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The best restaurants open on Thanksgiving

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By Geraldine Campbell, Travel + Leisure

“Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year,” says Sean Brock, executive chef of Charleston, SC’s much-lauded Husk. “It’s the only day when everyone else wakes up thinking about food, like I do every day.”

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is about coming together with family and friends to eat well. Many of us even have a single dish that epitomizes Thanksgiving—marshmallow-flecked sweet potatoes, perhaps, or green bean casserole laced with bacon, or, for Brock, his Aunt Shell’s pumpkin rolls.

But if the reality of hosting a Thanksgiving feast is more daunting than enticing, don’t fret: you don’t have to cook your own bird. There are dozens of restaurants open on Thanksgiving and they’re working overtime to make you a memorable meal—no cleanup required.

On the haute end of the spectrum, you can sup on turkey with chanterelle mushrooms and pomegranate gravy at Santa Monica, CA’s Mélisse, a bastion of fine dining where white tablecloths, real silver, and suited waiters are still the rule. Even more over-the-top is the option to hunt for your dinner at Colorado’s Viceroy Snowmass, then watch as chef Will Nolan breaks down your catch and prepares an amazing en suite meal.

For a more down-home approach, consider chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem hot spot, Red Rooster, where the Thanksgiving menu includes soul food favorites like blackened catfish, black-eyed peas, and collard greens.

We’ve included a suburban Chinese restaurant—albeit with a twist—on our roster of Turkey Day options. And you can forgo turkey in favor of grilled wild king salmon with views of Puget Sound at Ray’s Boathouse.

In short, the possibilities are endless. Read on for our favorite alternatives to Thanksgiving at home.

Ray’s Boathouse, Seattle

Floor-to-ceiling windows play up the waterside location of this upscale-nautical dining room, complete with a 30-foot polished mahogany bar, handblown-glass light fixtures, and black lacquer accents. Guests can choose between a special four-course prix fixe and the regular seafood-centric offerings (grilled wild king salmon and sablefish in sake kasu are highlights). Alternatively, the buffet dinner in the more casual upstairs café offers oysters, prawns, and snow crab; smoked salmon and salt-and-pepper-crusted tuna; steamed clams and mussels; and turkey with cranberry sauce and herb-crusted prime rib. The cost of the buffet and the prix fixe is the same: $45; $20–$22.50 for kids ages five to 11.

Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.

This sleek-but-cozy restaurant at the Park Hyatt has already earned our approval for its thick-cut, triple-cooked French fries. It’s also a favorite spot for Thanksgiving dinner among repeat local diners, hotel guests, canoodling couples, and large families. Chef Ryan LaRoche views the feast as a seasonal harvest table, which means the menu isn’t set until close to Turkey Day. But the format is well-established: starters and desserts are served buffet-style in the open kitchen; in between, guests choose individual entrées and sides, which combine classic offerings with Blue Duck specials, including braised ribs with house-made steak sauce, jumbo lump crab cakes with horseradish broth, and yes, those fries.

Husk, Charleston, S.C.

The three-course menu at Sean Brock’s rustic-modern restaurant, set in a refurbished Queen Anne–style building, hasn’t quite been finalized for 2014, but past years have included new southern dishes like shrimp and grits with roasted fennel, Broadbent’s sausage, and fried pig ears and slow-cooked pork with butter beans and Appalachian gravy. There are also more traditional plates, like turkey stuffed with Benton’s bacon cornbread, roasted pumpkin soup, and pecan tart with bourbon-vanilla ice cream. If you can’t make it to Charleston, look up Aunt Shell’s pumpkin rolls in Brock’s cookbook,Heritage, which just hit bookstores. $55, plus $35 for wine pairings.

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