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Christmas dining options for merrymaking

By Diane Armitage

“Christmas Eve dining is like the 4th of July in Laguna,” said Chef Rainer Schwarz of Driftwood Kitchen. “Most of us here in town don’t want to miss Christmas Eve, but it’s always great to take that break on Christmas Day.” 

Indeed, many of Laguna Beach’s restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, but the vast majority of our restaurants close on Christmas Day. If you’re planning to take the family out, get rolling on those reservations now! (For the record, Harvest at The Ranch Laguna Beach and Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort are fully committed and not taking any more reservations.)

Remember, too, there are many Christmas Dinner take-out options, which I’ll note below. 

 Let’s get started with the most wonderful time of the year’s dining opportunities. 

Early Christmas brunch to get you in the mood

Selanne Steak Tavern starts the season in the best of ways with its Holiday Brunch on Sunday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Specialty items include Kevin’s Banana Fosters French Toast, Chicken & Waffles, Selanne’s Benedict, egg dishes, salads, raw/chilled seafood dishes and, of course, Gingerbread Spice Sticky Buns. Reservations: www.SelanneSteakTavern.com.

Christmas Selanne Sticky Bun

Courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

The return of Selanne’s Holiday Brunch includes popular favorites such as the Gingerbread Spice Sticky Buns

Getting the party started

Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill is leading the Christmas Party Parade with a Thursday, Dec. 23 DJ party. This time, it’s Alaskafornia Misster (sic) Earthwave & Hot Jamale + Square. The party starts at 8 p.m.

Chef Maro shutters the RoHi on the 24th and 25th, so if you’re looking to order those amazing empanadas for crowd hunger control, place those orders soon. 

Stock up on fabulous wines

As a reminder, too, Chris Olsen’s Wine Gallery is offering a cornucopia of bottled wine options for your holiday tables. They too, are closed on the 24th and 25th, so be sure to trot in for your locally purchased wine selections in the week ahead. 

Christmas Wine Gallery bottles

Courtesy of the Wine Gallery

Wine Gallery’s endless varieties (including Owner Chris’ own Mile 216 wines) are ready for your holiday table

Christmas Eve & Day feasts for take out

Last year I relied on my Laguna chef friends to provide sides and desserts, and I’m never going to cook an entire Christmas Day meal again! Here are two great choices: 

Brussels Bistro – Order by Wednesday, Dec. 22. Pick up on Christmas Eve (Friday) between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the Laguna Beach or San Clemente locations. Choose a la carte options that include 24-count oysters, Norwegian Smoked Salmon and three types of entrées including Christmas Lobster, Beef Wellington and Christmas turkey with all the trimmings.

If that doesn’t suit you, scroll through their many a la carte options for your own Christmas feast. 

Order Take Out: www.BrusselsBistro.com (scroll down for their Christmas package).

Christmas Brussels Beef Wellington

Courtesy of Brussels Bistro

The Christmas feast menu at Brussels Bistro includes classics like this stellar Beef Wellington

Nirvana Grille – Build your own feast with Chef Lindsay Smith’s Mix & Match for Christmas. Order by Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 12 p.m. Pick up Christmas Eve (Friday), between 3:30-5 p.m. (designate your pickup window when ordering). Choose from two pages of Christmas a la carte options at her website. Shop till you drop, and don’t forget the house-crafted desserts.
Order Take Out: www.NirvanaGrille.com

Christmas Nirvana Grille Ravioli

Courtesy of Nirvana Grille

The Christmas Mix & Match options at Nirvana Grille include favorites such as the Butternut Squash Ravioli

Christmas Eve: dining room & outdoor dining 

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been able to collect so far. Reports are still rolling in from our Laguna chefs, so be sure to check my short list of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day closures at my website or call first before driving around in circles. (Please note: Tax and gratuity are in addition to any posted pricing. Please tip these people well. They are, after all, working the Christmas holiday.)

Three Christmas Eve prix fixe menus

To date, just three restaurants have reported specialty menus, but they’re all quite memorable: 

C’est La Vie – Christmas Four-Course Prix Fixe Menu, 12-9 p.m. $69 per guest, $16 for kids under the age of 12.

Chef Antonio starts the meal with an amuse bouche of wild mushroom cappuccino and fennel pollen foam. From there, it’s salad choices and four entrées to pick from that include Barramundi, Scallops & Shrimp Pappardelle, Grilled Ribeye and Duck Leg Confit with a Pan-Seared Breast. Reservations: www.CestLaVieRestaurant.com.

 Larsen at Hotel Laguna – Chef Craig Strong is offering both A La Carte items and a Christmas Four-course Prix Fixe Menu, which is $150 per person, $25 for kids under 10 years of age. (This same menu is served on Christmas Day, too.)

A la carte items include delectables such as chilled oysters, Grilled Spanish Octopus, his famed Short Rib Cigars and the Hotel Laguna Burger. The Prix Fixe menu includes salad, Butternut Ravioli, and entrée choices of Sautéed Salmon, Roasted Prime Rib or Oven Dried Tomato & Eggplant Terrine. Dessert options include Craig’s Spice Cake, Lemon Tart and more. Reservations: Go directly through OpenTable for LARSEN.

