Christmas Eve NYC Recommendations

I"m hoping NYC HOs can come to my rescue! My mom passed away last year and our family needs to do something different this year to help the holidays feel a bit more bearable. So…we’ve decided to spend the day in the city and need some place for dinner. There will be about 9 of us and the group will consist of two particularly picky eaters. We will want to go somewhere that doesn’t require getting overly dressed up as we will be walking around all day in relatively casual clothes. I’ve contacted Frankie’s Spuntino, Locanda Verde, Rubirosa, Miss Ada and a few others. I love Miss Ada, but I’m not sure the menu they sent for Christmas Eve will work for my picky eaters. Rubirosa sent a group menu that would work for the limited eating preferences, but I am not sold on that just yet. What am I missing? Do you have a neighborhood joint that does really great American/Italian/Chinese? Someplace that has fun atmosphere and good (doesn’t have to be knock your socks off) food? We would likely want to stick to Manhattan or Brooklyn. If you have recommendations for food or specialty shops you love that do something special for the holidays, I will take those, too! Thank you so much - Your advice will help make this holiday season a bit easier for my whole family!


We did Christmas in Flushing Chinatown one year when dealing with similar circumstances - a dumpling crawl. It was a lot of fun, but maybe not the best choice for picky eaters. However, any of the larger restaurants there should be able to accommodate your group for a sit down feast, if you’re willing to go to Queens, and I would guess they’ll all have full menus available rather than a limited set menu.


We had Christmas Eve dinner at Riverpark about a decade ago - it might work for you.


Union Square Cafe is one of our favorites. Fortunately, they have a very nice outdoor dining set-up, so we were able fine there this a couple of times this summer. I have no idea if they’ll have a special menu for Christmas Eve. Best to call and inquire.(They’ll be closed Christmas Day since Danny Meyer restaurants always are. )

Sweetbriar opened a year ago. We haven’t been able to try it because they don’t have outdoor tables. However, we have been very fortunate to have eaten Chef Bryce Shuman’s delicious food many times at two restaurants where he previously was in charge of the kitchen. So, I have no hesitation in recommending Sweetbriar as I’m certain the food he is serving there is just as excellent. They are open Christmas Day with a special menu, but I don’t know if that will be the case Christmas Eve.


Take a look at earlier NYC threads for previous recs:


What are the constraints?

Chinese: Shun Lee / UWS, Cafe China, Han dynasty / UWS (nice room), Peking duck house

Italian: Il Buco / IB A&V, Pepolino,

American: ABC Kitchen, Hearth, The Ribbon, a steakhouse?

Thank you for the links and recs. I did try some of the linked places already (L’Artusi, etc) and they are closed/haven’t responded, etc. but I will do a deeper dive for sure.

Constraints are hard to capture in a small blurb but its probably easiest to say that it can’t be anything too unfamiliar for my 76 year old Italian American dad and 55 year old contrarian brother-in-law. That’s why I chose Italian/Chinese (if they have some of the more Chinese American options) and American. I am a vegetarian.

I appreciate everyone’s input!


Emilio’s Ballato. You can reserve in the back room, if they are open. Old rock and roll hang out. Very fun for all, great NY style Italian food!

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P.S. Red Farm, West Village or UWS locations for the Chinese American.

Do not go to Red Farm WV! I had a really terrible and expensive meal there not all that long ago. I hope the UWS one is better.

Good to know…I also have not been UWS in a while (and honestly never been to WV, so sorry for the blind rec.)…but last I had, it was still good. Will revisit and report back.

Yeah, it was really something. My friend had recently been to the UWS branch and thought it was great, so we had dinner at the WV one. Although there were open tables in the upstairs part, we were seated at a huge communal table below street level that was so close to the wall that I was basically trapped for the entire meal, unless I wanted to climb over people. The famous pacman dumplings were dried out and flavorless, as if they’d been sitting under the heat lamp for ages. A corn and crab chowder was closer to a corn and cornstarch chowder. And did I mention it was expensive? It was expensive.

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I’m on Fogo de Chao’s email list and they just sent a note about thanksgiving with all the fixings plus their Churrasco. I wonder if it might be a good xmas eve solution.

We went through the same dynamic for a number of years after my wife’s parents passed, Italian restaurants worked really well since we both grew up in Italian familes. Places like noodle pudding, bamontes, frost and Michaels. The food is not going to be the best in NYC but they may offer familiarity and comfort in a time of loss.

except for noodle pudding, we I haven’t been to any of these places in many years and they al require a subway, perhaps others can chime in with comforting, manhattan red sauce restaurants.


ps dang, meant to post a general reply rather than a specific reply to @small_h smallh

You may already have seen this somewhat parallel thread but just in case:


Yes, I’ve been combing through that thread, thanks!

Thank you. I think red sauce Italian will likely be our best bet due to comforting familiarity! I will report back on how things shake out for us!