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As holidays go, Thanksgiving has more baggage than your vainest, richest relative takes on vacation. But good food and good fellowship are the only key components for enjoying a celebratory feast, even if your group’s dietary restrictions are as contentious as its politics. You’ll find those all over New York this Thursday, represented by the steadfastly dense and diverse patchwork of immigrant communities that in turn reflects the American immigrant experience. If you’re sticking around the city, not looking to eat at home, and haven’t decided where to celebrate, consider punctuating your day with earthy Oaxacan mole instead of cranberry sauce in the South Bronx, devouring your turkey in Argentine gaucho style in Brooklyn, or ditching the big bird entirely for the crisp-skinned indulgence of textbook Peking duck from a legendary purveyor in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Manhattan: The Bird Is the Word at Peking Duck House
If you love dark meat and still desire a large-format poultry feast, the namesake dish at this decades-old stalwart in the heart of Chinatown is a surefire bet. You’re there for the “House Special” or Peking duck dinners ($45/$35 per person respectively, the latter relegated to parties of four and up), which feature tableside carving, appetizers like dumplings and spring rolls, and a number of additional entrées to choose from, like sizzling beef with scallops and crispy green beans with minced pork in garlic sauce. The duck itself remains one of the finest examples of the craft, with bulky cuts of tender, fatty meat and skin that makes a satisfying noise when tapped with chopsticks. Snuggled with cucumbers, scallions, and a slick of hoisin sauce inside thin but sturdy pancakes, it’s a far cry from the pallid, dry turkeys you may have endured in the past.
Peking Duck House, 28 Mott Street #A, 212-227-1810, pekingduckhousenyc.com
Brooklyn: Miracle Skewers at Metta
Lined with flowing potted plants, Fort Greene’s ambitious wood-fired Argentine restaurant, led by chef Norberto Piattoni, is dishing out a nontraditional holiday meal, and at $55 for adults and $25 for kids, that should appeal to any Brooklyn families with a taste for adventure. For one thing, instead of turkey, there is grouse. The game bird comes skewered with both white and dark meat together, interspersed with parcels of onion, bacon, tomatoes, and peppers in the style of galetto, a typical Argentine preparation. The meal kicks off with family-style snacks like farmer cheese with pickled fennel and roast pumpkin soup with soured squash, and the cranberry sauce is made with wild-picked fruit. It’s further proof that Thanksgiving is a holiday that adapts to any palate.
Mettā, 197 Adelphi Street, Brooklyn, 718-233-9134, mettabk.com
Queens: Gluttons Gourmet at M. Wells
Few crews revel in excess like the folks at this wildly creative and overwhelmingly boisterous chophouse run by Sarah Obraitis and her husband, Canadian-expat chef Hugue Dufour, out of a former garage in Long Island City. This is, after all, a restaurant known for grand and sometimes cheeky presentations (spaghetti sandwiches, venison T-bones, a live trout tank) and absurdly serving steak as a side dish to other steaks. For the revelers who opt to join them in their merriment, the $75 prix fixe centers around spit-roasted heritage turkeys served with foie gras bread pudding, buttery potato puree, chestnut soup, green bean casserole, and randomly, tzimmes, the carrot and prune side dish that’s popular at Jewish High Holy Days. In grand steakhouse fashion, dessert promises pyrotechnics in the form of Baked Alaska.
M. Wells Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent Street, Long Island City, Queens, 718-786-9060, magasinwells.com
Bronx: Mexican Fiesta at La Morada
In Oaxaca, the mountainous state in southern Mexico that’s home to numerous indigenous peoples, domesticating and consuming turkey has a long history. Like, one-and-a-half-millennia long. Meaning that in the grand scheme of things, mole may actually be the most traditional condiment for these bulbous birds. Accordingly, you can delight in some of the most righteous Oaxacan food in town at chef Natalia Mendez and Antonio Saavedra’s Mott Haven nook. Off the regular menu, bacon-wrapped cheese-and-pepper-stuffed shrimp are appropriately festive, as are platters of chicken, pork, or cheesy chile rellenos blanketed in thick pumpkin-seed and fiery seven-pepper moles. As a special, Mendez will be cooking up three turkeys ($16–$20), each with a different sauce and seasoning (one spicy, one sweet, and one earthy and mild).
La Morada, 308 Willis Avenue, Bronx, 718-292-0235, lamoradanyc.com
Staten Island: Get Thee to a Carvery at the Stone House
Set in an expansive historic stone structure on an island within Staten Island’s public Clove Lakes Park, Peter Botros’s scenic restaurant and group-friendly events venue is offering a family-style Thanksgiving channeling gastronomic Americana to go with the vintage setting. The five-course $50 prix fixe ($30 for children under ten) nets you appetizers like mussels marinara or sweet potato–stuffed mushrooms before moving on to platters of honey-glazed ham and a roast turkey carving station. Your DIY adventure continues with cranberry cornbread stuffing and pumpkin or apple tarts. For anyone looking to escape the urban sprawl, the isolated surroundings here feel decidedly rural — or, let’s be real, suburban.
The Stone House at Clove Lakes, 1150 Clove Road, Staten Island, 718-442-3600, thestonehousesi.com