Chances are, even if you magically have the counter space to prepare a meal in your apartment, you probably don’t have it in you to actually cook Christmas dinner for all your visiting family and friends. Good news! Many of the city’s best restaurants are hosting low-key (and slightly higher-key) feasts on Christmas Day, which is arguably the best gift you can give to yourself. Or ask for... because, really, shouldn’t your family be paying for this?
Make it a cozy Christmas in this subterranean dining room, where if you sit close enough to the open kitchen’s wood-fired ovens, you can almost pretend you’re cuddling up by a fireplace. A special three-course Christmas menu will include options like burrata with black mission figs and speck, zucca pasta with roasted pumpkin and basil, and New York strip steak with roasted garlic and mustard greens.
Price: À la carte pricing
This no-frills, BYOB, kosher vegetarian Chinese restaurant is packed every Christmas, constantly turning tables of Chinese-on-Christmas enthusiasts and non-celebrating veg-minded eaters alike. Unique dishes like vegan jellyfish dim sum and vegetable shark fin soup may draw some into the Buddha Bodai chaos, but for those who’d rather stuff their face with pan fried noodles and chicken-free sesame chicken, there are plenty of meat-free riffs on your beloved American-Chinese favorites.
Price: $95/person plus $50 for wine pairings
Reserve a table at this bird-focused bistro for an elegant family-style feast that’s inarguably nicer than anything you could have made at home. The special holiday menu will include oysters baked with truffle butter and chicken broth, frog leg chervil soup with egg ravioli, a stuffed Emden Heritage goose with potato gnocchi, and a chestnut ice cream yule log for dessert.
If eating mass quantities of pasta is your ideal December 25th situation, look no further than Marea. Homemade pasta champion Michael White has put together a festive four-course tasting menu with options including gnocchetti with ruby red shrimp, red agnolotti stuffed with milk braised veal, and fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow. For $95, you can add a course of fresh tagliatelle with truffles shaved on top. It is a holiday, after all.
Price: À la carte pricing
On Christmas, you’ll get the regular menu with endless house-made soy sauce on tap at this trendy Chinese restaurant and cocktail bar. Opt for white broiler chicken dumplings with cinnamon red oil and the Copper Well Street noodles with chili oil, shrimp, and Chinese greens, as you sip Tiki drinks like the Imperial Mai-Tai served on-tap or Elvis Has Left the Building (rye, Velvet Falernum, curacao, pineapple, cinnamon).
If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to splurge on sushi, this is it. Brushstroke’s Christmas dinner tasting menu will include elegant Japanese dishes like Norway Aurora salmon saikyo-yaki smoked in cypress, stewed washu-beef cheek don with garlic and sunchoke ankake, and Pacific jumbo oysters with lemon foam. The restaurant’s standard Kaiseki menu -- cooked dishes coursed with sashimi -- costs $135, so you’re not even getting a holiday markup!
Make it a big fat Greek Christmas with your surrogate Greek mom, Chef Maria Loi, who is just as doting and eager to sidle up into a booth with as any relative you may be missing this holiday. A special Christmas menu at her restaurant will include dishes like pomegranate salad, cheese pie, lamb fricassee, prime rib, Greek branzino, and Loi’s signature homemade Greek yogurt.
Price: À la carte pricing
Beloved power steakhouse Mastro’s will be serving its regular menu on Christmas Day, but what better time to treat yourself to a dramatically steaming tower of shrimp cocktail, a chef’s cut rib-eye, lobster mashed potatoes, and maybe some sushi on the side? OK, most days -- but you’ll feel a little less guilty about spending the money today.
Alain Ducasse’s Midtown bistro is turning into a French winter wonderland for the holiday, with a three-course seasonal menu featuring dishes like sunchoke velouté with veal sweetbread, seared duck foie gras, cod with butternut and black truffle, Maine lobster clam chowder, a variety of sides, and a Bûche de Noël for dessert. The food is fancy enough to impress your in-laws but still understated enough to not seem like you’re trying too hard.
Upper East Side
For an especially fancy Christmas at a somewhat manageable price, head to Michael White’s Vaucluse, where you’ll kick off your meal with hors d'oeuvres like oysters, foie gras terrine, or escargot in garlic parsley butter and continue your French feast with classics like Noix St. Jacques (scallops), truite amandine (trout with almonds), or hazelnut-crusted sea bass with wild mushrooms and braised endive. Expect lots of pastries for dessert.
Price: À la carte or $125/person
It’s Wolfgang Puck’s first official Christmas in NYC (well, for his restaurant, at least) and he's letting you create the menu, with à la carte options off the regular menu or a three-course prix-fixe with special dishes including handmade tortelloni, pan-roasted milk-fed veal chop with Jerusalem artichoke puree, Cantonese-style Peking duck, butter-poached Maine lobster with French black truffles, and additional shareables like polenta with truffles.
