Countdown Thanksgiving: Excellent To-Go Side Dishes and More

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So, you've got the turkey covered for Thanksgiving but you're still overwhelmed? Focusing on what you really want to cook at home and picking up the rest can save a lot of time and headaches.

This handy guide includes suggestions from Houston Press readers and staff. Some of what's listed here have become new traditions for my own Thanksgiving table.

When a restaurant is noted, it is extremely important to contact them immediately. They all have a cutoff time when they are no longer able to take or fulfill orders.

See our other holiday food and drink suggestions: Dine Out on Turkey Day: Where to Eat This Thanksgiving in Houston These Houston Area Grocery Stores Are Open on Thanksgiving Day 10 Things Your Mother Didn't Teach You About Thanksgiving Wines

If a store is listed, assume there will be crowds and the staff will be busy. Prepare to be patient and understanding when you walk in. Most people are doing the best job they can under some trying conditions.

With that out of the way, it's time to do the final planning and say "cheers" to a stress-free meal!


Houston Wine Merchant

Tell the good folks at Houston Wine Merchant (2646 S Shepherd) what you are serving for the holiday meal and they will guide you to the proper selections. Don't forget about sparkling wine to start your guests off with as well as a good dessert wine like Royal Tokai, Sauternes or Port to send everyone off on a good note.

Spec's Downtown

You may or may not be able to get advice here, depending on how busy the store is, but it's hard to beat Spec's pricing when you have a good idea already of what you'd like to pour. There's also no place with a bigger or better selection of craft beers than the downtown location at 2410 Smith.

Also, you can pick up sparkling, non-alcoholic cider here for kids and those who do not drink alcohol. Everyone love bubbles.

Charcuterie and Cheese

Houston Dairymaids

A trip to Houston Dairymaids' warehouse at 2201 Airline will take your cheese platter from boring to "whoa baby"! A great cheese platter has three to five different kinds: something to please every palate. Consider a range--soft, hard, mild, pungent--so that every guest can find something to his or her liking. Kids or picky eaters probably aren't going to enjoy a tour of blue cheese from around the world.

Houston Dairymaids additionally has a small by good selection of complements for cheese like Marcona almonds, honey and jams.

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Revival Market

Revival Market makes what might be the best (albeit rather pricey) charcuterie platter in town. Coppa, salami and more is made from humanely-raised pigs at Revival Ranch and if you're never tasted it, you're really missing out on something special. A small is $59.95, serves five to six people as an appetizer and includes three-quarters of a pound of meat, a Bonne Bouche cheese, half-a-pound of another cheese (your choice), a French baguette, olives, roasted nuts, American mustard and pickled red onion. More information is on their catering menu.

Also, if you had to miss out on the Eastside Farmer's Market this past Saturday, you may still be able to snag some of Words and Food's pimento cheese at Revival. It may possibly be the best pimento cheese in town and a delightful dip for Thanksgiving table. You might be able to pick up a few containers of Blue Heron Mediterranean goat cheese while you're at it. Little dollops make a wonderful addition to salads.

There's also a big selection of heat-and-eat sides. One reader recommends Revival's Brussels sprouts, which are already halved, roasted and seasoned for you. Pop them into the oven or even the microwave and they are done. Check out the full selection of sides here. A 24- to 48-hour notice is strongly recommended. Revival Market is located at 550 Heights.

Central Market

There's always a crowd at the deli counter this time of year, and for good reason. Central Market (3815 Westheimer) is the best place to score a selection of smoked salmons, patés, smoked trout dip and prosciutto. If you're feeling really flush, you can splurge on some Jamón ibérico (Spanish ham that made exclusively from pigs fattened on acorns) and caviar, too.

Notable Side Dishes

There are many restaurants who prepare dishes for take-out, so call your favorites and see if they're offering to-go orders a la carte. Here are some of our favorites.

Punk's Simple Southern Food

We love Punk's idea of a "fixins package"--everything you need to go with your turkey. For $48, it serves four and includes horseradish mashed potatoes; brown gravy; stewed green beans; macaroni and cheese; roasted carrots; country ham and collard green dressing; cranberry jam and yeast rolls.

