Where to Dine Out During the Holidays

The holidays are here, family is in town—celebrate at one of these special-occasion spots
The festive and elegant Canlis

DOWNTOWN
Art at The Four Seasons
This creamy-hued dining room has such a knockout view of the waterfront, it might overshadow the food of a less capable chef. But the constantly evolving menu created by culinary vet Kerry Sear and his seasoned crew flat out wows. We’re mad about the crispy, golden roasted chicken and the ultrarich preparation of the miso-braised black cod. The restaurant features holiday menus: a four-course meal in the restaurant for Thanksgiving, as well as a Turkey Day buffet for parties of six or more in the ballroom; an à la carte menu on Christmas Eve and a four-course feast on Christmas Day. There will be two seatings on New Year’s Eve: a three-course dinner, followed by a six-course dinner inspired by bubbly. All sorts of eggs Benedict will be showcased during New Year’s Day brunch. 99 Union St.; 206.749.7070; artrestaurantseattle.com


Dahlia Lounge

At nearly 30 years old, Tom Douglas’ first and most elegant restaurant has nestled comfortably into classic status, but chef de cuisine Brock Johnson’s ever-changing menus ensure that this joint will never become staid. While we’re big fans of the crab cakes and the always awesome rotisserie five-spice duck, the kitchen does an amazing job elevating vegetarian fare to star status. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 2001 Fourth Ave.; 206.682.4142; tomdouglas.com


The Georgian at The Fairmont Olympic

A thoroughly grand room that’s the most sumptuous in the city, and an oasis of calm in the jungle of decidedly noisy restaurants. We applaud the old-fashioned approach to formal service, which matches chef Gavin Stephenson’s classics-focused menu. The double-duck consommé dressed up with seared foie gras seems like a fine way to open a festive meal, followed by the butter-poached lobster or, perhaps, the thick, juicy veal chop accompanied by crispy sweetbreads. Holiday menus include a Thanksgiving buffet, and a buffet and à la carte dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—with options for the whole family. For New Year’s Eve, The Georgian hosts two seatings: a three-course dinner, followed by a five-course dinner gala. Open for breakfast on New Year’s Day, but closed for lunch and dinner. Also, there’s a holiday tea with Santa on December 21. 411 University St.; 206.621.1700; fairmont.com


The Metropolitan Grill

Yes, The Met is famous for its stellar steaks, but guess what? Seafood lovers will also be happy in these old-school elegant surroundings. But then, we’re suckers for dark wood wainscoting and tables draped in crisp, white linen. A perfect martini seems just the right cocktail to raise in a toast here, followed by the pretty prawn “martini.” And if you cannot decide whether to go for broke with the 38-ounce prime porterhouse or the petite 8-ounce filet mignon ($56), there’s also the Alaska king crab ($68) to consider. No matter if you go surfing or turfing, award-winning sommelier Thomas Price will help in selecting the right wine to sip with your meal. While the restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, chef Eric Hellner has put together a special DIY Châteaubriand dinner package to cook at home for $95. The Met’s regular menu is served on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (dinner only). 820 Second Ave.; 206.624.3287; themetropolitangrill.com

EASTSIDE

Cafe Juanita
Every meal at this lovely spot in Kirkland is cause for celebration. It starts with receiving a warm greeting at the front door, followed by being genially guided to your comfortable seat. Settle in for an evening of deeply satisfying pleasure, from the terrific seared octopus starter to the perfectly tender house-made pastas and Wagyu steak. Holly Smith and her seasoned crew get into the holiday spirit with Alaska king crab with green apple sorbetto and crab butter powder, and a heavenly goat cheese gnocchi accompanied by preserved pumpkin pomegranate seeds and Wagyu beef heart confit, specials Smith creates at this time of year. The restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, and open late with a tasting menu on New Year’s Eve. Open on Sundays throughout December. Kirkland, 9702 NE 120th Place; 425.823.1505; cafejuanita.com


