Giving thanks by reserved seating Holiday: Restaurant reservation lists grow longer every year as more people, including whole families, are choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving by dining out.

November 27, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Giving thanks, celebrating family and seeing friends all are part of Thanksgiving, but the main point, even the Pilgrims would agree, is eating. And more people across the Baltimore region are getting right to that point -- shunning hours of kitchen preparation and party small talk for quiet restaurants where the wine is already uncorked, the bird is waiting on the table and somebody else washes the dishes.

Restaurant reservation lists are almost 10 times longer in some restaurants than they were 10 years ago, and dozens of other restaurants are opening their kitchens for the first time this year, trying to cash in on Thanksgiving.

"We originally started opening on Thanksgiving to try to do a little extra business," said Clark Elliott, owner of Clark's Bayside Inn in Anne Arundel County. "Ten years ago, we'd have 60 people. This year we have 270-plus already."

Many restaurant owners are crowing about reservation numbers that are closing in on what is widely regarded as the biggest day in the restaurant business -- Mother's Day.

"We surpassed Easter and Valentine's Day years ago," Elliott said.

Domino's Pizza is catching on and has opened all its corporately owned pizza parlors in the region on Thanksgiving Day this year, for the first time in almost a decade. A barrage of phone calls the last two years convinced Domino's that there are people out there who prefer Italian seasoning on the traditional American holiday.

"Due to overwhelming response, we decided to give our customers a chance to order pizza on Thanksgiving," said Jeff Pol- lino, general manager for the region.

So, who orders pizza on turkey day?

"Some of it is people who eat late and want lunch," Pollino said. "Others are people who eat early and get hungry later. And some, well, different strokes for different folks."

Unlike some restaurant managers, he is not expecting to set any records.

Boston Market, however, is. Managers from the suburbs to the city are bracing for hundreds of people to flood the stores today ready to eat.

Where once only singles, transients and the occasional older couple ate out, restaurant owners say that they are seeing more families and large groups of friends walk through their doors.

"Every year we see 10 percent more people coming in," said J. C. Christian, manager of Morrison's Cafeteria in Pasadena, which has been open for Thanksgiving for the past 10 years. "And we definitely see more families. They just don't want to spend a lot of time cooking."

Many restaurants, feeling increasing competition, are roasting turkeys for the first time this year.

The Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis is one of them. Since it is close to the Naval Academy and several colleges, the owners are expecting at least half their clientele to be younger drop-ins.

"We've noticed a big demand of people who want Thanksgiving dinner and a lot of restaurants in town are doing it," said Rams Head manager Paul McMahon.

Some experts on family living, though, see the move away from the at-home feast as symbolic of more than just the hassle of cooking.

"Many families today are geographically dispersed; some are divorced," said sociology Professor Betty Farrell at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., whose research focuses on historical changes in family life. "Many families can't produce the Hallmark picture of family. Thanksgiving especially is a time that is difficult to live up to. Instead, people find lots of alternatives."

Those who can't create the "extended family on the farm" picture find it best not to try, Farrell said.

And some people just prefer pepperoni to drumsticks.

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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