Dining Out on New Year’s: Saving the Best Meal for the Last Day of the Decade

New Years Eve in New York City Dining Out on New Years: Saving the Best Meal for the Last Day of the DecadeWhat are you doing on New Year’s Eve? If you’re an OpenTable user, you’re probably dining out. According to a recent survey, more than 60% of respondents are dining out on the last day of the decade. The most popular reservation times are between 7PM and 9PM (so book your tables today!), and the most popular dishes celebrants will dine on are steak and lobster (proving that surf and turf never really gets old). Most people are spending as much or more than they did last year, and, as the economy slowly bounces back, an impressive 11% of survey takers indicated they were going to spend more than $150 per person on their last meal of the decade.

If you’re looking to make December 31, 2009, a night to really remember, consider one of these 10 spectacular New Year’s Eve celebrations around the nation.

1. Charlie Trotter’s: Guests at Chef Trotter’s legendary Lincoln Park restaurant will start their evening with a Champagne and canapé reception. A luxurious multi-course tasting menu featuring the finest ingredients will be followed by a midnight toast. At $350 per person, this is a must for Chicago’s foodies.

2. Sixteen: Sixteen restaurant at Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower will feature a “Fire and Ice” themed evening for $310. Guests will be greeted by cylindrical fire centerpieces and hostesses decked out in red designer dresses. An extravagant eight-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Frank Brunacci with wine pairings is bested only by the prime view of the midnight fireworks off of Chicago’s Navy Pier.

3. The Bazaar by José Andrés: Trip the light fantastic and ring in the New Year, Beverly Hills-style, with friends for a decadent night of revelry at America’s best restaurant — and stay the night. For just $689 per couple, you’ll get dinner for two at the Bazaar by José Andrés, tickets for two to the SLS New Year’s Eve Gala, and room accommodations at a special New Year’s Eve rate.

4. Carbon Beach Club at the Malibu Beach Inn: Nothing beats dining on the beach under the stars, and that is exactly what you can do at the Carbon Beach Club. Treat yourself to a six-course prix-fixe menu including a complimentary glass of Champagne and party favors as you greet the new year to the sounds of the California surf for just $175 per person.

5. Aureole: Everything old is new again at Manhattan’s Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s relocated and renovated restaurant. For $500 per person, diners will feast on a five-course chef tasting menu with wine pairings, DJ entertainment, and a Champagne toast, just steps from Times Square.

6. Two Times Square: If you want an unforgettable evening, Two Times Square in New York City is the place to spend it. Guests can relish an open bar, a five-course meal with wine pairings, music, and more – not to mention the very best view of the ball dropping in Times Square, all for just $2,500 per person.

7. Meritage at the Claremont: The new Meritage at the Claremont in Berkeley is celebrating its first New Year’s in grand culinary style! Executive Chef Josh Thomsen has prepared a special five-course dinner, accompanied by live music and including a Champagne toast, party favors and parking. This all-inclusive evening is $390 per couple.

8. MICHAEL MINA: Located on San Francisco’s storied Union Square in the Westin St. Francis Hotel, Michael Mina’s signature restaurant is serving a magnificent five-course tasting menu and wine pairing for $350 per person. Celebrants will enjoy live jazz and dancing later in the evening.

9. Michel Richard Citronelle: Georgetown gastronomes need look no further than their own backyard for fine dining on New Year’s Eve. Michel Richard is presenting a gourmand six-course meal and wine pairing. Beginning with hors d’oeuvres in the lounge, the evening winds down with a vintage Champagne toast at midnight. Noisemakers, hats and dancing round out the festivities, which cost $450 per person. Dressing up is a must.

10. Plume at the Jefferson Hotel: Party like a President at Plume at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. Located in a Beaux Arts jewel of a hotel that is inspired by Monticello, Plume is serving a six-course tasting menu created by Damon Gordon. You’ll also enjoy musical entertainment, party favors, and a Champagne toast for $225 per person.

If none of these are right for (or near) you, check out OpenTable’s New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World page to find a restaurant at which to ring in 2010.

New Year’s Eve in New York City: Decadence at the End of the Decade

NYE in NYC New Years Eve in New York City: Decadence at the End of the DecadeDecember 31, 2009 isn’t just the last day of the year, it’s the last day of the decade — so, you “aught” to celebrate in style! If you find yourself flush with a bit of extra cash after the gift-giving holidays have passed, you can ring in the new year (and decade) in a number of magnificent ways.

Here are 10 Manhattan restaurants that are welcoming 2010 with a bit of panache:

21 Club: If you miss old New York, you don’t have to, thanks to 21 Club. For $225 per person, you can enjoy a four-course dinner and dancing in this legendary location.

