A North Shore Thanksgiving … Without the Dishes!

There’s a chill in the air and the ground is carpeted with a crisp layer of leaves; it’s time to think Thanksgiving!

Many families will have huge dining room tables laden with Tom Turkey and all the trimmings, while others will travel out of state to be with family for the fourth Thursday of November. Either way, you might get stuck at the Kids’ table. For those of you with no travel plans and a desire to avoid the muss and fuss of feast preparation – not to mention the option of grabbing a seat with the adults – the North Shore offers many interesting choices.

Feeling Italian?
Va Pensiero in Evanston serves a $48, 4-course prix fixe meal that mixes traditional T-day fare with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Pumpkin Polenta, Focaccia-Sausage Stuffing, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce, and Venetian Tiramisu.

You can really strap on the feedbag at Maggiano’s Old Orchard in Skokie, where $32.95 ($15.95 for ages 5-12, tiny ones eat free) will buy you a family-style dinner with Italian flavors, including antipasti platters, Maggiano’s salads and pasta, classic Thanksgiving sides, turkey and ham, and ooey gooey desserts.

Looking for a more traditional buffet?
Check out Allgauer’s on the Riverfront, where the generous spread of T-day favorites will run $37.95 ($14.95 for kids, under 4 eat free). The buffet will include Caesar Salad; Cranberry, Turkey and Walnut Salad; Whole Poached Salmon; Corn Casserole; Dried Fruit and Sage Stuffing; Herb-Crusted Leg of Lamb; Sage-Roasted Turkey; and an enormous dessert display.

Thanksgiving with a continental flair can be found at the newly re-opened Jacky’s Bistro on Prairie. Enjoy a $35, 3-course meal with seasonal and traditional ingredients. Choose Heirloom Squash Soup with Applewood-braised Turkey Ravioli or a Grilled Apple Salad with Braised Greens and Goat Cheese Sauce to start your meal, and then choose from Pheasant, Walnut Loaf, or Duck Leg Confit and Pan-seared Duck Breast. Finish with a lovely trio of desserts: Squash Flan, Maple Granita, and a Walnut Tartlet.

And for an out-of-the-ordinary American Thanksgiving, try one of these three great restaurants:
The Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, or Big Jones in Chicago’s Andersonville.

The historic Deer Path Inn is a classic choice, where for $58 ($30 for kids), you can savor the Butternut Squash Soup; Holiday Salad with Roasted Pear, Bleu D’Auvergne and Candied Walnuts; choice of Roast Organic Turkey, Grilled Filet Mignon, Roast King Salmon, or Grilled Lamb Chops, each accompanied by Sweet Potato Gratin, Mashed Yukon Golds and Green Bean Casserole; and a trio of Pumpkin Cheese Cake, Pecan Pie, and Chocolate Mousse to finish you off.

If you’re thinking about Prairie Grass Café, you better hurry; they were just named one of the “Top Ten Restaurants for Thanksgiving” by Bon Appetit Magazine so reservations are going quickly. For $45 ($15 for children under 10), enjoy the “Thanksgiving Works” with a seasonal soup or salad, Roasted Turkey, Chestnut-Apple Stuffing, Yukon Gold Mash, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin with Marshmallow Topping, and Pecan or Pumpkin Pie. Can’t get a reservation? The good news is that everything is available to go, although you’ll still have some dishes to clean.

Big Jones, a charming and genteel restaurant, offers a Southern Thanksgiving for $44 ($20 for kids under 12) with classic Relish Plate, choice of 5 appetizers (Fried Green Tomato with Crabcake; Potato-Herb Croquettes), a Waldorf or Millionaire’s Salad, Turducken with fixin’s (or choose Short Ribs, Sea Bass, or Vegetable Plate), and your choice of Sweet Potato Pie, Red Velvet Cake, or Apple Strudel to end on a sweet note.

Thanksgiving comes in many shapes and sizes on Chicago’s North Shore, but one thing is certain: to fully enjoy any of the wonderful meals mentioned above, wear stretch pants. You’ll thank me later.