RECOMMENDED: Christmas for kids in New York City
Cooking a holiday meal for your entire clan can be a stressful job—especially in a cramped NYC apartment. If you'd rather skip out on slaving over the stove, treat everyone to dinner at one of the family restaurants in NYC that are open on Christmas Day! Many of the eateries will offer festive menus for the occasion, including options for your pickiest eaters. Afterwards, head home and whip up some hot chocolate (minimal cooking required!) and pop in one of our favorite Christmas movies for kids. Happy holidays!
Family restaurants open on Christmas Day
Unsurprisingly, the folks at this swank Art Deco palace really know their cheese—just check out the cave in back. A side order of macaroni gratin—penne noodles baked with Comté, Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano and topped with bread crumbs—elevates the humble mac to an art form. Come in during regular hours on Christmas Day and give yourself the gift of no dishes!
On weekend mornings, a “We love kids!” attitude and a no-reservations policy add up to pleasant, barely controlled chaos. Families embrace the mayhem and flock to this eatery’s two NYC locations for the gourmet brunch spread, which includes eggs benedict ($22), sourdough pancakes ($15) and more, crafted from scratch using Grandma-approved family recipes. The kids menu features comforting classics like matzo ball soup ($6) and mac and cheese ($5). Be sure to leave room for a piece of Bubby’s’ famous pie—the restaurant got its start as a pie baking company back in 1990. Today, the options include local apple, peanut butter chocolate and Toigo Farm peach & vanilla bean crumble pie ($8 a slice; ask about whole pies available for purchase). Open for brunch and dinner on Christmas Day.
An amicable staff dishes out gigantic portions of family-style specialties at this tourist hot spot that often gets actual busloads. Chicken comes slathered in savory marsala sauce, and eggplant parmigiana is thickly layered with tomato sauce and bubbling cheese. Enormous desserts (like the aptly named Titanic, a sundae atop a chocolate torte) verge on the obscene, and the odds are high that you will hear “Happy Birthday” sung more than once.
Stop in and warm up Christmas Day with seasonal comfort foods like buttermilk-fried chicken with mashed potatoes and honey butter, lobster-studded mac and cheese ($17), and roast chicken topped with pine nuts and olives ($26). Mom and Dad can sip on a Brass Sidecar of cognac and Cointreau ($15) alongside a festive Christmas prime rib just after 5pm. 7am-11pm.
Red Rooster Harlem
Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem bistro serves up global soul food—a "We Are the World" mix of Southern-fried, East African, Scandinavian and French—in a cheerful, sprawling space, walls stocked with antique bric-a-brac and works from local artists. The Christmas Day menu is still TBD, but the kids definitely won't want to pass on dessert, with options like apple pie with aged-cheddar crust and a super-deluxe spin on a Snickers bar.
In wintertime, this restaurant looks out on one of the city’s most romantic spots, the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Given the setting, the food (Italian-inflected American) is better than it needs to be. The chef creates an original prix-fixe menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, serving lunch ($50 a head) as well as a three-course dinner for families ($85, children $25)
The menu reads like an omnivore's list of favorite foods—fried calamari, chicken pot pie, Maine lobster salad, ricotta gnocchi, vegetable bibimbap and five cuts of steak—but somehow it works. Families will feel welcome here, and not just because the acoustics drown out even a colicky baby's wails, or because the menu is loaded with kid fare like mac and cheese and spaghetti carbonara. We'll be back for the beer-battered string beans and, for dessert, the Pumpkin Cheesecake, with gingersnap crust, cranberry gelée and spicy pepitas. The Lincoln Square location is open from 10am–10pm on Christmas Day.