The Japanese restaurant Bessou, which appropriately translates to holiday villa, will be serving a special Japanese Christmas Dinner on the 25th. Dishes include grilled romaine with soy quail egg and creamy sesame dressing, pan-fried lamb and mint gyoza served with preserved lemon tofu aioli, a festive sushi platter, spicy lobster nabe hot pot, shiso garlic fried rice, and strawberry shortcake.
Price: $105/person, $45 for wine pairings
Escape your Christmas tree-cluttered living room/kitchen combo and luxuriate in this chic, lounge-like dining room that’s far nicer than any eating area in your apartment. A special Christmas menu will include foie gras torchon, seared diver scallops with white beans and beer vinegar, black truffle chicken with confit fingerlings, and eggnog cheesecake with spiked cardamom ice cream.
Price: À la carte pricing
Following a special Christmas Eve dim sum night, this cozy retro diner will be serving its regular brunch until 5pm on Christmas Day -- think deep-fried burrata, macaroni with homemade American cheese, and pork belly with fried eggs drenched in gravy.
Mario Batali’s newest NYC restaurant will be serving a five-course Christmas dinner to briefly whisk you way to the Italian seaside. Expect shared seafood dishes like baked clams and fluke crudo, Mediterranean-style pastas including cavatelli with spare ribs and pumpkin agnolotti, your choice of entrees ranging from stuffed quail to seafood soup, and a range of desserts, just in case you’re still hungry.
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1. Bedford & Co.118 E 40th St, New York
2. Buddha Bodai 佛菩提素菜5 Mott St, New York
3. Le Coq Rico30 E 20th St, New York
4. Marea240 Central Park South, New York
5. Kings County Imperial20 Skillman Ave, Brooklyn
6. Brushstroke30 Hudson Street, New York
7. Loi Estiatorio132 W 58th St, New York
8. Mastro's Steakhouse1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York
9. Benoit60 West 55th St, New York
10. Vaucluse100 E 63rd St, New York
11. CUT by Wolfgang Puck99 Church St, New York
12. Bessou5 Bleecker Street, New York
13. The Living Room1567 Broadway, New York
14. Hail Mary68 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn
15. La Sirena88 9th Ave, New York
While the name of Chef John DeLucie's restaurant would suggest its locale to be Williamsburg, Bedford & Co. is in fact in the heart of Midtown East at the Renwick Hotel. A tribute to the American tradition of surf and turf, the menu centers around two large-format dishes: a dry-aged bone-in rib eye and whole-roasted branzino. More approachable mains range from duck breast and charred lamb leg to a burger topped with Cheddar and pork belly. The dining room has a midcentury modern feel with polished wood walls, Eames chairs, and geometric light fixtures.
Where vegetarian versions of most foods fall short on texture and umami taste, Buddha Bodai takes meat-centric recipes as mere inspiration for its sweet and savory plant-based entrees. All items on the menu are 100% vegetarian and kosher, so if you're a member of the tribe, you can kill two birds with one soy-based stone. The portions are generous, and a single order of General Tso's vegetarian chicken -- chewy and glazed with a sweet maple sauce -- might last you beyond two meals. Although, a single swipe of that glaze might have you rethinking portion control.
Le Coq Rico is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Chef Antoine Westermann's Montmartre bistro of the same name. Like its Parisian predecessor, this upscale Flatiron spot focuses entirely on birds. Specifically whole birds, like rooster, hen, squab, duck, and guinea fowl, which are raised for 90-120 days -- longer than the industry standard. The result is noticeably tender and more flavorful than any other poultry you'll find in New York. While it's clear what the star is here, Le Coq Rico's fresh-baked breads and pastries at brunch are Paris-level good.
Michael White’s seafood-centric destination off Central Park aims to impress with its elegant interior and high-end Italian ingredients. The house-made pastas will have you coming back for more, like the fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow, an elevated homage to surf-n-turf with baby octopus braised in red wine and buttery Pat LaFrieda marrow.
With a factory in China barrel-aging and sun-fermenting its house soy sauce and a garden on the back patio growing Central Chinese herbs, spices, and vegetables (like tatsoi and Sichuan peppercorns), BQE-adjacent Kings County Imperial is Williamsburg’s localized vision of Sichuan food. The menu boasts a modernized version of the flavor-packed regional cuisine, and is divided into categories for dumplings, buns, dim sum, vegetables, and “Big Wok Traditional” items (get the Mapo Dofu, thank us later). The beverage program is tiki-centric, with cocktails that complement the spices found on the menu. Kings County is great for groups (it is dim sum, after all), and the Lazy Susan booths are proof.
French-leaning chef David Bouley -- known for his dramatic restaurant endeavors in Lower Manhattan -- embarks on a collaboration with Japan's celebrated Tsuji Culinary Institute of Osaka to showcase his take on the art of kaiseki (the traditional Japanese multi-course dinner, defined by a deliberate progression of flavors). Decked out simply in light wood and rice paper curtains, the space is open and airy. Sushi can be ordered in a bar area, while the dining room is home to the kitchen's ritualistic tasting menus, feating elaborately plated seasonal dishes like scallops with trout caviar, apple foam and lime sorbet, or duck breast grilled in green tea with mushrooms.
