Christmas Eve Dinner in NYC
Photo: BlueOrange Studio/Fotolia

New York City, New York is the capital of the good-eating universe. Almost every country in the world is represented here by an ethnic eatery and this is where some of the world’s best chefs play with fresh ingredients and create edible art. New Yorkers love eating out and know how to recognize good meals and interesting décor, whether elegant or rustic.

While many stay home for a Christmas Eve dinner with their families, there are those who are still tired of preparing the Thanksgiving feast and so might prefer to go out and see what their favorite restaurants have for them on that special evening. Whether they want to dress up and dine in the lap of luxury or savor a meal in a more casual setting, they will find that, just as always, New York City knows how to have fun.

»Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green

One of the most romantic places to have Christmas dinner in NYC is Tavern on the Green, a beautiful old villa that has greeted celebrities, royalty, artists, and regular people since 1934. From the moment you approach the tavern through enchanting Central Park and see the magical Christmas tree in the restaurant courtyard, to when you are seated in one of the plush, luxurious dining rooms sparkling with holiday decor, you will feel engulfed in opulence and comfort.

When the food comes, you will be treated to one of Executive Chef Bill Peet’s legendary and unforgettable three-course prix fixe meals, whether you opt to come for brunch or dinner. As has already happened to so many people, it might just become your holiday tradition.

67th Street & Central Park West, New York City, NY 10023, website, Phone: 212-877-8684 Photo: Tavern on the Green

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Marco Canora's elegant, renovated upscale East Village restaurant is known for its Tuscan-American cuisine focused on seasonal ingredients from local suppliers, which is decidedly healthy yet no less delicious for that. The beautiful dining room is organic and simple with brick walls, soft lighting, shiny copper pots and pans hanging on the wall, a jade marble bar, and long communal tables fronting soft leather banquettes by the wall.

The atmosphere is lively but upscale enough to merit a celebratory Christmas dinner. Like so many other restaurants, chef/owner Marco Canora will offer the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes with dishes such as marinated calamari, classic baccala montecato, and linguine with clams.

403 E 12th St, New York City, NY 10009(1st Avenue), website, Phone: 646-602-1300 Photo: Hearth

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Eolo is a warm, cozy Sicilian trattoria in Chelsea where Chef Melissa Muller offers her modern Sicilian-inspired menu in a pleasant and homey setting. Soft colors and lighting create a very comfortable atmosphere for those who want a unique Christmas dinner.

There is a lot to choose from: Slow-braised beef short ribs cooked in aged balsamic vinegar on a bed of soft polenta, swordfish coated with caciocavallo cheese, basil, breadcrumbs, olives, and capers in thyme sauce and caponata. Be smart and take the suggested wine pairing; their wine list is impressive and mostly Sicilian.

190 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011, website, Phone: 646-225-6606 Photo: Eolo

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At Salinas, they are taking Christmas dinner seriously and Chef Luis Bollo, from Spain, is busy preparing a traditional Basque Christmas dinner. This San Sebastian style (his home town) six-course meal includes black bread soup with poached duck egg, a Basque risotto with razor clams, and a walnut pudding with buttermilk chocolate gelato.

If you have not been to Salinas before, you will love the patio with its retractable roof and cozy fireplace. There is also a lovely lounge and bar as well as their elegant dining room with limestone walls and walnut floors. There are flowers everywhere, as it should be in the Mediterranean, even though outside there is nothing but freezing New York weather.

136 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, website, Phone: 212-776-1990 Photo: Salinas

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A rustic converted warehouse in Brooklyn is not everyone’s idea of a place to have Christmas dinner, but if you love pasta more than anything, then go for the best and stop at Faro before heading on.

Treat yourself to the tasting menu and let Chef Kevin Adey delight you with a lineup of delights that includes uni crudo, poached shrimp, squid & mussels, lobster scarpinocc, cod & caviar, and chocolate. Guests dine at the chef’s counter facing the kitchen. The wine list is international and small yet carefully selected, and there are some interesting beers.

