It’s below 80 degrees, turkey has come and gone and Mariah Carey is already blasting at every coffee shop in town (we expected better from you, Brew & Brew). In other words, it’s December! From where to dine while shopping for presents to places to escape the in-laws, here’s the ultimate dining survival guide to the holidays in Austin.
Where to Bring Out-of-Town Family
Everyone loves barbecue, so make a day of it and wait in line at Franklin (pro tip: bring chairs and a cooler with beer). For a more laid-back outing, head to Mozart’s for a 12-minute massive musical light show on the hour every night, as well as specialty hot chocolate and cider. Downtown, even adults will like the Candy Land-themed gingerbread village wonderland at the Four Seasons, especially since it involves cocktails like the Peanut Brittle House (eggnog with scotch, allspice dram, banana-nut-crunch-rinsed milk and a salt tincture).
Where to Dine Near the Domain
After a few hours of shopping, anyone would be famished. Fortunately this North Austin area has more than a few good options for snacks and full meals. For a jolt of caffeine and a killer cookie, head to the Steeping Room. Or move straight into carbs with pizza and pasta at North and margaritas at Gloria’s.
Dishes That Celebrate With a Song
This year’s theme seems to be the “12 Days of Christmas.” Stiles Switch will start its annual 12 Days of Smoked Meat on Tuesday, December 9, with different smoked delicacies every day. We’re extra excited about the special on the 19th — chicken-fried smoked beef rib, paired with Real Ale Coffee Porter and live music to celebrate the restaurant’s third anniversary.
Meanwhile, starting 12 days before the 25th, laV pastry chef Janina O’Leary is turning out a daily dessert inspired by the song “12 Days of Christmas.” For example, “Turtle Doves” is a Texas dark chocolate turtle with delice, candied pecans and salted caramel ice cream, and “Calling Birds” is a Basque tart with coconut meringue wings and berry preserves. We’ll sing to that!
Best Bets for Holiday Parties
Southern comfort is where it’s at for the hungry holiday masses. Max’s Wine Dive features three spaces below the restaurant for private parties of different sizes, perfect for the company holiday party. Moonshine is also a good choice, with crowd-pleasing options like chicken-fried steak with chipotle-cream gravy and a mean baked mac 'n' cheese.
Christmas Day Feasts
Do it up right at the Driskill Grill, which is hosting a five-course prix fixe dinner for $120, with options like a Broken Arrow Ranch axis venison tenderloin and dulce de leche poached pair tart (call 512-391-7178 for reservations). Also hit up Trio at the Four Seasons for an all-out feast for $50 (call 512-478-4500 for reservations).
Where to Eat Out for Chanukah
They may not always be called “latkes” on the menu, but you’ll find the traditional holiday treat on many menus around town. Try South Congress Café’s smoked-Gouda potato pancakes at brunch, and in Crestview, check out the Republic of Sandwich’s legit latkes. For a jelly-filled donut with a twist, head to Gourdough’s for the Razzle Dazzle, with raspberry jelly filling and fudge icing.
Where to Drink Alone to Escape the Family
Austin more than meets you halfway with places to drink, especially hole-in-the-wall joints where you can sling back a Lone Star and play some shuffleboard. Head to the Horseshoe Lounge or Shoal Creek Saloon to play some outlaw country on the jukebox without your in-laws. Or go all-out kitschy at Lala’s, which is Christmas-themed all year round.