Off The Menu: Dining out at Thanksgiving

Nov 12 2017

Thanksgiving, once a holiday intimately associated with festive family dinners at home, is increasingly evolving into one of the calendar’s major dining out occasions – for many operators it’s now among the busiest days of the year.

Blame this change on smaller, more geographically fragmented families, time-starved lifestyles, and changing gender roles, but no matter the social or demographic causes, Thanksgiving’s “new normal” has created an attractive set of business opportunities for all sorts of hospitality operations.

Traditional restaurants, particularly those with a Norman Rockwell ambiance, usually book up for the holiday weeks, even months, in advance.

Chain restaurants that once would have remained closed on Thanksgiving are now open, some offering traditional Turkey Day fare, others catering to those who are looking for a place to go before or after the family feast.

Starbucks locations, for instance, maintain regular hours on Thanksgiving Day as do Denny’s restaurants – the latter is a popular breakfast destination on the holiday. Even fast food operators like McDonald’s Corp. are encouraging their franchisees to keep the doors open on Thanksgiving.

For those white tablecloth eateries that do open on Thanksgiving, the “grand buffet” is an increasing common operating strategy. In addition to presenting customers with an easy-to-market assortment of choices, buffets have operational benefits for restaurant owners. They require few staff to prepare and serve while at the same time result in faster table turnover and thus more revenue.

Banquet venues and country club dining operations are also looking for a piece of the Thanksgiving Day action. The Crestview Country Club in Feeding Hills, for instance, will be putting on a Grand Buffet November 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the holiday spread will include roast turkey, a ham and roast beef carving station, entree alternatives like chicken francaise and baked haddock, and a host of “sides.”

During the past several years some of these Thanksgiving buffets have begun to incorporate a “brunch” element, adding a selection of breakfast-type foods to the otherwise turkey-dominated menu landscape.

Joe Stevens at the Hofbrauhaus in West Springfield will, for instance, be offering a Thanksgiving Day buffet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will include choices such as scrambled eggs, quiche Lorraine, sweet cheese blintzes, German apple pancakes, and a Belgian waffle station along with the traditional Thanksgiving menu mainstays.

Tucker’s Restaurant in Southwick, which is presenting a Thanksgiving buffet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., has also been “going brunch” for several years now by incorporating an omelet station into their buffet table layout.

For those who still might choose to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at home, a host of restaurants have joined supermarkets and caterers in marketing “Thanksgiving to-go” packages designed to lend a hand with the Turkey Day preparations.

Some establishments, like Chez Josef in Agawam, are promoting both complete dinners (a turkey and ham feast serving six or more) as well as individual items such as a whole roasted turkey, a side dish trio of mashed potato, gravy, and stuffing, and a selection of dessert specialties.

This year the Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in downtown Springfield stands ready to take orders for a similar array of holiday feast options, from whole turkeys to side dishes and pumpkin pies.

Interestingly enough, one category of restaurants – those serving Chinese or other Asian fare – typically continue to take Thanksgiving Day off.

Side Dishes
The winter farmers’ market season is upon us, with the Farmers’ Market at Forest Park holding its next session on Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Held in Forest Park’s old Monkey House, the Market can be accessed from the Trafton Road entrance to the park.
Market sessions will be held on the second and fourth Saturday of each month through April.
On Saturday, Nov. 25, Chez Josef in Agawam will be hosting another of its “Dueling Pianos” Dinner and Show Events.
The two-hour dueling pianos event involves two accomplished pianists battling it out, playing audience favorites, including requests. The keyboard competition is lighthearted, so everyone is likely to have an enjoyable time.
The evening starts with a buffet dinner at 7:15 p.m. with the show itself beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased online at, are $60 plus a $4 online broker fee.
For more details contact Chez Josef at (413) 786-0257.

Once again Berkshire Grown, the not-for-profit that promotes local agriculture in the Commonwealth’s westernmost county, will be holding a series of Winter Farmers’ Markets in Great Barrington and Williamstown.
The first market is planned for the weekend of Nov.18 and 19, with market hours set at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market venue for the Great Barrington session, which will be held on the 18th, is to be the Monument Valley Middle School; the Sunday market on the 19th is planned for the Towne Field House on the Williams College campus.
Both markets will feature music, activities for kids, and food for lunchtime purchase. Admission is free.
More information on the markets can be had by contacting Berkshire Grown at (413) 528-0041 or going to

Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock will be wrapping up its 2017 season of “Food for Thought” dinner events with a Shaker Supper on Saturday, Nov.25.
The Supper, which begins at 6 p.m., will incorporate locally harvested ingredients, many of which come from the Village’s own farm.
Tickets are $100, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Hancock Shaker Village’s new farm internship program.
For more information, contact Hancock Shaker Village at (413) 443-0188.
On Jan. 5 ,another of New York City’s fine dining landmarks will close. Le Cirque, a storied venue that, in happier times, regularly hosted Frank Sinatra, served as a favorite haunt of the Kennedy clan, and numbered Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger among its “regulars.”
The restaurant had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year, blaming its financial situation on the “unsustainable” rent for its East 58th Street location. The typical monthly lease payment averaged around $50,000.
Over the years Le Cirque has served as a training ground for a number of celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud and David Bouley. The restaurant’s founder and long-time front-of-the-house personality, Sirio Maccioni, has been widely credited with helping bring European style luxury dining to New York City.
Current co-owner Mauro Maccioni has announced that Le Cirque will hold a “blow out” New Years Eve dinner to mark the restaurant’s closing. He also says he intends to open a new Le Cirque in New York City sometime in the future.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has over 40 years of restaurant and educational experience. Please send items of interest to Off the Menu at the Republican, P.O. Box 1329, Springfield, MA 01101; Robert can also be reached



Jun 2024