Sentimental though it may sound, there’s an undeniable magic to the holidays. Restaurants like D.C.’s 1789 know just how to capture that spirit; they go all-out with garlands, lights, and holiday scenes that take days, or even more, to create. Many also embellish their menus during the holiday season, even drawing inspiration from other nations: the Feast of the Seven Fishes, on Christmas Eve, adopted from Italian-American tradition; Nochevieja, the Spanish New Year’s Eve, with customs like eating grapes for good fortune.
Some parts of the U.S. have their own deep-seated holiday traditions. In New Orleans, Christmas Eve means the feast of réveillon. But one night isn’t enough for Restaurant R’evolution, which serves a special prix fixe menu—with dishes like lobster nage and andouille bisque—all December long. In New York, meanwhile, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without latkes. At midtown’s Toloache, chef Julian Medina honors his wife’s Jewish roots with a Mexican take on Hanukkah classics, including zucchini latkes with a tomatillo-apple salsa.
Read on for restaurants that capture the flavor of the holidays, whether through lavish tea spreads, Dickens-inspired dinners, or more contemporary festivities like a New Year’s party in Austin, Texas, fueled by street food and (obviously) champagne.