With all due respect to hearty home-cooked Christmas meals centered around major hunks of proteins, tamales and starchy vegetables, it's not all that difficult to find interesting ways to eat out on December 25th in Los Angeles. Alright, in all fairness, the endeavor can be challenging. But it's also subversively fun to be out when most of the world seems tucked away, kind of like teenagers sneaking out in the middle of the night. Regardless, we don't advise spontaneously dropping in on your neighborhood canteen in hopes of finding the lights on and the kitchen humming along.
Our guide breaks down L.A. Christmas dining into five categories -- Christmas Eve dinners, Persian restaurants, Delis, Hotels, and Chinese food -- with five options in each, plus one bonus. Because it's worth mentioning when a beloved 1958 landmark restaurant finally decides to flip the sign at the door to read "Open" on December 25th.5. Christmas Warm Up: December 24th Dinners:
Either hold out for deli the next day (see below), or substitute Naugahyde booths for more upscale décor and Eastern Mediterranean cooking finesse with a Jewish Christmas dinner at Mezze on the 24th. Chef Micah Wexler's plans entail chopped chicken livers with grape mostarda and challah, smoked sable with lebne and pickled shallots, haute matzo ball soup, and shawarma and brisket and much more, all available until 1 a.m. Since late last month, Il Covo has been settling into the space on West 3rd Street that was known for years as the west coast outpost of Joe Allen and then Orso. (Some Orso regulars still mourn the beloved liver and onions.) This newcomer, owned by hospitality veteran Sean MacPherson and business partner Jared Meisler, arrived with a smartly well-worn aesthetic and hearty Italian menu.
Plus never underestimate the sway of fireplaces, especially on Christmas Eve, when chef Roberto Maggioni offers a $65 tasting menu along with a la carte selections. Providence and Drago Centro each do their own take on the Italian tradition of Christmas Eve fish-centric dinner. Michael Cimarusti's "La Vigilia" feast of the Seven Fishes this year features family-inspired dishes such as scallops with cauliflower and black truffle, and squid ink spaghetti alla chitarra with crab sauce and sea urchin. Seatings are between 4 and 8 p.m., cost is $120 per person, $170 with wine pairings. Celestino Drago's seven-course $70 menu downtown includes Maine lobster cappuccino and seared diver scallop with saffron risotto.
December 24th is the final chance to eat through Ford's Filling Station's three-course holiday dinner ($40 per person), with plates such as braised lamb shank and sage gnocchi with Brussels sprouts to stoke the seasonal spirit.
Mezze: 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-4103
Il Covo: 8700 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (310) 858-0020
Providence: 5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood/Hancock Park; (323) 460-4170
Drago Centro: 525 S. Flower St., Downtown; (213) 228-8998
Ford's Filling Station: 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 202-14704. Persian:
Los Angeles' robust Persian community has made the Westwood area in particular a treasure trove of heaping rice platters, kabobs, stews, palate-awakening sweets and other standout culinary accomplishments. And these restaurants give non-Christmas observing Angelenos lots to be psyched about. Javan on Santa Monica Blvd. keeps up a steady turnover and maintains its typically smooth operation (if you're lucky, you might hear some tunes coming from the white baby grand piano). Ditch the yuletide log in favor of the clay oven at Shaherzad on Westwood Blvd. You'll eat much better fresh flatbread that way.
Other nearby choices include Shamshiri Grill, and Darya has locations in West L.A. and in the O.C. Outside of the Westside enclave, Shiraz restaurant in Glendale and Sherman Oaks will serve its wide-ranging menu of what it advertises as Middle Eastern and Armenian foods, but with a name like Shiraz, expect to find plenty of Persian specialties.
Javan Restaurant: 11500 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 207-5555
Shaherzad: 1422 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 470-3242
Shamshiri Grill: 1712 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 474-1410
Darya: 12130 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 442-9011
Shiraz: 211 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale; (818) 500-8661; 15472 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 789-7788