El Gaucho

While some steak lovers prefer the Belltown location, the dining room in downtown Bellevue feels especially grand with its two levels and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows behind the inviting bar. This spectacular setting is home to the same luxe menu of charcoal-grilled meat and seafood, accompanied by a dynamite wine list and the same sharp, slightly old-fashioned service. Whatever you choose for your main course, leave room for the dazzling tableside bananas Foster for the finale, a dessert that will warm you to the marrow. El Gaucho is open and offering the regular menu on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. New Year’s Eve includes a Champagne toast and decorations. Bellevue, 450 108th Ave. NE; 425.455.2715; elgaucho.com


The Herbfarm

This landmark dining destination feels especially festive during the winter months, when the lavishly decorated room is at its cozy, charming best. Following in its tradition of themed menus throughout the year, December is all about “The Holly & The Ivy,” as the fireplace crackles and the nine courses flow. The Herbfarm is open for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, one seating on each evening. After Christmas, the restaurant shifts gears for year-end celebrations. The prices, in excess of $200 per person, might seem steep, but include wine. Not open Christmas, Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day. Woodinville, 14590 NE 145th St.; 425.485.5300; theherbfarm.com


John Howie Steak

It warms our hearts that chef Howie goes the extra mile to kick off the holidays with a generous gesture, closing his restaurant to serve those in need on Thanksgiving (at SeaStar). Well done, sir. That giving spirit is evident throughout the year, judging by the hefty portions that appear on the plates at this stylish venue. Carnivores will cheer the restaurant’s custom aging program, which creates steaks that are extra tender and flavorful. Why not start the feast out with an order of tempura fried bacon? Then, move on to something light such as a 36-ounce bone-in rib-eye. Oh, don’t have a cow. That’s a portion meant for two, carved tableside. We could make a meal out of the sensational sides alone, especially the egg-topped creamed spinach and the twice-baked tater. Closed for Christmas. Other holiday hours were still to be announced, as of press time. Bellevue, 11111 NE Eighth St., Suite 125; 425.440.0880; johnhowiesteak.com


Trellis
When the cold-weather months roll around, it still tastes like summer at this sophisticated, romantically lit space. That’s because chef Brian Scheehser squirrels away the ample bounty from his 10-acre farm and graciously shares those bright, fresh flavors throughout the gray months. The Bluebird Grains farro, wearing a crown of summer pomodoro, is like a bowl full of sunshine, and the seared duck breast with cherry essence is the best kind of updated classic. Pastry chef Sandra Watson’s holiday fruitcake, marinated in brandy and Myers’s rum, is a satisfying way to end the evening. Like most hotel restaurants (it’s inside The Heathman in Kirkland), Trellis is open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and offers special holiday menus. Also serving afternoon tea Thursday–Sunday, through Valentine’s Day. Kirkland, 220 Kirkland Ave.; 425.284.5900; heathmankirkland.com

GREEN LAKE

Nell’s
Chef Philip Mihalski’s bastion of civilized dining hides in plain sight across the street from Green Lake. Often overlooked and, if you ask us, quite underrated, Nell’s is a softly charming oasis—golden lighting, plush interiors, refined service—where the menu is so closely attuned to the changing seasons that it is printed daily. This is where you come for perfectly crisped duck breast or classically prepared risotto with the season’s finest chanterelles and nutty Parmesan cheese. Though it’s closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, Nell’s is a comfortable place to gather friends and family for a toast and a meal during this holiday season. Also, Nell’s is serving a multicourse dinner on New Year’s Eve. 6804 E Green Lake Way N; 206.524.4044; nellsrestaurant.com

MADISON PARK

Cafe Flora
While this comfortable café is beloved for its brunch, it dresses up for dinner, breaking out meatless meals sure to tempt the most devoted carnivore. One of our favorites from the past: lobster mushroom polenta that draws depth from smoked mozzarella. Or, the Wellington, which swaps beef for a beefy portobello. Desserts are a must, as pastry chef Lesley Pettigrew creates favorites such as a vegan coconut layer cake and a Theo chocolate crème brûlee. Prix fixe four-course dinner on Thanksgiving. Open also on New Year’s Eve, with specials to be announced, and for New Year’s Day brunch. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 2901 E Madison St.; 206.325.9100; cafeflora.com


