Deck the halls with boughs of holly. But why stop there?
If you’re ever feeling down and concerned that you might not be in the holiday spirit, just step into a New York City restaurant between mid-November and January. When it comes to any kind of seasonal décor, Gotham has always been a “go big or go home” kind of town. Around Christmastime, that ethos goes into overdrive. At even the most modest cafe you’ll see that not only are “stockings hung by the chimney with care,” but also about a few thousand dollars worth of twinkling lights, tinsel, red velvet bows, snowflakes, colorful balls, candy canes, lots of greenery, and a Santa or five.
According to commercial holiday décor service Rent-a-Christmas a restaurant can expect to spend anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 on a moderate professional holiday display. While that may seem like a lot, that investment turns into exponential increases in guest satisfaction, buzzworthy word-of-mouth, social media reach, and, ultimately revenue. And in a town like New York, where restaurants experience a winter slump in traffic, competition for holiday dollars can be fierce. That means more garland, ribbons, baubles, candles, silver bells, and mistletoe. And it makes sense. Think about it; at Christmastime, who would you rather have serve you dinner, Scrooge or Santa?
At Christmas, questions of tacky or tasteful and gorgeous or garish are all in the eye of the beholder. We’ve put together our list of our ten favorite restaurants around the Big Apple that go the extra mile with the holiday vibe and are worth the visit.
Looking for major Christmas baublery with some schnitzel on the side? There are a reported 150,000 glass ornaments hanging from the ceiling at this German restaurant located a few blocks from Gramercy Park. A bucket list trip for even lifelong New Yorkers, getting a reservation at this grandpa of all Christmas restaurants can be like The Hunger Games: Holiday Edition. If you’re looking to go in mid-December, you better start making your plans in October.
With its double-height tin-stamped ceiling, cranberry velvet banquets, dark wood bar, and walls covered with gilded frame artwork, this theater district haunt screams Christmas even during the dog days of summer. Throw in a few hundred feet of festoonery, and it’s the perfect place to grab a bite, drink, or have afternoon tea before seeing a show.
If we’re lucky enough to get a White Christmas this year, there’s only one place in Manhattan where you can get a first-class meal while “stopping in the woods on a snowy evening.” And when it comes to holiday décor, this Central Park eatery pulls out all the stops and even has its own tree-lighting ceremony.
Looking for Jingle Belle Epoque? This spectacular ode to Parisian architecture–with an equally spectacular French menu–takes up an entire city block inside the pedestrian arcade of 6 1/2 Avenue of the Americas. High vaulted glass ceilings make more than ample room for one of the largest Christmas trees in any city restaurant.
It’s nearly impossible to out-Christmas Pete’s Tavern. Founded in 1829, it’s seen more yuletide seasons than just about any other restaurant in New York. And if that isn’t enough, O. Henry is reported to have written his beloved Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi” while sitting in one of the bar’s booths.
Sharing a literary pedigree is the West Village’s White Horse Tavern, which was a favorite haunt of poet Dylan Thomas, who penned his holiday favorite “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” In addition to over 130 years of Christmas history, fans of Thomas’ can be greeted by the poet as a lifesize portrait of him standing at the bar proudly hangs on its wall.
Set inside a greenhouse on the rooftop of Eataly just off Madison Square, you’ll think you’ve walked into a scene out of Narnia with its abundance of snowy tree boughs overhead. But don’t let the frosty look fool you. Even on snowy days, this Italian eatery is as warm as the delicious osso buco they serve.
Talk about a nightmare before Christmas. Who knew that one of Gotham’s best Halloween-decorated restaurants could get so Christmassy overnight? Those elves must be working overtime because every imaginable surface in this Victorian-themed establishment named for the famed Irish author and playwright expounds on the importance of being merry.
What could be more wonderful at Christmastime than having Beef Wellington by candlelight? Set inside an 18th-century carriage house where Aaron Burr is said to have kept his horses, this West Village favorite with its exposed brick, grand piano, adjoining garden, and fireplace, is often cited as the city’s most romantic restaurant.
Want a prime view of the Empire State Building turning blue and white for Hanukkah or red and green for Christmas while enjoying holiday-themed treats and cocktails? New York City’s largest all-season indoor/outdoor rooftop bar featuring an “urban amusement park” spares nothing for the holidays. Families are welcome for brunch. But if you want to come at night, leave the tots at home. At this place, Santa parties with a 21-and-over crowd.