Christmas Larsen lemon tart

Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Craig Strong’s fabled Lemon Tart is available as an a la carte item on his Christmas holiday menu

The Loft, Montage Laguna Beach – From 5-10 p.m., guests can enjoy a Four-Course Tasting Menu. Pricing is $160 for adults with a children’s menu offered a la carte. (This menu is also served on Christmas Day.) Choose from salads, Shrimp Bisque or Butternut Squash and Bay Scallop Risotto for starters. Entrée options include Roasted Duck Breast, filet mignon or Branzino. Don’t miss the Milk Chocolate Yule Log or Gingerbread Semifreddo for dessert. Reservations: Call Montage Dining at 949.715.6420.

Christmas Eve restaurant options

The following restaurants will be serving their regular menus and closing early. Reservations are recommended at all wait service restaurants.

230 Forest – open until 8 p.m.

Avila’s El Ranchito – kitchen closes at 4 p.m., bar closes between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. 

G.G.’s Bistro – open 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Gina’s Pizza & Pastaria – open 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Laguna Beach Beer Company – open until 4 p.m.

Mandarin King – available for take-out only until 7 p.m.

Nirvana Grille – open 5-9 p.m.

Oak Laguna Beach – open until 7:30 p.m.

Poké Tiki – open 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Ristorante Rumari – open until 8 p.m.

Selanne Steak Tavern – open 4-8 p.m.

Slice Pizza & Beer – open until 7 p.m.

The Cliff Laguna Beach – open until 4 p.m.

Urth Caffé – open until 6 p.m.

Wild Taco – open until 4 p.m.

Zeytoon Café – open until 4 p.m. 

Zinc Café – open 7 a.m.-12 p.m. on Christmas Day.

These restaurants will be open on Christmas Eve, too, serving their regular menus and staying open through standard operating hours:

Alessa by Pirozzi

Anastasia Café

BJ’s Restaurant

Carmelita’s

Comedor at La Casa del Camino

Driftwood Kitchen

Heidelberg Café 

Las Brisas 

Lumberyard

Mosaic Bar & Grill at Montage

Nick’s Laguna Beach

O Fine Japanese Cuisine

Orange Inn

Romeo Cucina

Sapphire.Cellar.Craft.Cook

Skyloft

South of Nick’s

Starfish 

Thai Brothers 

The Deck Laguna Beach

The Drake Laguna Beach and

The Rooftop at La Casa del Camino

Christmas Day brunch

Most surprising was my discovery that the shuttered Studio, Montage Laguna Beach will be enjoying a Christmas miracle of its own when it opens for Christmas Day Brunch. 

From 10 a.m.-3 p.m., it’s $175 per adult and $55 per child. The brunch buffet offers a selection of appetizers, salads, cheese, charcuterie, raw bar, breakfast items, a carving station, desserts and a festive Bellini and Bloody Mary bar. Reservations: Call Montage dining at 949.715.6420 

Christmas Day dining room & outdoor dining options

Other welcoming restaurants on Christmas Day include:

C’est la Vie – The regular menu is available throughout the day, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations: www.CestLaVieRestaurant.com

 –GG’s Bistro – Enjoy the full menu fare from 11:30 a.m. to an early close at 7 p.m. Reservations: www.GGsCafeBistro.com

Greeter’s Corner – Holding down the south corner of Main Beach Park, Greeter’s is offering its regular menu, regular hours, 8:15 a.m.-9 p.m.

Larsen at Hotel Laguna – Chef Craig is offering both A La Carte and a Christmas Prix Fixe menu, see details above for Christmas Eve. Reservations: Go directly through OpenTable for LARSEN.

Las Brisas – Christmas Brunch is available at 11 a.m. with dinner options available thereafter. Reservations: www.LasBrisasLagunaBeach.com

The Loft, Montage Laguna Beach – The Christmas Four-Course Prix Fixe Menu is also offered on Christmas Eve. See the menu details above. 

Reservations: Call Montage dining at 949.715.6420.

Lost Pier – Certainly good news for beachgoers, their crafty beach hut at Aliso Creek is open regular hours, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Mosaic Bar & Grill – Enjoy the usual a la carte menu from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. for lunch and 5-9 p.m. for dinner.

Moulin – Just to be on the safe side, you might want to stock up on Moulin’s popular pies and tartlets before Christmas Day hits, but Moulin will be open on Christmas Day with breakfast pastries, breads and more. Regular hours are 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

South Swell Donuts – SoLag’s go-to for the best donuts in town is open Christmas Day until they sell out. The owners will be doubling up on favorites that day and are open from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. (or closing earlier if sold out).

For confirmed Christmas Day closures… 

Please see my website at TheBestofLagunaBeach.com for the complete list of closures. Thank you, again, for your continued support of our great Laguna Beach restaurants. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

 

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