When it’s time to get into the holiday spirit, atmosphere can be everything, and some restaurants really know that. During the darkest weeks of the year, many restaurants break out boughs of holly to welcome diners into winter wonderlands complete with lights, ornaments, tinsels, trees — the works.
These ten restaurants across the United States and Canada go over the top in the best possible way with holiday decor. Book a table at one of them for a festive experience that not even the biggest Grinch could resist.
Angus Barn (Raleigh, North Carolina)
The annual project of transforming this Raleigh, North Carolina steakhouse into a holiday fantasyland starts in October and is complete before Thanksgiving. Each area of the multi-room restaurant gets a distinct theme. One room is the ball room, with more than five thousand colorful ornaments covering the entire ceiling. In another, children dressed as elves hand out warm gingerbread cookies. It’s a spectacle that draws people from around the country who make reservations months in advance to enjoy this long-running tradition. The menu is no less celebratory than the decor: Indulge in a surf and turf trio that features steak, shrimp, and lobster, or try the 22-ounce ribeye served with goat cheese and chive butter. There are holiday beverage specials as well, such as the seasonal St. Bernardus Christmas ale.
Chase Restaurant (Santa Barbara, California)
This neighborhood institution has been a staple of the local Santa Barbara food scene since 1979, and going all out for the holidays is a key part of its traditions. Some of the restaurant’s prize decorations are vintage pieces, such as a collection of antique nutcrackers that have been put on proud display every season for more than 40 years. Chase’s outdoor dining area is extravagantly trimmed with white twinkly lights and oodles of garland, a 16-foot live Christmas tree, and an impressive gold Santa that stands sentry near the doorway. Inside, the bar area is crowned with red bows, golden balls, and even more greenery, and the dining room sparkles with tiny white lights. Chase even won the local holiday decor contest in recent years. The holiday scene may put you in the mood for warming comfort food — order some classic steamed mussels with wine, lemon, and garlic and a plate of house-made ravioli.
Craftsman Row Saloon (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Not a single square inch is spared a generous application of holiday sparkle in this cozy Philadelphia restaurant and bar. Boughs of green drape from the walls and ceiling everywhere you look, and each banquette and booth is crammed with lights, garland, and ornaments. The red, green, and white color scheme calls to mind candy canes and fully decorated Christmas trees. The drinks menu only adds to the festive atmosphere. Holiday-themed cocktails with cute names (“Elf Help Book”) are served inside hollow holiday ornaments. The boozy milkshakes menu also features some seasonal specials made with ingredients such as eggnog and crushed gingerbread cookies.
Filomena Ristorante (Washington, D.C.)
Family inspires this venerable Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C., from the menu’s roots in the traditions of Abruzzi, Italy, to the annual explosion of holiday decor. Filomena decorates for every holiday, but in December the creativity goes over the top. You’ll find Santa figurines flanked by gilded nutcrackers surrounded by lights, glitter, and silver trees. Shimmering red garland is strung throughout. But the spectacular and boldly decked Christmas tree takes center stage, along with the Italian food. Start with some traditional antipasti such as house-made burrata cheese, arancini, or bruschetta before moving on to the pasta dishes for which the restaurant is well known. There are also plenty of tempting desserts on offer, like cannoli and strawberry cheesecake, for those who want to linger in the festive ambiance.
Grill 23 & Bar (Boston, Massachusetts)
This award-winning classic steakhouse has helped Boston get into the holiday spirit for the past four decades. Its stately staircase is strung with greenery illuminated with hundreds of white lights as well as bountiful red bows. Dining rooms on both floors are festooned with wreaths, holly, ribbons, Christmas trees, and a slew of lights. Plus, the menu is stacked with holiday-worthy dishes including king crab, French onion soup, foie gras, and rack of lamb. Wine lovers shouldn’t miss the extensive beverage list, which has been a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 2017. ’Tis the season to explore the section dedicated to Champagne and sparkling wine.
Handcraft Kitchen and Cocktails (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)
For more than a month, this whole Mount Pleasant, South Carolina restaurant magically transforms into an immersive holiday experience dubbed “Miracle.” Diners will find a special menu and listen to a holiday music playlist on constant rotation. The dazzling, floor-to-ceiling decor takes more than 50 hours to install each year, with every visible square inch of space packed with glittery decorations, from the traditional to the whimsical. Last year, there was even an animatronic Santa. Staff members also contribute to the scene by donning whimsical holiday outfits like a suit jacket patterned with kittens wearing Santa hats. To drink, a special holiday cocktail list is offered with themed drinks served in kitschy glassware. The “Bad Santa” combines rum, spiced butter, and oat milk and is served in a mug shaped like Santa’s head.
Homeslice (Chicago, Illinois)
Lights are strung from every possible surface in this laid-back Chicago pizzeria. Clusters of ornaments are also displayed in great abundance. And overhead, the ceiling is densely crisscrossed with both white and colorful lights as well as plenty of shimmering hanging ornaments. The whole space is bathed in an exuberant holiday glow that creates an inclusive festive-season vibe without being Christmas-specific. Come for the lights, but stay for the pies. Keep it classic with the Boyler Room pizza topped with pepperoni and marinara or go for a more creative choice, like the Carnit-za, topped with pulled pork, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, beans, and tortilla chips.
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (Vancouver, Canada)
For the past decade, Joe Fortes has gone all out to make the restaurant feel like a bright, cheerful escape from the dark gloom of the Vancouver winter. The entire restaurant is strewn with garland, lights, and scads of oversized wreaths. They find space to set up four Christmas trees, fully trimmed with large ornaments and other glittery decorations. Carolers accompany live piano music throughout the season. On one day in December, the restaurant takes the holiday cheer on the road in its vintage taxi, used to hand out holiday cookies all around town. The menu celebrates the local ingredients of the Pacific Northwest in fresh oysters or the cioppino, packed with prawns, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels, and fish.
Tavern on the Green (New York, New York)
Located in New York City’s Central Park, Tavern on the Green leverages its iconic setting for maximum holiday magic. Outside, the restaurant erects a sky-scraping Christmas tree that’s adorned with thousands of classic lights and ornaments. Inside the restaurant, there are up to a dozen additional fully decked trees. Inside and out is strung with lights and decorations such as a gingerbread house in the shape of the restaurant. Start with the roasted figs appetizer — it’s served with honey, goat cheese, cured beef, and arugula — before moving on to grilled whole fish with roasted fennel and artichokes or roasted organic chicken with intentionally lumpy mashed potatoes and roasted baby carrots for your main course.
Tulio (Seattle, Washington)
With its staircase railings fully wrapped in garland, bows, and twinkling lights, Tulio in Seattle creates a warm and festive environment for celebrating the city. White candles flicker throughout the tastefully decorated dining rooms. The kitchen applies traditional Italian cooking techniques to local ingredients with several vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items, so it’s a good celebration place for groups. Try the bucatini with wild mushrooms and leeks or pork Milanese with fall salad in brown butter vinaigrette.