Eat Out on Thanksgiving
… Because then the Family HAS to Behave.
By Kristine Hartvigsen
The alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. The entire house is quiet. You slip into your robe and descend the stairs to the kitchen, cut on the lights, and squint in the brightness. You are absolutely delighted to be the only one awake preparing the turkey for its long, hot slumber in the oven.
Let’s face it. Cooking an elaborate feast for the family is not everyone’s idea of fun. Little Jimmy has to have separately prepared stuffing without celery. Aunt Lillian is a vegetarian. And Grandpa says it’s not Thanksgiving without sweet potato pie. Pleasing everyone is next to impossible. What to do?
More than 14 million Americans eat in restaurants on Thanksgiving, according to the National Restaurant Association. Just as many purchase prepared foods from restaurants to take home and serve. No fuss. No muss.
In the Columbia area, these restaurants are letting you sleep in on Thanksgiving morning because they’re open for business:
British Bulldog Pub
If they came ashore today, the crew of the Mayflower might hang out at the British Bulldog Pub to meet up with other pilgrims and footballers for a taste of home. They’re open on Thanksgiving and will cook up some traditional fare featuring turkey, of course. But if you’re in the mood for something different, you can choose a dish from the old world Liverpool-inspired regular menu. Dishes range from Bangers and Mash to Cottage Pie or Fish and Chips. Ever heard of Irish Egg Rolls? You can sample some here. Scrummy beer selection, including seasonal craft varieties. Truly fun atmosphere. 227.8918; thebritishbulldogpub.com
California Dreaming will be open at 11am on Thanksgiving, but they have no special holiday fare planned. Regular menu offerings include the very popular California Dreaming salad, which is stacked high with fresh mixed greens, tomatoes, egg, roasted almonds, and topped with ham and bacon and a honey-butter drizzled croissant. Nice selection of steaks, chops, and ribs. You’ll be as full as anyone who had the traditional 12-course tryptophan feast. 254.6767; californiadreaming.rest
Although Cantina 76 won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day, they are offering their popular, mouth-watering Thanksgiving Turkey Taco crafted with fried turkey, lime-jalapeno aioli, and cranberry relish the entire week of Thanksgiving. Fun food. Yummy cocktails. For something a little different. Two locations in Cola City. www.cantina76.com.
Carolina Ale House
Both locations of Carolina Ale House (Harbison and The Vista) will open at 3:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. Come for a classic holiday feast and stay to watch the football games. Generous screens offer everyone a good view. Enjoy some carbo-loading to fuel up for Black Friday shopping. Don’t want turkey? Try some spicy habanero chicken wings, sweet potato fries with ranch dressing, or even fish tacos. You’ll be glad you came. www.carolinaalehouse.com
“Yes, we are open for Thanksgiving,” said Dusti Hughes, general manager of Cola’s. “You can count on us being open for Thanksgiving every year.” The upscale Assembly Street restaurant is currently taking reservations and will be open from noon to 7:30pm. Refurbished from a 1930s-era RC Cola plant, the ambience at Cola’s is nostalgic and classy. You can almost hear “The Way You Look Tonight” playing from the Victrola. 451.0051; colasrestaurant.com
Colombo’s Italian Eatery at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel
There’s a reason that the iconic cornucopia is a popular Thanksgiving centerpiece. The “horn of plenty” reminds us of the abundance we are privileged to enjoy and be thankful for. What better expression of cornucopia than the sumptuous buffet at Colombo’s, an annual Thanksgiving tradition. You’ll find a wide variety of choices, from turkey, prime rib, and a selection of seafood options to your favorite traditional side dishes and desserts featuring your favorite pie. Reservations are required, so call early. 744.2200; columbos.net
Thanksgiving is Cracker Barrel’s busiest day of the year. They served more than 1.4 million Thanksgiving meals last year. Enjoy a homey atmosphere with a large stone fireplace and friendly staff. If you’d rather stay in but not cook, call 24 hours ahead, and you can pick up your Homestyle Turkey n’ Dressing Family Meal to Go for $64.99. It’s enough to make six people drift off in grandpa’s lounger. This may be the next best thing to noshing on mom’s cooking at the kids’ table in the den. Check out the restaurant store for adorable toys, clothing, music, and home décor. Don’t forget to pick up some vintage candies like pecan divinity or banana taffy. Three Columbia locations. crackerbarrel.com
‘America’s Diner’ welcomes all on Thanksgiving — and every day of the year! Consistent, delicious, satisfying. Three Columbia-area locations open 24 hours with turkey and all the fixins. Ask about their special holiday items such as pumpkin or pecan pancakes and pies. They’ll also be bringing back the holiday harvest skillet. dennys.com
