Plenty of restaurants will throw together a few decorations this time of year — a wreath on the door, a few draping garlands. But a few New York spots really get into the spirit, with truly impressive (some might say crazy) decor and holiday cheer. Here are five New York City bars and restaurants that wholeheartedly embrace the holidays with decorations that range from ambitious to ridiculous.
Rolf’s German Restaurant
Wreaths cover the ceiling and are lit with tiny lights and adorned with colorful balls. Poinsettias line the walls, and any surface that could have a garland, does. This Alsatian-German restaurant in Gramercy is simply unparalleled when it comes to holiday decor — worth the price of dinner just to bask in its glory. (Have some schnitzel while you’re there.) 281 Third Ave., 212-477-4750, rolfsnyc.com
If you’re a fan of Christmas lights — really, truly, devotedly a fan of Christmas lights — head to this Third Avenue pub. (Conveniently right near Rolf’s, should that popular holiday destination fill up.) Molly’s is a homey, cozy place even before its impressive decorations go up, but the holiday lights take it over the top; stop in for a burger, or an apple pie and whiskey dessert. 287 3rd Ave., 212-889-3361, mollysshebeen.com
Colicchio and Sons
Props to Tom Colicchio for indulging his own Christmas traditions, which is really what the holidays are all about. In honor of an Elvis Christmas album that Colicchio’s father played when he was a kid, the Meatpacking District restaurant’s Christmas tree is all about Elvis, with blue lights, themed decorations and cookie ornaments made by pastry chef Stephen Collucci. 85 Tenth Ave., 212-400-6699, colicchioandsons.com
Dating back to 1864, Pete’s Tavern is a Union Square institution — even though its tradition of decorating for Christmas “only” stretches back a few decades. There are wreaths outside and lights over the awning, garlands and ornaments in back of the bar, and best yet, the entire ceiling is covered in holiday lights. Take a breather from the Union Square holiday market with a glass of homemade eggnog and an entertaining hour perusing Pete’s many knickknacks and Christmas trinkets strewn around the space. 129 E. 18th St., 212-473-7676, petestavern.com
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
Also in Union Square, this stately bar and restaurant is fully decked out with colorful garlands, a massive wreath behind the bar, and a nutcracker collection that fits in nicely with its old-world European theme. Come for a beer, stay for a hot toddy. 13 E. 17th St., 212-337-1970, lilliesnyc.com
For more holiday coverage, check out Holidays in New York City.