Dozen Best Christmas Decorations
We need the holidays. So many warm friends and relatives we’re ashamed to say we haven’t dined with since. . . well I guess it was last Christmas, right? The restaurants encourage the cheer with the trappings of the holidays–some of them in extravagant measure. They do this both to express good will, and to use the opportunity to serve their customers with all the festivity for which their craft is renowned.
Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s are saturated with nostalgia. That gives the older restaurants an advantage in creating holiday gooseflesh. Here are those, and newer establishments that understand what Yuletide is all about.
1. Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422. Antoine’s is celebrating Christmas for the 172nd time, a record matched by no other American restaurant. (It ought to be 173, but in 2005 it didn’t open until December 29, for the well-known reason.) Its biggest dining room–the Annex–looks like Christmas even without decorations, with its Victorian-Germanic styling. Here is the tallest and most lavishly decorated Christmas tree in New Orleans. Customers call their waiters to nail down the tables closest to it. Christmas Eve, there is no busier restaurant.
2. Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. Broussard’s enjoys not only a long history in a historic building, but also the German heritage of its owners, Chef Gunter and Evelyn Preuss. The Germans invented all the major set-pieces of Christmas, and here they are–especially in the courtyard, which is Christmas-lit to the max.
3. Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. Arnaud’s was New Orleans first really grand restaurants, brightly lit in the Parisian style. The main dining room looks as if it had been designed to be replete with wreaths, bows, ribbons, and Christmas lights.
4. Sazerac. CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200. The Sazerac restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel created what we now call the Reveillon back in the 1970s. Its holiday decorations, lavish though they were and are, do not equal those in the block-long lobby of the hotel. But the restaurant is wide open to the most rococo part of said lobby, and the cheer pours in.
5. Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Ralph Brennan’s flagship restaurant is not only well-decorated inside, but has a view through its big windows of one of the city’s most famous holiday displays: Celebration in the Oaks, across the street at City Park.
6. Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. The only challenger to Antoine’s Christmas tree is the one that rests on the ground floor of New Orleans’s most luxurious hotel and pokes up through an atrium into the entrance of the Grill Room. Which itself is a study in restrained elegance, even at Yuletide.
7. Court of Two Sisters. French Quarter: 613 Royal. 504-522-7273. I’m not a hundred percent sure that the courtyard at the Court of Two Sisters is specially decorated for the holidays. It looks like Christmas in there all the time. More locals than you know go there every season.
8. Le Foret. CBD: 129 Camp. 504-553-6738. One of the reasons the Eat Club chose Le Foret as our new venue for our annual Christmas Gala Dinner was the decoration of the room. The classicism of the premises says “holidays,” down to the bustling foot traffic you see through the windows onto the sidewalk outside.
9. Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St. 504-529-7045. The Rib Room is another one of those restaurants whose interior design looks Dickensian, delivering the feeling of Christmas without even trying. The roasting prime ribs help, too.
10. Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. You get a triple dose of Christmas cheer just walking to Muriel’s. Jackson Square’s new Christmas lights get you right in the mood. And the restaurant does a nice job inside, too.
11. Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Chef Andrea holds a record: more Christmas trees in his dining rooms than any other free-standing restaurant. He’s thoroughly Italian, and overdoes the decorations in a tradition of Italian design going back to the Romans.
12. La Provence. Lacombe: 25020 US 190. 985-626-7662. The whole idea of La Provence seems to have been composed specifically for Christmas. A country inn out in the middle of the pine woods, with two roaring fireplaces? And a waitress who composes poems of cheer for the customers? The only thing missing is Santa–hey! did you just see a red streak across the treetops just now?