436 Jefferson St, Brooklyn, NY 11237, website, Phone: 718-381-8201 Photo: Faro

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Felidia is the highly acclaimed Manhattan East Side flagship of the cookbook author and television series host Lidia Bastianich, who has been greeting guests at her beloved Italian restaurant since 1981. Beautiful, crisp white tablecloths and red chairs instantly create a warm feeling and the atmosphere of a family home in some coastal Italian town.

For Christmas Eve dinner, Lidia and Executive Chef Fortunato Nicotra are offering their traditional holiday Feast of the Seven Fishes, but their regular menu will also be available. Their three, five, or seven-fish multicourse dinner menus include treats such as raw shaved seafood salad, smoked salmon pastrami on a bagel crostini, fried calamari, scallops casino, and pasta with lobster fra diavolo. The wine list is enormous and fantastic, and the dessert selection is simply decadent.

243 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022, website, Phone: 212-758-1479 Photo: Felidia

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Bobby Flay’s beautiful, enormous restaurant Gato is always buzzing with activity, so there is no reason to believe that it will be any different on Christmas Eve. You will be rubbing elbows with the models and downtown fashionistas who always flock to this hip place. High ceilings, brick walls, contemporary décor, and a huge, square wooden bar manage to look inviting with warm lighting and interesting art pieces.

Of course, the wonderful smells coming from the open kitchen have something to do with this, too. The Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine is a distinctly Bobby Flay version, with bold flavors that are very American. Christmas dinner will be Gato’s third annual Feast of the Seven Fishes with four-courses, but the menu is secret. You can hope for some of the delights from the regular menu, such as roasted octopus with bacon, sour orange, and oregano and saffron linguine with mussels, garlic, and parsley.

324 Lafayette St, New York City, NY 10012-2726, website, Phone: 212-334-6400 Photo: Gato

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»Cafe el Presidente

Cafe el Presidente

The sprawling Café el Presidente at Flatiron is an unusual location for a festive Christmas dinner, but this entire recreated Mexican plaza mercado is decked out for just one day to provide holiday fun and fabulous food, Mexican style.

The special Christmas Eve dinner includes beef tacos with goat cheese salsa, poblano peppers, almonds, and pomegranate, or try the Bacalao a la Viscaina - salt cod with olives, capers, raisins, and tomatoes. There is also red pozole and even a warm chocolate drink with milk, masa, and cinnamon.

30 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010, website, Phone: 212-242-3491 Photo: Cafe el Presidente

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A wall of glass lets L’Amico’s dining room be awash with light, and the ceiling beams and the many green plants give it lovely rustic vibe. It is comfortable and spacious, tucked into the lobby of the Avanti Hotel in Chelsea, but it is not the décor that draws people in large numbers – it is what comes out of the wonderful wood-fired copper ovens – spectacular pizzas and delightful pastas.

Owner/chef Laurent Tourondel has a lovely surprise for those of his fans who want to celebrate Christmas Eve at L’Amico – he is offering a five-course meal with wine pairing containing such delights as parmesan sformato with wild mushroom marsala duxelle and seafood stracci with sea urchin, rock shrimp, blue crab, and roe butter. Every course has fine selected wine to go with it.

849 Avenue of the Americas, Eventi Hotel, New York City, NY 10001-4101, website, Phone: 212-201-4065 Photo: L'Amico

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»Miss Lily's

Miss Lily's

If you regret not taking that Caribbean cruise instead of staying in NYC for Christmas, head to Miss Lily’s on Hudson Street and treat yourself to their traditional Christmas fare. Don’t let the colorful beach shack decor, fruity rum cocktails, and blasting reggae fool you, the food is created by James Beard Award Winner Chef Bradford Thompson, who has his own interpretation of traditional Jamaican delights.

Christmas dinner is a prix fixe Caribbean twist on traditional Christmas classics. You will get callaloo ravioli with succulent chicken, jerk turkey breasts, pineapple glazed ham, and chocolate passion fruit cake. If you feel like something else, their regular menu is also available (how about goat curry or simply good old jerk chicken?)

