18 years of handing out turkey dinner

Frank Tahvildari's decision 18 years ago to serve a free holiday meal each Thanksgiving now means opening the doors to his Huntington Beach restaurant to about 600 people.

"I got a place to live, and I got food to eat. Therefore it doesn't hurt me to give something back and see people walk out of here with a smile," he said. "They don't have their wallets with them."

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, vegetables and pumpkin bread will be served from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Tumbleweeds Bar and Grill at Beach Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue.

Tahvildari has organized the dinner annually since opening Tumbleweeds nearly two decades ago.

"It's just one of those days where you can't always be taking," he said. "It's a day of appreciation, and it brings me joy."

Tahvildari has never skipped a year.

"We don't put a number on it because the number is not important," he said about the cost of feeding so many people.

He gets volunteers from around the community to help pass out food.

When Tahvildari set out to host his Thanksgiving dinner in 1996, about 40 to 50 people came in for the free meal. But the number has increased dramatically. Last year, he served about 600, and people were lining up outside the doors.

All the food and fixings are made at the restaurant by Tumbleweeds chef Abraham Ramos, who has prepared the meals for the past 10 years.

Ramos said he's planning to prepare about 15 to 16 turkeys, numerous trays of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade pumpkin muffins and dinner rolls made from scratch.

"Abraham is a very proud chef," Tahvildari said. "He takes pride when he's putting that dish out. It not only looks beautiful, it tastes awesome."

Tahvildari said he doesn't like labeling the people who come through his doors on Thanksgiving Day and aims to treat everyone he meets with kindness.

"We should be thankful every day of the year, not just one day," Tahvildari said. "People should be more courteous and help others."

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