Ajna: For “Top Chef” fans, there’s no better place to raise a glass (and a fork and a knife!) than at Ajna, where “Top Chef” winner Hung Huynh will be preparing a special five-course meal for $275 per person.

Asiate: $295 gets you sweeping views of the city on this special night – along with a sumptuous six-course dinner and dancing at this gem located on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Aureole: Everything old is new again at Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s relocated and renovated restaurant. For $500 per person, diners will feast on a five-course chef tasting menu with wine pairings, DJ entertainment, and a Champagne toast, just steps from Times Square.

Daniel: Daniel Boulud’s signature restaurant is serving a gala dining menu in five courses for $595. In addition to fabulous food, there will be live music, a DJ, and dancing at this Michelin favorite.

Eleven Madison Park: Fresh off rave reviews and earning its first Michelin star, this crown jewel  in restaurateur Danny Meyer’s empire will be serving a seven-course holiday tasting menu. Live music and views of Madison Square Park promise to make the night festive and romantic.

The Oak Room: This recently refurbished New York landmark in the famed Plaza Hotel will serve an elegant five-course tasting menu (with Champagne) for $295 per person. A burlesque themed party begins in the adjoining Oak Bar at 11PM.

Russian Tea Room
: You’ll feel transported by the atmosphere at this fabled midtown favorite – not to mention pampered. The second seating includes a 5-course dinner, dancing, and an open bar for $500 per person. Cheers!

SHO by Shaun Hergatt: Chef Shaun Hergatt is preparing a lavish 5-course menu in this Financial District hotspot. A live band and a Champagne toast are included in the $250 per person pricetag.

Two Times Square: If you want an unforgettable evening, Two Times Square is the place to spend it. Guests can relish an open bar, a five-course meal with wine pairings, music, and more – not to mention the very best view of the ball dropping in Times Square, all for just $2,500 per person.

You can find reservations at hundreds more New York area restaurants on New Year’s Eve here. If you’re going to be on the road, visit our international New Year’s Eve page to find deals and offers wherever you’re celebrating.

50 Best Restaurant Bars in the U.S.

Top 50 Vibrant Bar Scene Restaurants 50 Best Restaurant Bars in the U.S.Do you enjoy starting — or ending — your evening of dining out with a cocktail at a restaurant’s bar? Of course, you do — which is why OpenTable is pleased to announce the winners of our 2009 Diners’ Choice Awards for restaurants with the “Most Vibrant Bar Scenes.” Derived from nearly four million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 10,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list speaks to diners who love to mix and mingle at the bar before or after dinner.

Out just in time for the super-social holiday season, this list, along with our Good for Groups winners as well as our new Private Dining Pages, can help you find the perfect place to get in the spirit of the season with friends, family, and coworkers. Winners include Chicago’s 33 Club, Chino Latino in Minneapolis, Henry’s 12th Street Tavern in Portland, Loft 610 in Plano (where “Top Chef” contestant Tre Wilcox runs the kitchen), meZ in Charlotte, Ozumo in Oakland, and YOLO in sunny Fort Lauderdale, among others.

From classic cocktails and craft beers to seasonal creations and diverse wine lists, these bars are also feature plenty of opportunities for people watching. Tell us if your favorite made the list, and be sure to fill out OpenTable’s Dining Feedback Forms to make sure your voice is heard next year.

Fine Dining: Don’t Call It a Comeback

Fine Dining Dont Call It a Comeback Fine Dining: Dont Call It a Comeback After all, it’s been here for years. But, the economy is bouncing back — and so is fine (make that “superfine”) dining. Manhattan’s refurbished Pierre Hotel now houses the recently opened Le Caprice, which New York Magazine‘s Adam Platt says “looks like a grand, Gilded Age train car done over by Noël Coward and his friends in Art Deco tones of black and pearly white” and serves “a variety of classically executed Continental favorites.” In other words, the check may not be modest, but nor will the dining experience.

Up in Boston, chef-restarauteur Barbara Lynch is opening what she hopes will be the crowning jewel in her Boston restaurant empire. Menton, named for a French town on the Italian border, is slated to start serving in January and will feature tasting menus of four or seven courses with prices hovering around $150 per person (including wine). Lynch, whose other restaurants include B&G Oysters, No. 9 Park, and Sportello (among others), promises The Boston Globe, “You’re going to want to dress up. It’s going to be very luxurious, very elegant.”

Are you looking forward to dining at more upscale eateries in the new year? Chime in here or over on our Facebook page.

Bazaar Love Affair: Why Diners Love The Bazaar by José Andrés

Tapas at The Bazaar by Jose Andres Bazaar Love Affair: Why Diners Love The Bazaar by José AndrésThe not-so-secret secret is out. The Bazaar by José Andrés is a resounding success. Decidedly different than many restaurants, The Bazaar eschews entrees and appetizers for an all-tapas menu. It received four stars from The Los Angeles Times and was recently named “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire. The Bazaar by José Andrés was also a winner of OpenTable’s 2009 Diners’ Choice Awards in the Fit for Foodies category.

