The turkey had fans in high places.
When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the menu included venison, fish, shellfish and several types of game birds. Any of those could have been the foundation for the modern Thanksgiving dinner, but several of the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, were such passionate fans of the fowl that a modern Thanksgiving dinner without turkey seems unthinkable. While Franklin fought to make the turkey the national bird, Hamilton went even further. “No Citizen of the United States,” he declared, “should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.”
To local restaurants, Thanksgiving still means turkey, agreed Courtney Gummersheimer, manager at the Hay Market Restaurant at the Holiday Inn Six Flags. The Hay Market’s 2011 Thanksgiving menu includes a choice of salmon or prime rib entrees, but the traditional roast turkey dinner is clearly the favorite, she said.
“Last year (2010), about 75 percent of our customers chose the turkey dinner,” Gummersheimer said.
The popularity of the all-American meal means that some places with more exotic menus don’t even try to compete. “We’d like to be open on Thanksgiving,” said the manager of a local ethnic restaurant, who didn’t want his or the restaurant’s name used. “But all the customers want turkey.”
According to the National Turkey Federation, Americans will eat more than 75 million turkeys during the holiday season. The six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years account for almost one-third of all turkeys eaten in the United States, the Federation said.
Other area meal spots also are prepared for the demand. Although Super Smokers also is closed on Thanksgiving, it had “several dozen” turkeys available for families who wanted to add the smokehouse taste to their traditional holiday meal.
The Hay Market’s Thanksgiving dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Reservations are encouraged, but not required. The cost is $17.95 for adults, $9.95 for children, plus tax and drinks.
For anyone desiring to veer from turkey today, it might be limited choices. Yen Ching in Wildwood, which delivers Chinese food, will be closed. Also closed will be Big Bear Grill in Wildwood, Taco Bell in Eureka, and El Nopal in Eureka.
White Castle managers in Eureka said they, however, will still be open 24x7, and that plenty of customers stop to get their famous White Castle stuffing. A manager said traffic is fairly evenly distributed on Thanksgiving Day due to people stopping to buy bags of burgers to take to gatherings, or from stopping at odd times after organized holiday meals.
Editor's Note: Restaurants may be operating on modified schedules during Thanksgiving, so you might want to call ahead of time if you're having a Big Mac Attack after staring at turkey.