Restaurants offer alternative to holiday cooking

Friday, December 20, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 51
By Tony Troiano

Between out-of-town guests, last-minute shopping and “helping” Santa assemble toys through the wee hours of morning, preparing a Christmas feast is a task that seems to be losing its appeal.

Going out to eat for Christmas has become a trend for many, with 10 percent of consumers dining out on Christmas Eve and 8 percent on Christmas Day, a survey from the National Restaurant Association reveals.

Fifty percent of consumers in the Association’s survey shared a special meal with friends or family at a restaurant during the holiday season.

“Since restaurants are part of the hospitality industry, some restaurants have always remained open on Christmas Day,’’ says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the Association.

“In addition, more are also opening on the holiday to meet evolving consumers’ needs regarding meal solutions away from home. Still, Christmas is not a top restaurant holiday, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. The decision to open reflects individual operators’ business models as well as potential local demand.’’

The trend is no different in Nashville, going beyond traditional favorites such as Chinese restaurants and Shoney’s Christmas Buffet (open Dec. 25 this year, too).

The Capitol Grille at The Hermitage, Mason’s at Loews Vanderbilt, 1808 Grille and most of the restaurants at Gaylord Opryland, will be open. Some have Christmas-specific offerings and some regular fare.

Other restaurants scheduled to be open on Christmas Day include Buca di Beppo, Anatolia Turkish Restaurant, Champions at the Marriott Airport, Commerce Street Grille at Renaissance Hotel, Kitchen Notes at Omni Nashville, Park 25 Bistro at the West End Marriott, Ruth’s Chris Steak House (West End), Suzy Wong’s House of Yum and Sperry’s.

Nero’s Grill in Green Hills has opted not to open for Christmas Day, but will be open Christmas Eve.

“All year we treat anyone who walks through our door as family,” says Judy Griswold, who owns Nero’s with her husband, John. “We have a seasoned staff that is anxious and ready to assist you in any manner.

“We go the extra mile for the holidays,’’ she adds. “Decorations are placed throughout with trees in each room, wreaths, garland, the fireplaces appointed and soft holiday music playing.

“Christmas is a time of warmth, fun and just plain feeling good. We try to make it as festive as possible.”

Chef Oscar Valenzuela, a five-year Nero’s veteran, contributes dishes that feature a broad range of classic American cuisine and comfort food from tried-and-true sandwiches to fresh fish and seafood, steaks and specialties, which include meals like meat loaf stack, chicken piccata, pot pies and ribs.

Nero’s General Manager Hal Buck cites the cohesiveness of the staff as being a key to the restaurant’s ongoing success.

“We provide old-fashioned meals with a modern twist,” he explains. “The food and atmosphere are our main attraction, but a major key to our success is stability.

“Our kitchen staff has been with us three years. We have around 50 employees and each one enjoys being here and is dedicated to his or her work. Pride is a big word at Nero’s.”

Nero’s will be open on Christmas Eve for walk-ins and reserved seating, and most Nashville restaurants follow that model.

Diners are advised to check with the restaurants for reservations, special holiday activities and hours of operation. Some places are only open for part of the day.