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As favorite holiday meals go, Thanksgiving dinner rules.
Turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes ... the Pilgrims were really onto something when they settled on this beloved menu for that first New World harvest in 1621 with the Wampanoag people. Be honest: Don't you just wish you could sink your teeth into the feast right now instead of counting down to Thursday?
Good news! You can.
More than a few local restaurants are offering a taste of Thanksgiving every day throughout November. And they're doing it in ways that are as creative as they are tasty, serving up everything from mashed potato-topped burgers and hot dogs to sweet treats such as gravy-flavored waffles, doughnuts and popcorn.
Probably the best-known Thanksgiving mash-up in the Pittsburgh region is the Gobblerito, which arrived in Big Burrito's Mad Mex restaurants well before the holiday season, in late September. Talk about your gut-busting, make-merry feasts: this $10 "burrit-o-plenty" requires two hands and at least as many napkins, though for obvious reasons (it's huge), you'll probably want to tackle it with a knife and fork. Tucked inside a large flour tortilla is a generous serving of turkey with all the trimmings: mashed potatoes, bread stuffing and corn. It comes doused in gravy, with cranberry sauce on the side for dipping. But you better get it quick, as it's only available through Thanksgiving Eve.
The humble hamburger also is getting Turkey Day-treatment at two popular burger joints. The Gobble Gobble Burger at BRGR in East Liberty ($9) marries a succulent turkey burger with the crunch of pickled green beans and tang of cranberry aioli; additional toppings includes sage stuffing and turkey gravy. No doubt you'll give thanks with every bite.
Burgatory's Thanksgiving Burger ($12) also starts with a house-ground, all-natural turkey pattie. Yet this ode to America's favorite eating holiday doesn't wear a bun -- it comes stuffed into sweet brioche. A carb fest for big eaters, it also includes a slice of farmhouse cheddar, rosemary-pancetta stuffing, mashed potatoes and for a taste of green, haricot verts. And don't forget the roasted corn gravy. It's available through Wednesday, Nov. 27, at its Waterworks and Robinson locations.
If you're wondering what to wash it down with, the restaurant also is featuring Pumpkin Pie Shakes (classic $6, hard $8) through Sunday, Dec. 1.
Or maybe like me you're more of a hot dog kind of gal. No worries, because Thanksgiving dinner also is being served atop cooked sausages.
For an extra $2 at Franktuary in Lawrenceville, for example, you can turn any grilled hot dog or sausage into a "Franksgiving" Dog. Toppings include mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and crispy fried onion. D's Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square also offers a Franksgiving Dog, albeit with corn instead of fried onion and a grilled, split turkey dog rather than one made from beef. Cranberry sauce comes on the side because -- let's be honest -- not everybody's a fan of the tart red berry. Served on a traditional poppy seed bun, it costs $5.99.
But all the above are just for the lunch and dinner crowd. Perhaps you prefer those quintessential Pilgrim flavors at breakfast. Waffles, InCaffeinated is happy to oblige. This month's special, available through Nov. 30, features a "stuffing" waffle made with fresh turkey breast and topped with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. For $9, you also get a side of cranberry sausage links. Available only at the original New Brighton location, and just for the next five days -- monthly specials are not repeated, ever, no matter how delicious.
Pittsburgh being the Pierogie Capital of the U.S., it's probably no surprise you also can find the holiday's favorite tastes tucked inside a luscious dumpling. Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville has on its menu a Thanksgiving Pierogie (turkey and stuffing topped with cranberry, $7). So does the North Side's Penn Brewery, which stuffs roasted turkey into a herbed dough and serves the finished product with a tart-sweet cranberry glaze. The accompanying home-style stuffing and mashed potatoes come smothered in gravy. The cost is $11.95.
Rather make your own pierogies at home? Cop Out Pierogies in Etna sells a Pilgrim pierogie ($9.75 for 14) that's a plump mash-up of turkey, potato, corn and fresh cranberries. The Thanksgiving Pierogie at Szmidt's Old World Deli in Greenfield ($9.99 for 12) is a bit simpler, made just with stuffing and turkey, and served with turkey gravy.
For snackers, King of Pop (kingofpop.com) is popcorn-izing America's favorite holiday dinner with a Thanksgiving Popcorn Feast sampler package comprised of nine classic flavors. They include: succulent turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin pie and strawberry cheesecake. It costs $34.95, and includes a 2-cup bag of each flavor. The best part is, aside from the novelty factor, there's no dishes to wash up afterwards, just sticky fingers.
My colleagues in the newsroom liked the apple pie best, but also gave a thumbs-up to the super-sweet (and unnaturally pink) strawberry cheesecake. The turkey popcorn? Not so much.
Other Thanksgiving dinner mash-ups that have come across our radar, for those of you lucky enough to be traveling to New York City for the Macy's parade this week: Momofuku Milk Bar is offering a Thanksgiving Croissant at all five of its city locations. Just $4.50, it consists of light and dark turkey meat rolled into a yeast dough with stuffing-spiced butter, cranberry sauce and gravy. Cer Te on West 55th Street is offering the "Getting Thanks" sandwich, crafted from turkey meatloaf, string bean casserole, turkey cracklins, and cranberry ketchup on an onion brioche. On the other side of Central Park at Pizza by Cer Te on East 56th, you'll find the Thanksgiving pizza. It features turkey meatballs, mashed potatoes with giblet gravy, butternut squash, and cranberries ($3.95).
And at Zucker Bakery in the East Village, Thanksgiving dinner comes in the form of a pumpkin doughnut, with your choice of turkey-and-gravy filling, or turkey-and-cranberry ($6 for a box of 5). In honor of Turkey Day falling on the first night of Hannukah for the first time in 100 years, they're calling the sweet treat a "stuff-ganiyot," a wordplay on "sufganiyot," the Hebrew word for doughnut.
But enough about limited-run mash-ups.
Where can you find Thanksgiving dinner in December, or July, for that matter?
At the Handle Bar & Grille in Canonsburg, of course. Every day of the week for $8, you can nosh on a Black Friday sandwich. It comes with turkey, stuffing, corn and cranberry sauce on a Cellone's bun. Served, naturally, with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.