The Best NYC Restaurants for Holiday Dining 2014

The Breslin decked out for Holiday Joy!

There are likely to be a dozen or more nights in the coming weeks–say, now through New Years–where you'll be surrounded by friends and/or family for a delicious, expansive meal. And if you're hosting said meal(s)… well, you know how exhausting (but fun! but exhausting) that can be. Which is why I like to take at least one of the big get-together nights off (for me, that's Christmas Eve or Christmas night) and let someone else do the cooking, and the cleaning, and go out to eat at a favorite restaurant. We usually go to a familiar spot–it's not the sort of meal, with its special menus and such, that's well suited to checking out somewhere new–but in case you want to be a little more adventurous, here are a suggested few of the many restaurants that are doing something festive for the holidays. 


Lincoln Ristorante

There are several first-rate restaurants around town doing a Feast of Seven Fishes menu on (and leading up to) Christmas Eve, but if I were to have to choose one, it would Jonathan Benno's acclaimed, Michelin-starred Lincoln Ristorante. For one thing, it's such a lovely room, one that always manages to feel special and fancy without being stuffy. And for two… just look at this menu! Seven courses for only $95, featuring Osetra Caviar, Tuna Belly, Monkfish (with black truffle), Nantucket Bay Scallops and, for (your second) dessert, a Torata di Gianduja. With a kitchen as accomplished as Benno's, this is pretty much guaranteed to be good. Served nightly from December 18 to 24.  


The stocked bar at Back Forty West

Back Forty West

For a cozy (and cheeky) downtown party vibe, here's hoping Peter Hoffman and crew are serving up their Jewish Chinese Christmas Eve menu again this year at Back Forty West. Hoffman is a warm and welcoming host, Back Forty West is one of Soho's prettier spots (definitely sit upstairs if possible), and the food is always satisfying. Last year they did a family-style buffet with such delights as Tea Smoked Duck, Crispy Suckling Pig, Manilla Clam Hot Pot, Apricot Rugelach, and Chocolate Babka. Plenty of drinks, too, including fun stuff like Pomegranate Mai Tais. Here's the complete menu from last year; keep your eyes peeled for this year's announcement, which should go up any day now.      


Holiday events happening at BB Kings this holiday season

BB King Blues Club and Grill

Ok, so this one likely appeals mostly to the tourist trade… but if you can deal with the Times Square scene (every once in a while it can be goof), it also sounds like kind of a blast? There are holiday-themed gigs all month, but the big ones are a pair of rousing Christmas Eve shows featuring the incomparable Harlem Gospel Choir; the Maccabeats–Yeshiva University's lively and witty a cappella group–performing their now-annual Hanukkah concert on, of course, Christmas Day; and the amazing Darlene Love keeps the Christmas spirit going with what's sure to be a hit-packed, on-your-feet spectacular on the 26th. BB King is set up like a supper club, with a long bar in the back, and it's the sort of place that, the more fun you are willing to have, to more fun you will actually have. Check out the webiste for tickets and full calendar.  


The warm setting with an open kitchen at Hearth Restaurant


Providing a homey, East Village counterpoint to Lincoln's UWS elegance, Marco Canora's excellent Tuscan spot Hearth is also throwing their annual Feast of Seven Fishes party on Christmas Eve. Here you'll get seven rustic courses for $94–a buck less than Lincoln!–featuring hearty fare like Linguini con Vongole, the classic fish stew Cacciucco (with Calamari, Bass, Prawns, Mussels), and an amazing-sounding Gingerbread Cake with Roasted Apples and Egg Nog Gelato. Hearth also has one of the most interesting wine lists in town, so that part of your night should be exceedingly pleasant as well. The complete menu looks like this; make reservations now.    


A festive wreath hanging in front of Harlem restaurant Red Rooster.

Red Rooster

Have you been up to Red Rooster yet, Marcus Samuelsson's high-class joint in Harlem? This place ALWAYS feels like party–in a grown-up, convivial sort of way–and around Christmas its all even more so. Sammuelsson hasn't posted his full holiday menus yet, but we do know that all month long Red Rooster will be serving a Scandavian Christmas Julboard, three courses for $55, a banquet which traditionally includes a variety of pickled herring and cured salmon to start; then bread, ham, liver pâté, red beet salad, and cheese; and a final course of warm dishes like the creamy casserole Janssons frestelse, the fondue-like Dopp i Grytan, or Dip in the Pot, as well as an array of sausages, pork ribs, and, of course, meatballs. And on Christmas Day Red Rooster's supper club Ginny's is throwing a Jazz Buffet, which you know will be swinging. Here's some bare-bones info; more will likely soon be posted on Red Rooster website.  

A holiday treat - sticky-icky toffee pudding from Telepan

The Breslin

Finally, if you're looking for an outstanding (and meaty!) meal in one the most festively-decorated rooms in town, make a reservation now for Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield's The Breslin. I've been here several times over the years–once on the day after Christmas, when the holiday vibe was still very much in evidence–and Bloomfield's rich, explosive flavors always make me happy. Make sure you save room for the entire Evening Puddings menu. Or really throw a memorable holiday party and get one of The Breslin's jaw-dropping "Large Format" meals, which feeds eight to twelve revelers and is centered on such things as Rib of Beef, Balsamic Roasted Duck, or, most amazing, a Whole Roasted Suckling Pig.

Lincoln Ristorante on Urbanspoon Back Forty West on Urbanspoon B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on Urbanspoon Hearth on Urbanspoon Red Rooster on Urbanspoon Telepan on Urbanspoon The Breslin on Urbanspoon

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