Feeding one giant family, one plate at a time Feeding one giant family, one plate at a time
Howlett’s will serve over 600 guests on Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Day is all about family gatherings, the parade, football, sitting down to a feast, and... Feeding one giant family, one plate at a time

Howlett’s will serve over 600 guests on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is all about family gatherings, the parade, football, sitting down to a feast, and much more to those who celebrate the big event. Joe and Brooke Helbling, owners of Howlett’s  Restaurant & Tavern in the Village Green, have celebrated the big event over the years with hundreds of families by keeping the restaurant open with Thanksgiving Day dinner on the menu. 

On Friday, they will prop their feet up, watch a game or two, and sit down with family for a feast, which has become their family tradition over the years.

As we know, out of necessity, most cooks will start early in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day with meal preparation. Joe starts his preparation on the Sunday before the big day.  To feed nearly 650 guests, he will prepare 28 turkeys.  Along with dressing and gravy, guests have the traditional menu with a choice of three accompaniments that include mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans, baked apples, broccoli, soup of the day and coleslaw. There is also a choice of pumpkin pie or peach cobbler for dessert.

“We will also have select appetizers, crab cakes, fried shrimp, bourbon salmon, ribeye, parmesan chicken, and entree salads available,” said Brooke.

Thanksgiving Day has grown into the busiest day of the year for Howlett’s. With Joe starting preparation the Sunday before, Brooke starts her preparation and organizing reservations a month in advance.

 “We started opening on Thanksgiving out of necessity; money was very tight,” Joe said. “I never thought it would turn into the busiest day of the year. This is our 11th year here [the Village Green], and [we spent] 11 years at the other place [the Courthouse area off Beach Road], so 22 years all together.”

Joe said the biggest challenge is in the kitchen with keeping up with the orders and not running out of food, and then on the floor, they want to get everyone seated on time and not get behind on reservations.

“Most days we have two defined shifts of busy periods,” he said. “Thanksgiving is non-stop from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no breaks. We double up on every position and [in] some positions [have] triple staff from a normal shift.”

The largest party they can take on Thanksgiving is 20 people. “We must cut it off there,” Brooke said. “All tables are reserved and we do our best to seat walk-ins if we can, but we are usually fully booked with reservations. We also offer take-out orders.”

When asked if the couple has any fears or anxiety for the day, Brooke said, “Both of our fears are beyond our control. Joe’s is that it will snow, and mine is that the computer or Internet will break. I hope saying these things out loud will not jinx us this year!”

Joe and Brooke enjoy building relationships with their guests and serving them over the years. 

“Many guests will thank us for working [on Thanksgiving] so that they can spend quality time with their families,” said  Brooke. “We honestly hope that as the years go on people will talk about the good times that they had eating Thanksgiving dDinner at Howlett’s Tavern and [we hope] that they have made great memories.”