This week, The Wall Street Journal looks at this year-old sensation and wonders if Mr. Andrés has figured out the future of restaurants, comparing some of his tactics with those of other high-profile restaurateurs. What makes this standout, well, stand out? Is it the small plates? The location? The bustling bar scene? The open floor plan? The break with tradition? Learn what The Journal thinks — and what Andrés’s peers, including Joseph Bastianich, do, too.

Top Chef Restaurants: Where Your Favorite Contestants Are Cooking

Three Finalists Top Chef Restaurants: Where Your Favorite Contestants Are CookingThe Bravo television program “Top Chef” is one of the great gifts of the aughts. It’s made armchair chefs and judges of foodies across America — and likely around the world, and it’s made Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and Gail Simmons into household names.

With the sixth season finale set to air tonight, we tracked down some former contestants to let you know where you can judge their fare for yourself. Keep in mind, not every contestant has headed back to a restaurant kitchen. Some have decided to step out from behind the line and in front of the camera. Others are consulting. A few are traveling around the world to expand their culinary horizons. And, a number have changed jobs so frequently that we cannot keep track of their current whereabouts.

While many of the Season 1 San Francisco alums are no longer cooking in a restaurant for a living, winner Harold Dieterle is. He is chef and co-owner of Perilla in Manhattan. Serving up seasonal American cuisine in the heart of Greenwich Village, Perilla is a true neighborhood gem that enjoys a steady stream of regulars. Shot in Los Angeles, Season 2 had a cast of memorable faves, including handsome also-ran Sam Talbot (who runs a restaurant in a Montauk, NY resort), villain Marcel Vigneron, who recently left his post as sous chef at The Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills, and winner Ilan Hall, who is working to open a restaurant in Los Angeles. Tre Wilcox, whose premature knife-packing shocked fans of Season 3 (shot in Miami), is helming the kitchen at the sexy Loft 610 Urban Restaurant and Lounge in Plano, Texas. Love-to-hate-him Hung Hyunh, who took home the grand prize, is overseeing Anja Bar (formerly known as the popular Buddha Bar) in New York City’s Meatpacking District.

The city of Chicago played host to Season 4 and its talented and occasionally caustic castmates. Erik Hopfinger is bringing a brand new brunch to Nova Bar and Restaurant, a hotspot in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. He’s also helping revamp the restaurant’s menus. San Franciscan diners can also enjoy feisty faux-hawked Jennifer Biesty’s ingredient-driven cuisine at Scala’s Bistro in Union Square. Biesty’s opponent on the show/partner in real-life Zoi Antonitsas now serves as executive chef at Zazu in California’s wine country, where she cooks rustic Northern Italian cuisine with sustainable ingredients from Zazu’s chef’s garden. Manhattan attracted its fair share of Top Chef-testants as well, with Manuel Trevino landing the executive chef position at newly opened Travertine, a hip Bowery boîte with a Mediterranean menu. Gifted-but-gruff Dale Talde is a sous chef at Buddakan NY, one of the city’s most grand and gorgeous dining spots, and likable Lisa Fernandes, the runner-up, is a sous chef at Dos Caminos, serving can’t-miss Mexican in midtown.

Season 5, filmed in and around the Big Apple, had several breakout stars. Sultry Jill Snyder is a chef at Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, where local ingredients, not Ostrich eggs, are de rigueur. Speaking of ingredients, Jamie “Top Scallop” Lauren, is the executive chef at Absinthe Brasserie in San Francisco, where she has worked since July 2007. Lauren, a born-and-bred New Yorker, continues to serve cutting-edge yet accessible cuisine at this Hayes Valley favorite. Farther south in California, Stefan Richter, known for his unerring confidence and banana lollipops, has his own restaurant, Stefan’s at L.A. Farm, where he serves up classic ingredients with an unusual twist (oysters with Absinthe Jell-O, anyone?). The witty and whimsical Fabio Viviani has two Italian (‘natch!) restaurants under his belt Café Firenze and Firenze Osteria. He is also the culinary consultant for Santa Margherita wines, providing pairing recommendations and recipes. Stay tuned, too, for Fabio’s upcoming BravoTV show, “A Catered Affair.” Winner (and favorite of contestant Leah Cohen) Hosea Rosenberg is a multi-tasker with several projects cooking, but he still finds time to work as the executive chef at Jax Fish House in Boulder, Colorado.

