Christmas Eve—a time for quiet reflection, a time for warm hearths and warmer hearts, a time for that annual panicked search for Scotch tape. It’s also a time of festive holiday meals. If you’re planning on cooking your Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner, all the merrier. But if you’re not inclined or able to tackle the Roast Beast this year, we’ve got you covered. Of course there are more than 12 restaurants for Yuletide feasting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in New Jersey this year. Consider this list—a wide variety of styles, culled from all over the state—a guide. Get inspired, make some calls, then have a well-earned shot of eggnog.
Most restaurants listed below are open only Christmas Eve, though some are open Christmas Day when noted. Prices don’t include tax or gratuity.
—Seven Fishes via Nova Scotia: Chef Seadon Shouse cooks in a Hoboken kitchen, but the food he’s putting out for Halifax’s “Feast of the Seven Fishes” marries that Italian tradition with his own childhood in a Nova Scotian fishing village. The three-course prix fixe menu will be offered in addition to their regular menu, and given not only the chef’s lineage but his pronounced habit of sustainable, local sourcing, this is one of the more sophisticated, seasonal, slightly less traditional Seven Fishes menus out there (e.g. among your choices are dishes like Fritto Misto with a Spicy Seaweed Aioli and Stuffed Whole-Roasted Local Sea Bream with a Caviar Beurre Blanc). $49, Halifax, 225 River Street, Hoboken; 201-253-2500
—Casual Beach Vibes: Salt Creek Grille in Rumson certainly looks the part with its dockside Christmas Tree, so if you find yourself unmoored this Christmas Eve, you might try here, where they’ll serve a waterside Christmas Eve dinner (no word yet on the menu itself, though you can expect seafood and likely some extra dessert options). 4–9pm, Salt Creek Grille, 4 Bingham Avenue, Rumson; 732-933-9272
—Refined Beach Vibes: Avenue in Long Branch is offering a very affordable three-course prix fixe Christmas Eve dinner between 4 and 6pm, but chef Josh Sauer is also preparing an a la carte menu available until 9pm, with specials like French classic Dover Sole Meuniere with Winter Vegetables or slightly more exotic Lamb Tajine with Israeli Couscous, Dates, and Almonds. (Check out the full Christmas Eve menu here.) $32.50 prix fixe, specials prices vary, 4–9pm, Avenue, 23 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch; 732-759-2900
—Classic Jersey Italian: If you want classic family-style Italian Christmas in a city that’s thoroughly Jersey, Carmine’s in Atlantic City is a good bet, and for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Think: big space, big plates, sparkly Christmas trim. They’ll be running their regular menu with specials for Christmas Eve dinner including Piccata-style Salmon and Rack of Lamb, at an additional cost. Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, 2801 Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City; 609-572-9300
—Refined Holiday Supper: It’s a modern, primly seasonal Christmas Eve “supper” at Summit House, with a three-course prix fixe and optional wine pairings (at an additional cost). Dishes on the special menu range from Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with Charred Citrus to Speck-wrapped Rabbit Loin and Pastured Beef with (hallelujah) Whipped Bone Marrow. Finish your night with their Cookies & Cocoa dessert or a slice of classic chocolate Buche de Noel studded with candied chestnuts. $85 ($30 for kids 8 and under), 2–7pm, Summit House, 395 Springfield Avenue; 908-273-6000
—Urban Foodie Feast: For the Italianate foodie, consider this three-course dinner at Due Mari in New Brunswick. Considering they do things like annual truffle dinners, you can expect a focus on fine dining food—the comparatively bountiful prix fixe menu includes things like Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Crostini with Truffle Honey and a 40-day aged NY Strip with a Mushroom Bordelaise. And yes, you can add freshly shaved black truffle to any dish.) $75 ($115 with wine pairings), 11:30am to 10pm, Due Mari, 78 Albany Street, New Brunswick; 732-296-1600
—Posh Resort Merriment: Both Springs Bistro and the Crystal Tavern at Grand Cascades Lodge will be serving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Both venues are offering three-course prix fixe menus, with options like Smoked Duck Breast with Candied Cherry Jus and Christmas Pudding at Crystal Tavern and Tagliatelle of Wild Mushrooms and Olive Oil Cake with Winter Citrus at Springs Bistro. With three seasonal courses and built-in ambiance, you’ll get bang for your holiday buck. $69 (everyone over 12; $29 extra for wine pairings); 5–9pm Christmas Eve (both properties), 3–8pm (Spring Bistro) and noon – 9pm (Crystal Tavern) Christmas Day; Crystal Springs Resort, 1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg; 844-225-4951 (Springs Bistro) 844-255-4953 (Crystal Tavern)
—Rustic Rudolph: Between the woodsy setting, stone building, and shaggy pine over the massive hearth, you’ll get a cozy rustic holiday vibe at the Mohawk House. They also have a long list of local farm and brewery purveyors on the seasonal menu, which makes it a nice place to celebrate a very Jersey Christmas. Reservations are recommended in advance for Christmas Eve. The Mohawk House, 3 South Sparta Avenue, Sparta; 973-729-6464
—Cape May Holiday: Part of the hospitality empire that earned Curtis Bashaw a Gold Plate Award from the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Congress Hall is also the oldest seaside resort in the country—and a good bet for Christmas dinner. Blue Pig Tavern will be serving their regular menu, as well as Christmas specials like Seared Local Sea Scallops with Bacon Lardons and Pork Shoulder Confit with Applejack Whiskey Sauce. Or you can try to buffet in the ballroom, with options like Slow-Roasted Prime Rib and Beach Plum Farm Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze. $45 ($19 for kids ages 4–12), 1–5pm, The Blue Pig Tavern and Ballroom at Congress Hall, 200 Congress Place, Cape May; 609-884-8422 and 609-884-6542 (for info on the Ballroom buffet)
—Farm-to-Table Festive: Another of Curtis Bashaw’s restaurants, Beach Plum Farm is doing a fairytale Christmas Eve farmhouse dinner. Reservations will likely fill up for this one, and it’s pricier, but sounds worth it—a night that starts with a stroll around the “Elfin Woodland Marsh Trail,” with cocktails and fireside hors d’oeuvres followed by a (BYO) specially curated dinner from Beach Plum chef Todd Phillips. Tickets are $121.55, 6:30 9:30pm, Beach Plum Farm, 140 Stevens Way, 609-602-0128
—Luxe Inn Supper: It’s a self-professed “Inn Style” Christmas Eve at the Bernards Inn, with your choice of a three-course prix fixe menu from chef Todd Miller or a buffet dinner in the Fenwick Ballroom. Options on the prix fixe menu read ultra-refined rustic: Roasted Beets with Horseradish and Aged Goat Cheese, Foie Gras French Toast with Sherry Syrup, Spice-Crusted Swordfish with Grilled Leek Aioli, the list goes on. $95 ($45 for kids 12 and under), 4–8pm, Bernards Inn, 27 Mill Brook Road, Bernardsville; 908-766-0002
—A Dim Sum Christmas: Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, if you’re looking for a “Day Of” dining-out tradition, Qin Dynasty on Route 46 in Parsippany specializes in the big, festive, busy dim sum that (almost too perfectly) mimics having too much family over. Bring an appetite, but keep track, as carts of steaming dim sum are constantly rolling by the communal tables. Qin specializes in seafood, but their dim sum menu spans the gamut, and it’s all available at Christmas. No reservations required, just come ready for a wait, it gets crowded. Qin Dynasty, 857 Route 46, Parsippany; 973-394-9888Click here to leave a comment