1. The Clam
This West Village restaurant will not only be open but offering chef-owner Mike Price’s take on the Feast of the Seven Fishes—a traditional Italian way of “fasting” on Christmas Eve by not eating meat. The dinner ($90) runs from 5:00 to 10:00 PM, featuring seven seafood dishes (six shellfish, one fish) over four courses, followed by dessert.
Why here: The shellfish-heavy menu plays to the chef’s strengths and is a great opportunity to survey a wide range of ingredients and preparations.
2. The Gander
If Christmastime is coming and the goose is getting fat, it’s best to fatten yourself at the Gander with a four couse prix fixe menu ($95). A gander at the menu reveals standout dishes such as hamachi crudo with apple and bacon, a suckling pig ham, a duck breast and what looks like a ducky take on pasta carbonara (tubetti, duck confit, duck yolk, citrus, black pepper).
Why here: Jesse Schenker is a young chef on the rise, earning spots on recent lists of such chefs by Details, Forbes and Zagat.
3. David Burke Fabrick
Black truffles are the not-so-secret ingredient in Executive chef Adin Langille’s Christmas selections being offered in addition to the regular a la carte menu. Choose between black truffle soup with root vegetables and black truffle beef short ribs. The wide ranging standard selections include “playful yet polished dishes” that run the gamut from candied bacon to a charcuterie and cheese board to a gourmet burger to cote de boeuf for two.
Why here: After dinner, head up to the 22nd floor for a drink at Spyglass Rooftop Bar to marvel at panoramic views of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. And if you’ve had one too many, the boutique hotel Archer New York is just an elevator ride away.
Here’s another Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner ($95) at another seafood-focused restaurant. The five-course menu starts with branzino crudo, followed by an Italian scungili-shrimp-octopus salad, orrechiette pasta with lobster sausage and a monkfish-scallop-mussel zuppa, capped by a honey-rosemary torta de nonna.
Why here: Elegance like this is like opening your Christmas presents a little early.
5. 212 Steakhouse
If your Christmas Eve intends as many meats as fishes, this Midtown East steakhouse might be just the ticket. A three course tasting menu ($75), presented both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, includes three to four choices per category, with standouts grilled octopus, Chilean seabass, rack of lamb and a black truffle and wild mushroom risotto. Special Christmas cocktails are also on offer.
Why here: Kids need not feel left out. A second tasting menu for children ($25) includes accessible but still-interesting tidbits such as zucchini chips, meatball pops, a burger, roasted chicken with truffled mashed potatoes (get ‘em started young) and two pastas.
6. Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar
This ten year old NoHo Italian that cherishes “the art of eating and drinking” has a four course Christmas Eve prix fixe menu ($68 with optional $45 wine pairing). It emphasizes seafood (lobster broth with frutti di mare, white tuna ceviche, branzino and a seafood risotto) and duck (alla cacciatora).
Why here: There’s a separate prix fixe menu ($58 with optional $40 wine pairing) available for vehetarians upon request.
This strikingly stylish restaurant in the Meatpacking District isn’t planning any special menus for Christmas Eve, but chef Sébastien Chamaret—who trained under a virtual who’s who of French cuisine—has a regular menu that’s pretty special already. Enjoy bold modern art as your backdrop while nibbling on warm and cold seafood appetizers, charcuterie, cheeses and flatbreads. Or feasting on more substantial fare such as the truffled roasted chicken for two or the châteaubriand for two.
Why here: A trio of caviars, available in various sizes, is sure to up the elegance quotient.
8. Ai Fiori
Chef Michael White is pulling out all the stops with a special Christmas Day menu, but for Christmas Eve it’s the standard bill of fare presenting modern interpretations of cuisine from the French and Italian Rivieras. The intriguing pastas and robust entrées from land and sea can be ordered a la carte or as part of a four course prix fixe menu ($97).
Why here: Were it not already worthy on its own, dinner at Ai Fiori could be followed by a nearby visit to the top of the Empire State Building—also open on Christmas Eve.
9. Victor’s Cafe
Standing the test of time in Times Square, this 50 year old Cuban café extrapolates “what Cuban cuisine would be if politics had not interfered with its growth.” Christmas Eve brings some chef’s specials in addition to the regular dinner menu that’s flexible enough to handle any situation. Choose from a long list of shareable appetizers, or group several of them in the 1492 Aperitivo Cubano assortment. Then go as plebian as the Cubano sandwich or as majestic as the seafood paella with lobster tail and claw.
Why here: Strong mojitos and stronger coffee.
10. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Short skirted servers and tall towered, artfully stacked onion rings buttress steaks and seafood fit for royalty at this Rockefeller Center outpost of the national chain steakhouse. The loud, sexy, high-energy space might not work for everyone, but there’s a general consensus that the perfectly cooked steaks are worth the tarrif—perhaps even more so on Christmas Eve when it’s likely to be more relaxed.
Why here: There’s no bigger splurge and your 2016 diet starts in one week, so you do the math.