Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
Chinatown (& Montrose)
If you're into traditions, you can partake in this time honored Jewish one of going out to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. This Chinatown cult classic (which rocks an in-the-loop location on Westheimer as well) is hands down one of the city’s finest examples of tongue-scorching Sichuan fare. Heat up the holidays with crazy hot duck tongue and pork intestine glass noodles, or go for more basic (but still spicy) dishes like dan dan noodles and peppercorn beef. Whatever you do, be sure to order family-style.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with entrees from $10.95 and up, open from 11am to 10pm in Chinatown and 11:30am to 10pm in Montrose
Need an evening escape? This boutique bowling alley and gastropub will open at 6pm, sparing you the pain of sitting through another one of cousin Tevin’s “jokes.” A limited, tasty menu will be offered, with 18-inch pizzas, giant pretzels, and its famous Burgers in a Bag (that’s three bacon-cheddar sliders with fries). Christmas patrons can also help “drink the tree” by choosing a $3 Real Ale Hans Pils from Bowl & Barrel’s original beer bottle Christmas tree.
Price: Food from $9-$25 (plus the cost of actually bowling); walk-ins are accepted, but call 832-690-4480 to reserve and ensure a lane
In Houston, Mexican is pretty much acceptable anytime, anyday, including Christmas Day. This homegrown joint will be open from 10am to 3pm, making the holiday caliente with its legendary brunch buffet. That’s over 60 items like pancake stacks, waffles, made-to-order omelets, plus Tex-Mex classics including tamales, enchiladas, tres leches, and chocoflan. Tack on the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and you have yourself a merry little Christmas indeed.
Price: $27.99, walk-ins welcome, and late reservations accepted, but make a reservation if you want to ensure a specific time slot
Katy (& other locations)
With a stocking full of locations dotting the city, this old-school cafeteria will be open and serving up a Texas-sized Christmas Day special. Get a colossal prime rib ($15.99) or blackened chicken and bacon-wrapped shrimp ($13.99) with your choice of two sides -- think au gratin potatoes, mac & cheese, and fried okra -- plus bread.
Price: Holiday specials for $13.99 to $15.99, walk-ins welcome, check individual locations for hours and openings
Upper Kirby (& West Loop)
Those that need to soak up a rough holiday can do so at House of Pies. The 24-hour Houston institution stays open every day, including Christmas (and New Year’s, if you’re looking ahead). It’s all about classic diner foods here, with everything from ham, steak & eggs, pancakes, and biscuits & gravy, to sloppy burgers, melts, and chicken-fried steaks. No matter what time you visit, you’ll want to finish your Christmas feast with a slice of Bayou Goo for best measure.
Price/Reservations: A la carte (true diner pricing with country breakfast for $6 and CFS for $13)
Montrose (& The Woodlands)
OK, OK, we know that a Jewish deli may not scream “Christmas!” -- but couple the fact that “Katz’s never kloses” with the fact that you can get a pastrami sandwich the size of your head no matter the hour, and this 24-hour haunt is a bona fide holiday miracle. Get the aforementioned head-sized sandwich along with things like matzo ball soup, noodle kugel, and an entire slice of New York cheesecake blended into a milkshake because as we said… it’s a miracle.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with sandwiches running around $10-$18
Set on the second floor of the beautiful Hotel Alessandra, this sophisticated newcomer is open for a prix fixe Christmas Day brunch. Executive chef Jose Hernandez brings French techniques to the upscale Mediterranean and continental European menu, with starters including endive apple salad with candy walnuts, crab cake with roasted pepper coulis, and mushroom cappuccino with porcini Chantilly cream, and a Parmesan biscotti. The second course features beef Wellington, roast farm chicken, and striped bass in lobster nage. And the meal finishes with pistachio napoleon or caramel chocolate mousse. An a la carte kids menu is also available, with options like Cheddar burger and fries, spaghetti with tomato sauce, petite filet, and chicken tenders and waffles.
Price/Reservations: $55 per person from 11am to 2:30pm; reservations can be made on OpenTable
Set in an unassuming strip center in Midtown (what some may call the land of bad decisions), this fine dining spot is pretty much the definition of a hidden gem. Here, Transylvanian chef Johan Schuster uses his roots to bring the sometimes mucky Bayou City a kiss of European class. Spend your Christmas not talking to anyone because you’re too entranced by your a la carte holiday spread, which can include things like buckwheat blinis and caviar, foie gras with caramelized apples, Christmas duck with red cabbage and potato pancakes, and a traditional linzer torte.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with hours from 11am to 8pm; reservations can be made on OpenTable
This modern Italian CityCentre restaurant will serve a three-course prix fixe brunch from 11am-3pm. Whet the appetite with mini blue crab cakes with sauce ravigote, fresh berry parfait and prosciutto, and an arugula and fig salad; then dig in to mains like with Hong Kong fried toast stuffed with chocolate and banana, chicken wings and waffles with habanero maple, Chilean sea bass in beurre blanc, and Prime rib with garlic mash (those looking to really spend can up the ante with a chicken-fried lobster tail). The meal ends with your choice of sweets: a chocolate bomb, budino al caramello, or panna cotta.
