Cozy Christmas Eve Dinner?
We are looking to make reservations for 4 on Christmas Eve. We'd really like to eat at a mid/high-end contemp. American restaurant. We're also looking for a cozy atmosphere--somewhere where it actually FEELS like Christmas. North Pond would've been perfect, but their going to be closed.
Most such restaurants are closed Christmas Eve. However, here are some additional thoughts that may be helpful.
At this point in time, it may be a bit early to look for a place; a lot of restaurants haven't firmed up their plans yet. Listings aren't yet shown on Metromix or Opentable, although you can use Opentable to get an idea of which places will be open. It doesn't show a whole lot of places open, but in some cases it's because they don't accept reservations more than a month in advance, not because they're necessarily closed.
A similar question last year ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/467935 ) turned up Sweets and Savories, which is an excellent contemporary American restaurant. They accept reservations through Opentable, but Opentable doesn't accept reservations there this far in advance. My suggestion is to call them to see if they have figured out their plans yet. If so, I think it's a great place for what you're asking for.
Several of the really high-end restaurants are showing availability on Opentable: Avenues, NoMI, TRU, and L2O. Keep in mind that some of them may be having special menus, and may possibly be even more expensive than usual. NoMI's website says that they will be serving their regular a la carte menu that evening. I'm sure it will be festive, overlooking the Water Tower and Michigan Avenue (especially if it's a White one). These are not inexpensive, and may be a bit more formal than you're looking for (NoMI slightly less so than Avenues or TRU). But they are among our best restaurants. I think NoMI is a great choice in this group.
Most of the "casual fine dining" restaurants are not showing availability on Opentable. Most are probably closed, but it's possible that some haven't firmed up their plans yet. Watch for updates in the next few weeks. One place shown as available is the Lobby restaurant, in the Peninsula Hotel. I've eaten there several times and enjoyed it. It's extremely spacious, with high ceilings and huge windows on one side, and I've enjoyed the food and service. Hotels seem to go out of their way to create the holiday spirit, too. There are a few others shown as open - Deleece, Farmerie 58, and Chaise Lounge - but I've never been to them so I'm reluctant to recommend them for that reason. And again, some places may be open but not yet shown on Opentable because they don't accept reservations this far in advance.
Some other restaurants are open, but not so much the contemporary American places. So you'll have additional choices if you would consider steakhouses (David Burke's Primehouse, Saloon, Sullivan's) or seafood restaurants (Catch 35, Shaw's Crab House). David Burke's, in particular, is a bit more than your typical steakhouse. What I mean by that is, steakhouses are often boisterous places with dark wood paneling, and look like men's clubs. By contrast, Burke's has contemporary styling, is more subdued, and their menu has a lot of interesting choices on it beyond the obligatory (and excellent) steaks. So I think that's another choice worth considering.
Note that NoMI, the Lobby, and Burke's are all hotel restaurants. That's not a coincidence. Hotels need to provide nice places for their guests from out of town to eat, even on major holidays. Again, they might be places that feel a bit more festive than most.
Opentable has listings of restaurants' special plans for both days:
Christmas Eve - www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?m=3&...
Christmas Day - www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?m=3&...
You can expect these listings to expand in the next few weeks as restaurants firm up their plans.
Some of the best places already listed with plans for Christmas Eve include Aria, BellyQ, bistronomic, Café des Architectes, the Florentine, and Mercat a la Planxa. Other good restaurants which show availability on Opentable - which means they're open, but perhaps with their regular menu offerings - include the Boarding House, Carnivale, David Burke's Primehouse, Le Colonial, Les Nomades, MK, NoMI, Piccolo Sogno Due, Roy's, both RPM's, Salpicon, Shaw's Crab House, Sunda, Tanta, and TRU.
The only thing you've specifically mentioned is a place that's festive. I would say that the most lively of these include Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), Carnivale (Latin fusion), and Sunda (pan Asian). If there's any other way you'd like to narrow down your search - perhaps near your hotel (which one?), or a certain kind of food (which one?) - let us know and we'll try to help.
Incidentally, the places I mentioned above are all in the city. If you're specifically interested in restaurants in the northern suburbs (since you mentioned Carlos), Carlos has re-opened as Nieto's, same ownership, a bit more casual, and they are open Christmas Eve. Other good places in the northern 'burbs open Christmas Eve include The Happ Inn (also owned by Carlos but even more casual), a bunch of steakhouses, L. Woods, and Terra Bistro.