Back in the day, whole animal feasts for the average diner meant hitting a Hawaiian luau for a roast pig. But recently, the concept has crept onto menus around the country as chefs are increasingly focused on using every part of the animal, as well as offering fun (and hopefully delicious) family-style meals diners can’t get at home. Here are six restaurants serving up massive meals of everything from whole lamb to goat to even alligator. Keep in mind that most must be booked in advance.
1. Duck at Decoy, NYC
This small subterranean Manhattan eatery (situated below sister restaurant RedFarm) has become synonymous with the fabled Peking duck that Hong Kong-born head chef Joe Ng has perfected with his partner, Chinese food guru and restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld. The restaurant gets 30 to 40 fresh-killed birds delivered a day from Jurgielewicz Duck Farms in Pennsylvania, cooking each to order in a specially-made oven, hanging them briefly to get them as juicy as possible, and crisping the skin with a blow torch. The decadent deboned ducks are served with housemade paper-thin pancakes, three sauces (hoisin, sesame, and cranberry), and a super concentrated shot of duck consommé. Most diners go for the prix fixe Peking duck dinner that starts at $68.50 a person and includes a variety of modern Chinese appetizers and sides (think octopus salad topped with uni or killer veggie fried rice) and even some main dishes, depending on the size of the group. For those who find themselves without a reservation, snag a seat at the bar where you’ll have a shot at getting an a la carte duck for $78 on nights when the kitchen has a few extras.
2. Alligator at The Frontier, Chicago
The focus is on culinary adventures at The Frontier, so you'll find a variety of whole animals and their parts like antelope leg, whole wild boar, farm-raised pig, and a 25-person shrimp boil. But no dinner is quite as noteworthy as The Frontier’s whole alligator feast. Yes, having an entire alligator arrive at your table is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience ("Ugh, whole alligator again?" said no one ever), but the place even ups the ante, stuffing the gator with whole chickens, then smoking and roasting it over cherrywood and applewood. Executive chef Brian Jupiter—who grew up eating alligator in New Orleans—serves the predator with a gaggle of Southern-style sides like andouille jambalaya, Caesar salad with polenta croutons, five-cheese mac-and-cheese, and jalapeno and cheddar cornbread. The whole shebang serves anywhere from 12 to 15 people and costs $950.
3. Pig at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Washington, DC
Daniel Boulud’s meaty bistro offers just one roasted suckling pig a night to whomever reserves it in advance. (A few more are available at the NYC location.) The dinner goes for $550 for up to eight guests, kicks off with a few starters including an arugula-fennel salad and bacon-laced tarte flambée, and ends with a Baked Alaska. In between, the main event arrives, stuffed with pork loin (!), apples, chestnuts, mushrooms, and onions alongside fingerling potatoes and seasonal veggies. To really go baller, your party can pay an extra $325 and get all the craft beer you can drink along with a bottle of Pig’s Nose Whiskey. If you can’t finish the bottle, DBGB will label it for you and turn it into your personal stash, awaiting your next visit.
4. Crab at Rose. Rabbit. Lie., Las Vegas
At this luxe supper club inside The Cosmopolitan hotel, guests are treated to a wild range of acts—from lounge singers to tap dancers performing on top of pianos—during dinner, but it's just as interesting to take in is the gargantuan whole Alaskan crab that costs an I-just-made-a-killing-at-the-blackjack-tables $1200. The dish, which can feed up to 12, is no slouch in the extras department: it's served with lobster two ways, crab salad, black truffles ,and caviar. If you’re looking for a dish to exemplify Vegas excess, you’ve definitely found it.
5. Goat at Restaurant 1833, Monterey, CA
Restaurant 1833 executive chef Mikey Adams admits he gets bored easily and loves “constantly pushing the envelope” when it comes to his whole animal endeavors. While he used to simply smoke a whole goat and serve it up (an impressive feat to begin with), he and his kitchen staff now prepare different parts of the goat—which usually weighs around 35 to 40 pounds and comes from a farm in the Sierra Foothills—in different ways, creating a multi-course, goat-focused feast for diners. He might start the meal with goat bacon derived from the belly and breast or serve goat charcuterie, which includes the smoked and cured loin transformed into a goat salumi. Next comes a seasonal goat salad followed by a goat entree, which might be goat curry or his twist on a traditional Mexican-style birria (goat stew) served with housemade tortillas and beans. You’ll need to book the whole animal dinner a few weeks in advance and shell out around $100 per person with a minimum of eight people in order to—ahem—get your goat.
6. Lamb at The Cannibal, Culver City, CA
This meat-centric spot (that also has an outpost in NYC) serves a whole lamb dinner that feeds eight to 10 guests for $85 a person. The lamb—clocking in at 40 to 50 pounds—is sourced from Superior Farms, a humane ranch in Northern California. It's seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs, then roasted and steamed and finished in the convection oven until brown and crispy. At the table, diners get a starter and charcuterie plate (because meat), then the lamb is carved tableside and served with local veggies and a variety of sauces, ranging from chili oil to lamb reduction to salsa verde. The whole thing is followed by dessert ... as if anyone could possibly still be hungry.
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