Some years it feels like the halls are decking you. Most Austinites are looking forward to some holiday time off this year, but what you do with that is up to you. You’ve got to break in those socks from white elephant parties and sweet aunties, right? Whether you’ve unearthed years of Christmas decorations or propped up a few greeting cards from family and called it a day, now’s a great time to set aside the responsibilities of the rest of the year and enjoy the spirit of someone else’s cooking.
Thankfully, Christmas traditions are so varied from one culture to another that as long as the meal feels festive, anything goes. Steak is a safe choice for everyone who eats it, but why not enjoy seven fishes or cauliflower? Take a cue from your Jewish friends and forge your own tradition for the Christmas meal. From eating out to dining in, these nine Austin restaurants and bars have you covered.
Welcome Ayios Vassileios (that’s Greek Santa) to Austin this year, our first holiday season with Simi Estiatorio on Congress Avenue. The upscale restaurant takes a cue from the jolly old man, miraculously flying seafood straight here from the Mediterranean on a weekly basis. Doors are staying open on Christmas, with the restaurant offering the same upscale menu as always. Try the flight of four traditional spreads and pita, and the obligatory but uniquely excellent baklava. For the table, share the Acropolis Platter ($155): oysters, shrimp, lobster, and colossal crab. Reserve at simiatx.com.
Rosedale Kitchen and Bar
One anonymous Austinite called December 26 “the worst day of the year.” But don’t worry, Rosedale Kitchen and Bar will ease the pain, sending home everything from Christmas dinner to breakfast for the morning after. Order Longhorn Texas BBQ’s oakwood-smoked brisket (starting $95) or ham (starting $55) a la carte or add on chilled pans of classic barbecue sides with a Christmas twist. The breakfast pack ($18) includes English muffins, local eggs, and jam. Preorders end midnight on Saturday, December 19 at rosedalekb.com, with orders available for pickup December 24.
Chinese restaurants in America are inextricably intertwined with the Christmas spirit, or lack thereof. GrubHub reported a 152 percent rise in the cuisine’s popularity on Christmas Day. One of Austin’s most lauded Chinese restaurants, Old Thousand, is turning the aloofness around while holding down the responsibility. The 11th Street location will be open, serving its regular menu, while the Burnet Road location sends diners home with a special “Ho-Ho Hotpot” with beef or veggie broth, meats, vegetables, noodles, sides, and a dessert. Reserve or preorder by calling 737-222-6637.
Christmas comes early at L’Oca d’Oro, even for Italians who always pregame Christmas with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The Southern Italian feast emphasizes seafood to save meat for the big day. The Mueller restaurant bumps the Christmas Eve tradition up to December 23, serving a family-style meal ($85 for adults, $35 for kids) that includes spaghetti and clams, baccalà di mantecato (whipped salt cod), and shellfish crudo. The restaurant also encourages diners to give its pasta and wine subscriptions as creative holiday gifts. Find more info at locadoroaustin.com.
A newcomer to Austin, 1417 is staying open Christmas Eve. The chic dining room, all wood and black accents, offers a cozy ambience while sticking to a South Austin sensibility. The regular menu, tasting menu ($85; fish, steak, chicken, dessert, and more) and a la carte options (try the beautiful roasted bone marrow with garlic toast and blueberry mostarda) will be served. Christmas is all about sharing, so split the prime rib for two with a French red wine sauce and horseradish cream ($65). Make reservations at 1417atx.com.
Farm-to-table isn’t just limited to dining at fancy restaurants. Intero is sending three different feasts to home dining tables, centered on locally raised meats ($200, pork osso bucco or wagyu beef) or a vegetarian option ($150, roasted cauliflower). All three spreads are gluten-free and come matched with a sauce and seasonal vegetables. It’s scalable, with extra sides ($30-35) and chocolate treats for dessert or gifting. More information and online ordering are available at interorestaurant.com. Pickup is stretched from December 22 to 24.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
All month, Fleming’s is partnering with Duckhorn Vineyards for a four-course menu with wine pairings (starting at $105, through January 3). That journey includes seafood salad and chardonnay, mushroom polenta cake with merlot, filet mignon and more seafood with cabernet sauvignon, and orange olive oil dessert with brut cuvee. If you’d like to stick with your own pairings, the regular menu will also be available. The restaurant will be open Christmas Eve, but if you have other plans, this is a great option for less traditionally timed celebrations. Make reservations on flemingssteakhouse.com.
The confectioner calls its chocolate yule log ($70) a “spin on the traditional French Christmas buche,” which is an understatement to anyone who’s seen a yule log. This show-stopping bubble-shaped modern dessert slices down the center to create neat layers instead of a swirl. The chocolate version has a passion fruit center, while the vanilla log highlights caramelized apples. For more variety, the Christmas Box ($35) rounds up two Foliepops, five tiny tartelettes, and a lips-shaped entremet cake with strawberry and lemon flavors. Order at foliepops-com.filesusr.com.
You’ll have to enjoy these drinks before Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but that sounds better for your holiday obligations anyway. Unwind between traveling and gift shopping with some festive drinks from Yard Bar. The new Merry Merry drink menu features eight wintery drinks ($12), including spiked hot chocolates, hot toddies, and mulled wine. You probably won’t find anything like The Tiny Elvis anywhere else: hot chocolate spiked with peanut butter whiskey and banana rum cream, topped with marshmallows. Bring Fido with you to enjoy the dog park, and please tie a single antler to his head. Please. Check out the whole menu at yardbar.com.