Thanksgiving has been a national holiday in America since 1863, when then-President Lincoln declared a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” across the country. George Washington declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, setting the date as November 26. It didn't become a fixed annual event, though, until Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863, declaring that the holiday should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November every year. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried unsuccessfully to change this to the second-to-last Thursday of the month (merchants were concerned that when the holiday fell on November 29 or 30, the Christmas shopping season would be curtailed), but critics complained that this would require the reprinting of calendars and cause other problems, and it wasn't until October 6, 1941, that Congress decreed that the holiday should fall as Roosevelt had wished. The Senate amended this just two months later, and on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill officially cementing the day of observation.
Thanksgiving has both a religious connotation and a patriotic one. It commemorates the pilgrims’ celebration of their first harvest in 1621, when they invited some of their Native American neighbors to join in the feast. They thanked their “beneficent father” for the food they believed he bestowed upon them — which is where the religious component comes into play — and since they are considered the first Europeans to have successfully colonized the "New World,” the holiday is also closely tied to the founding of our nation.
For generations, Thanksgiving has been a day on which family and friends both near and far have gathered together to share a meal and express gratitude for everything good they’ve experienced in the past year. The feast has traditionally been held at home and prepared by the host(s), though sometimes guests bring side dishes to lessen the workload. That has changed in recent years, however; since the average American dines out more now, some families have broken with the at-home tradition and have joined their family and friends at a restaurant for the holiday meal. This, in turn, has given way to many different types of Thanksgiving dinners across the country: from family-style, to formal, to non-traditional, there is an ever-increasing variety of options for enjoying your holiday meal.
In response to our country’s growing appetite for holiday meals out, we called on our City Guide editors and trusted contacts to find the best restaurants for dining out on Thanksgiving in five major food cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. We sifted through hundreds of recommendations, considered the sheer number and variety of offerings in each city, and determined the winners based on reviews, recommendations, and food quality. If you are a lucky resident of one of these cities, or if you’re traveling to one for turkey day, here is our guide to the best places to dine out on Thanksgiving in America.
Click here for the best restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner in Seattle
Click here for the best restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner in San Francisco
Click here for the best restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner in Los Angeles
Click here for the best restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner in New York
Click here for the best restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner in Washington, D.C.