9 NYC Holiday Restaurants Off the Grid
AYCE, buñuelos, and proper pigs in a blanket from the #iykyk experts at Righteous Eats
’Tis the season for tradition. Travel. Family. Gifting. You know the drill. It’s also the season to dine out. According to a 2022 National Restaurant Association survey, 77 percent of Americans rely on “pros” to do their cooking during December. In NYC, that means restaurants, making a resy even harder to snag than ever. All this leads to our content theme this month: Holiday.
But back to those traditions. Or bucking those traditions. While America’s collective conception of Holiday meals has broadened over the years (tamales, anyone?), it’s still a season stuffed with stuffing and drenched in grandma’s gravy. Or, if you’re in New York or other cities where restaurants take center stage, it’s a stressful season with all of us trying to hit those bucket list spots. In either case, we’ve got the solution. It comes from our friends Jaeki Cho and Rob Martinez of Righteous Eats, a platform highlighting diversity and subcultures through food. TLDR: these dudes know where to dine off the beaten path, and they’ve put together a list of New York spots to hit this month. Enjoy, and go broaden your restaurant repertoire.
Jaeki Cho's Spots:
Padam Padam BBQ
There isn't a Christmas dish that Koreans eat. I think it's just a time when people get together for barbecue. Hit Padam Padam BBQ, which is this new all you can eat joint on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. BTW, all you can eat, amongst those who know, is just called "AYCE" (pronounced: ace). Start with the beef, then go pork belly, and finally the marinaded stuff. Drink plenty of soju, too.
Get buñuelos here. Seba Seba is a Colombian Bakery in Jackson Heights. Buñuelos are a round pastry — brown on the outside and chewy and cheesy on the inside. Get it with a hot chocolate — that's a hot accompaniment for Christmas.
Renee’s Kitchenette & Grill
My go to Filipino eatery is Renee's, in Woodside, where during the Holidays I get lechón — a whole roasted pig. Filipinos love they pork, especially during Christmas. I was introduced to the tradition during my Filipino friend’s Christmas family gathering.
Wu’s Wonton King
I don't know if Wu’s Wonton King is off the beaten path at this point. It has become this popular destination for a huge non Chinese fan base. But if you check in with the OG Cantonese population from the neighborhood, it still has a strong significance. At breakfast, everyone from the neighborhood grabs youtiao, which is this fried donut with porridge. You can't have a New York Christmas without having a Chinese restaurant on the list.
Rob Martinez's Spots:
I'm half Puerto Rican, so growing up, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always had pasteles and pernil with arroz con gondules (rice and pigeon peas). I never really could find anything that tasted like my grandma's cooking until I went to Casa Adela in Alphabet City — it's kind of the last bastion of Puerto Rican culture down there. Pasteles are essentially a masa with meat that's wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. For me, Casa Adela is the one place that I can find them this time of year. Order a coquito, too — a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas drink.
Venezuelans celebrate Christmas with something called Pan de Jamon — it's a bread that's baked with raisins and ham and cheese. You can have it at room temp or you can put it in the toaster oven. Some people even like to smear a little mayonnaise on it. Get one at Patacon Pisao, which has locations on the LES, as well as Inwood and Elmhurst. Also get hallacas, which are very similar to pasteles.
Gottino Enoteca & Salumeria
My British girlfriend complains that you can't find mulled wine in New York. It's a sacrilege, she says. But we found some in the West Village at Gottino Enoteca & Salumeria. It's a cozy bar. They have prosciutto and a couple of other small dishes. Music is played at the right volume, it's candlelit, and you can have mugs upon mugs of mulled wine.
Myers of Keswick
This is a butcher in the West Village where you can pickup six packs of mince pies — cupcake-sized pies full of a dried fruit mixture that has alcohol. It's very warming and very British. You can also get pigs in a blanket. In England, pigs in a blanket are little chipolata sausages that are wrapped in bacon.
Yaldā Night is a traditional Persian celebration for the Winter Solstice. It takes place in countries like Iran, Iraqi, and Afghanistan. At Nasrin’s, in Midtown, they're having a big celebration on the 21st for the Solstice. I'd be remiss not to give them a shout out.
Blackbird Labs, Inc.