Increasingly, going out to dinner on Christmas Eve is becoming a family tradition. And well aware of the growing demand, many of the city’s most beloved establishments are keeping doors open on this once shut-down evening, leaving those fireplaces burning and eggnog flowing on December 24.
But beyond just serving the normal dinner menus, some restaurants are using the holiday as an opportunity to embrace their culinary heritage. For Italian and seafood restaurants, it’s the Feast of The Seven Fishes. For others, it's making tamales en masse or preparing gooseneck pie. No matter where in the world you plan to take your tastebuds this Christmas Eve, there are tons of options and it's guaranteed to be delicious. Get out of the house this Christmas Eve and take a culinary journey through the Christian world — all without ever leaving L.A.
Italy — Feast of the Seven Fishes
Even if you're not Southern Italian or even Italian-American, celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes, should be considered. The Christmas Eve tradition, known in Italian as La Vigilia ("The Vigil," referring to the wait at the nativity for baby Jesus’ birth at midnight) consists of eating many courses of fish and seafood, each prepared in a different way. The tradition originated around the Catholic edict that meat and butter should not be eaten on the eve of holy days, thus, leaving seafood as the only alternative. Religious origins aside, several Los Angeles seafood restaurants are taking part in this delicious tradition and their menus look irresistible.
Union: If you like squid ink (the edible kind, in addition to this here blog), consider chef Bruce Kalman of Union in Pasadena's $125 Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. Their squid ink, which is only one of the seven mouth-watering dishes, will be served with maccheroni pasta alla chitarra, baccala (dried salt cod) roasted tomatoes and uni. Hungry yet? The Christmas Eve feast will be available from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will include a wine pairing for $40. 37 E. Union Street, Pasadena. (626)795-5841, unionpasadena.com
Providence: James Beard Award nominee chef Michael Cimarusti will create a menu inspired by his grandmother Josephine and great-grandmother Domenica. The $130 Christmas Eve prix fixe meal will be served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will include eight courses instead of the traditional seven. Get ready to enjoy menu items like squid carbonara, lobster raviolo and a traditional Neapolitan dessert made of small, deep-fried balls of dough called struffoli. Add wine pairing an the meal is $190; add a premium wine pairing and it'll be $290. 5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. (323) 460-4170, providencela.com
Blue Plate Oysterette: One of the many good things about going to Blue Plate Oysterette on Christmas Eve is that they have two locations, so there’s a better chance you won’t have to drive very far to eat chef Paolo Bendez’u’s exciting version of Feast of the Seven Fishes. The Santa Monica original and it’s West Hollywood outpost will be open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 24, each dishing up their own series of fish and seafood. Expect to eat things like oysters (obviously), lobster bisque, ahi tuna crudo, petite Maine lobster rolls and sea scallops served with white cauliflower puree, lentils and fennel confit. Both menus are $89 per person. 1355 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 260-8877 or 8048 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles. (323) 656-5474. To make a reservation, click here.
The Pikey: If you prefer to travel to England for your Christmas Eve dinner, consider hitting up one of L.A.’s favorite neo-British pubs. The Pikey will be open all night serving chef Ralph Johnson’s gastropub menu as well as some special holiday plates including Pig’s Head in a Blanket with onion jam and mustard, gooseneck pie with house-made sweet pastry, honey-glazed ham for two, minced pie ice cream and signature Christmas cocktails. The pub will be open from 11:45 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve. 7617 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. (323) 850-5400, thepikeyla.com.
Fuego at Hotel Maya: Looking for a Christmas Eve that’s just a little more tropical? Travel to Latin America, by way of Long Beach, naturally. Fuego at Hotel Maya is offering a three-course, prix fixe holiday dinner menu on Christmas Eve from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., in addition to the restaurant's always-stunning waterfront views. Enjoy live classical guitar playing while eating serrano-ginger lobster bisque, all while gazing out at the Pacific Ocean. Chef Victor Juarez’s Latin-infused menu is $50 per-person and includes complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. 700 Queensway Drive, Long Beach. (562) 481-3910, fuegolongbeach.com.
Wirtshaus: The Hollywood German beer house is closing early on Christmas Eve (meaning no traditional holiday roast goose or Christmas pastries), but if authentic wiener schnitzel, simple sausages and homemade apple strudel sounds comforting to you, head in for lunch or an afternoon snack as they will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 24. Just make sue you still plan for a hearty dinner, because according to German folklore, those who don't eat well on Christmas Eve are haunted by demons on the most sacred of nights. 345 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles. (323) 931-929, wirtshausla.com.
Cafe Del Rey: Ever dreamed of escaping the stress and hustle-bustle of the holidays by spending them in a seaside town on the Mediterranean? Well, if for some reason that still isn’t what you’re doing this year, Cafe Del Rey is offering a tempting, $60 three-course prix fixe menu on December 24, from 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Cafe del Rey’s Mediterranean- inspired cuisine can be enjoyed overlooking the Marina and chef Chuck Abair will be preparing special dishes like black truffle pasta with confit turkey, braised short ribs with potato pavé and crispy octopus with fennel, mushrooms, arugula and chipotle aioli. The menu’s desserts include eggnog crème brûlée with gingerbread cookies and pumpkin bread pudding with pumpkin brittle and tres leches sauce. 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. (310) 823.6395, CAFEdelREYmarina.com.
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Guerrilla Tacos: It's not Christmas in Mexico without tamales (or really in Los Angeles for that matter), but what do you do when most of the city's Mexican restaurants are taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to rest? Thankfully, Chef Wesley Avila of Guerrilla Tacos and his famous roving truck will be open in front of Cognoscenti Coffee during his regular business hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on Wednesday, December 24. Tacos can be ordered for walk-ups, but tamales are available via pre-order only, so stake your claim now. $35 will get you one dozen of the good stuff. 6114 Washington Blvd, Culver City. guerrillatacos.com.