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Grocers, restaurants offer online ordering for heat-and-eat Thanksgiving meals

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Thanksgiving dinner is just a few clicks away.

For folks not in the mood to cook, a number of grocers and restaurants across Central Texas are serving up premade, heat-and-eat dinners this holiday season.

Central Market is, for the first time, offering online ordering this year. At CentralMarket.com, shoppers can choose from a variety of complete meals, entrees, desserts and side dishes available for pickup at either of the grocer's Austin locations.

"It's a one-stop shop," said Paul Schunder, a chef at the Central Market on North Lamar Boulevard. "You can get a meal you can be proud of and, since we don't charge you ahead of time, you can show up and pick out some wine or any other extra items you'd like."

New offerings this year include Italian sausage bread stuffing and a salted caramel apple pie.

The two Austin Central Market stores expect about 3,000 advance orders this year, an increase from 2010, when food could be ordered by phone or at the stores. The cutoff is 6 p.m. Monday, but Schunder said stores make some extras for procrastinators.

Central Market and H-E-B locations will both be open on Thanksgiving until 2 p.m.

Elsewhere in town, Austin-based Whole Foods Market has a variety of options at WholeFoods.com.

Luby's Cafeteria offers online ordering, as well. At Lubys.com, customers can pick from a selection of dinners or select items a la carte.

Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance and can be picked up as late as 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

"It's all about convenience," said Rebecca Conner, the chain's marketing brand manager. "We cook it. You heat it. They'll love it."

As of midday Wednesday, Conner said, 9,000 orders had been placed online, with many more made in person at the 95 Luby's locations across Texas and adjacent states.

Luby's restaurants will also offer dine-in and takeout turkey dinners for one for $10.99 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

The area's two Threadgill's restaurants are open on Thanksgiving, or customers can place an advance order for an everything-included feast, turkey and ham by the pound or a selection of side dishes to go.

"We're pretty popular, especially when it comes to bulk orders for office parties," said Steven Anderson, a manager at the West Riverside Drive location. "There are people who traditionally get Threadgill's, and we also see some new faces each year."

It's a hectic time of year for the food service industry, grocers and restaurateurs agree, but they're certainly not complaining.

"It gets bigger and bigger every year," Central Market's Schunder said. "The holidays are so food-centered. You start with Halloween and don't stop until Jan. 2."

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987