksgiving, that level of care is a major plus. We’d recommend this spot if you have parents in town who are ready to throw down (the four-course menu is $110).
The meal:4-course prix fixe $110, or extended tasting menu $215
Has your Thanksgiving been overrun by out-of-town family members who are convinced they’re not getting “the real NYC experience” unless they see a show on Broadway, go to Times Square, shop in Soho, and take part in every other tourist flytrap this city offers? Take back control and direct the group to Balthazar. This place is people watching at its finest, in the heart of Soho, and with that classic NY feel your family’s looking for. The good news for you is that the food is actually pretty great too. And at least you convinced them you weren’t going to Times Square.
The meal: $39 pp for turkey special, $72 pp for prix fixe (parties of 12 and more), regular menu also available
Freemans' aesthetic leans so hard on the taxidermied, plaid-blanket covered upstate cabin look that it can feel borderline campy. But because Freemans basically invented that kind of restaurant look and feel, and because they do it well, that campiness is never a bad thing. And it’s especially not a bad thing on Thanksgiving. Bring the whole family and impress them with the fact that you can essentially rent a log cabin for the night without having to leave Manhattan.
The meal: 4-course prix fixe $85 pp, $55 for children
Narcissa might be located in the bottom of the Standard East Village, but it’s like they have access to some kind of magic anti-hotel-lobby-restaurant-dust. The space is warm and welcoming, and manages to feel cool without being overly trendy. In other words, your significant other's parents will love it, and you won’t feel lame spending your Thanksgiving here. The food leans toward the vegetable-centric, but rest assured any turkey you eat will also be excellent. And their desserts are some of the best around.
The meal: $79 pp
As long as you’re not doing the home-cooked-meal thing, might as well go all out. At The NoMad, you’ll have a truly opulent Thanksgiving experience. This may not become a yearly tradition (and if it does, can your family adopt us?), but given how excellent the chicken here is, their turkey is probably well worth your time and money, too.
The meal: 4-course prix fixe, $145 pp
Maialino’s Thanksgiving setup is a prime example of its signature crowd pleasing in action. There are two menus to choose from: “Italian-American” (pasta and turkey) and “Maialino classics” (pasta and a suckling pig). There’s also a special kids’ menu (though we’re not sure what kind of kid would request a turkey pot pie).
The meal: 4-course, prix fixe, $115/pp ($65 for kids)
Dreading an awkward meal trapped at a table with family members you haven’t seen in a while or your future in-laws that you just met? Your solution may be Il Buco Alimentari, where you’ll be seated at a communal table with lots of other strangers you can talk to instead. Besides the forced contact with strangers, you’ll also be treated to a family-style feast, which is a pretty fantastic way to experience the food (some of the best in the city).
The meal (as of 2015 - this year's details still uncomfirmed): 4-course, prix fixe, family style. $85/pp ($45 for kids).
Always wished you could spend the holidays in Paris? Lafayette’s here to make that dream an (almost) reality. The grand yet welcoming dining room is a great setting for a fancy Thanksgiving feast, and the special menu includes lots of different options for each course – from turkey to steak frites to sqush ravioli – that’ll please all kinds of “difficult” personalities.
The meal: 3-course, prix fixe, $95 pp ($55 for children)
Let’s say you just came into an inheritance from your family’s early stock in velcro. Let’s say you found three hundred dollar bills in the elevator of the Union Square subway next to some pee. Let’s say you have very, very, very generous parents. If any of these situations applies to you, then consider a Thanksgiving dinner at Eleven Madison Park, which will cost you $245/person for four courses. While we can’t say we’ve experienced it ourselves, if we had to venture to guess, this is probably one of the better restaurant Thanksgivings that can be experienced in New York City.
The meal: 4-course, prix fixe, $245 pp (optional $135 pp wine pairing)
The Dutch does American comfort food right, so you should feel good about entrusting it with your Thanksgiving meal. Its special menu is a mix of what this place does best (oysters, steak tartare) with classic T-day eats (turkey, brussels sprouts, stuffing).
The meal: 3-course, prix fixe, $115 pp
The East Pole’s a youthful, almost-sceney spot in an otherwise geriatric neighborhood, so it’s kind of the perfect place for a multi-generation meal. That, and the fact that the menu has enough variety of traditional dishes to please everyone at the table.
The meal: 3-course, prix fixe, $85 pp
Unlike a lot of other Italian places in the East Village, Hearth is a bit more polished and takes its food and extensive wine list pretty seriously. They’ve also been serving Thanksgiving dinner for several years, so you can expect they’ll do all the traditional dishes justice.
The meal: 3-course meal, $98 pp (kids under 12 half price), optional wine pairing
If you’re yearning for a homey Thanksgiving meal, Frankies 457 is your best bet. This tiny place feels so cozy you’ll probably be tempted to roll up to the restaurant in your finest PJ’s. As for the food, you can expect Italian comfort meets Thanksgiving essentials – Best. Combo. Ever.
The meal (as of 2015 - this year uncomfirmed): 3-course prix fixe
Entertaining parents in Brooklyn (i.e. are your parents cool)? Reynard is a great option. The space is laid-back yet refined, and big enough that you won’t be jabbing elbows with your neighbor or having to shout for Dad to hear you. The menu is classic but not boring.
The menu: 4 courses, $95 pp, $48 per child
Vinegar Hill House is our Brooklyn old faithful. You just know it’s going to come through when you need it, whether your Thanksgiving meal is a romantic date or a family reunion. The Thanksgiving experience here is a traditional one, from the rustic setting to the classic menu (get after those sweet potatoes and pecan pie).
The meal: Family-style meal, $85 pp
Besides the food, the most important element of a Thanksgiving meal is the Feel Good Factor – and Meadowsweet definitely has it. Those ready-made great vibes are one less thing you have to worry about, so you can focus your attention on other important things, like truly celebrating Thanksgiving (by eating as much as you possibly can). We’re happy to see that Meadowsweet’s menu for the day includes the usual Turkey stuff as well as a few of the best things off their regular menu.
The meal: 3 courses, $85 pp
James is not the coolest or most exciting restaurant in Brooklyn. Then again, if you’re looking for the “coolest” Thanksgiving dinner, you’re doing it wrong. This place is exceedingly pleasant and consistently delicious, and the Thanksgiving menu, in addition to turkey, is full of dishes anyone would want to eat: Seared scallops? Yep. Butternut squash risotto? Absolutely. Chocolate souffle cake? Never, ever been mad about that.