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What to do when you don't want to cook turkey on turkey day

For those of you who don't want to cook a turkey this Thanksgiving—or don't want to cook at all, here are some of our ideas on how to shake up your turkey tradition.

Each week on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine’s dining critic, Ann Christenson, and 88Nine’s foodie, Tarik Moody, discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites. This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Read more and listen to the podcast below for more about the Thanksgiving food options in Milwaukee if you don't want to cook or if you don't want to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Plus, we have news about Irie Zulu and the Holiday Folk Fare.

Milwaukee restaurants open on Thanksgiving

If you don't want to cook on Thanksgiving (or if you tried, but failed and now have a dry, burnt bird) here are all the Milwaukee restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving.

Packing House

Packing House has a drive-thru and will serve you a Thanksgiving meal through the window from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will also have a sit-down dinner service. On the holiday menu is hand-carved, slow-roasted turkey served with hot gravy, apple and sausage stuffing, house-made mashed potatoes, brown sugar-glazed sweet potatoes, green beans amandine and fresh whole cranberry relish, served with a side of chicken soup or salad and fresh oven-baked bread. Wow.


Devon at Bayshore Mall is doing a Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu from noon to 8 p.m. The first course is a choice of butternut squash soup, Maine lobster bisque, baby greens salad or a caesar salad. The second course is (of course) roasted turkey, cornbread and sausage stuffing, whipped yukon gold potatoes, gravy, glazed yams, green beans with pecans and cranberry-orange relish. Then you get your choice of desserts: pumpkin pie, apple croustade, crème brulee or mixed berries.

Tre Rivali

Tre Rivali in the Journeyman-Kimpton Hotel will be doing a Mediterranean-inspired Thanksgiving day buffet (from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.). Check out Chef Heather's menu here.

Iron Horse Hotel

The Iron Horse will have a bountiful buffet for its Thanksgiving brunch from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with autumnal flavors and classic brunch fare.

Mason Street Grill

Mason Street Grill at the Pfister Hotel will have a prex fixe dinner from 1 p.m to 7 p.m. with the option of free range Amish farmed roast turkey or salt crusted prime rib with all the fixings. For the youngest members of the family, the menu also has a choice of turkey, prime rib or the famous crowd-pleaser, macoronie and cheese. See the full menu and get reservations here.

Pfister Hotel

Apart from the Mason Street Grill's event, The Pfister itself is doing a Thanksgiving brunch in the ballroom from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.


ChopHouse at the Milwaukee Hilton is doing a holiday menu alone with its regular menu from 4-9 p.m. Highlights from the menu include spiced plum soup, orange-sage brined turkey breast and pumpkin ginger cheesecake.

Sweet Diner

Sweet Diner will be open on Thanksgiving, serving the regular menu until 10 a.m. Then from 10 a.m. to close, the special Thanksgiving menu will be available. Or if a cozy night at home is your thing, Sweet Life Events, the restaurant's new catering service is also offering a special carryout dinner for six people. check out both menus here.

Tired of turkey?

Tired of turkey? Us too. Here are three other ideas on alternative Thanksgiving meals.

Try new global cuisines every year. Select a region of the world each Thanksgiving and center your feast around the ethnic foods found there. Think about it—Thanksgiving is about immigrants, so why not celebrate new cultures every holiday?

Do a dumpling potluck. We've talked about it before, but there are so many different varieties of dumplings found across the culinary world. Have each family member bring a different "dumpling" dish. You'd be surprised at the variety that this will bring to your table.

Have a seafood feast. Seafood is a great special occasion food that will switch things up and still satisfy everyone.

Other Milwaukee food news and culinary events

Irie Zulu

Here's some heartwarming news from Irie Zulu. Yollande Tchouapi Deacon, the young woman who owns it, is cooking a free pre-Thanksgiving meal for 400 low-income and struggling people (about 200 families) at 8 a.m. this Saturday November 17 at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Tosa.

She’s cooking African and Jamaican dishes, such as peanut stew and rice, curry chicken, South African curry vegetables and plantain. These items typically cost $20-25 a plate in the restaurant. This will be the third year Yollande is doing it.

Guests have to already be registered with Tosa Cares, a Wauwatosa food pantry. All slots are filled up for this year’s feast, but the organization is also providing families with a turkey and stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin, muffin and cake mix to bring home on the same day at Tosa Cares.

Holiday Folk Fair International

Holiday Folk Fair is back from Friday, November 16 though Sunday, November 18. Travel around the world at the State Fair park to explore Wisconsin's multicultural music, food, dance and arts. The World Cafe is legit. It will have an assortment of time-honored recipes passed down through generations will introduce you to distinct and extraordinary flavors that will awaken your taste buds.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee