Restaurants And Bars With Over-The-Top Holiday Decorations
Scrooge would hate the 9 spots on this guide.
Whether you identify as the office coordinator keeping Ugly Sweater parties alive or a brooding Sexy Scrooge, New York’s Christmas spirit will get you like it got Home Alone's Pigeon Lady, and you’ll need somewhere fun to drink that eggnog craft cocktail. A bunch of restaurants and bars in the city are known for going all out with elaborate holiday decorations, special holiday cocktails, and treats. Here are 9 places you can feel festive this month before you go full Grinch again at that one dive with a single string of lights across the bar.
Rolf's German Restaurant
Some people put up Christmas lights as soon as the Thanksgiving table has been cleared, and then there’s Rolf’s. This German restaurant in Gramercy is decked out in colorful lights, wreaths, ornaments, and dolls year-round, so by the time you add a fresh dusting of Christmas cheer in December, it fully transforms into the Grinch’s 7th circle of hell. And we’re here for it. Rolf’s should definitely be on your New York bucket list, but if you don’t already have a reservation for dinner this month, you should plan to wait for a spot at the bar or try your luck with lunch. They only take reservations by phone.
SERRA by Birreria’s whole thing is changing their decor with the seasons, so this rooftop restaurant at Eataly Flatiron is the first spot we seek out when we want to live inside a postcard. This year the look is less Frozen and more lightly frosted. Instead of evergreens, you get your everyday greenery covered in what looks like that light dusting of snow that you wake up to after the season’s first snowfall happened while you were sleeping. No Santa-shaped drinkware here, but this is an ideal spot to come eat a warm bowl of braised boar and polenta and pretend you’re in the Italian countryside.
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If Rolf’s is like a Martha May Whovier joint, then The Springs is more of a Charlie Brown Christmas. This Greenpoint Bar goes all out every year with their Holiday Lounge pop-up, when they fill the whole space with a hodgepodge of lights, trinkets, and stockings at every booth. The whole thing feels a bit more scrappy (and far less crowded) than the spectacle of Rolf’s, like it’s a labor of love they’ve gifted to their Greenpoint regulars. Come during Happy Hour for a spiked hot cocoa and other special holiday cocktails, and check their Instagram to see when Santa is stopping by for a nightcap this month.
White Horse Tavern is one of the oldest bars in New York City—so old, you might have seen Mr. Claus and the future Mrs. Claus on a first date at the West Village haunt back in the day (as well as the poet Dylan Thomas, who was an actual regular.) They get super decked out for the holidays, and a cozy tavern covered in winter florals, bright white lights, and wreaths is exactly where we want to be on a snow day. Get a double smashed burger and hot toddy while you’re there.
photo credit: Meredith Truax
Miracle on 9th Street
You could go caroling or put reindeer antlers on your dachshund, but if you really want a tutorial in spreading holiday cheer, look at Miracle. Since 2014, this pop-up has been taking over bar spaces all over the world, making them look as festive as Santa’s workshop, and serving cocktails like the “Bad Santa″ with mulled red wine, port, and Christmas spices, along with snacks like roasted cranberry flatbreads. They’re currently operating out of 9th Street in the East Village.
Around this time of year, both the Union Square and Times Square locations of Lillie’s Victorian Establishment aren’t just festive, they’re chock-full of colorful ornaments, antique trinkets, and various nutcrackers watching over the scene. It’s already a beautiful space year-round, adorned with stained glass and old world artifacts, but now it feels like a Christmas episode of Antiques Roadshow (or a particularly cheerful episode of Hoarders). Our favorite time to stop by is at brunch for an Irish coffee and the Grand Marnier French toast.
Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten
Wear an especially good winter coat to Loreley Beer Garden’s Holiday Winter Wonderland pop-up, because the best experience is outside. The whole space is covered in tangled string lights and candy cane couch covers, but the picnic tables in the back are always a bit of a scene, and there’s a whole family of blow-up snowmen and reindeer hanging out there that sort of look like your dad did the best he could while he was on a crooked ladder, which we love. And the LES restaurant has plenty of heaters and hot holiday cocktails, so you won’t have to wear your entire HeatTech collection to hang out there comfortably. They’re open for Happy Hour, brunch, and dinner.
photo credit: Sunday in Brooklyn
Sunday in Brooklyn
As much as we love seeing 50,000 lights on an 11-ton Christmas tree, Christmas is supposed to be cozy, and we’d like to stay on the warmer side of those frosted windows for most of it. Preferably in front of the fireplace at Sunday in Brooklyn’s bar room pop-up. The feel at this Williamsburg restaurant is more West Elm holiday catalog than Whoville, but we don’t mind. Sometimes you just need a peaceful moment during a hectic holiday season, and this is where you’re going to find it, in addition to some wish list-worthy raclette pretzel nachos.
In Narnia, “it’s always winter but never Christmas,” thanks to the self-appointed Queen of Narnia, the White Witch Jadis. But was she a villain or was she a misunderstood girlboss with impeccable taste in white clothing? Whatever you may think of her, take a cue from this sty-con and wear your fabulous winter whites to Ophelia’s stunning Snow Globe in the Sky. Strings of blue lights with snowflakes hang from the ceiling like icicles and every piece of furniture on the Midtown rooftop wears a fur stole. Come before or after dinner for cocktails and snacks like baked brie and sea bass skewers. There are no chestnuts or teddy bear Santas on this rooftop, but this is the most glamorous place you can drink a martini this winter.