Thanksgiving dinner: Going out vs. staying in

For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, preparation for the holiday can be hectic. For a host, accommodating a large number of friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner is an expensive and time-consuming task and despite the comfort that gathering in a home on Thanksgiving brings, some opt to avoid the preparation altogether and go out to a restaurant. Given that it was only me and my parents on Thanksgiving, we decided to eat out.

Our choice was McCormick and Schmick’s on Lake Union. Before we even arrived, it was clear that the night would be hectic. Because of misleading road markings, we were lost as to where to enter the parking garage and almost had to park on the city street. Luckily, we were able to orient ourselves and find the right spot and start walking to the restaurant in a torrential downpour. By the time we reached the front door, our semi-formal wear was already soaked.

Inside the restaurant was total mayhem. Despite the fact that we arrived 15 minutes prior to our reservation, my parents and I were waiting for our table for over 30 minutes. The staff invited us to go wait in the “lounge” – which was really just four chairs against the wall in the hallway. Being in such a stressful and hectic environment was definitely not the way we wanted to spend our Thanksgiving and I was questioning the decision to eat out.

When we finally got to our table, we weren’t visited by a waiter for ten minutes. When someone finally arrived, we were bombarded with all sorts of excuses for the delay – staff dropping out because of personal problems, backups in the kitchen, anything to justify the chaos when it was clear that the restaurant was just understaffed because people were spending the day with their families. I wasn’t angered by the poor service, it was completely understandable given the circumstances. I could see that all the staff were already stressed, and I didn’t want to make their day worse by giving them a hard time.

On the bright side, right after getting bread brought to our table after 30 minutes, two appetizers arrived that we had not even ordered. The waiter was in such a rush that he didn’t give us a chance to say that it wasn’t our order, and told us to just eat them anyway and it wouldn’t be added to the bill. The free food was an upside to the chaos.
Although the night was frustrating at times, my family and I were constantly entertained. We laughed about the ridiculousness events of the night and instead of being dissatisfied with our experience, we found that we were able to enjoy the craziness unlike some other groups in the restaurant. It was comical to see people who were clearly miserable – sitting at their tables in awkward silence or complaining about the poor quality of service.

Overall, I don’t regret choosing to go out rather than cook Thanksgiving dinner at home. It worked for my family because there were only three of us, and those at the restaurant who were in small groups seemed to enjoy themselves more. Accommodating a large group on a busy night can be stressful for both the staff and the customers, so I would advise those who are meeting up with many family members to have a private dinner at home.

Going out on Thanksgiving Day had a feeling of adventure and unpredictability to it which was entertaining for my small family. I wouldn’t recommend eating out to anyone who’s bothered by crowds and noisy atmospheres.

Gourmet restaurants are normally quiet and formal – not on Thanksgiving. Staying home allows for friends and family to set the tone themselves and enjoy the holiday as they are most comfortable. It was clear that going out to dinner was not the right choice for all the people at the restaurant, and an awkward and unenjoyable experience was the result. It is really a matter of personal preference, but staying in would be the way to go for those who just want to relax.