A Lazy Gourmet's Austin Christmas

Eight dining options to save you from cooking

For a more enthusiastic cook, having family and friends over for dinner to celebrate Christmas can be a joy, but for those of us who aren’t as culinarily inclined, it can be a real pain.

Add to that the stress of standing behind a hot stove when you’d rather be enjoying those few precious days off work, accommodating the various dietary preferences of your vegan uncle, carnivore cousin, picky grandfather, and paleo curious mom. Sitting down in a beautiful restaurant someone else decorated, eating a beautiful meal someone else made, and sipping a glass of champagne out of a coupe that somebody else has to wash sounds far more appealing. Luckily for us lazy gourmets, there are plenty of Austin restaurants holding special brunches and dinners to help keep the season merry and bright.

Christmas Eve

As all good non-Christmas celebrators know, the ideal Christmas Eve meal (post-blockbuster movie, of course) is a Chinese banquet. For one night only, the folks at Josephine House are taking a stab at the genre. Order out à la carte takeout, or pay $44 for the dine-in menu, starting out with egg drop soup, pickled vegetable salad, and fried wonton skins for the table, and continuing with a first course of family style egg rolls, shrimp shumai, and shitake mushroom steamed buns. There’s a second course of peking duck served with whole wheat pancakes, and a third course of beef and broccoli, prawns with black pepper and oyster sauce, and biang biang noodles with water chestnuts, snap peas, and baby corn. There will be champagne sorbet coupes and chocolate five-spice tarts for dessert.

While they’ll also be serving their regular menu, this Christmas Eve Il Brutto is featuring a Panettone and Prosecco special to celebrate the occasion. All guests will be poured a complimentary glass of prosecco to accompany their meal, and have a chance to order from the special holiday menu which includes a beef and pork cappelletti with chicken clear broth, parmigiano and lemon. For dessert, it’s panettone (naturally), and pandoro with mandarin chantilly cream.

L’Oca d’Oro will be celebrating a different Italian Christmas tradition with their third annual La Vigilia, known in English as the feast of the seven fishes. Served family-style, and priced at $75 for adults (add $25 if you want bottomless house wine) and $25 for the kiddos, the menu is four courses. Start out with brandade of baccala with pickled onions, garlic, and toast, grilled oysters with guanciale, herb butter and bread crumbs, and frutti di mare with lemon, celery, garlic, and botarga. The second course involves huge platters of fish fried Sicilian-style, topped with green tomato caponata, grilled royal red shrimp with horseradish and tomato agrodolce, squid stuffed with shrimp bolognese, and spaghetti con vongole with pancetta and breadcrumbs. No fish for dessert, fortunately, but there will be a torta della nonna with lemon custard, pine nuts, and whipped mascarpone.

Le Politique will also be running a special Christmas Eve prix fixe dinner menu alongside their regular menu. For $70, guests will get a three-course meal of French classics, starting out with a traditional coquille made with seared scallops, cauliflower velouté, basil, and Serbian caviar, and ending with tarte tatin featuring a sablé breton, caramelized apple, bay leaf ice cream, and buckwheat butterscotch.

TRACE at the W Hotel is serving a special family-friendly three-course meal, which will run you $62 for adults and $25 for the under 12 set. Starting out with shareable flaky homemade biscuits with whipped butter and local fruit jam, the menu continues with individual choices for the rest of the meal, so everyone is guaranteed to find something to love. For an appetizer, choose between arugula salad, ham, black lentil, and black garlic soup in a smoky pork and paprika broth, roasted butternut squash, and a salad of local greens, avocado, shaved root vegetables, and orange in a tangerine-tarragon vinaigrette. For entrees there’s prime rib, a duck duo (breast and confit), a mulling spice brined pork chop, and broccoli and cheddar risotto for the vegetarians. And there’s sticky toffee pudding with eggnog ice cream, cranberry and white chocolate ganache cheesecake, and a chocolate Christmas tree for dessert.

Christmas Day

Start your Christmas Day off right with a decadent brunch at Hotel Ella’s Goodall’s Kitchen. On a day when most restaurants are closed, brunch service will be running from 7am-2:30pm, so you can roll over after present opening is done. Chow down on their regular a la carte menu of classics like crab Benedict with shaved ham and béarnaise sauce, buttermilk hotcakes topped with maple syrup and sliced bananas, and their house hash of chorizo, caramelized onion, salsa verde, and cotija cheese topped with a poached egg, plus a few holiday specials still to be announced. That there will be free-flowing mimosas goes without saying.

Caroline is staying open for their regular lunch and dinner service on Christmas Eve, and adding some Christmas Day specials to the mix to boot. There’s the roasted ham shank served with spoonbread, grilled asparagus, and guajillo gravy, a fried duck leg with black-eyed peas, bacon, braised greens, and crispy sweet potatoes, and a naughty & nice cake for dessert featuring half-and-half layers of spicy dark chocolate with cayenne and angel food cake with boozy eggnog fluff. They’ll even have featured $10 Holiday Muse cocktails, made with Remy Martin VS Cognac, house made holiday cordial, peppermint, and garnished with peppermint meringue.

Mattie’s at Green Pastures will be hosting two seatings of their elaborate Christmas brunch. At $85 a head for grownups, including a glass of their old-fashioned alcoholic tipple of choice, and $40 for children 6-12 and free for kids under 5, the spread includes a raw bar, carving station, charcuterie station, and a table full of desserts. There are also traditional brunch offerings like their house made quiche, brioche french toast with candied pecans, and hopefully a Benedict or two for good luck.

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