Where to go if you can’t go home for Thanksgiving

By Brian Dukerschein

Not everyone is able to go home for Thanksgiving. Work commitments, the rising cost of travel or the fact you can’t stand your relatives may mean many students are left searching for alternative ways to spend the holiday. For those who lack culinary skills or kitchen space, here are some restaurants serving both traditional and non-traditional meals on Thanksgiving Day.

For Animal Lovers

Native Foods Cafe’s Wicker Park branch, located at 1484 N. Milwaukee Ave., will be hosting its first all-you-can-eat vegan Thanksgiving buffet from 1 – 7 p.m. According to General Manager Aaron Buss, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for the chain’s locations in California, and he is also expecting a large turnout in Chicago.

The $24.95 buffet includes a polenta-butternut squash terrine, wheatberry Waldorf salad, pumpkin cheesecake and other sides. The main dish is the chain’s signature “Native Wellington,” a puff pastry filled with seitan, organic kale, portobello mushrooms, yams and stuffing.

To make reservations for Native Foods Cafe’s vegan buffet, call (773) 489-8480. For information on ordering items for pickup, visit NativeFoods.com.

For Do-Gooders

Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club, 3700 N. Halsted St., is giving Thanksgiving diners a chance to give back to the community. Each patron who brings in a non-perishable food item will be given a 50-percent discount on their entire bill, said owner Edward Gisiger. Donated items will be given to Vital Bridge’s Harvest of Hope food drive, which benefits Chicagoans living with HIV and AIDS.

In addition to its regular menu, Kit Kat will be offering a $30 fixed-price Thanksgiving dinner of roasted Kabocha squash soup; roasted sage turkey with cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, pomme puree and a pumpkin martini for those of legal age.

To put people in the holiday spirit, Gisiger said Kit Kat diva Kinley Preston will begin performing Christmas numbers from Mariah Carey, Madonna and Beyonce at 7:30 p.m., and the film “Miracle on 34th St.” will be projected on the walls of the club.

Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 5:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. For more information, or to make a reservation, call (773) 525-1111, or visit KitKatChicago.com.

For Traditionalists

Ann Sather, the Swedish-themed restaurant famed for its cinnamon rolls, has been serving Thanksgiving meals for more than 60 years, according to Catering Director Anne Sachs. She said this year’s meal will include a choice of soup or salad, roast turkey with dressing, sweet or mashed potatoes, a vegetable side and a choice of pumpkin or apple pie for $18.95 per plate. The restaurant will also be offering a limited menu, including roast tenderloin, grilled chicken breast, broiled salmon and a vegetarian option.

“If you’re an orphan for a day, there’s always a full house here,” Sachs said.

She added that the restaurant’s cinnamon rolls will be available all day.

Ann Sather’s Thanksgiving menu will be available at these locations: 909 W. Belmont Ave., 3411 N. Broadway and 5207 N. Clark St. Reservations will be taken for parties of six or more. For business hours and other information, visit AnnSather.com.

For Historians and Gourmands

The Chicago Firehouse restaurant, 1401 S. Michigan Ave., takes its name from its historic location. Erected in 1905, the building was a working firehouse until 1984, after which it was used as a storage facility by the Chicago Police Department, according to Carl Madsen, the restaurant’s guest relations manager. The building’s current owners spent more than two years remodeling the space while preserving the original glazed Tiffany tiles, brass fire poles and hand-carved black walnut paneling.

Madsen said the restaurant is expecting approximately 700 diners for its $45.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. From 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., the restaurant will be serving a breakfast of eggs benedict, sausages, french toast and a made-to-order omelet station. The restaurant will also present a spread of more than 20 dishes all day, including traditional Thanksgiving staples, as well as braised beef short ribs, seafood platters and a prime rib carving station.

The Chicago Firehouse’s Thanksgiving buffet will be served from 11:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call (312) 786-1401, or visit OpenTable.com.