Turkey is not a flippant foul. It requires a certain amount of patience and gravitas to set a table, sharpen carving knives, and pour gravy in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast. But what happens if the one annual shot at poultry perfection is foiled by a careless cousin burning the bird to a toasty char? Or that brazen grandmother who insists on plunking it into a deep-fat frier? Another holiday ruined by insufficient fare. Unless you live in New York City, where the turkey options are far from few. Skip the family drama and that basic brined bird and instead pick up one of these 10 non-traditional turkey choices. There are classic sandwiches reinvented, and gussied up turkey a little farther off center. If the big T-day doesn’t live up to expectations, there’s plenty of turkey to be gobbled around the city.
Turkey Chili at The Grey Dog (multiple locations)
Like any good sandwich joint, the soup selection changes daily at the Grey Dog, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch chili day. This is a classic take, not too spicy with a good kick of sweet tomato. There are also chunks of salty turkey, a sprinkling of onion, and slices of cheddar, which make an ideal dunk zone for dry sandwich crusts.
Monte Cristo at Prune (54 East 1st Street)
Here, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton gives us something we know we love — grilled cheese on fluffy white bread, the kind that shrivels to a crisp on the edges when fried, but stays soft in the middle. Then she packs it with more things we love — smoky ham and roasted turkey. Then, get this, the sandwich is battered and deep fried, topped with powdered sugar, and served with a side of currant jelly. That’s a turkey and cranberry sauce redux we can get behind.
Greenbird at Umami Burger (multiple locations)
Only Umami Burger could take something that is intended as a healthy alternative and double its decadence, making it no average patty. A juicy, thick turkey burger is smothered with avocado and drenched in a tangy green goddess dressing. The sandwich is topped with sprouts and built between halves of the signature U-stamped fluffy brioche-like bun. If that extravagance isn’t enough, you can always order a side of truffle fries.
Turkey Cha Lua at Sau Voi (101 Lafayette Street)
Banh mi is one of the more delicately composed sandwiches. The crust of the bread has to have just the right crackle when bitten. The pickled daikon and carrot must induce just the right amount of pucker. The meat has to be salty, tender, and deep in flavor. The turkey cha lua has all of that, plus a smear of hearty pate and piles of succulent turkey.
Turkey Meatloaf at Stocked (635 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn)
Stocked serves takeout that tastes like home cooking, and the turkey meatloaf exemplifies this. It’s unfussy and boasts a good meat-to-starch ratio (too far one way and you’ve wandered into meaty bread pudding territory; too far the other, and the texture becomes a mess). Take the loaf to go with a side of personal sized mac ‘n cheese after you grab a coffee — it could become a new Thanksgiving tradition.
Turkey Leg Dinner at Jacob’s Pickles (509 Amsterdam Avenue)
This is the sultry Turkey Day dinner you always wanted but could never have. A huge leg of a free-range bird is slowly braised in dark red wine and placed on a bed of light, creamy mashed potatoes; it’s sided with a good dose of sweet and sour cranberry sauce. Of course there’s a briny rich gravy to complete the experience and bind all the flavors of Thanksgiving together, but this dish is available year-round.
Open faced Turkey Sandwich at Junior’s (1515 Broadway and 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn)
Junior’s is known for its cheesecake, but another less typical late night option is the open faced turkey sandwich. This is Middle American suburban comfort food at its finest. Hot juicy turkey meat is piled on soft white bread and then concealed under a pond of steamy velveteen gravy.
Turkey Confit Sandwich at Little Collins (667 Lexington Avenue)
This tiny Australian coffee shop serves up more than a rich black brew. It’s making a turkey sandwich for enthusiasts. Confit, or the method of cooking in fat, keeps the pieces of turkey meat from drying out — as we know it is wont to. It’s topped with fried onions and a sweet apple-mustard seed relish. We’re into it.
Turkey Casuela at Cafe El Presidente (30 West 24th Street)
This taqueria spends most of the year slinging tacos and fresh juices. For Thanksgiving this year, it’s rolling out some special turkey perks, like a light and dark meat turkey meal with a rich mole poblano sauce that’s served with fresh-made tortillas. The $25-per-person prix fixe includes a pumpkin tres leches cake, pumpkin soup, and heirloom beans.
Smothered Turkey Wings at Margie’s Red Rose Diner (275 West 144th Street)
At this soul food spot, you don’t get a measly a slice of lean turkey breast. You get an entire plateful of juicy, robust turkey wings, and you’re allowed to make a mess of them. You will, too: these peppery wings have such tender fall-off-the-bone meat, you will want to pick them up with your hands. And you should.