Going to a restaurant open on Christmas Day isn’t a tradition as near-and-dear to our hearts as, say, checking out Christmas lights and making sugar cookies. Maybe all you want for Christmas this year is to prepare a nice, home-cooked meal. But remember in A ChristmasStory, when all Ralphie Parker wanted was a Red Ryder B.B. gun and everyone told him he’d shoot his eye out if he got one— and then he almost did?! The point is, cooking can be hazardous, and, let’s be real, nobody wants to clean all those dishes when you could be spending time with family and friends. Our gift to you: a shortlist of restaurants open on Christmas Day, including some of Austin’s best Chinese restaurants and top diners. So you don’t accidentally, you know, cook your eye out or anything like that.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to Christmas in Austin
Restaurants open on Christmas Day
On the menu: Turkey is so Thanksgiving. At the Driskill Hotel’s renowned restaurant, your choices for a main course—the final of four courses, not counting dessert—beat the hell out of the standard holiday bird: cast iron-seared halibut, lamb osso bucco or black garlic tuile followed by a choice between mushroom tart or bacon-wrapped scallops, plus the chef’s signature Caesar salad and a roasted butternut squash soup to start. This fantastic prix-fixe fare wraps up sweetly with a holiday “bouche de noel,” aka the most incredible chocolate mousse (infused with frozen eggnog custard, y’all). Reservations for this annual feast fill up quickly, so you’ll want to snag one sooner than later.
Time: Seatings from 2-7:30pm
Cost: $130 per person/$180 with wine tastings
On the menu: You’ve heard of expanding your stomach in preparation for a mighty meal, but in the case of TRIO’s Christmas Day buffet, you might consider fasting for a couple weeks prior instead. You’ll need the room if you plan to taste even a third of the expansive, divinely delicious menu, which costs almost half the price of most prix-fixe offerings and covers far more than the restaurant’s three main bases (steak, seafood and wine). Not feeling the smoked salmon, Tex-Mex ceviche or beef tenderloin? Try the Vadouvan crusted rack of lamb or the confit chicken-fried chicken. Or perhaps one of five finely crafted salads, eleven desserts or a customized omelet from the made-to-order station. All other Christmas Day buffets, bow down.
Time: 11am-8pm (or 11am-3pm in the Four Seasons Ballroom) with a reservation
Cost: $88 per adult/$35 per child, plus tax and gratuity
On the menu: Seeing as Chinese food on Christmas Day is practically as widespread a U.S. tradition as decorating a tree, this is one of Wu Chow’s busiest days of the year. If you’re on the fence about making a reservation, do it now. Dim sum service will only run Christmas Eve from 6-10pm, but no biggie—the chef will be serving the rest of Wu Chow’s mouthwatering dinner menu on Christmas Day, including whole steamed fish and Beijing ducks (for anyone intent on re-living A Christmas Story in real life).
On the menu: Looking for an upscale Christmas dinner that isn’t astronomically expensive? Trace (at the W Hotel) has you covered. The reasonably priced, three-course meal features a choice of arugula salad, lentil and chestnut soup, local beet salad, smoked salmon dip, Niman Ranch prime rib, spice crusted duck breast, herb and citrus crusted rack of lamb or house made gnocchi, and a dessert selection of eggnog rice pudding, gingerbread cake or chocolate bûche de noël (that’s some dangerously delectable cake to you non-French speakers). And if your sweet tooth is somehow still in high gear after that, Trace is even offering house-made ginger snaps and hot chocolate kits to go (sold separately). Be advised, this is the only menu available on Christmas Day (except for breakfast, which is served from 7-10:30am). Guests can make reservations online or call the restaurant directly (parties of seven or more need to call the host stand directly).
Cost: $60 per person, plus tax and gratuity
On the menu: Threadgill’s is open all day on Christmas and offering plenty of signature items to fill you up. Turkey (with cornbread stuffing!), grilled and chicken-fried pork chops, glazed ham, steaks cooked to order, a massive array of veggie sides and much more fill out their enticing array of some of Austin’s best Southern comfort cooking (a kids menu is also available). You’ll want to save room for dessert, too—that chocolate ice box pie (one of four types of pie served) is bound to be damn delicious. Threadgill’s operates on a no-reservation, first-come first-served basis, so plan accordingly. Don’t want to risk it? No sweat. Threadgill’s also takes pre-orders for holiday feasts to-go.
Time: 10:30am-close (doors open at 9:30am)
On the menu: For Christmas Day, 24 Diner isn’t pulling out all the stops like they do for Thanksgiving, but they’re sticking to their 24-hour guns (bless ’em), so you’ll be able to order everything off the regular menu all day long, including those life-changing chicken and waffles. Nothing’s been confirmed officially, but a little helper from their workshop let us know that—along with those incredible mainstay boozy milkshakes—there might be boozy eggnog or other seasonal cocktails in the works (happy hour is from 2:30-6:30pm).
Time: open 24 hours
On the menu: This beloved chain’s North Mopac and Westlake locations (Downtown will be closed) aren’t mixing up their menus for Christmas Day, but really, a delicious Chinese food spread is just as traditional as turkey, stuffing and the rest of the fixings. One bonus not often found among Chinese cuisine establishments: all Chinatown locations offer a sushi menu in addition to their lunch and dinner selections, and the north side spot also serves dim sum.
Time: 11am-10pm at North Mopac/11am-9:30pm at Westlake
Austin’s Russian House will open its doors on Christmas Day once again, serving a full dinner menu with expanded hours. Need something beyond a wide selection of caviar, pirozhkis, borsch or the Tsar’s Ukha to enliven your seasonal senses? Russian House has you covered with specials on a couple of customized holiday libations: pumpkin white Russians and Severnoye Siyaniye (Russian for “Northern Lights,” which is an apt description of how the skyline might appear after you’ve downed a few of these champagne-based beverages).
As is tradition, all Alamo Drafthouse locations will be open on Christmas Day. There won’t be any special holiday feast, but the entire regular menu will be available—and what’s wrong with chips n’ queso, all-day brunch or a damn-delicious pizza for Christmas dinner? If you’re seeking to pair the holiday spirit with your snacks, head to the Ritz location for their annual Elf Movie Party (at noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm), which boasts a themed contest before the film and a snowball fight in the theater, plus jingle bells, bubbles (for a few scenes you know and love) and more.
Time: Varies per location
On the menu: Sometimes all you need on Christmas is some Southern comfort. We’re talking good, hearty eats, which is exactly what Haymaker serves up on the reg in the form of preposterously pleasurable open-face sandwiches, grilled cheese, burgers and brats, all of which will be available during (slightly) abbreviated hours on Christmas Day. You won’t find any eggnog behind the bar, but with a selection of stalwart signature cocktails and an insanely extensive beer list slightly discounted by all-day happy hour, you’re bound to hone in on some holiday cheer anyhow.