130 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012, website, Phone: 646-588-5375 Photo: Miss Lily's

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A young crowd usually hangs out at Traif for their fun cocktails and divine small plates and nobody really cares that it is all ‘non-kosher’, which Traif means, loosely translated. There is a lot of shellfish and pork, such as pig’s tails, and meat mingled with dairy, but there is also truffled egg toast and blistered shishito peppers with marconas, cantaloupe, feta, orange and mint.

The place is tiny and always packed, and their patio is lovely, surrounded by lush plants, and almost like a jungle. This is probably not the place to have your Christmas dinner, but you can, and will, come back once you get hooked on the tiny pieces of art Chef Jason Marcus calls ‘small plates’. For Christmas dinner, he is cooking Jewish-Chinese dishes he remembers eating for Christmas as a child, such as General Tso's-style sweetbreads, ginger-scallion lobster sliders, lemon chicken-style fried quail cockles with fermented Chinese black bean sauce, and spicy foie gras soup dumplings,

229 S 4th St, between Havemeyer St & Roebling St, Brooklyn, NY, website, Phone: 347-844-9578 Photo: Traif

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»Chefs Club by Food & Wine

Chefs Club by Food & Wine

Every visit to the Chefs Club is a treat – you get to taste signature dishes from one or more of the Best New Chefs honorees. This amazing Food & Wine restaurant is located in a stunning space with the open kitchen, lots of exposed brick walls, a beautifully vivid blue background, a modern bar, and quirky details.

For Christmas, they have invited Erik Anderson of The Catbird Seat and Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon to prepare a special Christmas Eve menu, featuring their own five-course celebratory dinner. It begins with an appetizer of oysters and caviar, followed by a foie gras terrine with cranberries and pickled Asian pear, then a Maine lobster poached in butter with grapefruit and black truffle, followed by smoked and then roasted venison with buckwheat crepes and chestnuts, and finally a French traditional holiday dessert: Buche de noel with chocolate and passion fruit.

275 Mulberry St, Puck Building, New York City, NY 10012-3329, website, Phone: 212-941-1100 Photo: Chefs Club by Food & Wine

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»Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

With exposed brick walls, tiled floors, cozy banquettes, long communal tables, and food and wine as décor, Il Buco brings to mind a village market in Umbria where people share wonderful store-baked breads, cured meats, and large plates piled with fresh pasta.

Il Buco is a great place to bring a bunch of friends who are not in the mood to cook a Christmas feast and together you can indulge in Il Buco’s traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes – a five course meal with delights such as agnolotti with lobster, black trumpet mushrooms, and black truffles (optional), salt-cured baccala, and fruity homemade panettone for dessert. Their wine list is exceptional, and they have many wines by the glass as well as a good selection of beers on tap.

53 Great Jones St, New York City, NY 10012-1118(Lafayette & Bowery), website, Phone: 212-837-2622 Photo: Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

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Put on your finery and take the love of your life to a truly spectacular gourmet experience at Bouley. This Old World elegant TriBeCa eatery is the flagship restaurant of renowned Chef David Bouley, serving outstanding French cuisine with a light Asian flair in a setting fit for royalty.

The vaulted ceilings, plush seating, oil paintings on the walls, romantic lighting, and masses of blooming orchids everywhere all contribute to an atmosphere of opulence and luxury. The Bouley celebrates Christmas by offering a six-course lunch or dinner tasting menu with a wine pairing option, and both are pure indulgence. Just think of Chatam Day Boat lobster with saffron, coriander, late summer tomatoes, dill and Tahitian vanilla, or organic Millbrook venison with pawpaw fruit. The list goes on and on, all the way to fine artisanal cheeses and decadent chocolates.

163 Duane Street, New York City, NY 10013-3810 (Hudson Street), website, Phone: 212-964-2525 Photo: Bouley

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15 Perfect Restaurants for a Christmas Eve Dinner in New York City