It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And in a year like 2020, that’s not saying much, but COVID or no COVID, the holidays will always find a way to feel magical and fill our hearts with holiday cheer. And though the guest list may be a bit smaller this year, the spirit of the holiday remains as strong as ever.
And let’s face it: It wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas dinner. So in honor of the tradition, we have put together a list of our picks for a few great restaurants to dine during the holiday season. Everything from elegant sit-down dinners to casual meals and great spots to grab holiday takeout are covered. And really, after all the stress that 2020 has put you under, why not leave the cooking to someone else this year?
Seating is limited and demand is high — we recommend you call ahead to make advance reservations at any restaurant on this list.
Dolce Mare: One of the most gorgeous restaurants inside Ocean Casino Resort, Dolce Mare makes for a fabulous choice for your holiday dining experience. This year Head Chef Juliano Cannuscio will offer guests a traditional Italian “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” This four-course dinner is $49 per person and features a scrumptious selection of dishes — and fishes! — such as tuna tartare, seared octopus and shrimp and a “risotto al frutti di mare” with shrimp, calamari, scallops and lobster in a seafood sauce. And that’s just for starters. The Feast of the Seven Fishes runs from Dec. 18 through 21. Ocean Casino Resort is located at 500 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to TheOceanAC.com.
JW’s Restaurant: Tucked just off the marsh in Absecon, JW’s has been steadily making a name for itself after opening less than two years ago. Chef Sam Barile is a master of Southern-inspired cooking, and this year his Christmas takeout menu is the kind of thing that could convince even the most stubborn grandmother to put down the spatula and order out instead. Entrees include a choice of smoked ham, prime rib with horseradish sauce and au jus or crab cakes with tartar or cocktail sauce. Entrees are served with sides and a choice of soup or salad, as well as dessert options including cherry pie with streusel and bread pudding with a sweet bourbon sauce. JW’s Restaurant is located at 139 E. Faunce Landing in Absecon. Go to Facebook.com.
Dim Sum and Then Some!: We’re not sure why exactly, but eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve is a tradition in many families. And this year, from 2 to 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Dim Sum and Then Some! in Ventnor will offer their full menu to guests who want to dine in, as well as catering options for those who prefer to grab it and go. All your favorite classic Chinese dishes are available, from egg rolls and pan-fried dumplings to General Tso’s chicken, pork fried rice, vegetable lo mein and sweet and sour chicken. Dim Sum and then some! is located at 7317 Ventnor Ave. in Ventnor. Go to DimSumVentnor.com.
Naomi’s Café: If you don’t get to meet Santa Claus, is it really Christmas? We don’t think so, and neither do the folks at Naomi’s Café in Northfield. This fantastic spot offers the opportunity to eat with Santa from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in December, as well as Christmas Eve. Special Santa pancakes will be available, as well as the full menu of breakfast and lunch favorites. Word on the street is that old curmudgeon known as The Grinch may be making an appearance as well. Naomi’s Café is located at 801 Tilton Road in Northfield. Go to EatAtNaomis.com.
Gregory’s Bar: One of Somers Point’s signature watering holes, Gregory’s Bar has been around for generations and continues to please guests with its simple, down-to-earth charm, alongside some truly tasty dishes. This holiday season they are offering seated dining on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They will also be doing family-sized takeout meals for four to six people, which include your choice of honey-glazed ham or roasted turkey breast served with Caesar salad, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans for $70. For those looking to host a larger dinner, they offer a roasted filet mignon tenderloin with cherry peppers, broccoli rabe, caramelized onions, horseradish cream sauce and rolls that will easily feed 10 to 12 people for $250. Meals must be ordered by Sunday, Dec. 20, and can be picked up between noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24. Gregory’s Bar is located at 900 Shore Road in Somers Point. Go to GregorysBar.com.
Setaara: For an entirely unique and non-traditional holiday dinner, Setaara in Atlantic City is the spot to hit. On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Setaara will offer a special, three-course, prix-fixe menu for $65 per person. Dishes range from lemon caper salmon to kabobs, Uzbeki palu (Afghan rice with lamb shanks cooked with onions and mixed with shredded carrots and raisins), and a roasted duck with apricot brandy sauce, among others. Dessert features a choice of an Afghan pudding called firni or chocolate mousse. Setaara is located at 2322 Arctic Ave in Atlantic City. Go to SetaaraAC.com.
Deauville Inn: If an earlier meal is more your speed, the Deauville Inn in Strathmere offers fun for the whole family from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, at their Holiday Brunch. The menu features everything from Belgian waffles with whipped cinnamon butter to frittatas and other breakfast favorites, as well as lunch-style items like grilled branzino, a crab cake sandwich and much more. Brunch also features a full kids menu as well as fresh fruit, berries and croissants for the table. Santa’s elves will be on hand, and the kids can help them make Christmas ornaments and holiday crafts, and even write a letter to Santa and take home some reindeer food for Christmas Eve. Cost is $22 for adults and $15 for kids. Deauville Inn is located at 201 Willard Road in Strathmere. Go to DeauvilleInn.com.
Red Room Cafe: The Feast of the Seven Fishes can be just as enjoyable at home as it is out, but the downside is that someone is left slaving in the kitchen all night preparing the food. That’s where Red Room Café comes in. This year they will offer a variety of seafood dishes to take out, including trays of scallops, calamari, crab chowder, smelts, crab cakes and more including a fritto misto that combines fried shrimp, calamari and smelts all in one. With way more than seven fishes to select from, you can be sure everyone’s favorites make it to the table this year … and nobody has to cook! Red Room Café is located at 141 N. Dorset Ave. in Ventnor. Go to RedRoomNJ.com.