Leave the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree for the tourists. Real New Yorkers have a holiday tradition all their own: dinner at Rolf's, the German restaurant known as much for its over-the-top Christmas decorations as its signature schnitzel and lackluster service.
Each year, the Gramercy bar and grill gets gussied up with miles of glass-ball–bedecked garland, thousands of decorative icicles and hundreds of dolls—about $65,000 worth of Christmas cheer. The annual tradition is an undertaking so serious it gets started in September, the restaurant's manager has said. In fact, it takes a team of six men a month and a half of working five overnights a week to hang the estimated 15,000 ornaments and 100,000 lights.
The tradition is so popular that reservations are absolutely recommended, though the phone lines were down when we checked. Instead, insiders recommend showing up before it opens at noon to claim your spot in line. If you brave the holiday crowd and snag a table among the other ornament oglers, do it the echte German way and order the traditional Christmas meal of roast goose with red cabbage and mashed potatoes. Wash it down with a warming glass of glühwein, of course.
And don't worry if you can't get in before New Year's—the Christmas decorations stay up well into spring.
Written by Heather Corcoran