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A Turkey-Optional Guide to Thanksgiving Day Takeout

Tired of the traditional Turkey Day feast? Observe Thanksgiving with these unconventional but still kinda celebratory takeout suggestions instead.

Inhaling a deranged amount of food is the only reasonable way to celebrate a lonely Thanksgiving in quarantine. If you hate turkey or refuse to cook, that means takeout might be in order. But what are some celebratory options besides the conventional Thanksgiving spread? We asked a bunch of foodies for their Thanksgiving takeout suggestions.

But first, a quick piece of advice from food reporter Corey Mintz: “With so many restaurants in such an impossible position, if you’re going to order takeout or delivery for Thanksgiving, avoid the apps and order directly so your favorite restaurant doesn’t have to pay ruinous 30 percent commissions to third-party delivery companies. Find restaurants doing self-delivery, or call in your order and pick it up.”

Now, back to the suggestions… 

An Entire Diner Menu

If you want to celebrate Thanksgiving in true American fashion, make like Guy Fieri and order from your local diner. “Diner food is fun, especially when you have them box up the entire ‘works’ for you,” says chef Jorge Busso. He suggests ordering the following, if you can stomach all of it:

  • Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy
  • French toast cut into triangles with extra butter and extra syrup
  • Extra-crispy hash browns
  • A couple cauldrons of sausage gravy on the side
  • A 9-inch by 9-inch box of bacon and sausage
  • A slice of every pie they have: Buttercream, pecan, pumpkin and apple
  • Four scoops of ice cream
  • A Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream

When you grab your goods, Busso says, “Leave a badass holiday tip.”

Somethin’ Extra Fancy

If you want a meal to remember this Thanksgiving, stoner food critic Joel Haas of High Speed Dining (who eats out between two and three times a day) recommends ordering from somewhere of the Michelin Star variety. “If you’re not typically into splurging on takeout, this would be the one time to do it,” he says. He personally plans on checking out an upscale spot near him for a wild game tasting menu, which, yeah, sounds pretty fancy.

Meat, Meat and More Meat (or Chinese)

In addition to his diner extravaganza, Busso says another solid option would be to “call my local steakhouse and have them bag up a nice cut with a baked potato or steak fries and a nice Caesar salad with big-ass croutons. I’d call that same steakhouse for lobster. Lobsters are really fun for an unorthodox approach.”

Eddie Kim, resident foodie here at MEL, seconds this approach. “My mood for Thanksgiving — and I’ve done solo and small-group takeout a whole bunch on this holiday — is something that’s luxurious in portion and has the same rich flavors. So maybe a steak and sides from Ruth’s Chris, or BBQ from a local joint if there’s one open. Or even just a big Popeyes family pack. The saddest thing on Thanksgiving is a takeout salad, and I love takeout salads.”

“A mountain of good Chinese food would replicate much of these effects, including the post-meal narcolepsy,” Kim adds. 

Busso is fully supportive. “Chinese food is an obvious classic,” he says. “It travels really well.”

Thanksgiving With a Twist

Ben Palmer, general manager of the San Vicente Bungalows in L.A. and takeout enthusiast, recommends scouring your area for restaurants that are serving up unique Thanksgiving-inspired dishes, like Peking Turkey, Thanksgiving-style tamales or Tex-Mex turkey roulade. That way, it still feels like Thanksgiving, but without the same old stuff. “For anyone looking to break with dogma while remaining tethered to elements of tradition, consider ordering something like turkey in mole sauce from a Mexican restaurant,” Mintz says.

Wish me luck while I place an order that forces my local diner to close for the day.