Martin Heuser, co-owner of the modern German restaurant Affäre in the Crossroads, was careful to put America’s Thanksgiving favorite, roasted turkey, on his menu Thursday.
But once his customers had a recognizable dish — a “safe haven,” he called it — he felt free to put in some spins inspired by the cuisine of his homeland. So along with the roasted, sage-rubbed tom turkey, his customers — both old and new ones — chowed down on pork-apple-pretzel stuffing, Macaire potatoes, turkey-cranberry brats, Braunschweiger liver pâté and jägerschnitzel.
They weren’t the typical Thanksgiving choices. But more and more Americans are breaking away from the traditional home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner of past generations.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that 33 million Americans rely on restaurants for part or all of their Thanksgiving meals. That’s based on its figures from 2013, its most recent research for this holiday, and several area restaurants said they had seen Thanksgiving traffic picking up.
“We are all so busy in our everyday life, and we want to spend quality time with our family, not cooking and cleaning,” said Shannon Hickey, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association.
With more retailers moving Black Friday deals to Thanksgiving Day, some people said they also wanted to speed up the cooking and eating so they could start shopping.
In Kansas City, those on a budget could go for Boston Market’s holiday dinner special with entree, two sides, cornbread and pie for $11.99. The company said it had seen a 100 percent increase in Thanksgiving sales compared with five years ago.
Golden Corral has a 25-year tradition of being open on Thanksgiving Day. But company officials said they had recently seen an uptick in Thanksgiving sales, especially with millennials who don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen and may not know how to whip up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner like the ones they grew up on.
But other diners were willing to splurge — from a Fogo de Chao feast for $49.95 per person to a four-course dinner at Affäre for $48 a person.
Summit Grill & Bar in Lee’s Summit saw a jump in Thanksgiving dinner takeout this year compared with 2014, according to director of operations Kristin Kemery. Summit Grill also was open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and, like Affäre, its chefs put their own spin on the holiday. Along with a traditional Thanksgiving feast, it offered salmon, prime rib and honey-baked ham. Kemery expected nearly a dozen of her family members to come in so they could share the holiday with her.
Buca di Beppo on the Country Club Plaza offered its regular menu as well as turkey with spicy Italian sausage stuffing, and Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Leawood’s Town Center Crossing offered a choice of turkey dinner, steak or seafood.
Sales also were up substantially at the French Market in Prairie Village, which offered such items as turkey, stuffing, and cranberry and orange compote for pickup through Wednesday.
Affäre had a strong brunch on Thursday, but most of the reservations were between 3 and 5 p.m.
Samantha Wyatt hoped to fit in a bit of shopping after brunch with her family. She recently moved from Arkansas to Grandview, and her kitchen is too small to make a big holiday meal for her parents and brother. Still, the family wanted a memorable meal and said they have enjoyed German cuisine in the past.
Meghan Blick of Shawnee typically has a homemade Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ house. But her parents are remodeling their kitchen this year, so the family gathered with Blick’s fiancé at Affäre for a “smoother” day.
Though some restaurants around Affäre were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, Heuser is already making plans for his Christmas and New Year’s menus.
“It’s a different philosophy,” he said. “Maybe they wanted the time off before the crazy Christmas rush starts. But I like to work the holidays. Everyone is in such a good mood.”