If we’ve learned anything during the past interesting year in U.S. history, it’s that there is no one person or ethnic group that can define what it means to be American. By the same token, while the turkey-and-stuffing Thanksgiving Day meal is considered an American classic, it is the culinary ethnic touches that individual families bring to the table that tells the true story of Thanksgiving. As a nation of immigrants, some of us may have grown up feasting on both turkey and tamales, mac ’n’cheese and matzo balls, pumpkin pie and pandan cake.
In the spirit of celebrating all that is American, consider using this year’s Thanksgiving holiday to explore the full array of flavors of America. A wide range of restaurants across the area offer both inspiration and myriad options, whether you choose to eat out or stay in. Here’s a brief selection of what’s on the menu:
Taqueria del Barrio (821 Upshur St., N.W.; taqueriadelbarrio.com): Mexican turkey roulade — turkey wrapped around pork loin wrapped around house-made chorizo — provides a stunning centerpiece for your table. You can order the roulade ($16 per pound; one pound feeds two people) through Monday, Nov. 20 to pick up from the restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 22; add homemade cheese poblano tamales ($3.99 each). And while the restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, the roulade will be on the menu from Nov. 24-26, accompanied by tamales and a cranberry orange salsa. Call 202-723-0200 to order the roulade for pick-up.
Le Diplomate (1601 14th St., N.W.; lediplomatedc.com): Yes, you’ll be able to get a French-inspired traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings at Le Dip, including pumpkin soup, sausage stuffing and roasted turkey breast — but consider opting for the duck sarladaise. Usually only available on the brunch menu, this hearty dish is a worthy stand-in, a rich layering of duck confit and potatoes roasted in duck fat topped off with a fried egg. End your meal with a glass of Vidal Ice Wine, the perfect note of chilled sweetness to accompany the slightly savory flavor of pumpkin pie.
Osteria Morini (301 Water St., S.E.; osteriamorini.com): Classic Thanksgiving dishes and Italian ingredients were somehow made for each other, as showcased on Osteria Morini’s three-course Thanksgiving Day menu. At $59 per person, you might choose to start with a creamy housemade burrata paired with slightly bitter charred rapini and a sweet fig agrodolce, brown butter-glazed gnocchi with delicata squash, turkey breast with a focaccia and turkey leg stuffing, Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta and cippolini onions, and top it off with a Tahitian vanilla cheesecake with apple compote and polenta cake crumble.
Rasika (633 D St., N.W.; rasikarestaurant.com): If you ever thought turkey was boring, executive chef Vikram Sunderam has created a special Thanksgiving Day dish that will forever alter that perception. The Turkey Istew, priced at $20, is turkey breast simmered in coconut milk with curry leaves, ginger and green chili, served with smoked butternut squash kootu, Brussels sprouts poriyal and cranberry rice. Add the ghobi mattar and lemon cashew nut rice from the a la carte menu for a celebratory meal loaded with deep flavors and textures.
City Tap Dupont (1250 Connecticut Ave., N.W.; dupont.citytap.com): Allagash Brewery is bringing the flavors of hops and malt to the menu in a series of beer-flavored side dishes to accompany City Tap’s brined turkey with a brown ale gravy. Look for Allagash Black chestnut and pear stuffing, Allagash white orange and cranberry sauce, and an Allagash Tripel reduction with roasted carrots. Pumpkin pie will come topped off with Allagash Curieux caramel sauce. Platters with the turkey and side dishes are $30 and the Allagash beers featured on the menu will be offered on draft at special prices.
The Grill Room (1050 31st St., N.W.; rosewoodhotels.com): If you’re looking for an old-school Thanksgiving experience, sink into the upholstery at the Grill Room. Start off with autumn bean and tuscan kale soup, apple and spinach salad with dried blueberries and golden raisins and an oven-roasted turkey breast with brioche stuffing with wild mushrooms and duck confit. Indulge in the pecan pie with bourbon ice cream and then consider stopping in at the adjacent Rye Bar for a nightcap — go for the oak-aged Manhattan.
And finally if you’re trying to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers once Black Friday rolls around, then chef Spike Mendelsohn has shared a tasty recipe inspired by the menu at his latest restaurant, Santa Rosa Taqueria (313 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.; santarosataqueria.com). It’s a welcome respite from yet another turkey sandwich.
Any amount of flour tortillas depending on how much turkey you have
Leftover dark meat turkey (thighs & drumsticks)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine turkey (bones are okay), orange and onion in a pot. Add enough water to cover halfway. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and cook until turkey is fall-off-the-bone (approximately 45 minutes-1 hour).
Discard the orange and onion; drain the turkey, then shred the meat and discard the bones. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add turkey in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cook, without moving, until meat is well browned and crisp on the bottom (about 5 minutes), then stir turkey to incorporate the crisp bits and introduce new soft bits to the bottom. Continue this process until the turkey is as crisp as you like it. Season with salt, then divide the meat on warmed tortillas and garnish with sliced radishes and cilantro. Squeeze a wedge of lime over the top before eating.
Kristen Hartke is a D.C.-based food and beverage writer; follow her kitchen adventures on Instagram, @kristenhartke.