‘Tis the season to be jolly. In our book, that means sparing ourselves the dishes and dining out. A lot. Since we love reveling in the Christmas spirit, we point our proverbial sleighs toward eateries that are equally excited (and wear that excitement if not on their sleeves than everywhere else!). From festive decorations and visits from Santa himself to special menus and live caroling, here are seven top holiday restaurants that truly deck the halls.
1789, Washington, D.C.
The staff doesn’t hold back when decorating this Federal-era home turned restaurant in historic Georgetown. Every room is festooned with lights, wreaths, garlands, and festive glass balls. Dinner comes with a side of caroling. The Washington Men’s Camerata visits the restaurant December 13th through 24th from 7-9 PM to sing a variety of holiday choral classics. Pro tip: Even if you were the star of your college a cappella group, you should keep quiet and let them perform. On Christmas Eve, guests will enjoy a beyond decadent a la carte dinner with foie gras torchon perked up with orange marmalade and pickled celery, coddled egg and lobster, and bucatini topped with Nantucket bay scallops (white truffles optional, but highly recommended).
Colicchio & Sons, New York, New York
Tom Colicchio and his team celebrate the season in a big way. Previously, they’ve decked out a tree in record decorations, blue lights, and miniature jukeboxes to pay homage to Elvis’ Christmas Album, which Colicchio’s father spun during the holiday season. The pastry team always outdoes themselves with extra delicious decorations. Last year, they created a gingerbread skyline of New York City topped off with Lady Liberty.
Arnaud’s, New Orleans, Louisiana
This Big Easy institution adorns its exterior with garlands and wreaths all twinkling with little white lights. From December 1st through 23rd, guests can choose the celebratory five-course Réveillon dinner ($49, not including tax and tip). Dishes include duck rillettes enlivened with caramelized onions, radishes, and cherry confit, Creole onion soup en croute, roasted Cornish game hen with mayhaw demi-glace, and a classic tarte tatin. Good times guaranteed.
Lafayette, Washington, D.C.
Perched on Lafayette Square across from the White House, this D.C. dining powerhouse offers a very merry buffet ($110 per adult, $52 for children 12 and under, not including tax and tip). Highlights include duck magret with a mélange of mushrooms, braised beef ravioli, and a raw bar boasting baby lobster, shrimp, and snow crab claws. Save room for an epic dessert selection from talented pastry chef Josh Short, such as peppermint white chocolate cheesecake, toasted walnut snowballs, bûche de Noël, smoked pecan brittle, cranberry panna cotta, and a heavenly host of holiday cookies.
Sixteen, Chicago, Illinois
On Christmas Day, this Michelin two-star dining destination transforms into a winter wonderland for a magical brunch from 10:30AM until 3PM ($158 per adult, $50 for children under 12, not including tax, tip, and alcohol). The elevator up to the 16th floor restaurant becomes the “Gingerbread Express,” mimicking the interior of a cozy cottage, its walls covered with more than 1,100 gingerbread bricks made by executive pastry chef Aya Fukai. On the upstairs terrace, diners will have a chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as their reindeer, while listening to a string trio and sipping on mugs of hot chocolate and mulled wine.
Scarpetta, Los Angeles, California
Slip into your fanciest pair of yoga pants as you prepare for the ultimate Christmas Day workout: an all-you-can-eat buffet (11AM until 7 PM; $108 per adult, $28 per child 5-12 years old, not including tax and tip; $22 for bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys, and bellinis). Executive Chef Freddy Vargas does not skimp. The crudi bar features West Coast oysters, snow crab legs, and citrus-cured salmon. Move on to pastas – including the restaurant’s famous spaghetti and rigatoni al forno – and prime proteins – porchetta, leg of lamb, and more – and an onslaught of sides, including roasted beets with apples and burrata and Brussels sprouts with dates.
Melting Pot, Atlanta, Georgia
Sit down for lunch with Saint Nick. Not only do you get to hang out with Mr. North Pole himself (*spoiler alert* played by Thomas Tolbert, who was named one of the “11 Best Santas in the U.S.” by Time), but you also get to enjoy a three-course lunch. Kids can take a picture with the jolly old soul. He might take a selfie with parents, too, if they have been on their best behavior. Date and pricing are TBD, so keep checking back for further details.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.