Tradition reigns at Thanksgiving -- the turkey, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie. For many, that tradition has to be carried out at grandma's house or the family equivalent of grandma's.
But many celebrants find it more festive, or at least a change of pace, to let restaurant chefs do the cooking. And more and more restaurants are getting into the Thanksgiving spirit.
Eric Brennan, chef of the Harvest in Harvard Square, can trace his roots right back to Plimoth Plantation. His mother's ancestor, ByGod Eggleston, was in the second wave of colonists, he says. That connection adds to his interest in New England cuisine. "Last year was the first time the Harvest was open on Thanksgiving," Brennan says, "and it went pretty well." So this year, he's planning the classics -- roast turkey with chestnut-cornbread stuffing, maple-sugar baked acorn squash, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and smoked giblet gravy.
He widens the net with such entrees as Scottish salmon with mashed Macomber turnip, and braised venison Swiss steak. A vegetarian option will also be available. Cost will be $55 for three courses; $65 for four. For information, call 617-868-2255.
The holiday season will be bittersweet for the Robert family because it will be the last in Maison Robert in Old City Hall, which will close in February. For this Thanksgiving, chef Ken Duckworth will pull out all the stops with four courses, each with several selections. Some of the dishes are grilled quail with curly endive, quinoa, and pomegranate; lobster sauteed with tomatoes, brandy, and cream, and, of course, roast turkey with apple sage stuffing. Among desserts will be Maison Robert's famous warm upside-down apple tart. Cost will be $75 for adults; $29 for children under 12. Call 617-227-3370.
Other restaurants are shuttered on Turkey Day but offer options for customers. Le Soir in Newton Highlands plans a special prix fixe dinner the night before, Nov. 26. Chef-owner Mark Allen will serve root vegetable soup with lobster; roasted lamb loin with French beans and puree of parsnip, and a pumpkin cheese cake with spiced honey glaze. Cost is $60 each; call 617-965-3100.
At the Fireplace in Brookline's Washington Square busy cooks can pick up an entire Thanksgiving dinner or some of the side dishes the day before to augment the holiday at home. Some of the offerings will be butternut squash soup with spice crabapple; apple and white cheddar tart with red onion jam; cider-glazed spit-roasted turkey, and pumpkin pie with roasted chestnuts. For prices, call 617-975-1900.
If you yearn to travel for Thanksgiving, you might consider the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine, where about 1,000 guests are expected. The inn serves a completely organic meal from locally raised turkeys to local vegetables, lobster and eggs. Call 207-865-9377.
Other restaurant options:
Beacon Hill Bistro: Roasted pumpkin soup with glaceed chestnuts; roast turkey breast with autumn vegetables; duckling with lady apples, wild rice and cider glaze and pecan tart or bourbon bread pudding. Cost is $39.50; 617-723-1133.
Grill 23 & Bar in Back Bay: Lobster with golden raisins and toasted almonds; Kobe beef; cedar-roasted turkey; and pumpkin tart. Cost is $60; 617-542-2255.
UpStairs on the Square, Harvard Square: Buttered parsnip gnocchi; turkey with cornbread and pecan stuffing; pork loin with prunes and Armagnac; pecan, sweet potato and apple pies; chocolate croissant bread pudding. Cost for four courses is $68; 617-864-1933.
Pigalle, Theater District: Cream of chestnut soup with caramelized ham; traditional turkey dinner; crispy white fish with brandade and frites; fig and chestnut tart with rum-raisin ice cream. There will also be a children's menu. Cost is $65 for adults; $15 for children. Call 617-423-4944.
Top of the Hub, Prudential Tower: Grilled vegetable and goat cheese terrine; roast turkey basted with maple syrup and apple cider; mustard and honey-glazed ham shanks with pumpkin risotto; apple macadamia cake. Cost is $52 for adults; $24 for children under 12; 617-536-1775.
Temple Bar near Porter Square, Cambridge: Lobster bisque; traditional turkey dinner with giblet stuffing; vegetable risotto; apple galette. Prices are a la carte; turkey entree, $16. Call 617-547-5055.
Sandrine's Bistro, Harvard Square: Thanksgiving prix fixe includes pumpkin and butternut squash velout; maple roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing, and dessert of pumpkin trio. Cost is $47 each. The a la carte menu also includes lobster martini; grilled filet mignon with chanterelle mushrooms; whole roasted venison loin. Prices a la carte. Call 617-497-5300.
Brasserie Jo, in Colonnade Hotel, Back Bay: Cream of butternut squash; traditional turkey dinner; salmon coulibiac with Riesling sauce; gingerbread cake; dark chocolate tart. Prices are a la carte with turkey entree at $21 for adults; $7.95 for children. Call 617-425-3240.
Sel de la Terre, downtown Boston: Country-style veal pate with cranberry chutney; roasted Vermont turkey with sausage, apple, and cornbread stuffing; Provencal beef short ribs with tomatoes, green olives, potatoes, and onions; Thanksgiving pies; espresso-chocolate mousse cake. Cost is $48 each; 617-720-1300.
Excelsior, Back Bay: Truffled Macomber turnip soup; deep-fried turkey and/or upside down roast turkey with two stuffings, and a special dessert of spiced sugar pumpkin tartlet with spun sugar. Cost of prix fixe is $75 each; $25 for a children's menu. A la carte menu also offered; 617-425-7878.
L'Espalier, Back Bay: Pate of pheasant, foie gras and black truffles; roasted turkey in sage butter with brioche, chestnut, quince and sausage dressing; standing rib roast with local mushrooms; roasted pumpkin creme brulee. A separate vegetarian menu will be offered. Cost is $75 each; $38 for children under 14. Call 617-262-3023.
Zephyr on the Charles at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge: Sliced turkey with cornbread-sausage stuffing; baked cod with Dijon crust; pecan pie. Cost is $29.95, adults; $15.95, children. Call 617-492-1234. The Hyatt Regency, Spinnaker will offer a buffet including turkey with sage dressing; grilled swordfish with saffron fennel broth; vegetable risotto; and a dessert buffet. Cost is $42.95; children, $19.95. 617-492-1234.
Oak Room, Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel: Grilled lobster Nicoise; herb-marinated veal chop with pink peppercorn sauce; roast turkey; pear gingerbread wrapped in almond Florentine, chocolate truffle diamond. Cost is $82 for adults; $41 for children under $10. Copley Grand Cafe will serve Thanksgiving dinner for $56 for adults; $28, children. Call 617-267-5300.
Aura, Seaport Hotel: Pan-roasted sea scallops with carrot-ginger jus and melted leeks; slow-roasted turkey; grilled beef tenderloin with cabernet reduction sauce; vegetable and white bean cassoulet with spiced flat bread. There will be a dessert buffet and a separate children's menu. Cost is $48 for adults; $12 for children under 12. Call 617-385-4300.