How 5 Chefs Recommend Spending Thanksgiving 2016

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American Cut Tribeca

American Cut Tribeca
American Cut Tribeca

Thanksgiving may be the favorite holiday of millions of people, but hosting Thanksgiving is rarely a treat. In turn, many New Yorkers opt to celebrate Thanksgiving at a restaurant. In turn, great food with none of the prep work or clean-up.

Downtown spoke to chefs from five different restaurants that have special Thanksgiving menus:

  • Greg Rubin, Chef at American Cut TriBeCa
  • Eric LeVine, Chef at Morris Tap & Grill
  • John Schafer, Executive Chef at New York Yankees Steakhouse
  • Jonathan Kavourakis, Executive Chef & Managing Partner at VANDAL
  • Anthony Rodriguez, Sous Chef at Fish Bar

    Wherever you choose to go for your Turkey Day, Downtown wishes the best to you and those around you.

    Chef Eric LeVine
    Chef Eric LeVine

    What is your restaurant planning for Thanksgiving? Anything special?

    Eric LeVine: Our third annual family-style meal from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM at Morris Tap & Grill on Thursday, November 24. Adults are $34 and children — 12 and under — are $15. Menu features fun cocktails like the Cider Spritz and classic food items like turkey, honey glazed ham, stuffing smashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts, pumpkin pie, and more.

    John Schafer: We are going to be running a price fixed menu with one of the main course choices being a traditional turkey dinner, including sausage stuffing and whiskey-spiked sweet potatoes.

    Jonathan Kavourakis: We will be open from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM. We’ll be serving many of our daily items as well as a two part Thanksgiving menu! The first part of our Thanksgiving Day menu will include classics like Roasted Free Range Turkey with Gravy and Yukon Gold Potato Puree. The second part of the menu will be street food inspired, and includes unique items like Jerk Turkey Tostones, Juicy Steamed Buns with Smoked Ham, and Duck Confit Tamales.

    Do you have a favorite item on the menu there?

    Eric LeVine: The turkey. We brine ours and then cook it slowly. The bird comes out tender and juicy — it’s amazing. We also choose turkeys that are chemical and cage-free.

    Greg Rubin: My favorite item on the menu is our Pan Seared Octopus with Romesco and Celery Salsa Verde. By far one of the more involved dishes from the preparation to the pan to the plate. It’s been on the menu since we opened and it keeps getting better. This dish alone separates us from the other traditional steakhouses.

    John Schafer: Our dry-aged long bone is pretty amazing! I run locally sourced organic meats from time to time, and I am really into those items.

    Jonathan Kavourakis: I’m a really simple guy when it comes to Thanksgiving. I love mashed potatoes, gravy, and our cornbread stuffing is amazing!

    Anthony Rodriguez: One of my Favorite dishes on the Fish Bar’s menu is the charred octopus with chickpeas and salsa verde. This dish is so delicious! A perfectly well-balanced blend of textures and flavors.

    VANDAL
    VANDAL

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    Eric LeVine: That’s a hard one. I don’t feel like I have a job, I have a life in the greatest business in the world. I love all aspects of it — cooking, creating, teaching, customer interaction, problem-solving. I love chaos, I live for it, it’s when I’m best. I love the hustle; I think that’s what separates me from most. It’s no bravado, it’s just a fact. I live for what I do it’s my oxygen, everyone who knows me knows how true it is.

    Greg Rubin: My favorite part of the job is testing new menu items. We have the luxury of using some of the best ingredients and the opportunity to create and practice new dishes. For example we just started Burger Bar, which is a lunch pop-up which is American Cut’s Fast casual burger concept. During the process chef Marc and the team created a play on the Big Mac and we are calling it a “Big Marc.” Our version consists of two Wagyu smash patties, housemade pickles and our own secret sauce that is spiked with Brandy.

    John Schafer: Finding items that aren’t on every other menu in the area and giving our guests something that you don’t find at all of the other steakhouses in Manhattan.

    Jonathan Kavourakis: The best part of my job is to be able to walk into the dining room or greet a table and be able to watch them eat the food we are serving and smile. No better feeling than seeing someone enjoy something I have created.

    Anthony Rodriguez: My favorite part is the ability to be creative, the ability to express myself and my art through every dish and ingredient. The ability to share MY STORY through my food, that’s the most rewarding part of being a chef.

    Fish Bar's main deck
    Fish Bar’s main deck

    What was the first restaurant you ever worked at?

    Eric LeVine: When I was 11-years-old working at Jahns in Brooklyn.

    Greg Rubin: The first restaurant I worked in was actually a Chili’s — out on Long Island, where I grew up. I have definitely come a long way since then! And very thankful for where I am professionally currently.

    John Schafer: I was a dishwasher at a kids camp when I was 14.

    Jonathan Kavourakis: Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, New Jersey.

    Anthony Rodriguez: My first restaurant was the North End Grill, back when Chef Floyd Cardoz was the chef there. He was my mentor. He gave me the foundation to be a chef, he always believed in me.

    Aside from your own, what is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

    Eric LeVine: Different ones for different reasons. Anything David Burke. Per Se I’m a big fan of, Le Bernardin, and Rouge Tomate.

    Greg Rubin: My favorite restaurant in Manhattan is Khe-Yo. Every time I have been there the food gets better and better. It’s real chef-driven Laotian cuisine, that beats the pants off of your average cookie cutter Thai joint!

    John Schafer: Today, it’s Vandal. Ask me again tomorrow!

    Jonathan Kavourakis: That is a really tough question because it really depends on what kind of mood I am in. But if I had to pick a place I could eat at most often it would be Mr. Donahue’s. It has an old-school luncheonette feel, is really small, and they have really good comfort food with great sauces.

    Anthony Rodriguez: One of my favorite restaurants would have to be Bobby Flay’s Gato. I love their entire menu. There is something for everyone to enjoy. The small bites menu is perfect for a date night. Great service, amazing restaurant.

    New York Yankees Steakhouse
    New York Yankees Steakhouse

    When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?

    Eric LeVine: When I’m not at my two restaurants — Morris Tap & Grill and Paragon Tap & Table — or working on my ravioli company, I like to pay it forward with my charity involvement. I am part of amazing organizations including The American Cancer Society, Family Reach, Cook For Your Life, Employment horizons, and Housing Partnership, to name a few. I truly believe that in life when you have you give, whatever it is, my most precious asset is my time; it’s not always about money, not for me at least.

    Greg Rubin: When I am not busy at work, I spend time with friends and loved ones, exploring the city enjoying good food and drink.

    John Schafer: Listening to or playing music. Building bass guitars.

    Jonathan Kavourakis: Sundays are for football, and that’s typically the day I try to take off.

    Anthony Rodriguez: When not busy with work I like to go out to eat, walk around the city, enjoy the New York architecture, just take in all that New York is. I truly get inspired by this amazing city.

    Finally, any last words for the kids?

    John Schafer: Taste everything!

    Jonathan Kavourakis: Hard work pays off! Just say “YES CHEF!” and have a “there is no amount of work I can’t handle” attitude.