Season 6 of “Top Chef” is being filmed in Sin City (aka Las Vegas). In the interest of not attempting to uncover any spoilers about tonight’s finale (or making the nice people at Bravo mad!), we have listed the restaurants the current contestants worked in just prior to joining the cast of “Top Chef.” Eve Aronoff is chef/owner of Eve in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where you’ll find contemporary cuisine prepared using French techniques. Jennifer Carroll, who was eliminated in the first part of the season finale, is the chef de cuisine at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert in Philadelphia’s Ritz Carlton. Ash Fulk, perhaps Padma’s least favorite contestant, is a sous chef at Trestle on Tenth, preparing American and European specialties with Swiss care and French flair in Chelsea’s gallery district. Ron Duprat is executive chef at Latitudes Beach Café at the Hollywood Beach Marriot in Florida, where he serves fresh ingredients with a Caribbean twist. In Hotlanta, check out Hector Santiago, who joined the show to make his customers proud (and did!) and his restaurant Pura Vida, which features to-die-for tapas. You can sample contestant Michael Isabella’s food at the José Andrés restaurant Zaytinya in Washington, D.C. (at which he prepares authentic Mediterranean mezze — and vegetables — expertly!). Maltin Noblia can be found preparing Basque food (and dreaming of Jessica Alba) at his restaurant Illuna Basque in San Francisco. Finally, finalist Kevin Gillespie is executive chef and a partner at Woodfire Grill in the ATL, where local, organic ingredients are the stars of the menu. Bryan Voltaggio is a chef/partner at VOLT in Frederick, Maryland, and his equally inked brother Michael Voltaggio is chef de cuisine at The Dining Room at The Langham in Pasadena, California. Both specialize in new American cuisine.

Tune in to Bravo tonight to find out if your favorite contestant wins. And, check back for interviews with former “Top Chef” winners and competitors.

New Year’s Eve and Restaurants: Dining Out on the Last Day of the Decade

New Years Eve Celebrations New Years Eve and Restaurants: Dining Out on the Last Day of the DecadeRinging in the new year at a restaurant is almost as popular as eating turkey on Thanksgiving. With less than a month left before the end of the year — and the decade, now is the time book your reservation, especially if you’re interested in the evening’s most prime dining times.

You can learn about special offers, unique celebrations, and moutwatering menus and make reservations by clicking on the “New Year’s Eve 2009″ link under “Offers and Events” on your city’s start page. If you plan on dining out in another destination in our nation or around the world, visit our international New Year’s Eve page.

Power Tables in Washington, D.C.: Where Politicos Dine Every Day

Washington DC Power Tables Power Tables in Washington, D.C.: Where Politicos Dine Every DayIf so-called gatecrasher couple Tareq and Michaele Salahi wanted to rub elbows with Washington, D.C.’s political elite, they didn’t have to sneak into the White House. CNN recently compiled a compelling list of who lunches where between noon and 2PM on and around the Hill; the Salahis could have simply booked a table at any of these D.C. dining hotspots.

According to CNN, you can find some of our capital’s (and our nation’s) most influential movers and shakers at restaurants including Blue Duck Tavern (the First Couple), Café Milano, Charlie Palmer Steak (serving more than 100 congressmen and senators every week), Johnny’s Half Shell, Lebanese Taverna (Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayo), The Monocle, Old Ebbitt Grill, The Oval Room, Oyamel (Michelle Obama), The Palm (Rahm Emanuel, Madeline Albright, James Carville, and Mary Matalin, among others), Rasika and SEI (both host to the First Lady), and Tosca Ristorante (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and David Axelrod).

If you’re looking for an opportunity to dine alongside your favorite lobbyist, senator, Supreme Court Justice, or even the President of the United States, you don’t need an invitation — just an OpenTable reservation.

Dining Trends for 2010: Next Year’s Menus Will Feature Feel-Good Food

2010 Dining Trends Dining Trends for 2010: Next Years Menus Will Feature Feel Good FoodIt’s hard to predict every dining trend that takes hold in restaurants around the nation, but Restaurants & Institutions magazine has come up with a list of things you’re sure to spot on menus in the upcoming year. You may already have seen a lot of these movements and trends gaining momentum in your neck of the woods, but you can expect them to become far more ubiquitous at restaurants in big and small cities and towns in the U.S.

Things to expect include affordable comfort food (think Mom’s pot roast), Asian-Latin fusion (see truck, Kogi), bigger beer menus, old-school desserts (Retro root beer float, anyone?), eggs in everything, vegetables as entrées, fried chicken (make room, Colonel Sanders), environmentally efficient restaurants, local liquors (like LiV Vodka), wheat-free foods (Take that, Celiac!), and more chefs and restaurateurs embracing the Little House on the Prairie lifestyle at their establishments (i.e., pickling, curing, smoking, and canning products in-house).

Read the full list here, and tell us what you think we’ll see more of at restaurants in the next year — and decade — here or on Facebook.