Category Archives: Dining Out

Thanksgiving Plated Meals with a Tablecloth for about $30 – $40

There’s a lot to be said for a traditional, home-cooked family dinner. But there are also plenty of reasons to choose a nice restaurant for your Thanksgiving meal.

  • Sometimes, a restaurant meal tastes better than your own cooking! Plus, you don’t have to shop, cook or clean up (we’re talking many hours of work).
  • You’re part of a couple or small family, and cooking a whole turkey isn’t practical.
  • There is usually plenty of parking and people tend to show up on time when they know you have a set reservation.
  • Everybody dresses up and you get to take great family photos!
  • It gives you more time to relax, have fun and spend quality time with family and friends.
  • People tend to be on their best behavior in public — fewer family squabbles, less drinking.
  • It’s virtually impossible for people to slip off and watch football before spending an hour together.
  • Nobody has to sit on a folding chair or at the card table!

Here are some options to consider. Keep in mind that most restaurants recommend or require reservations on Thanksgiving Day.

  • Clyde’s about $30 – $40, offers a plated dinner of turkey and sides of decent quality. Desserts usually run about $6 or $8. Lovely atmosphere at their multiple locations; I am partial to Reston and Mark Center-Alexandria restaurants.
  • Ruth Chris Steakhouse (Vienna location in Tysons Corner), $41.95, three-course, prix-fixe meal served between 11:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., by reservation only. The meal takes out the guess work because there are only a few tasty choices. The first course is your choice of Caesar salad, Louisiana gumbo or steakhouse salad, followed by an entree of roast turkey with sausage stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce and your choice of one side only — garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, green beans or sweet potato casserole. Maybe your party can all choose different sides and share. The dessert is pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream. It sounds delicious! Beverage is not included. Ruth Chris has a dress code.
  • The Fireside Chophouse in Williamsburg is a nice option if you are visiting Williamsburg for the weekend. I seem to remember their 3-course meal was about $30 and it started with a delicious mushroom soup. The food is average but the price is good for a tablecloth restaurant. It was better than my cooking and I was happy with it. Check out the Christmas Mouse after dinner, which is open Thanksgiving evening.

Don’t cook! choose a value-priced Thanksgiving meal this year

“I can’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.” – Charlie Brown

A delicious, all-inclusive meal at Cracker Barrell for just $12!

A delicious, all-inclusive meal at Cracker Barrel for just $12!

Thanksgiving is a harvest festival and enjoying a bountiful meal is part of it. I have made Thanksgiving dinner a couple of times. And it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great either, and it was quite the project.

There are plenty of good reasons you might be thankful for choosing an affordable restaurant for your Thanksgiving meal.

  • You might have to work on Thanksgiving so you need flexibility and convenience.
  • You might be spending Thanksgiving by yourself (yup, that’s me) and you want to celebrate but you don’t want to spend a fortune on a fancy restaurant.
  • You like straightforward, traditional Thanksgiving food, not new or fancy iterations.
  • You don’t especially feel like dressing up to go out.
  • You’ve got young kids or other responsibilities that take up a lot of your energy so cooking would just be too much this year.
  • Portion control. You don’t have a great quantity of food that may tempt you to take additional helpings or eat high-calorie leftovers (pecan pie, I’m looking at you!)
  • It’s less stressful. You don’t have to manage multiple dishes and cooking times. You don’t have to strive to please the palates and dietary needs of your family and friends.

Here are some options to consider. I just can’t choose! They all sound good. I like that they all include pie!

  • $12 – Cracker Barrel (Sterling and Manassas) offers a Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving Day only for $11.99 between 11 a.m. and closing. (570 calories — not sure I believe this) I’ve had the Thanksgiving meal and it is delicious but it comes with this caveat: Thanksgiving Day is Cracker Barrel’s busiest day of the year. They will serve 1.4 million slices of pie! I recommend eating as early as possible, tipping your server well 🙂 and moving outside to enjoy the rocking chairs instead of lingering at your table at the end of your meal, since there will be a huge amount of people waiting for a table, because that is just good karma. This is what you get for $12: turkey with dressing, gravy, a sampling of sugar cured ham, sweet potato casserole with pecans, a choice of country side, biscuits or corn muffins, iced tea or coffee, and a slice of pumpkin pie. That is a phenomenal deal and an especially great option for people dining alone on Thanksgiving. I like that you get a bit of ham with your turkey. The only downside I see here would be the potential wait and the crowds.
  • $13 – Boston Market (Fairfax and McLean) offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal for $13 between 11 a.m, and closing (I believe they close early on Thanksgiving). (700 – 1000 calories) I’ve had it and it is a convenient option if you are working and don’t have a lot of time on Thanksgiving. It’s counter service, so you won’t have to wait at all for your meal. Most of the people coming in are picking up orders, so there’s room to sit. You get sliced, roasted turkey (or you can choose a roasted half chicken), your choice of two sides (mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable stuffing, sweet potato casserole, corn and macaroni and cheese), a dinner roll and a slice of apple pie or pumpkin pie. The beverage is extra. Tip: I’m not wild about the cranberry sauce. I’m sure it’s good but I’m allergic to walnuts, and anyway, it counts as a side. I’ve brought some canned cranberry sauce for my meal-for-one and been perfectly happy.
  • $15 – Bob Evans (Fairfax, Chantilly, Springfield, Manassas and Leesburg) offers an exceptionally hearty meal with lots of choices for a good value between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for $14.99. (780-3510 calories) The beverage is extra. The meal (dine-in only) includes roast turkey and dressing PLUS three additional sides (mashed potatoes, corn, green beans with ham, carrots, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw) AND unlimited bread (biscuits, rolls, pumpkin bread or banana nut bread) AND a slice of pumpkin pie or apple pie. Wow! You sure won’t leave hungry! If you don’t care for turkey, you can pick ham or country-fried steak, instead. And the kid’s meal is only $6.99 and includes a beverage. That makes this restaurant an especially appealing choice for families with children.

