While Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for home chefs to show off their cooking prowess, others may prefer to have someone else do all the roasting, baking and cleaning up. Some Williamsburg restaurants open their doors on Thanksgiving to serve those who would rather enjoy their holiday meal on the town.
All the taverns in Colonial Williamsburg are open on Thanksgiving Day. The Historic Area typically serves more than 5,000 guests on Thanksgiving and more than 15,000 during the entire holiday weekend.
“Thanksgiving is a very traditional day of celebration in Colonial Williamsburg,” said Mark Florimonte, Director of Food and Beverage, Historic Area Hospitality Operations, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
“It is an honor and a pleasure for us to be able to share these traditions with our neighbors and visitors from around the world. While we could never replace Grandma’s famous dressing and sides, throughout the resort area, the taverns, and both the Williamsburg Lodge and the Williamsburg Inn make every attempt to provide quality food and great guest service.”
Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday menu includes traditional Thanksgiving fare: sage rubbed turkey with herb dressing, yams, seasonal vegetables and cran-orange relish. There is, of course, dessert: a choice of either pumpkin pie, churned ice cream, or American Heritage chocolate cake. Other offerings throughout the holiday weekend include tavern favorites such as the rum cream pie at Raleigh Tavern Bakery, sweet potato muffins at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern or the peanut soup at King’s Arms Tavern.
“All four taverns offer the same traditional menu items as well as King’s Arms Tavern prime rib and Christiana Campbell’s Tavern’s fresh salmon as alternatives,” Florimonte said.
There are numerous reasons why someone might choose to dine out on Thanksgiving instead of eat at home. Some people might not have family close by while others might not have the time, money or help to prepare such a big meal on their own. All are reasons why Blue Talon Bistro on Prince George Street remains open on Thanksgiving Day.
“What we hope we can offer is not only a great place for extended families to gather but also to address the desire for the warm, inviting atmosphere of a holiday meal for those folks that aren’t able to be with family for whatever reason,” said Adam Steely, general manager and co-owner of Blue Talon Bistro. “They can join us and share in the noise, fun, roasted turkey and pumpkin pie that often hold a special warm place in people’s memories.”
The Blue Talon Bistro hosts a Turkey Trot 5K race on Thanksgiving morning each year. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the holiday.
“We sell more turkey dinners than anything else that day, that’s for sure,” Steely said. “That being said, there are plenty of folks that enjoy having other options as well, so we’ll also see folks enjoying lamb shanks, salmon and steaks. We serve our whole menu all day, so there are choices everywhere.”
Opus 9 Steakhouse in New Town also serves on Thanksgiving as well as its sister restaurant, Craft 31 on Strawberry Plains Road. Craft 31 offers three complete Thanksgiving dinner options (turkey, seafood, or prime rib) while Opus 9 offers a buffet for diners on the holiday by reservation only.
“We have traditional items like turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes as well as less traditional items like prime rib plus a variety of salads, and desserts,” said Jessica Smith, director of sales and marketing.
“Sticking with tradition is important to us. While we offer some things that are not specifically for the holiday, we do offer the staples. The best part is having someone else do the dishes. Having someone else do the work makes it a lot more enjoyable.”
Secrets to great turkey
So, what makes a great Thanksgiving turkey?
“I have one secret for the turkey,” said Mark Florimonte, Director of Food and Beverage, Historic Area Hospitality Operations, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Brining the turkey for 24 hours before cooking will keep it moist and delicious. [I use] apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, kosher salt, and some herbs and fruits.”
Meanwhile, “Chef [David] Everett knows the best way to cook turkey is to separate the white meat from the dark and prepare them individually,” said Adam Steely, general manager and co-owner of Blue Talon Bistro. “We roast our turkey breast with fresh herbs and oranges, basting them with whole butter as they cook. He folds the roasted dark meat in with brioche stuffing and bakes it so that everyone gets a little bit of everything on the plate.”