Price/Reservations: $45 for adults and $30 for children; reservations can be made online
Woodlands (& Clear Lake & Stafford)
You may want to wear your stretchy pants for this one because you’re about to get the holiday meat sweats. With three Houston locations, this Brazilian steakhouse offers the traditional churrascaria experience, starting with an excellent salad bar and continuing with all the gaucho-served meats you can comfortably consume. Turn your coaster green or red (how Christmas is that) while you feast on 15 cuts of meat, including, but not limited to, grass-fed New Zealand lamb chop, center-cut filet and Angus picanha, pork ribs and sausage, bacon-wrapped and cognac-marinated chicken, and Gulf shrimp and salmon.
Price/Reservations: $49 for the full experience, $20 for just salad and sides, $35 for seafood, salad and sides, and $24.50 for kids 6-10; reservations can be made online
Wine and dine this holiday with Brenner’s classics, from cognac-spiked lobster bisque and freshly roasted oysters on-the-half-shell, to bone-in ribeye with all the fixin’s -- i.e. truffle butter, smoked mac & cheese, roasted mushrooms, and caramelized Brussels sprouts. And if you’re really doing it right, finish your holiday feast with a Grand Marnier soufflé. Brenner’s Steakhouse is also open and doing the same deal.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with entrees ranging around $30-$50 (plus sides, apps, and desserts); reservations can be made from 11am to 7pm on OpenTable for both the Rice Military and Memorial locations
This classy Four Seasons eatery is offering two options on Christmas Day: a festive brunch from 10am to 3:30pm and a holiday dinner from 6pm to 10pm. At brunch, fill up on freshly-carved beef, a sushi and raw bar, roast lamb and fish, and a ton of desserts. The evening feast offers a special holiday menu, buffet stations, and optional wine pairings. And really, is it even Christmas without wine?
Price/Reservations: Brunch costs $105 for adults and $49 for children 6-12, dinner costs $68 per person plus $40 wine pairings; reservations can be made on OpenTable
River Oaks District
Not only is the über luxe River Oaks District all lit up for the holidays, but this stylish French bistro is open all day long. Treat yourself to a classy lunch (11am to 4pm) of fresh water oysters, salade nicoise, and a burger trimmed with all the goodies: guanciale, Gruyere, avocado, and sauce gribiche. Or go for dinner (4pm to 11pm), where you can give yourself the gift of things like bacon-wrapped lobster tail tournedos, diver scallops, sweet breads vol au vent, Australian rack of lamb, steak frites, and praline chocolate cake, which is obviously served a la mode because it’s freaking Christmas, you guys.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with lunch plates ranging from $20 to $40; reservations can be made on OpenTable
Downtown (& Galleria)
Go classic with a holiday steakhouse dinner at Morton’s, where a Partridge in a Pear Tree isn’t just a line in a Christmas song, but a cocktail made with two kinds of vodka, allspice dram, and prosecco. Get the beverage for $17 alongside the côte de boeuf, a limited-time tour de force featuring 36 ounces of bone-in USDA prime rib-eye, brushed lovingly with garlic-herb butter. That will cost you a steep $110, but you can also order off the regular menu of steaks, chops, chicken, seafood, and more.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with steaks for $39 and up; reservations can be made on online
Set in the Galleria mall, this modern American restaurant will be serving a holiday brunch and dinner on Christmas Day. Brunch brings two courses, with choices like huevos rancheros, smoked salmon Benedict, a bison truffle burger, roast turkey feast, and pecan and sweet potato pie. The evening service bumps the courses up to three, with starters including goat cheese salad with guava nectar, pumpkin and butternut squash soup, and zucchini frites with chipotle radish dip. The main course offers a stocking full of choices, from herb-rubbed rib-eye with cheesy truffle and crab mac to a fiery seafood linguine in tomato cream (looks like you’ll have to loosen the belt buckle for dessert). Parking is at the Blue Garage near Tiffany & Co. and The Westin Oaks Hotel.
Price/Reservations: $25 for holiday brunch (10am to 4pm) and $45 for holiday dinner (4pm to 10pm); reservations can be made online
Things get festive the second you step into this trendy hotel, where a warm apple cider station awaits your arrival in the lobby. Both ARA Restaurant and the Axis Lounge will be open on Christmas Day with the regular menu and a special holiday entree: tournedos Rossini (with brioche), seared foie gras and Perigourdine sauce will serve as the highlighted dish for lunch and dinner.
Price/Reservations: A la carte with a $45 holiday special; reservations can be made from 5:30pm to 10pm on OpenTable