Crush

Chef Jason Wilson transformed his place into a prix fixe venue this summer, moving toward a French Laundry–type experience. Go for three-, six- or the showstopping 11-course chef’s tasting menu (at $135) and then select from among the seasonal starters and clever main courses, such as Wagyu beef zabuton, slow-braised for 48 hours and served alongside feathery cauliflower purée. The 1903 Tudor home–turned-restaurant looks as if it belongs on the pages of Architectural Digest, thanks to the chef’s wife, Nicole. The restaurant is not open on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day. It is open Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve is a big night here. 2319 E Madison St.; 206.302.7874; chefjasonwilson.com

QUEEN ANNE

Book Bindery
We’re smitten with the sumptuous interiors and the hideaway appeal—The Book Bindery is tucked in amongst warehouses on the Queen Anne side of the Ship Canal. We’re also loving chef Shaun McCrain’s mod take on fine dining: You’ll get your foie gras terrine here, but there’s also house-smoked pork belly to be devoured, or seared scallops with salty Marcona almonds and brown butter. For a special evening or to enjoy the starry nights of winter, book one of the tables in the Greenhouse. Better yet, rent the whole thing for a party this holiday season. And while the restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is open on Christmas Eve (last seating is at 8 p.m.). New Year’s Eve brings a prix fixe menu with lots of bubbly; reservations required. Closed New Year’s Day. 198 Nickerson St.; 206.283.2665; bookbinderyrestaurant.com


Canlis
For many, the words “special” and “occasion” bring to mind one Seattle restaurant: Canlis. Sixty-three years after opening on a cliff overlooking Lake Union, this bastion of hospitality and refined Northwest cooking is where you go when you want everything just so. Chef Jason Franey balances the classics—the minty Canlis salad remains, of course—with refined modernity, the latter best experienced from Franey’s tasting menu. Though the restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, there’s a festive atmosphere at Canlis all through the holiday season. And if reservations are hard to come by, a swing through the bar for a proper martini, steak tartare and a little toe tap (a pianist plays nightly) is a fine solution. Open on Christmas Eve, and already fully booked for New Year’s Eve (a waiting list is available), which features two seatings, a live band and a Champagne toast. 2576 Aurora Ave. N; 206.283.3313; canlis.com


Portage
To call this place cozy is a cliché, yet, like most clichés, it’s accurate. The entire restaurant has fewer than a dozen tables set with linen tablecloths and bathed in the golden glow of candlelight. Chef/owner Vuong Loc was born in Vietnam and grew up in Portage, Michigan. (So, you can skip pronouncing it Por-TODGE.) His approach is straight-up French, though, which means velvety sauces and simple yet elegant presentations. The duck cassoulet will take the chill right out of a winter evening, but it’s pretty tough to pass up the stellar seafood specials. Closed on Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year’s Days. Prix fixe menu on Christmas and New Year’s Eves. (Details not available at press time.) 2209 Queen Anne Ave. N; 206.352.6213; portagerestaurant.com


SkyCity at the Space Needle
This rotating dining room is high on the must-try lists of many out-of-towners, but locals should get on board, too. Chef Jeff Maxfield has transformed the menu at the iconic venue into a seasonally driven lineup with a laser focus on Pacific Northwest ingredients, right down to the smoked Alaska sea salt sprinkled over the Snake River Farms prime Kobe beef. SkyCity is open during the holidays, with its regular menu and special multicourse menus on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, and a holiday brunch menu for kids from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas. (Kids of all ages will go gaga over the Lunar Orbiter sundae, an ice cream treat that creates its own weather; It’s dry ice, but we prefer to embrace the magic of the sweet illusion.) New Year’s Eve features a five-course dinner with a Champagne toast and access to the party in the observation lounge, with a KEXP DJ and great views of the fireworks. However, reservations for the New Year’s Eve festivities likely are booked up; see details at spaceneedle.com. Seattle Center, 400 Broad St.; 206.905.2100; spaceneedle.com/skycity-restaurant

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