Greek celebrity chef Maria Loi (some have called her the "Martha Stewart of Greece") rebounds from the closure of her prior spot Loi with another namesake tavern in Central Park South. Loi Estiatorio, all white walls and brown leather booths, is simply decorated but the menu is not: Loi has taken the opportunity to play with traditional Hellenic fare. The inventive appetizers shine, with red wine-octopus placed over fave puree with capers and onions; and juicy scallops plated with house-made lamb bacon and parsnip puree. Those wanting something more traditional can look to the entrees, where lavraki (lemon-olive oil branzino) and yogurt drizzled lamb chops stand up to expectations. And because the theme wouldn't be complete without a little Greece creeping into the cocktail menu, a take on the Old Fashioned is spiked with tsipouto, a Greek pomace brandy.
A steakhouse chain popular among the who's-who of Beverly Hills and Malibu made its first home in NYC at this location of Mastro's, brining yet another well-appointed meat shrine to Midtown. However, the kitchen differentiates itself by wet-aging steaks, a departure from the more traditional dry-aging technique that New Yorkers are accustomed to. Rich and buttery seafood selections (who doesn't love a lobster tail) are countered by less caloric raw sushi options. The crowd is business-like, as this location has gained a reputation among bankers on Wall Street, but tourists are drawn as well, considering the proximity to major attractions like Radio City Music Hall.
It takes a man who owns a true Parisian bistro to transport one authentically to Midtown, and Alain Ducasse seems to have succeeded in doing so with his NYC Benoit location. Half of the charm is the space: white table cloths, vintage posters and ornate light fixtures all under a cheery blue-skied freso. Yet, the other half, as it must be, is the food: calf liver is served in the same copper pan it was seared in, a cassoulet of duck confit and cured pork is as heavy as it is flavorful, and concentrated French onion soup is capped by a melty blanket of Gruyere.
Vaucluse is Chef Michael White's venture into the upscale French brasserie format, a departure from the Italian fare he’s known for at Marea, Osteria Morini, and Ai Fiori. A pair of expensively appointed 80-seat dining rooms, decked out in creams and grays and connected by a lounge area, provide an attractive backdrop for mostly traditional takes on Gallic cuisine. White tablecloths and attentive service accompany mainstays like beef tartare, duck-pork terrine, seared scallops, and pork tenderloin -- if you don’t opt for a dish from the rotating cast of old favorites like boeuf Bourguignon.
Renowned Austrian-born chef Wolfgang Puck made his NYC debut with this branch of his Beverly Hills-based steakhouse in TriBeCa's Four Seasons Downtown, and he did not try to do it subtly. Pink neon lightning bolts lace the black walls, casting a glow on even pinker cuts of porterhouse steak for two, served soaking in its own juices with rosemary and roasted garlic in a cast iron pan. The fare is generally luxe and decadent, with lunchtime bone marrow flan topped with mushroom marmalade and a Vermont cheddar-topped USDA Prime cheeseburger with jalapeño-shallot marmalade. A menu of sliders, sandwiches and more casual bites are plated at the attached 32-seat Rough Cuts bar, alongside cocktails to be sipped in velvety seats.
Japanese comfort food gets the New York treatment at Bessou, which translates roughly to "second home" in Japanese. After working for contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, owner Maiko Kyogoku was inspired to share her own love of Japan's culture with food, instead of art, as her medium. The menu is a conglomeration of Kyogoku's Upper West Side upbringing as a child of first-generation immigrants, and much of the recipes are influenced by her mother's cooking. Expect homestyle fusion dishes like scallion pancakes with tofu aioli, cold udon noodles with an assortment of tempura, and Japanese fried chicken.
The Living Room at Park Hyatt, just a walk from Central Park, is a fancy hotel lounge and eatery epitomized: sleek design, glistening floors, and reliable cocktails. You can sit at the 8-seat bar or sink into one of the many plush armchairs with a glass of champagne. An afternoon tea dubbed "Afternoon Delights" is luxurious, and stars the spot's signature eclairs (which look like porcelain pieces of art) and blood orange tea poured into cups ornamented with a withering tree design.
From husband and wife culinary duo Hisham and Sohla Wel-Waylly, this Greenpoint restaurant is reimagining the classic American diner in an upscale but laid-back way. Aside from classics like bacon and eggs, an American cheese-topped burger, and a turkey club, the menu features more experimental dishes like duck hearts and spaghetti with uni butter. The 74-seat space includes an old-school soda fountain area up front. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the painting of two Virgin Marys wearing diner hats at the entrance.
Nobody does Italian like Mario Batali, and La Sirena in Chelsea's Maritime Hotel is a testament to the Crocs-wearing chef's steadfast ambition to bring mega-restaurants to New York. The indoor-outdoor trattoria is set in a sprawling second-floor space, complete with a gleaming 38ft marble bar, a beautiful tile floor, and '60s mod-inspired interiors. The upscale menu is typical Batali, comprised of antipasti (there's burrata, obviously), handmade pastas, and grilled meats and fish.