Punk's also has pumpkin, bourbon chocolate pecan and sweet potato pies for pickup. Pickup is available from November 24 through the 26. Call 713-524-7865 to reserve.

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Ouisie's Table

A Houston Press staff member vouches for the mashed potatoes from Ouisie's Table (3939 San Felipe). The Thanksgiving version comes with lobster, which sounds even better. That's just one of the offerings from this Houston bastion of Southern tradition. Other sides include green beans, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, mixed roasted vegetables and Stilton salad. The portions feed 10 to 12 people, so these are suitable if you're feeding a small army. Each is $50. Entire meal packages are also available. Call 713-528-2264 to place your order or find out more information.

Sparrow Bar + Cookshop

Chef Monica Pope has made a tradition of having meal packages and a la carte items available for Thanksgiving. Several items are also vegan or vegetarian. You can order online and choose from items such as butternut squash soup, roasted sweet potatoes with orange-chestnut butter, cornbread stuffing and spiced pumpkin cheesecake.

Backstreet Café

Backstreet Café has more great options. Their vegetarian sides include Cauliflower Au Gratin, Savory Bread Pudding with spinach, pinenuts and mushrooms and Sweet Potato Gratin. Their Deeply Roasted Root Vegetables are vegan. These cost $22 for an 8-inch by 8-inch pan and $35 for a 9-inch by 13-inch pan.

This last suggestion for sides came from a chef and it was only a little tongue-in-cheek. We'll call this the "To Heck With Tradition" list. It sounds oddly good, if you don't mind horrifying your parents:

"Wontons, egg rolls and fried rice."

What About the Bread?

Don't want to bake from scratch or serve those awful heat-and-serve rolls? Here are two different ideas that are funny and a rather brilliant all at the same time. Names are being withheld to protect the innocent.

"My friend goes to Red Lobster and buys three dozen Cheddar Bay biscuits."

"Low class and cliche, but nothing beats the rolls from Hartz Chicken."


Flying Saucer Pie Company

Anything worth getting is worth waiting in line for, right? People have been getting in line at Flying Saucer Pie Company for years, and with good reason. The crust is spectacularly dense and crusty and there's a touch of salt in there that is a bit addictive.

Flying Saucer does not take credit cards by phone, so your best bet to snag a pumpkin, pumpkin-with-crème, apple or mincemeat pie is to show up early. They're open from


Ready to get off the well-work dessert path of pumpkin pie? Hugo's has some of the best chocolate confections in town and make their own Mexican chocolate from in-house roasted and ground cocoa beans. Buy a big tablet of it for $8 and simmer it in a pot of milk (see directions for proportions) for rich, cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate. For cocoa in a more pastry form, check out the nine-inch round chocolate tart ($40).

Fat Cat Creamery

You can't forget the ice cream! Fat Cat Creamery's (1910 North Shepherd) seasonal flavors for Thanksgiving are Pumpkin Cheesecake with homemade Graham crumbles; Bourbon Pecan Pie, a Brown Butter Brown Sugar ice cream with Jack Daniel, pecan praline and homemade shortbread crumbles; and Spiced Pear Sorbet with Anjou pears poached in Riesling & whole fall spices.

They are also offering some equally inventive pie flavors this year and can save you a wait in line elsehwere. Choose from Black Bottom Pecan, Apple-Cranberry Double Crust and Salted Caramel Pumpkin.

Cloud 10 Creamery

There's a plethora of fall flavors at Cloud 10 (5216 Morningside). The flavors do rotate and while pints can be scooped at the shop, if you want an entire half-gallon, you'd better call today as they prefer three days' notice for that quantity. The selections include Brown Butter Sweet Potato, Maple Butter, Dulce de Leche with Chamomile, Ginger Snap and Sour Apple Sorbet. Phone your order to 713-434-6129.

When you're all done...

As one bartender commented, "It's not Thanksgiving without a side of bourbon." When you've done your duty and it's time to escape the relatives, Anvil Bar & Refuge (1424 Westheimer) is there for you. They'll open on Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m., a service they've provided since they opened five years ago, and they'll even give you a slice of pumpkin pie.

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