No disrespect to your Aunt Alice’s bone-dry stuffing, but it’s time to shake up the old holiday menu. Take your cue from these chefs, getting creative at their new restaurants (or just book a table now).
6927 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305/759-2001; dinner for two $80.
The Tradition: Cranberry sauce
Cranberry–port wine reduction Jelly from a can?Nunca! Michelle Bernstein cooks the berries down and spoons them onto chicken-liver mousse at her temple to Nuevo Latino cuisine.
THE HUNGRY CAT
1535 North Vine St., Hollywood; 323/462-2155; dinner for two $70.
The Tradition: Pumpkin pie
The Great Pumpkin Bartender Tim Staehling thinks outside the pie plate: pumpkin purée, lemon juice, and simple syrup with bourbon and a dash of nutmeg.
MERITAGE CAFÉ & WINE BAR
2118 N. Damen Ave., Chicago; 773/235-6434; dinner for two $90.
The Tradition: Roast turkey
Lobster and turkey crépinette Troy Graves’s Picasso to a traditional cook’s stick-figure sketch: medallions of turkey tucked into an airy lobster mousse, and roasted in a sheet of caul fat.
2936 Elm St., Dallas; 214/752-7500; dinner for two $125.
The Tradition: Cornbread stuffing
Roasted pine nut–polenta dressing Tracy Miller folds parsnips, chanterelles, and Broccolini (take that, Aunt Alice!) into creamy polenta at Dallas’s see-and-be-seen venue.
Chef Tracy Miller ensconced her masterpiece, Local, in the ground floor of Dallas's Boyd Hotel in 2003. Since then, Local has been delighting, well, locals with its inspired menu of modern American cuisine. The atmosphere is convivial and lounge-like, with spacious booths comprising a good deal of the seating. Prosecco mojitos, Local's signature house cocktail, are a great way to kick off your meal of gems like the flawlessly cooked cornflake crusted sea bass, served with pea and lemon risotto.
Meritage Café & Wine Bar
Chef Michelle Bernstein’s 50-seat bistro on Miami’s Upper East Side may be small in size, but it’s bold in design, featuring orange-covered booths, capiz shell chandeliers, and a deep blue floor and ceiling. In creating her "luxurious comfort food,” Bernstein relies almost exclusively on ingredients provided by local, sustainable resources. What results are seasonal dishes such as yellow tail snapper with Malaysian curry and chupe de mariscos, featuring fish caught off the Florida, clams, scallops, and shrimp. Bernstein’s signature bread pudding, flavored with cognac and topped with vanilla ice cream, is a no-brainer for dessert.
Hungry Cat, L.A.
This seafood-focused restaurant resides in a courtyard of the Sunset & Vine mixed-use development complex. This original location helped propel chef David Lentz to outposts in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. The dining room has curved white walls and dark-wood accents; seating is also available on the patio, where there is a pair of stainless steel bars, one serves cocktails made with fresh-squeezed juices, and the other specializes in raw seafood. A blackboard lists the day’s specials, which might include Florida stone crab claws or Rhode Island clams. Popular dishes include steamed mussels with lamb bacon and curry, and pancetta-wrapped sturgeon with grits and mustard aioli.