To cook or dine out? During the holidays, that question is far more pressing than Hamlet’s more celebrated, existential query.
If you dine in, you have the intimacy of a meal cooked with love, the privacy of a place where family members can be themselves and the post-holiday joy of delicious leftovers. But to get to that place, you first must confront the long lines at the supermarket, 12 hours or more of meal prep, the mountain of dirty after-dinner dishes and the headache of trying to appeal to the varied tastes of unappeasable relatives.
On the other hand, if you dine out, you’re limited to a menu of some chef’s choosing, you eat among strangers and you miss whatever time-honored traditions have sustained your family through the generations.
Good thing there’s also a middle ground. You can order takeout food cooked by someone else but consumed at your own table and on your own dishes.
I have exercised all three options. I have learned well the exhaustion of preparing the holiday meal as my aging mother has relinquished the primary holiday cooking responsibilities to me. I once had a mediocre Thanksgiving dinner at a large, impersonal hotel buffet where it seemed that quantity, not quality, was of paramount importance. I vowed never to repeat that experience.
Two years ago, I found a sweet compromise. I replaced the traditional American turkey and trimmings with the delicious smoked duck, Chinese American Thanksgiving dinner from Ms. Chi Cafe in Culver City. It was a brilliant decision. In addition to a tea-smoked duck or Beijing-style roasted turkey, this year’s offerings include duck-fat rice stuffing, roasted Brussel’s sprouts, a Chinese chicken salad and dumplings.
Even if you are doing most of the cooking yourself, buying a fancy dessert or artisan bread might lift just enough of the load from your shoulders to make holiday cooking a little less onerous.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, when almost everything is closed and almost everyone is off work, many restaurant workers are busy behind the stove or serving front of the house, making sure the rest of us can get a good meal away from home.
“I never celebrated Thanksgiving prior to coming to America,” says Curtis Stone, chef and co-owner of Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Hollywood. Stone and his brother, Luke Stone, named the restaurant in honor of their grandmother, who lived on a farm in Melbourne, Australia. “It quickly became my favorite holiday because it’s all about the food,” Stone says. “No presents, no tree trimming, no stockings. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but at Thanksgiving I get to spend time in my favorite place, the kitchen.” On this year’s Thanksgiving menu: slow-cooked turkey and honey-glazed ham accompanied by braised collard greens, a root vegetable medley, beef tallow parker rolls, assorted pies and more.
In addition to Gwen, the culinary options in Los Angeles are seemingly endless — even on holidays. Starving for steak? Eager for Ethiopian? Craving Cantonese? Voracious for Vietnamese?
The choice, my friends, is yours. But to help you choose among those “I’m not cooking” options, we put together a working list of restaurants open for Thanksgiving, Christmas or both, with options for dining in or ordering takeout. We’ve done our best to be accurate here, but you should consult restaurant websites in case their schedules or offerings change.
Additionally, our many local farmers markets not only sell fresh produce, but also an impressive array of cooked items. So, this roundup also compiles a list of markets regularly scheduled to be open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Sunday, the day on which Christmas Eve falls this year. Merry dining and happy desserts — whatever your choice may be!
Lolis Eric Elie is a journalist, television writer and author of several cookbooks, including “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans.” He lives with his wife and two young sons in Los Angeles.
Restaurants to the Rescue
Open for dining on Thanksgiving
1Kitchen at 1 Hotel, California cuisine (West Hollywood)
Bistro de la Gare, French/Italian (South Pasadena)
Boathouse on the Bay, seafood (Long Beach)
Caldo Verde, Mediterranean options (DTLA)
Corteza at Sendero, Thanksgiving menu (DTLA)
Gwen, Thanksgiving menu (Hollywood)
La Bruschetta, Italian cuisine (Westwood)
Lalibela, Ethiopian cuisine (Fairfax)
Leña at Sendero, Latin American fare, (DTLA)
Lunetta, traditional Thanksgiving menu (Santa Monica)
The Little Door, Thanksgiving menu (West Hollywood)
Playa Provisions, seafood (West Los Angeles)
Open for dining on Christmas
Pez Cantina, Mexican food (DTLA)
Ruen Par, Thai fare (East Hollywood)
Taste of Tehran, Persian cuisine (Westwood)
Little Sister, Southeast Asian fusion (DTLA)
Open for dining throughout the holidays
Fogo de Chao, Brazilian steakhouse, (multiple locations)
Formosa Cafe, Chinese food (West Hollywood)
Geoffrey’s Malibu, seafood (Malibu)
Henry’s Cuisine, Cantonese menu (Alhambra)
The Front Yard, modern California cuisine (North Hollywood)
Open for takeout
Ms. Chi Cafe, Chinese fare (Culver City)
Angelini Osteria Alimentari, Italian food (Beverly Boulevard)
Bludso’s BBQ, barbecue (Santa Monica, LaBrea Avenue)
Merry at the Market
Wednesday Farmers Markets
Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Huntington Park Farmers Market (8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)
Larchmont Village Farmers Market (1 p.m. – 5 p.m.)
Adams Vermont Farmers Market (2 p.m. – 6 p.m.)
Lincoln Heights Certified Farmers Market (3 p.m. – 7 p.m.)
Duarte Farmers Market (4 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
Altadena Farmers Market (3 p.m. – 7 p.m.)
Long Beach Marine Stadium (3 p.m. – 7 p.m.)
Miracle Mile Farmers Market (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Sunday Farmers Markets
Temple City Farmers Market (7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Santa Clarita Farmers Market (8 a.m. – noon)
Hollywood Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Pacific Palisades Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Studio City Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Palos Verdes Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Montrose Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Beverly Hills Certified Farmers Market (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Santa Monica Farmers Market (8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)
Alhambra Certified Farmers Market (8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Wellington Square Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Westchester Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Motor Avenue Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Mar Vista Certified Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Long Beach Southeast Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Atwater Village Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
West L.A. Certified Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Brentwood Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Malibu Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Playa Vista Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Glendale Artsakh Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Historic Downtown L.A. Farmers Market (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Toluca Lake Farmers Market (9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
Melrose Place Farmers Market (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Larchmont Village Farmers Market (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Westlake Village Farmers Market (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)