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Free Your Brine: Let the Pros Handle Your Thanksgiving Meal Stress

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For some, Thanksgiving is a time to dust off heirloom recipes and pretend you always set the table with fancy napkin rings and flickering candlelight. For others, the holiday is a headache of shopping and cooking logistics, loads of dishes, and too few chairs.

Why not leave it to the professionals to whip up a perfect turkey (and perhaps a perfect martini, too) and clean up afterward? Or do something totally different this year?

Be thankful for these Triangle restaurants staying open on Thursday. And be sure to tip your server generously. (For restaurants listed below, reservations are recommended. Unless otherwise noted, prices do not include alcoholic beverages, tax, or gratuity.)

Traditional dining

Stick to the tried-and-true Thanksgiving menu at hotel and restaurant buffets.

Eat your golden-brown turkey among the fuschia penguins at 21C Museum Hotel's Counting House restaurant. The buffet features fried turkey with a sorghum glaze and truffled mac and cheese. $60 adults/$25 children under twelve, eleven a.m. to seven p.m. www.countinghouse.com

At the Durham Hotel, the family-style turkey dinner starts with oysters on the half shell and ends with a dessert table. $75/$35, eleven a.m. to four-thirty p.m. www.thedurham.com

Carrboro's Tandem Restaurant offers breakfast pastries and pancakes down to a sweet-tea-glazed ham and smoked apple soup. $35/$15, ten-thirty a.m. to three p.m. www.tandemcarrboro.com

Nontraditional Thanksgiving

There are options that subvert the standards.

Talullas in Chapel Hill puts a Turkish spin on turkey, serving it over eggplant puree (or have it as it delighted the sultan, with lamb shank). Choose from a set menu starting with a shepherd's salad of cucumbers and tomatoes and ending with milk pudding, or order a la carte mezze and kabob plates. $35 prix fixe, one to ten p.m. www.talullas.com

In downtown Cary, Kababish cafe puts a Pakistani twist on turkey, marinating it in yogurt and masala spices. Round out your plate with curried vegetables; bring your own beer or wine. $30/$12, noon to seven p.m. www.kababishcafe.com

Barbeque might not be de rigueur for Thanksgiving, but it's always appropriate in the South. The Pit in Raleigh and Durham will have whole-hog chopped barbecue alongside pit-cooked turkey and smoked ham, plus fried pimento cheese bites and banana pudding. $29.99/$14.99, eleven a.m. to four p.m. www.thepit-raleigh.com, www.thepit-durham.com

Totally nontraditional

Whether you're eating vegan or you just fancy yourself bohemian, you can dispense with the typical trappings or maybe begin a new tradition.

Have breakfast with violin accompaniment at Johnny's Gone Fishing. Classical musician Jennifer Curtis will give a concert on Thanksgiving morning; arrive early for seats and coffee. Free, ten-thirty a.m. to noon. www.johnnysgonefishing.com

If a pie base of Fritos and chili sounds appealing, the Accordion Club in Durham is your place, with cold beer and hot dogs all day, plus tabletop Pacman. Noon to two a.m., www.theaccordionclub.com

Dinner and a movie has long been an alternative for the nonobservant on Christmas, so there's no reason not to move up the timeline. Trilogy at Silverspot Chapel Hill goes beyond a bucket of popcorn with an everyday menu of dips, salads, and flatbreads available in the theater, which emphasizes holiday-themed sequels, superhero flicks, and heartwarming animated fare. Eleven a.m. to ten p.m., www.trilogyrestaurant.com

Take-out turkey

If you like the classic bird and stuffing spread but would prefer to spread out at home, pick up a fully cooked dinner or a few sides.

At Grub Durham, a full meal for four with a choice of smoked turkey, ham, pulled pork, or spare ribs is $120. Order by November 21 and pick up next day. www.grubdurham.com

Picnic's barbeque smoker may be at rest Thursday, but you can order a dish of pimento mac and cheese or sorghum gingersnap cheesecake to get you through. Order by November 19 for pickup by November 22. www.picnicdurham.com

La Farm Bakery will be working over a hot oven even on November 23 at Cary's new Whole Foods. Pick up a fresh pastry or crusty baguette on Thanksgiving Day; place an advance order for fig-walnut bread or braided pumpkin challah made with North Carolina-milled flours. Order by November 20 for pickup at any of their three locations by November 22. www.lafarmbakery.com

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