If you ask us, cooking on Christmas Day is for fools. There’s always some mishap — a last-minute hunt for a missing ingredient or an unfortunate spill on your prized cashmere. And besides, there are restaurants open all over town that will do the cooking for you. This year, skip the stress (and the dry cleaning bill) and dine at one of these 13 festive eateries.
Who says you have to get fancy for the holiday meal? 24 Diner offers farm-to-table comfort food that’s as cozy as your favorite sweater. Get jolly with breakfast all day or a cheddar cheeseburger served on an artisan pain au lait bun. If comfort food is more to your liking, warm up with Texas no bean chili or meatloaf with whipped potatoes, collards, and sausage gravy. If you are vegetarian, skip the Tofurky and nosh on a veggie plate brimming with baked apples, fennel, purple sweet potato, and farro.
Brix and Ale
Suburbanites don’t have to drive into the city to find a great holiday meal. Brix and Ale, located in the Georgetown Sheraton, is offering a decadent brunch with a breakfast station; Gulf seafood; artisan cheeses and meats; rich sides; and carved meats like glazed ham, sweet tea brined turkey breast, and oak smoked prime rib — plus a gorgeous selection of seasonal desserts. Musician Jo Elle Lyons will keep the Christmas spirit going with carols throughout the meal.
Everyone loves tamales at Christmas, but unless you have a very large family, we suggest you avoid any impromptu tamaladas. You can have your tamale and eat it too at Congress Avenue’s Caroline. The Christmas special riffs on the classic recipe with turkey instead of pork, and sides of tomatilla and avocado salsa, pickled veggies, cilantro, and lime crema. Finish the meal with an eggnog tart topped with a praline-like combo of salted caramel and candied pecans.
Cannon + Belle
May your day be merry and bright with the downtown newcomer’s three- or four-course menus. Choose from starters like masa biscuits, chicken and dumplings, or chicken skin-topped deviled eggs. A soup or salad course is followed by hefty mains like pork shank, rib-eye, or turkey. For dessert, you can’t beat a slice of pecan pie topped with bourbon chocolate “cool whip” or a cheery cobbler with a corn bread streusel.
Christmas dinner at this historic downtown hotel is one of Austin’s favorite holiday traditions. Party like it’s 1886 with a prix fixe menu including a velvety roasted butternut squash soup with goji berry granola and spiced yogurt; an earthy mushroom tart with chevre and golden chanterelles; or a rich lamb osso bucco with cornbread puree, charred ramp bulbs, rainbow chard, and a sun-dried tomato gremolata.
The intimate dining room in the stately Hotel Ella is perfect for a holiday dinner à deux. Start out the morning with chocolate gingerbread doughnuts, smoked salmon rillete, pastrami hash, or a juicy tavern steak with crispy fries and a bordelaise. Cocktails like a lavender Bee’s Knees (Fords gin, lavender honey, lemon) or the restaurant’s signature Blunderbuss (Fords, rosemary, lemon, prosecco) will get you started for a not-so-silent night.
Jenna’s Asian Kitchen
Take a break from the usual holiday fare with Jenna’s wide-ranging menu of Asian comfort food. We especially enjoy their classic Korean dishes like the dolsot bibimbap. A rainbow of rice, beef or chicken bulgogi, carrots, sprouts, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, egg yolk, and gosari (a wild green also known as bracken or fernbrake), the dolsot bibimbap is served in a hot stone pot with a gochujang sauce. The restaurant promises a few special treats for the big day as well.
Mattie’s at Green Pastures
Say what you will about those cheesy Hallmark Channel holiday movies, but there is a certain appeal to a down home Christmas. And while chef Joshua Thomas’ interpretation of Green Pasture’s legendary Christmas Day brunches may not fully hew to tradition, it will still give you the same warm fuzzies — especially after your second glass of the trademark milk punch. Cozy up in front of the dining room fireplace and feast on Southern inspired fare crafted from farm-fresh produce and ingredients.
Second Bar + Kitchen (Domain Northside)
You just can’t call it a yuletide feast unless you have to loosen your belt. Actually, you might just want to wear an elastic waist so you can fully enjoy executive chef David Bull’s lavish buffet of rich starters like herb buttered brioche and smoked salmon deviled eggs, family-style vegetables like cauliflower au gratin, and freshly carved prime rib or maple glazed ham.
Stella San Jac
The menu at the downtown Westin’s restaurant features family-style starters like crispy Brussels sprouts, deviled eggs, avocado salad, and the addictive #16 biscuits. Diners can also choose from entrees ranging from Texas redfish to prime rib to a vegetarian-friendly quinoa and zucchini dish. While you are there, check out the giant gingerbread dining room in the lobby.
The holidays give the perfect excuse to blow your diet, and we can think of no better way to kick off a cheat week than eating one of Threadgill’s huge chicken-fried steaks. Drenched in white gravy and served with a choice of sides like butter beans, scalloped potatoes, mac ’n’ cheese, garlic cheese grits, and turnip greens, it’ll help you fill out that Santa suit in no time.
Trace at the W Hotel
The W Hotel may be known for its hip, contemporary vibe, but the Christmas Day menu is all about time-honored flavors. Dine on Niman Ranch prime rib with beef fat béarnaise and horseradish; spice crusted duck breast; and a gingerbread cake with mascarpone mousse, cranberry jam, candied pecans, and a cranberry tuile. Want to keep the party going? Take a hot chocolate kit or ginger snap cookie to go.
The Yard at Waller Creek
The casual restaurant in the Sheraton near the Texas State Capitol usually features easy everyday fare like chicken quesadillas, Angus burgers, and smoked wings, but executive chef Lonny Hout is pulling out all the stops for Noel. Expect dishes like a parsnip veloute; New York strip steak with a Yukon potato tart, sautéed asparagus, and crispy tobacco onions; and a peppermint cheesecake with a vanilla bean anglaise.