Christmas in Los Angeles is anything you want it to be — tamales on the beach, say, or dim sum in Pasadena or a hike in Malibu. This breadth of choices is the best thing about L.A. any time of year. And sometimes it's fun, in a holiday season, to indulge in the most cheeseball, the most stereotypical and British of Christmas tropes: tinsel, garland, boughs of holly, heavy foods, warm boozy drinks, fireplaces and, yes, carolers. Atwater's Tam O'Shanter goes all in on that for the entire month of December, and it is a delight.
Tam O'Shanter was built in 1922 by carpenters who normally built movie studio sets. The architectural style is called “Storybook” or “Hansel and Gretel;” unsurprisingly, Walt Disney and his animation crew were regulars at the Tam. Thematically, the restaurant is Scottish — not Irish, though it does confuse the situation by promoting St. Patrick's Day celebrations. We can't really blame them for cashing in on one of the biggest bar nights of the year.
But Christmas is where the Tam O'Shanter, with its warren of rooms decorated in dark wood and floral upholstery and rows of flags hanging from the ceilings, really shines. The restaurant's menu is tailor-made for Christmas spirit, with its focus on prime rib and sides like mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, plus British classics like Toad in the Hole (stew in a giant Yorkshire pudding, essentially) and fish and chips.
The bar is the center of the action, of course. You can order from the full menu there, and most evenings there's a carving station serving up enormous, meaty sandwiches. (It's hard to pin down exactly what the hours of this “sandwich bar” are in actual practice. That's either wildly frustrating or charmingly European, depending on how much good will toward men you currently contain.)
But even if you're not eating, you can belly up to the bar, a high-backed booth or one of the spindly side tables covered in green and red ephemera for a warming whiskey-based drink to enjoy under the twinkling lights. Maybe order a whole bunch of Yorkshire puddings and call it dinner. Just remember that if you request a song of the roving carolers, give them a tip. This is not the place to act like Scrooge. Good King Wenceslas all the way.
2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 664-0228, lawrysonline.com/tamoshanter.
Open till midnight throughout December, but closed Dec. 25. Carolers every evening through Dec. 30.