Not many restaurants are open for the holidays, but Aldo's… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
This year more restaurants than ever seemed to be open for Thanksgiving. But Christmas is still Christmas, and most places are closed on Dec. 25. Yes, many Chinese and Indian restaurants remain open on Christmas Day. But I always thought the annual Christmas Day dinner in a Chinese restaurant was one of those customs more honored in the breach than the observance. At least around here.
Below are the handful of Christmas Day options I have found so far. Anything else I learn of will be posted on Dining@Large (baltimoresun.com/diningatlarge).
I think the sweetest sounding option is over in Brewers Hill, where the old-fashioned restaurant Eichenkranz (611 Fagley Ave., 410-563-7577, eichenkranz.com) will be open on Christmas Day from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. The restaurant will add a turkey dinner to its regular menu of German specialties.
In Mount Vernon, the Prime Rib (1100 N. Calvert St., 410-530-1804, theprimerib.com) will be open 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Dec. 25, serving from its regular menu. The Mt. Washington Tavern (5700 Newbury St., 410-3667-6903, mtwashingtontavern.com) will open at 4 p.m., and then for only a limited menu served at its bars. But 4 p.m. sounds like exactly the time when cabin fever starts to set in.
Like I said, it's not much.
Christmas Eve is another story, and plenty of restaurants are planning to stay open, serving from their regular menu, on Dec. 24. Among them are the four restaurants in Kali's Group (410-276-4700, kalisrestaurantgroup.com): Kali's Court, Kali's Court Mezze, Tapas Adela and Meli.
Jack's Bistro in Canton was taking reservations for "parties of all sizes." Christie Smyrcha of Jack's Bistro added, in an e-mailed message, "We don't believe in encouraging our guests to spend an arm and a leg on special occasions, so we will be offering our current menu and some fun specials for your enjoyment."
Aldo's Ristorante Italiano (306 South High St., 410-727-0700, aldositaly.com) might well be the area pack-leader. Ever since Aldo Vitale's version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes was featured on the Food Network, the Little Italy restaurant has been doing it up on Christmas Eve with a special fixed-price seven-course meatless menu including a very lovely Calabrese-style baccala. Reservations will be hard to come by now, but Sergio Vitale, the restaurant's general manager, said that there may be room at the bar.
When I called, there was very limited space available at the Milton Inn. Charleston was completely sold out and Petit Louis was close (a spokesman said it's not unusual for customers to make Christmas Eve reservations a year in advance). But there was room at the two other Foreman-Wolf properties, Cinghiale (822 Lancaster St., 410-547-8282, cgeno.com) and Pazo (1425 Aliceanna St., 410-534-7296, pazorestaurant.com), which will be offering a Christmas Eve buffet for $39 per person (and $25 for those ages 12 and under).
If you're visiting Baltimore and need some place to go for Christmas Eve where you won't be surrounded by families, consider Sullivan's Steakhouse (1 E. Pratt St., 410-962-5503, sullivansteakhouse.com). The Inner Harbor will be extending its usual Thursday night Swinging at Sully's event for the occasion. The event features $5 martinis and wine and half-priced bar entrees, cigar selections and a jazz trio.
Comings and goings Cheryl Townsend, who operated the Southern-style Red Springs Cafe on Calvert Street, may be headed for the Hollywood Diner on Saratoga Street. Townsend said that the deal isn't final but that if things go according to plan, she could have the diner reopened shortly after the beginning of the new year.
The diner had been run by Crema Coffee Co. since September 2009. Crema's owner, Terry Jett, shut his Saratoga Street operations down on Nov. 24. Jett was frank in a conversation about the rough time he's had of it at 400 E. Saratoga St. "It was tough," Jett says, "It's been a really hard year."
Jett said that the homemade pancake batter, mayonnaise, sausages and chorizo; Zeke's Coffee; and Stone Mill Bakery bread may not have appealed to a value-seeking lunch audience.
As for the late-night crowd, Jett did try keeping the diner open until 2 a.m. (several nightclubs are nearby, not to mention The Block) but says he ended up spending more for security than he made in sales.
Jett wasn't blaming anybody, and he said he may have stayed with the diner longer than he otherwise would have because of the city-owned diner's ongoing partnership with the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, which uses the diner for a job-training program.
Townsend may be a good fit for the diner and its programming. Her community outreach efforts were the subject of a 2009 Baltimore Sun article, "Christmas Blessings."