The questions started rolling in a few weeks ago, all seeking the same annual advice. Hey, you’re a food writer, what restaurant should I pick for Thanksgiving dinner?
My response: it should be a restaurant you know well and, ideally, where they know you too.
For everything else it represents, Thanksgiving is one of our great food holidays. But it is not necessarily a great day for restaurants.
This goes for Christmas too, in case you’re getting ready to ask that question.
These holidays are times for “special menus,” which usually means fewer options at a higher price. Staffing is harder. Dining rooms are rearranged for big groups.
Simply put, if you’re checking out a restaurant for the first time, a holiday is not the time to do it.
That’s why I tell people to go with what they know. It will help you avoid surprises, and it might even serve you well down the road.
Holidays are times to reconnect. In this town, with its unusually intimate relationship with its own dining scene, that can include reconnecting with restaurants, or the people who make them tick.
You don’t need to be buddies with the owners. If you visit a particular restaurant enough to count as a regular, if you know a manager or have a favorite waiter or bartender, that’s part of the personal connection that can make a holiday visit feel like more than just another meal out.
Restaurateurs tell me all the time about individual customers, couples, entire clans who are holiday regulars. They become part of the culture of the restaurant. Thanksgiving dining is an opportunity to set those roots if there’s a restaurant that's speaking to you now.
Just remember, the relationship New Orleans builds with its restaurants goes both ways. Good hosts make the relationship work and so do good guests.
Holiday dining at restaurants is a time to expect good hospitality but also go easy on the inevitable miscues. Restaurants are not immune to holiday stress.
But just like at the family table, it all seems to go a little smoother when you know you’re in it for the long haul.