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Luxurious loneliness

Thanksgiving's is just like home after the holiday
By BRIAN DUFF  |  November 26, 2008

DIG IN: Relish a turkey drumstick better than homemade.

There are the moments when the solitary life is unbearable, but Thanksgiving is not one of them. No matter how distant you have grown from family or friends, you find a home to arrive at with a dish in hand. And hanging around the messy kitchen and overcrowded dinner table surrounded by familiar and pleasant aromas is so nice that you briefly but earnestly believe that you will spend more time with people. You won't. And it is the days after Thanksgiving, once you have finished off the meager Tupperware of leftovers you were sent home with, that really hurt. Your fridge looks the same. You will not smell or taste such companionship for another year.

Unless you go to Thanksgiving's in Westbrook — a family-run restaurant that offers a turkey-centric menu year round. What Thanksgiving's gets perfectly right is not the holiday meal itself, but its unspeakably pleasant casual-meaty aftermath — the leftover meal. The dining room looks a bit like a big kitchen, and the place has a do-it-yourself vibe. You order at the counter, pour your own water, and grab your realistically silver plastic cutlery. The turkey spins slowly on a big rotisserie, and if you turn your head you could imagine you had shoved a whole bird in your microwave for reheating. When your order is up the cook calls you over to the line to grab your plates like he were Mel to your Flo.

If there is something is to ruin the illusion it's that the turkey is better than what would come out of your microwave. The rotisserie manages to get the dark and light meat evenly moist. The skin is crisp and golden without getting an over-done crackle. The dark meat in particular is rich and terrific. They don't doctor things up with spices in an effort to stand apart from home-made. The bird is just like what you roast yourself if the roasting goes very well.

The classic meal comes with a good lumpy mashed potato and a pretty dry stuffing under a house-made gravy that was wisely not made too thick with flour. You can choose from seasonal vegetables, and the sweet acorn squash was made sweeter by a streak of caramelized brown sugar. There was also a spicy wet coleslaw, and a mix of carrot and parsnip that added a touch of sweet to the earthy bitter. The cranberry sauce was sharp and gelatinous, with no berries to chew on.

The turkey is deployed in nearly all the entrees and sandwiches. A pot-pie had a genuinely great buttery flaky crust, under which was a gravy-soaked mix of just what you would expect. A turkey salad called to mind bachelor-pad experimentation, with a sort of Mediterranean mix of hot and roasted peppers with lettuce under a huge pile of white meat. As would be the case if it were your leftover turkey, the soup is the best option after the main meal. It had big chunks of meat with still-crisp skin, and lots of squash and broccoli in a rich, thin, salty broth. A strawberry-rhubarb pie might have been very good when it was hot. My guess is that the meat-pies in their fridge would be too.

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