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Experts can help fix your familys Thanksgiving meal
Mike Rucker looks over some ham Monday at Longstreet Cafe. The ham and other foods such as banana pudding, front, and turkey and dressing will be served Thursday at the restaurant. - photo by Tom Reed
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Dreaming about roasted turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole but have no time — or maybe no culinary talent — for pulling a Thanksgiving feast together on your own?

Let the professionals take care of all the hard work for you.

Several area grocery stores and restaurants are still taking orders for the holiday meal and a handful will even be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Many grocery stores offer complete, pre-cooked turkey dinners, though some have stopped taking orders. J&J Foods, with two locations in Gainesville and one in Dahlonega, will only take orders through today, according to Katie Boles, advertising and marketing director. The store offers several choices for a complete meal, she said.

HoneyBaked Ham Co., located on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, will be selling fully cooked hams, turkeys and sides through Wednesday, according to General Manager Jennifer Adkins. Though pre-orders ensure customers can get a specific size of turkey or ham, the store will have a range of turkey and ham sizes and most side dishes available even on Wednesday, she said.

“We do our best to make sure we have product available all the time with or without an order,” Adkins said Monday.

The most popular sides include sweet potato souffle and green bean casserole, though Adkins said her favorite is the garlic mashed potatoes.

Be prepared to deal with a crowd if you wait until Wednesday, though. With a parking lot that holds only about 40 or 50 vehicles and an expected rush of some 200 to 300 customers an hour, Adkins said law enforcement is called upon to help handle traffic.

While they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day, Adkins said the store gets geared back up again for the Christmas holiday rush on Friday.

Preparing for Thanksgiving began about a month ago at Longstreet Cafe on Riverside Terrace. Owner Tim Bunch said that’s how long his cooks have been making and freezing biscuits and cornbread to make up the pounds of dressing they’ll be serving on Thanksgiving Day.

Last year marked the first time Longstreet was open on the holiday.

“We were very successful and so we’re going to do it again,” Bunch said Monday.

The Riverside location only will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, serving a menu of chicken, ham, turkey and dressing and homestyle vegetables served cafeteria style. Prices are based on portions.

Bunch is expecting just as many, if not more, business than he had last year when 1,500 to 2,000 customers enjoyed the holiday meal.

“It’ll take both kitchens, though, to cook enough to feed everyone,” he said.

Though Longstreet stopped taking orders last week for complete holiday meals, Bunch said he plans to have enough extra dressing and giblet gravy for those who need a culinary rescue on Thanksgiving Day. Some 60 or 70 people have placed orders for complete meals, he said.

After feeding a Thanksgiving feast to hundreds of people on Thursday, Bunch said both Longstreet locations will be closed on Friday and Saturday.

“Everybody’s full after Thanksgiving and the ladies are doing the shopping and men are watching football ... eating’s not a top priority on Friday or Saturday,” he said.

If you’ve truly waited until the last minute, dining out may be your only option, but that doesn’t mean your meal won’t be memorable nonetheless.

In addition to Longstreet, two other area restaurants will be pulling out all the stops for Thanksgiving Day meals.

The Smith House in Dahlonega serves up a traditional Southern menu of turkey and dressing, baked ham and fried chicken along with “a host of delectable sides” such as okra, corn, green beans, collard greens and creamed potatoes to name a few. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m until 6 p.m. and prices are $23.95 for adults and $2.95, $8.95 or $12.96 for children, depending on age.

For a more upscale take on Thanksgiving, Lake Lanier Islands resort will have two seatings for Thanksgiving Day brunch at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The buffet-style feast features a cornucopia of food from traditional ham and turkey to seafood, pork loin, beef medallions and orange-glazed duck. Other selections include a mixture of salads, vegetable dishes, cheeses and desserts. And if you’re in the mood for a Thanksgiving breakfast instead, there’s even a make-your-own omelette station and a plethora of breakfast meats and sides.

Prices are $38 for adults, $31 for senior citizens and $21 for children. Children younger than 7 eat free.

But if you’re looking for a chance to serve others on Thanksgiving, Good News at Noon will be serving up a traditional turkey meal for the homeless from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its Davis Street shelter.

Gene Beckstein, who started the shelter almost 20 years ago, said typically about 300 people are served on Thanksgiving Day and some 150 volunteers show up from far and wide.

“We don’t ask for food, we don’t ask for volunteers, but it just keeps coming in,” Beckstein said. “It started out really slow but it has grown and grown and grown.”

Volunteers don’t need to show up until 11:15 a.m., Beckstein said. All the cooking will be taken care of by Ellen Rogers and her family, as has been the case for some 18 or so years, he said.

“They don’t allow me to go in there,” Beckstein said with a laugh.