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Local restaurants prep for Thanksgiving Day rush

The smell of turkey, vegetables and gravy hung heavy in the air as kitchen staff snapped green beans and cut desserts.

Dustin Heflin stood chopping onions, celery and carrots, moving the blade through the vegetables at precise speed. The chef then took a full turkey, cutting it in a way that left it nearly butterflied — breast separated from legs.


For some, Heflin's way might not be the traditional procedure when it comes to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. He doesn't stuff the bird, but instead lays it over a bed of carrots, onions and celery. And he cooks the breast and legs separate — white meat cooks faster, he said, so being able to pull the breast and continue cooking the dark meat to temperature pays off.

And while some spend their Wednesday before Thanksgiving traveling or catching up with family, others, like the staff at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, spend it, and the days before, prepping for what has become a big day in the restaurant business.


The crew at Baldwin's Station have been doing a Thanksgiving meal for at least 10 years, Heflin said. They're expecting between 400 and 500 people Thursday.

"They don't have to worry about cooking it or cleaning up," he said of those who come out to eat instead of cooking a meal themselves.

It's a pattern other local restaurants are seeing, too.

John Bolognino, at Johansson's Dining House & Restaurant in Westminster, said they have about 530 people set to come for a Thanksgiving meal. This is only the second year they've held a dinner like this, and in that time the number of people who show up have about doubled, he added.

For Bolognino, the thought of having a holiday meal like Thanksgiving at a restaurant isn't something they typically do in his Italian family. It's a thought that would have horrified his grandfather, he joked.

But for some, to be able to go out for a turkey dinner and indulge in all that goes with it, without all the work, is appreciated.

"It's a nice option," Bolognino said.

Frank Tunzi, one of the owners of the Buttersburg Inn in Union Bridge, echoed that idea. They've been holding a Thanksgiving meal since about 2012.


"We have had a lot of people … who like to get together here," he said. "It's a big meal. It's quite an undertaking."

He sees a lot of families who come in for the meal and go back to someone's house to enjoy dessert, Tunzi said.

Todd Bricken, owner of Brick Ridge Restaurant in Mount Airy said they, too, have been serving up a turkey dinner, for about 16 years. In Mount Airy, there are a lot of older families who might have children in college or who have moved away and started their own families. That's why it's important for them to have this type of option on Thanksgiving, Bricken said.

"We feel like we're offering a nice, sort of homestyle meal," he added. "We try to make it almost like you'd have at home."

As of Wednesday, the restaurant had 198 reservations, he said. They start at noon and stop seating at 5 p.m.

For some, working on a holiday isn't ideal.


Tunzi said they originally didn't want to hold a dinner on Thanksgiving and didn't want to make people work on the holiday. But as more and more called asking about a turkey meal, he said, and the kitchen crew and workers said they didn't mind, they started the Thursday meal.

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Heflin said the Baldwin Station group doesn't mind working the day, either.

"It's kind of like a family here," he said.

And despite a few days of prep, Heflin said they'll be in bright and early Thanksgiving Day — 6 a.m., to be exact — to get dinner ready for the people. But he said he doesn't mind.

"I've seen so many turkeys, I'm not going to want to see turkeys for a couple weeks," Heflin said, laughing.