There may be no place on earth as magical as New York City at Christmastime. The infectious cheer of the crowds on the street, the world-famous, twinkling window decorations, and the aroma of warm chocolate, roast meats, and baking bread emanating from the eateries infuse us with hope and expectation.
As much a foodie’s delight as a holiday-maker’s dream destination, Manhattan serves up sustenance and delight in the form of food and beverages to suit any tuckered-out traveler’s tastebuds. Whether you’re looking for a quick, thrifty snack to fuel you as you shop iconic department stores such as Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, and of course Macy’s, or you seek a luxury, once-in-a-lifetime dining experience, this Holiday Eats list will point you in the right direction.
I’m counting down from Number 10…
Happy holidays, and bon appétit from me to you! x
10. Jean Georges Trump Tower Hotel, Central Park West*
This New French eatery, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park is clean, sleek, and sophisticated but surprisingly welcoming. In the Trump Hotel, with the golden statue of the earth out front, Jean-Georges Vongerichten serves up what many consider to be the pinnacle of New York top-shelf cuisine. Open Christmas Day, you can dine for a mere $238 for a prix fixe meal. It sounds outrageous, but I promise you it will rank among your “Top Ten” restaurant experiences, ever. Period.
Insider Tip: Stroll Central Park afterward, and hop a horse-and-carriage if you’re so inclined.
9. Christmas Eve Virgil’s Real Barbeque West 44th Street, Times Square
Centrally located if you want to check out Times Square of if you have Broadway tickets for one of the shows that runs on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, Virgil’s is an ideal spot to pack in a satisfying winter meal. Real falling-off-the-bone Southern barbeque is served alongside Maryland crab cakes, spicy shrimp, beer-battered onion rings, pickled beets, and collard greens. And… they have killer cocktails. On second thought, you might want to schedule a nap after eating here. What’s the point of spending a mint on a show ticket if you’ll be snoring by the second act?
|Inside & Outside @ Virgil's BBQ|
8. Nuts 4 Nuts, Carts Ubiquitous around Manhattan*
If you haven’t tasted these morsels from heaven yet, maybe you’d better steer clear. They. Are. Addictive. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and coconut chunks are coated with some kind of sugary glaze that must contain crack, and roasted under heat lamps. The goodies are sold in waxed paper bags, and don’t fool yourself into thinking you might eat a few and put the rest in your bag. One taste and your hooked.
7. The Russian Tea Room, 57th Street, Midtown*
This uptown establishment is offering a four-course prix fixe on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, loaded with Russian favorites: borscht, whole roasted, deboned pig, and chicken Kiev. Finish the meal with the Tea Room’s famous blintzes or the over-the-top Czar’s gold-and-caviar parfait made with 24-karat edible gold. If you haven’t seen this place in old movies, you’ve surely seen it in Sex and the City when Carrie was dating the Russian.
|Bear Lounge @ The Russian Tea Room NYC|
6. Don’t Tell Mama Restaurant Row, Hell’s Kitchen Open Christmas Day
For a romantic adults-night-out holiday, book Christmas dinner at this legendary restaurant row cabaret spot-turned-brasserie. I hosted a stand-up show, and performed in an improv musical here on and off for ten years, and I can tell you that the atmosphere is pure New York. You’ll enjoy the piano bar, where top-notch singers, who also happen to be the wait staff, sing along with virtuoso pianists who work as accompanists for Broadway auditions by day. Plan to have a few cocktails. It’s the rare person who emerges onto the sidewalk sober and not belting out show tunes.
5. The Plaza Hotel, Central Park South, Midtown
If you’re going around Christmas time, and you have the budget to splash out, go to The Palm Court for Afternoon Tea. You’ll swoon under the light of the high windows and ceilings, and be charmed by the Eloise at the Plaza-pink Christmas tree. Expect more scones and sandwiches than a human can eat, and if you’re without the kids, upgrade to the Champagne version. On Christmas Day, lunch is offered with an unlimited dessert bar. Dangerous!
4. Little Pie Company, West 43rd Street, Hell’s Kitchen*
This hidden gem won’t be open on Christmas Day, but if you’re going to a friend’s house, order a pie in advance to bring as a gift. Or, if you’re killing time before an off-Broadway show in the area, pop in to the booths or the old-fashioned ice-cream counter and enjoy a slice of pie and a cup of joe. They’re all good, but the Mississippi Mud and the Sour Cream Apple Walnut are truly memorable.
3. The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station, 42nd Street, Midtown East*
Nestled deep in the famous train station, The Oyster Bar offers the freshest in shellfish, and is renowned for its “Pan Roasts,” which are chowders made right before your eyes in unique steam pots attached to the counter. The waiters are nearly as old as the station itself, and have that rough-around-the-edges New York persona one imagines only exists in 1940s black-and-white films. It gets dark and atmospheric at the counter in the evening, so skip the table if you want a romantic experience.
Must See: The Whispering Arch. Under the four archways near the entrance, you can experience an amazing sound focusing effect. If you and a friend stand at opposite ends of the underpass and one of you speaks facing the wall at a normal volume, the other person can hear you perfectly even though you are 10 yards away and facing the opposite direction.
2. Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, Doyers Street, Chinatown
You’ve heard it mentioned by the likes of Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner in Nora Ephron films: On Christmas Day in New York, Jews eat Chinese food and go to a movie. The tradition hearkens back to the days when stores and restaurants actually closed on major holidays. Since the majority of Asians all those decades ago weren’t Christians, December 25th was just another business day. Regardless of your affiliation, if you’re a tourist in New York, you might not be going to someone’s home for a giant roast lunch. If not, head on down to Chinatown, where there will be unique bargain-shopping on offer alongside authentic, inexpensive Chinese cuisine. There are many good restaurants in the vicinity, but I recommend this one. The warm soups are perfect for a cold December day. Be sure to order the knife-cut noodles, and share with your friends.
Good to know: Pearl River Department Store is a treasure trove of exotic items, such as Chinese apparel, and everyday household goods like vegetable peelers and potholders.
1. The Food Stalls at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, Between 5th and 6th Avenues, Midtown*
My absolute favorite place in New York at Christmas is Bryant Park. The giant tree rivals the one in Rockefeller Center, and the ice-skating rink is a fraction as crowded. Pro-tip: If you bring your own skates, it’s free. Shop for handcrafted Christmas decorations, and gifts from stalls selling fine leather goods, jewelry, Himalayan crafts, upmarket toys, and more. And don’t forget to eat. The kiosks sell small, inexpensive bites ranging from Dutch Waffles, to rich soups, to Asian noodles, to exotic sliders. Or grab a hot spiced cider or cup of chocolate to carry while you visit Santa in his grotto.
Bonus: The public bathrooms are the prettiest in the city, and you’re right around the corner from the main library, with the lion sculptures out front.
|Winter Village - Photo by Angelito Jusay (16)|
*Featured Locations: A Miracle at Macy’s.
Shy homebody Charlotte is planning her usual quiet Christmas celebration: Turkey for two for her and her beloved pet dog Hudson. Only, this year, little Hudson decides to take matters into his own paws and give his favourite human a holiday adventure she’ll never forget.
When Hudson runs away the week before Christmas, Charlotte is devastated. She’d rescued him from the trash years before and gave him a place in her home – and her heart. But with the help of uptight Englishman Henry, Charlotte ends up on a magical treasure hunt around Manhattan to find her furry, four-legged bestie.
Spotted in Central Park as one of Santa's Little Helpers, or last seen in the arms of a supermodel in Times Square, Hudson leads Charlotte and Henry on a very merry dance around the Big Apple, where love, (or should that be Christmas?!) actually is all around.