These restaurants also offer family-sized carryout meals, ordered in advance.

Make reservations ASAP for these high-demand Thanksgiving dining experiences

If you wait, it will be too late! If you are planning an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime kind of Thanksgiving meal for you and loved ones, it’s times to call in those reservations. Here are some ideas…

One-of-a-Kind Thanksgiving Buffet Meals

  • Graves Mountain Lodge, $40. Make advance reservations and drive to Syria, Virginia to enjoy a gracious, old-fashioned Thanksgiving buffet for lunch or dinner hours in a country setting. Expect freshly made rolls, their special apple butter, and fried oysters, along with traditional favorites. Make new friends at your convivial, family-style table. It will taste and feel like dinner at your Southern grandma’s house.
  • GreenFare Organic Cafe in Herndon, $50 offers a 100% plant-based Thanksgiving Buffet between noon and 3 p.m. for $50. The dishes have no added salt, oil or sugar. I will never eat a Thanksgiving meal like this but I have to admit the carrot soup, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin bread pudding and other offerings sound yummy, as well as healthy. You must reserve in advance.

Unforgettable and Pricey Splurges

  • LeMaire’s at The Jefferson hotel in Richmond is noted for its elegant food and setting. They are offering a four-course Thanksgiving meal for $70 between the hours of 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., but as of this writing the only reservations that are left are for couples. You can also make reservations for a three-course Thanksgiving meal at the more casual T.J.’s between 5 p.m and 9 p.m. for $55.
  • The Westfields Marriott in Chantilly, about $75, offers a Thanksgiving brunch buffet between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. that also includes prime rib, roast duck and Panettone French toast.
  • The Williamsburg Inn in Colonial Williamsburg, $100, offers a lavish and elegant Thanksgiving buffet, with seatings every half hour between 12 pm and 3 pm. Expect live entertainment, multiple chef stations, with delicacies such as pumpkin bisque, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, salmon, prime rib and ham, in addition to turkey. There are also at least five desserts, including chef-prepared Bananas Foster. Make advance reservations as early as possible. Business casual (or better) dress code.
  • The Ritz-Carlton in Mclean, Tysons Corner, $120 serves a Thanksgiving brunch buffet between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. that includes live entertainment. Expect raw oysters, lobster and caviar, in addition to traditional favorites. Reservations required; dress code.

Three Thanksgiving Ideas (that don’t involve cooking)

Not all of us are blessed with large families, but we still want to celebrate Thanksgiving.  How to celebrate Thanksgiving for one or two?  If you don’t really want to cook a huge feast?  Here are some of my favorite past Thanksgiving activities and some new ideas to try…

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving at Graves Mountain Lodge

Book now for overnight accommodations and Thanskgiving at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia.  Or just drive in for lunch or dinner.  The food is served family style, and is old-fashioned in flavor: ham, turkey, home-made rolls, sweet potatoes, fried oysters.  Lunch or dinner is $40 for adults and $20 for kids.  Be sure to purchase some of their apple butter and green pepper jelly for holiday gifting.  During the day, there is the farm to explore.  At night, there is usually a frosty hay ride into the mountains.  Luray Caverns is nearby, for a Friday side-trip.

A Historical Thanksgiving in Williamsburg

Hotel rates are generally quite low ($35-$50/night is not uncommon) and you can find bargains for this weekend. Explore Historic Jamestown and be transported back to a village of Native Americans and a 17th century English settlement.  You’ll really get a feeling of what the times were like around the time of the earliest Thanksgiving observations.  Colonial Williamsburg is also worth a visit, especially on Friday for shopping, and you don’t have to pay the admission fee to enjoy much of it.  We’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Fireside Chophouse in Williamsburg. The prix fixe dinner included a creamy soup, a plate of Thanksgiving favorites, and coffee and pie.  I thought it was just fine. We poked around the Christmas Mouse afterwards (open Thanksgiving night) and looked at the hundreds of Christmas ornaments for sale there.  A post-Thanksgiving visit to Christmastown Busch Gardens is a must (opens at 3 pm on Friday) and a bus from the historic area takes you right there, so you don’t even have to drive.

A Cultural Thanksgiving in Richmond

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open 365 days a year, including Thanksgiving.  You can enjoy a rather sophisticated meal in their upscale restaurant, Amuse, for $52/person — 3 courses includes offers like an appetizer of roasted oysters, an entree of game hen, and molasses cake with pumpkin ice cream.  Or head to the Patrick Henry Pub & Grill for deep-fried turkey on their buffet.  I haven’t tried either of these restaurants, actually, but the menus sound delicious to me. Afterwards, check out VMFA’s exhibit on Hollywood costumes and fashion, “Made in Hollywood,” and explore their fabulous gift shop for unique and artsy holiday gifts.  At night, catch a movie at the Byrd Theatre. Shopping at the Carytown boutiques would be a perfect way to spend Small Business Saturday.

Any ideas?

If you don’t cook on Thanksgiving or get together with family, how do you celebrate?  Share your tips and ideas!