Local favorite Irregardless serves Thanksgiving meals—and donates a portion of its sales to fighting world hunger.
Every year on Thanksgiving, kitchens around Raleigh are in disarray. Sinks overflow with pots and pans. Spouses are sent to the market to pick up bottles of this and cans of that. Home cooks squint to decipher handwriting on old family recipes. Kids and pets mill underfoot, squabbles break out and something inevitably breaks or catches on fire.
Meanwhile, at Irregardless Cafe, the dining room is full of contented families, live music and the holiday spirit.
For nearly two decades, Irregardless founding chef and owner Arthur Gordon and his staff have opened the restaurant for Thanksgiving. It’s the restaurant’s busiest day of the year, in fact, and the staff serves well over a thousand people, both in-house and for takeaway meals, over a nine-hour period.
“There are lots of people who are not necessarily home for the holidays,” says Gordon. “Maybe it’s just one or two people eating, or you just don’t want to do all that work to cook the meal. There are so many ingredients that go into the Thanksgiving meal and, invariably, you find yourself spending hours in the shopping line. It really can be better prepared by the professionals.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, serving a farm-to-table menu that changes each year. Irregardless also offers a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for pick up that serves six to eight people and includes a whole or sliced roast turkey, house-made gravy, orange cranberry relish, sage stuffing, green beans, sweet and white mashed potatoes, whole wheat rolls and a choice of apple or pumpkin pie.
In business since 1975, Irregardless started out as a vegetarian restaurant, but incorporated different proteins over the years. And, although the turkey has a starring role on Thanksgiving, there are always vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
“We like to think this is the one place where the lion and the lamb can come together,” Gordon says.
Over the years, Irregardless has become a place of truce on Thanksgiving, a neutral gathering place for families to enjoy a holiday meal with no tension: no cooking, no cleaning, no transporting dishes from one home to another.
“I remember a family telling me once that their mother was so uptight about the holiday that, when going to her home, everybody was uptight—nothing was ever going to be good enough, hot enough, taste right,”
Gordon says. “And they so enjoyed bringing her to the restaurant, introducing me and saying, ‘you know, this is Mr. Gordon, he’s a professional—he knows what he’s doing. You can just sit back and relax,’ and everybody enjoyed the meal! This is a great place to reduce the pain and suffering that comes with a dysfunctional family.”
The Rev. Bob Inskeep, a frequent guest and former employee, has spent many Thanksgiving dinners at Irregardless.
“One of my memorable Thanksgivings was when I was living alone,” he says. “There’s no need to cook a whole turkey for oneself… [so I] went to Irregardless, sat at the bar, had a nice turkey dinner, embellished by a new variety of bourbon and a friendly bartender. It was just perfect!”
This year, Inskeep and his wife are planning to celebrate the holiday at the restaurant with friends.
“In years past, we occasionally make the big dinner [at home], but if we really want to impress any guests, it’s off to Irregardless—with the caution that it’s crunch time at the restaurant and Arthur requests that you enjoy your dinner and then go home to visit further, because bunches of folks are waiting!”
Thanksgiving at Irregardless isn’t just about feeding its customers; for every person who dines in that day, the restaurant donates a dollar to Raleigh-based international hunger relief organization Rise Against Hunger, whose bold vision is to eliminate hunger worldwide by 2030. For every takeaway meal, Irregardless donates $6. The organization turns every dollar into three or four meals; Gordon figures that, on Thanksgiving Day, his restaurant feeds about 5,000 people in the city and around the world.
“We’re really all here to help God do his or her work,” he says. “We’re all just a cog in the wheel instead of the center—that’s my philosophy.”
Gordon is at the restaurant every holiday, making sure that guests have an exceptional experience.
“I walk around and chat with the customers and share my philosophy and wisdom,” he says. “There is more soul in the food when the owner is on board. So you can eat a TV turkey dinner, or you can come get one made with tender loving care.”
Irregardless is also open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and for a Pajama Brunch on New Year’s Day.
Place your carry-out Thanksgiving dinner order by Monday, November 19, by emailing Lubana at firstname.lastname@example.org or give them a call.