Eater SF is doing our best to help you figure out how to eat well this Thanksgiving, whatever that means this year. But when we put out a call to readers to help find affordable takeout options for solo diners, we were surprised to get multiple endorsements for a turkey TV dinner. Yes, hungry men, as in a microwavable tray. What a throwback, right?
“It’s like the perfect Thanksgiving meal for one … ” says Bi-Rite Market owner Sam Mogannam, a longtime fan of the boxed meal. “I grew up working at my dad’s store, and this time of year, we sold a ton of the Swanson turkey TV dinners,” circa the 1980s. That’s why Bi-Rite launched its own version, selling it for $16.99 a portion.
Yes, that’s about $15 more than the version Mogannam sold as a kid, but Bi-Rite’s dinner is comprised of roasted turkey breast from Pitman Family Farms, mashed potatoes and stuffing hot off the deli counter, roasted veggies in the form of Brussels and butternut, and equal parts cranberry sauce and gravy. And as Bi-Rite is a premiere produce destination, this TV dinner is all fresh, not frozen, with a tray is safe to slide into either the microwave or the oven, whether you prefer to reheat gently or blast it. (Weighing in at about a pound, it is intended to be a single serving, so don’t get salty if you don’t have tons of leftovers.)
The one item the Bi-Rite tray is missing, Mogannam concedes, is the Swanson apple pie in one corner. But Bi-Rite already makes smaller six-inch pies, which they count as two or three servings, depending on how depressed you are? Or on a more positive note, they’re perfect for cutting in half, to both enjoy with your TV dinner, and savor with coffee for breakfast.
Bi-Rite threw this new item on the menu last week “just for kicks,” and sales took off. That may have been fortuitous timing, right as the city started shutting down indoor dining (again), and the governor of California issued a travel advisory urging residents to stay home for the holiday. In fact, the TV turkey dinner from Bi-Rite captures a lot of the state of Thanksgiving in San Francisco in 2020. Thanksgiving may have shrunk a little bit smaller this year, but even sized down, we’ve still got the best produce in the country, right?
And while restaurants are losing reservations and doing tough turkey math, grocery stores are stocking up for an unimaginable week. Bi-Rite doesn’t even know what to expect this year, Mogannam says, he’s also cautious about how many people they can safely flow through the store. He says they’ve also received more preorders than ever, but the overwhelming trend is smaller portion sizes. And of course, turkeys don’t grow overnight. Mogannam says he requested smaller turkeys from their farmers back in April, but in retrospect, wishes he had asked for more.
Bi-Rite will be open an hour earlier on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it will be open on Thanksgiving Day, itself, for the first time ever, in an effort to space out shoppers. If the neighborhood grocer has one word of advice, it’s to shop early and stock up over the weekend, and take advantage of preorders and delivery.
“The more you get done in advance, the better it’s going to be for everybody,” says Mogannam. “And be kind. Everyone who’s out there working in food is going to be working their butts off to try to feed and keep everyone happy. Just remember to be kind to them.”