Flipping the bird: Your best bets for last-minute Thanksgiving meals

Pub date November 23, 2011
SectionPixel Vision

Wandering through the smorgasbord of Thanksgiving options is no small feat.Turkey, duck, fake bird, no bird? Pie flavors, side dishes, stuffings, and guestlists present a swamp of options — assuming you’re staying home to toil in the kitchen.

But for those eager to get out for whatever reason – a volunteering spirit, a mounting desire to escape from relatives, your ex decided to bring him to your Friendsgiving – there’s a cornucopia of alternative Thanksgiving choices in the Bay. Some of these samplings are far cheaper (and maybe even better?) than an at-home meal attempt. Some entail helping out folks who might not otherwise get to eat on T-Day. Some are real-deal moveable feasts: order it up and take it to go. But all run their pudgy fingers up and down the backbone essential of Turkey Day: eating, and then eating some more.

Cafe Gratitude

Various volunteer opportunities, free meal, Noon-3 p.m.

The Mission, Berkeley, and San Rafael locations of Café Gratitude put on a veritable feast for the walking broke and volunteers alike. Some gems we sighted on the exisquite vegan menu include a butternut squash tamale and a pecan-persimmon salad. 

Various Bay Area locations. Call (415) 824-4652 to volunteer. www.cafegratitude.com 

Tenderloin Block Party

Volunteer needed to pass out meals, registration starts at 9 a.m.

City Impact 911’s 27th Tenderloin Block Party provides more than five thousand hot meals to Tenderloin residents – and it’s still looking for volunteers. $25 gets you registered and helps to boost the program.

240 Eddy, SF. Call (415) 292-1770 to register, www.sf911.com 

Cruelty-free Thanksgiving potluck

Free potluck, 3:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Sonoma County’s vegan society, the free potluck holds the promise of a quinoa overload. Reviews of dinners past are breathless in their praise of creative animal-free offerings. 

1400 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa. www.compassionatelivingoutreach.org

Tommy’s Joynt

Thanksgiving dinner, prices vary, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.

“Where turkey is king,” reads the front door of Tommy’s Joynt, an ageless wonder on Van Ness and Geary streets that has a menu ranging from meat to yep, more meat. Prices sit safely below $10 and the Joynt even has some pies its made for the special day. Just be prepared for a massive line (no reservations available)

1101 Geary, SF. www.tommysjoynt.com

Park Chalet and Beach Chalet

Thanksgiving dinner, $43, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Thanksgiving in the land of foggy dunes, sedate Sunday brunches, and bottomless mimosas? Believe it. Long the lone outposts of tastiness where Golden Gate Park meets Ocean Beach, the Chalets host an all-day, $43 buffet of red pumpkin soup, turkey, prime rib, local cheeses, pumpkin pie tartlets, and the in-all-likelihood delicious “cold appetizer station.”

1000 Great Highway, SF. (415) 386-8439, www.parkchalet.com

Cheung Hing

Turkeys, $55, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Known throughout the Sunset and beyond for the roasted duck, Cheung Hing is one of those spots with a dripping rotisserie that works partially to baste fowl and partially to mesmerize children. If you’re searching for ambiance, this might not be the spot to chow down – but in that case pick up a special turkey to-go, haul it up to nearby Grandview Park, and enjoy one of the best city views around.   

2339 Noriega, SF. (415) 665-3271

Chenery Park

Thanksgiving menu, under $30, 5:30-9:15 p.m.

With a special three-course Thanksgiving menu, one of Glen Park’s family restaurant darlings transforms into a nicer, cleaner, thoroughly festive version of home feasting. Reservations are going fast.

683 Chenery Street, SF. (415) 337-8537, www.chenerypark.com

Pena Pachamama

Raw Thanksgiving dinner, $39.95-$45, 4-10 p.m.

The South American oasis of North Beach, Pena Pachamama serves up a raw meal with the same decadence as any turkey-centered one. A “tuRAWkey loaf” comes rolled with apple-cinnamon stuffing and accompanied by creamy squash soup and white truffle mashed potatoes, plus pumpkin pudding with vanilla persimmon sauce. Live bouncy music accompanies the feast. 

1630 Powell, SF. (415) 646-0018, www.pachamamacenter.org


Thanksgiving Dinner, $28-$34 (entrees), 1-10 p.m.

Rabbit and biscuits, local foie gras, molasses-glazed turkey – the slowly-wrought, rich feast offered at the Mission eatery will open the door to leftovers aplenty. Lingering over the three-course meal seems encouraged, as dinner starts at 1 p.m.

1101 Valencia, SF. (415) 401-8959, www.garconsf.com

Luna Park

Thanksgiving dinner, $34, 5:30-10:30 p.m.

Thanksgiving sides, those taken-for-granted little dishes supporting the ballast that is the turkey, are not meant to be light. The Mission’s Luna Park knows this, offering brussel sprouts in brown butter, salads with equal parts cheese and leaf, and garlicky, milky mashed potatoes. They don’t forget the turkey either. 

694 Valencia, SF. (415)553-8584, www.lunaparksf.com

Moss Beach Distillery

Thanksgiving Dinner, $35.95, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. 

They do serve the bird tonight, but the South Bay’s Moss Beach Distillery might be the spot to come for a fishier alternative. Known for their seemingly endless cocktail list and wild-caught seafood, the sea is the limit. 

140 Beach Way, Moss Beach. (650) 728-5595, www.mossbeachdistillery.com


Thanksgiving brunch, various prices, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 

It’s often prudent to just leave the house altogether on a day renowned for slow-burn family feuds. But finding a cheerful spot can be the rub – no one wants to belly up to a skunky-tasting Anchor Steam with a barful of lethargic drinkers. Enter Zazie, Cole Valley’s warm neighborhood bistro, which will offer a long, relaxed Thanksgiving brunch perfect for those looking to linger until the last possible second. No reservations accepted.

941 Cole, SF. (415) 564-5332, www.zaziesf.com