Catholics who can’t cook. Italian-American traditionalists who can’t find schmelts. Jewish people who don’t care what schmelts are. This list is for you.
Open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the tag line for Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr’s first nationally known eatery at the holidays goes “Who needs turkey or ham when you can have Edamame dumplings and Peking duck?” A fair point. Especially when you consider that the rest of the four-course tasting menu at Old City’s Buddakan – with many a la carte options – features tuna tartare spring rolls, whole Shanghai lobsters, lamb chops and Chinese sausage fried rice.
Buddakan, 325 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Christmas Eve at Fork must look beautiful with its high ceilings, dark woods and row-upon-row of candles. The Market Street culinary salon is doing the Italian-inspired Feast of the Seven Fishes menu from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. with everything from caviar and buckwheat sable to grilled squid and oysters on the half shell. My mother didn’t serve caviar.
Fork, 306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
For Christmas Eve near the Fashion District, you can see the Banksy exhibition then run to Ludlow Street’s French-inspired American brasserie, The Wayward for a prix fixed menu of steaming hot chestnut soup, thick, slow-roasted prime rib, and chocolate gateau. Plus, dining starts at 5 pm, so you can have a happy hour cocktail to toast the holiday before you sup.
The Wayward, 1170 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia, PA
What used to be Taqueria La Veracruzana in the Italian Market has changed management to become Palenque, and so far, the biggest differences is in its menu is the sweet tenderness of its marinated beefs, the zest (and thick cuts) of its chorizo and the portion sizes of everything from its burritos to its Cubana. South Philly’s newest Mexican dining spot is open on Christmas Eve until 4 pm. The spicy holiday starts early.
Palenque Ristorante, 908 Washington Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
Downtown Philly’s newest and certainly poshest Italian restaurant located within the W Hotel is doing a surprising traditional seven fish feast served family style with Baccala Manticato, Octopus Carpaccio, Seafood Brodetto, rib eye options and cannoli, rainbow cookies, butter pecan balls, pignoli, pizzelles for the table – all on Christmas Eve.
Dolce Italian at the W Hotel, 1439 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Caffe Aldo Lamberti and Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti
I’m sending you over the bridge to Jersey for this first one, but it’s totally worth it: a Christmas Eve with the first family of fine Italian dining in a mod design setting and holiday live music bouncing between a jazz combo and strolling carolers. Do the homemade Gnocchi Sorrento and the Chicken Carciofi. You’ll thank me. If you’re going to stay in Philly, Aldo’s Positano Coast is doing his traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes highlighted by Cioppino of octopus, mussels and shrimp, and Baccala Croquettes.
Caffe Aldo Lamberti, 2011 Marlton Pike W, Cherry Hill, NJ
Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti, 212 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA
Grace & Proper
Bella Vista/Queen Village’s newest and most sparkly handcrafted cocktail and small plates salon is open for its first Christmas Eve until 6pm. Along with its menu of the finest French Onion soup and Salted cod bacala (at least one of the Seven Fishes), their bartender is serving specials on Tom & Jerry’s and Painkiller cocktails. A huge, happy WTF for the holidays. Do that.
Grace & Proper, 941 South 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA
Dim Sum House
You have just enough time to pre-order a Feast for All Christmas pre-fix (December 23 pre-order) for a Christmas Day filled with traditional dim sum of turnip cakes, shrimp cheung fun, roast pork baos and more dumplings than you can imagine. Or you can hit up Dim Sum Houses in Rittenhouse and University City for Christmas Eve and Day and go to town. All good. All great.
1930 Chestnut Street and 3939 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Jose Garces’ flagship Old City eatery does the Christmas Eve Prime rib roast dinner in opulent fashion with a hint of Latin flavor in its Patatas Bravas, Bruselas Catalana and Roscon De Reyes.
Amada, 217-219 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Christmas Eve at a steakhouse in Center City. Yes, that sounds festive. And, of course you’ll splurge on the wagyu steak cuts and the fresh raw bar tower.
Steak 48, 260 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
Northern Liberties El Camino may not be doing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals at its 2nd Street location. But you can order ahead and they’re serving ham. Nobody is serving ham. Maple bourbon glazed ham and braised brisket pot roast and smoked turkey to go with orange honey glazed carrots and a Red Velvet roll.
El Camino, 1040 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
A Christmas Eve brunch with Chefs Lee Styer and Kevin Watters and a Christmas Eve Eve where you get to feast on a plush prime rib? I can do that.
The Dutch, 1537 S 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA
OK, so the Sena family is only doing their traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes until December 23. But, along with one of the homiest meals in the city, Panorama has the most gorgeous wine list in town. Get to holiday dining early.
Ristorante Panorama, 14 North Front Street, Philadelphia, PA
The South Street staple, back and better than ever after its tragic, pre-pandemic blaze, is open Christmas Day serving traditional Egg Nog laced with bourbon as it should be, crab Hush Puppies and smoked salmon toast aps and prime rib and salmon entrees. South Street misses you.
Bridget Foy’s, 200 South Street, Philadelphia, PA