This family friendly Forest Acres establishment always has an expansive all-you-can-eat buffet, and they’re open on Thanksgiving with everybody’s favorite dishes. Just about everything you can think of is served, even Brussels sprouts! Fresh, healthy choices available. Wonderful dessert bar. The kids will love the chocolate fountain. Military and senior citizen discounts. 787.4446; goldencorral.com
Hudson’s Classic Catering
The Hudson’s Smokehouse restaurants won’t be open on Thanksgiving, but if you plan ahead, you can serve their delicious food at home by ordering ahead. They have a variety of holiday packages featuring tender spiral-cut ham, smoked turkey, juicy prime rib, smoked salmon, and, of course, their classic barbecue. 803.356.1070; hudsonsclassiccatering.com
Three IHOP restaurants serve the greater Midlands area, and they’re open on Thanksgiving. Dependable 24-hour service. Simple food with breakfast your way the star of the show. Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and bottomless cups of steaming coffee. Comfort food with a capital “C.” Friendly servers who know the regulars by name. restaurants.ihop.com/sc/columbia/
One of the original local meat-and-threes, Lizard’s Thicket is celebrating 35 years in business now with 14 restaurants in Columbia and one in Florence. All will be open on Thanksgiving Day, serving turkey and dressing along with their favorite vegetable sides. Lizard’s Thicket’s Airport Boulevard location will be selling whole turkeys, and the rest of the locations will be selling take-out pans of vegetables, whole desserts, and sweet tea or lemonade. This is comfort food at its finest. Always a welcoming place full of smiling faces. They do a brisk Thanksgiving business, but reservations are not necessary. lizardsthicket.com
Motor Supply Company Bistro
Looking for something to cleanse your palate after Turkey Day? Motor Supply Executive Chef Wes Fulmer has some options beginning on Black Friday. "We'll just be closed on Thanksgiving Day, and then we'll be open again all weekend starting Friday at lunch through Sunday dinner. Our menu on Thanksgiving weekend tends to veer away from the holiday standards, actually, since we've found that most folks come in for a little culinary break from the turkey, gravy and other Thanksgiving classics that they enjoy at home." Are you game? Take a delicious sojourn from the shopping. 256.6687; motorsupplycobistro.com
The Oak Table
The Oak Table always has a special menu for Thanksgiving. Their talented chefs take locally sourced ingredients and work their magic creating holiday-themed dishes, as well as items from their regular menu. Because they only use the freshest foods available, they don’t release an advance menu. That would leave no room for creativity. Come in to this rustic space with a view of the State House and prepare to be amazed. You can make reservations by calling the restaurant or online via open table. 563.5066; theoaktablesc.com
Rockaway Athletic Club
Not a fan of turkey and stuffing? Need to get out of the house? Rockaway Athletic Club historically opens at 4pm on Thanksgiving, offering an array of comfort ales and other adult beverages as well as the state’s best pimento cheeseburger. Wear your favorite team jersey and come watch the game with fellow sports fans. Pub grub at its finest. 256.1075
Our sources tell us Ruby Tuesday’s Columbiana and Lexington locations will be open on Thanksgiving, but the turkey received its presidential pardon, so the restaurants will offer only their regular menu items. They always have a well-stocked fresh salad bar, plus an array of burgers, steaks, chops, ribs, seafood, and chicken. Check individual locations for hours. rubytuesday.com
For most folks, the main attraction at Ruth’s Chris is the thick, mouthwatering steaks. So if you’ve just got to have a steak on Thanksgiving, you can get one, because Ruth’s Chris is open. But just try to pass up the annual Thanksgiving spread they’re famous for and that keeps folks coming back year after year. Turkey and the traditional sides definitely will be on the menu, and you might discover something new. Reservations highly recommended. 212.6666; ruthschris.net/our-restaurants/columbia-sc
Even the pilgrims loved all-day breakfast. All Waffle House restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving Day. “We are actually open every day of the year, including Christmas,” said Waffle House Corporate Spokeswoman Kelly Thrasher- Bruner. “We will not be serving traditional Thanksgiving food, but we will offer the traditional Waffle House menu 24 hours a day.” wafflehouse.com
This basement lair – dubbed North America’s Greatest Dive Bar – is where all the malcontents come to commiserate after they’ve had a little too much family drama. The Whig will open promptly at 4pm on Thanksgiving with a full kitchen staff prepared to cook up menu favorites, such as its Chipotle BBQ burger, Whig burger and other burger varieties, as well as chicken or veggie gyros. It’s Thanksgiving, so go ahead and add bacon to the Smoked Gouda Mac n’ Cheese. You’ll be oh so grateful. 931.8852; thewhig.org
Do it up western style and wear your best cowboy boots to Thanksgiving dinner at Yesterday’s in Five Points. Lively tavern atmosphere where all the food is made from scratch. They’ll have the full line of homemade Thanksgiving favorites in generous portions, so come with an appetite. If it’s warm, feel free to bring Fido. Pets are welcome at outside tables. 799.0196; yesterdayssc.com