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Ernest’s Thanksgiving dinner comes with four sides, and is available for pickup on November 25.
Brandon Rice

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 in San Francisco

There’s a bounty of ways to observe the holiday, even during this tradition-breaking year

You don’t need us to tell you that Thanksgiving is different this year. Large gatherings of far-off friends and family members are out, as are jam-packed buffets or family-style restaurant meals. (Travel is also ill-advised, unless you’re ready to quarantine for 14 days when you get back.)

That means that 2020 is everyone’s opportunity to start new traditions. Some might opt for an outdoor and socially-distant feast at a popular restaurant, bundled up in blankets against the autumn chill, while other households might prepare a meal together, from fresh ingredients picked for them by a cadre of local chefs. Whatever you do, 2020 can be your chance to toss out the old rules for the holidays and to make your own. This list of options from San Francisco’s best and brightest chefs will help you forge a new Thanksgiving path, for 2020 and beyond.

Pre-order a boxed takeout meal

After nearly eight months honing their takeout games, San Francisco’s restaurants are set to offer the best to-go Thanksgiving menus the city has ever seen, all available for pick-up in advance (and reheating at your leisure). Here are some of the most exciting ones we’ve seen:

Prubechu (pictured above) is offering a Chamorro Thanksgiving feast that feeds 4-6 people, but with “leftovers in mind,” the restaurant says. For $380, you’ll get a whole roasted Black Spanish Heritage turkey from Joyce Farms, and Guamanian sides like appan mendioka (that’s yucca braised in coconut milk) and golai hagon suni (creamed spinach with tumeric). Preorder here to pick up on Wednesday, November 25.

Birdsong, the Mission District “heritage cuisine” spot from veteran fine dining chef Chris Bleidorn (Saison, Atelier Crenn) has full-meal offerings for 2-6 people, ranging from $190 to $570 (before optional add-ons). The base model includes a half turkey, sides like chicory and brussels sprouts salad, and pie. Preorder here to pick up on Thursday, November 26.

Che Ficos NoPa dining room is known for inventive Italian cuisine, but they’re going full heartland for Thanksgiving, with a menu that includes a full dinner for four ($250) with roasted turkey breast, sides, and a bottle of wine. They also offer a four-person, fully vegetarian dinner (also $250) with roasted mushroom and mushroom casserole as the star. Order online here by November 20, pickup is Wednesday, November 25.

Ernest has yet to open its Mission District doors, but chef Brandon Rice’s first solo outing after over five years at Rich Table has been testing its takeout legs with pop-ups throughout the pandemic. Now Rice is in Ernest’s kitchen, whipping up full Thanksgiving meals for 4-6 ($250) or 7-10 ($450) that include a 13-15 pound turkey (with brined and ready to roast at home), four sides, and cheesecake. Order here to pick up on Wednesday, November 25.

Cassava, the Outer Richmond restaurant known for its breakfast and brunch crowds, has one of the broadest pickup windows we’ve seen, with slots available to snag a full meal from Tuesday through Thursday on Thanksgiving week. For $185 you’ll get dinner for four, with a a whole 6-8 pound turkey that’s fully roasted (reheat at will), sides including candied yams and green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Order here.

Assemble a meal from some of your favorite local restaurants

If none of the full box options strike your fancy, then making up your own meal from local restaurants’ Thanksgiving menus might be the way to go. In addition to their full meals, Che Fico and Ernest both have a lot of fantastic-looking sides and add ons for your feast (see options here and here). Here are a couple other ideas, too.

Yvonne’s Southern Sweets (pictured above) boasts some of the city’s best pies: Owner Yvonne Hines drew from her grandmother’s recipes to build up the menu at her Bayview dessert shop. Traditional Thanksgiving desserts like sweet potato or pecan pie are on the menu, but her Mama’s 7 Up Cake is, for many, a small taste of home. See all your options here, and pre-order by phone at 415-368-7900.

Canela, Market Street’s Spanish spot, has launched a “Thanksgiving butcher shop” with half-cooked turkeys to finish at home, a fully-cooked ham for the bird-opposed, and pies that come served in lovely Emile Henry dishes. Order here, and early birds can pick up their choices as soon as November 15.

La Mar Cebicherias Embarcadero location makes it a destination for its views, but this year the Peruvian restaurant is a destination for its Thanksgiving menu. There’s a whole, stuffed and baked duck ($129), a pork shoulder with glazed aji panca-cranberry sauce ($119), and sides like stir-fried quinoa and kabocha squash topped with grilled shrimp. Order here for pickup on Wednesday, November 25.

Arizmendi Bakery, the worker-owned Inner Sunset collective, is especially busy at the holidays, which is why they urge folks to place their Thanksgiving orders by Sunday, November 24th. This year’s menu includes pumpkin cheesecake, apple pie, and at least seven kinds of dinner loaves. Order by phone at 415-566-3117, for pickup between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25.

Eat in, if you’re comfortable with that

Many San Francisco restaurants have reopened their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity, but be aware that there are risks associated with eating indoors: Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when dining outdoors (but only if restaurants follow strict social distancing and other safety guidelines). Here are some SF restaurants open with special Thanksgiving menus on November 26, with indoor and/or outdoor seating.

Baia (pictured above), the all-vegan restaurant inside the former Jardiniere, will be open for indoor and outdoor dining on Thanksgiving with “seasonal specials” in addition to its regular menu. (Takeout and delivery is also available.) Reservations are available here.

Villon, helmed by chef Jason Fox (once the chef/owner of Commonwealth) from inside Mid-Market’s Proper Hotel, will serve Thanksgiving diners a four-course menu from 12:30 p.m. through 9 p.m., for $85 per person. That includes an appetizer, main course, and dessert — and wine pairings are an additional $40. Reservations are available here.

International Smoke, the meat-centric collaboration between food celebrity Ayesha Curry and SF-based empire-builder Michael Mina, is serving a Thanksgiving feast that’ll run you $75 per person ($35 for kids under 12) that includes smoked turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Here’s the full menu, and reservations for indoor dining can be made here.

Grab a chef-curated box and make dinner yourself

Chef’s Cart, the seasonal produce delivery service from a trio of veteran chef from spots like Octavia, Andytown, Neighbor Bakehouse, and Mourad, is offering special Thanksgiving boxes of all the ingredients needed to prepare a feast at home. There are build-your-own kits for everything you’ll need, single item boxes like a whole Diestel free-range turkey complete with a brine kit and twine ($77 and up), or premade add-ons like gravy and vinaigrette. See all their offerings here, and pre-order by November 20.

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