10 good reasons to celebrate the season

HolidaysChristmasRestaurantsDining and DrinkingDustin HoffmanWoody AllenWest Village

There are plenty of reasons to go out this season, whether you're looking for a romantic evening a deux or a little time with the kids. Here are some of our favorite places -- and some terrific excuses to stay out of the kitchen.

For the glam: The Russian Tea Room looks like Christmas 365 days a year, what with those green walls and red banquettes. It remains to be seen whether or not this reincarnation of a legend can bring back the celebs -- in the old days, this is where Dustin Hoffman perfected his "Tootsie" schtick, where Woody Allen stopped by on an almost daily basis, and where Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor a diamond almost as big as the Ritz. Still, the glamour is there in gleaming brass, crystal and silver and a menu that includes blini and borscht, not to mention a caviar service. (150 West 57th Street; 212-581-7100. Expect to pay about $100 for a three-course meal.)

For the tradition: Rolf's. There's probably no place in the city that gets more dressed up for Christmas than Rolf's, which drapes itself in miles of twinkly lights and acres of greenery. The menu is equally traditional: roast suckling pig with sauerkraut, goulash, sauerbraten, schnitzels, and wursts. (Closed December 25; open Christmas Eve with final seating at 7:30 p.m.; 281 Third Avenue; 212-473-8718; main courses: $23.50-$37)

For a little sizzle: Wake up a holiday-jaded palate with the short ribs in green curry at Kittichai. Superb Thai food aside, the setting is pretty ritzy -- a perfect place for dinner when you simply can't face any more turkey. (60 Thompson Street; 212-219-2000; main courses: $19-$28. Prix-fixe pre-theater menu: $30)

For the luxe: Del Posto. Ok, so everybody laughs about the handbag stools and the over-the-top setting. Also, there was the fight with the landlord, and the fact that it's now kind of good sport to make fun of the meatpacking district. Still, if you're looking for Italian food in the fanciest settting posible, it's nice to know the place is here. (85 10th Avenue; 212-497-8090; main courses, $27-$30; tasting menu, $120)

For the skaters: Sea Grill. There's no better place to watch them than rinkside. Special prix-fixe Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner ($95 for Christmas Evev; $110 for Christmas Day. 19 West 49th Street; 212-332-7610)

For a great view: You can't beat the River Cafe's view of the downtown skyline. Gorgeous as it is at night, it's just as spectacular for a weekend brunch, with the sun sparkling off the tops of the skyscrapers and the water taxis racing across the water. (1 Water Street, Brooklyn; 718-522-5200; prix-fixe brunch, $40)

For a late-night pit stop. We go for potato pancakes at Odessa when hunger hits. ($3 for potato pancakes. 119 Avenue A; 212-253-1482)

For a little nostalgia Soda Shop, on Chambers Street, makes an egg cream the way they're supposed to be made, with plenty of Fox's U-Bet. (soup and sandwich, $7.50-$12; 125 Chambers Street; 212-571-1100)

For the kids: John's Times Square combines a terrific-looking space with great pizza. This is the same John's Pizza that casts a spell over the West Village; service is quick; and you can watch while they make the pies. Besides pizza, there are plenty of other kid favorites: stuffed shells, baked ziti, and cheese ravioli. (Large pizza, $14.50; 260 West 44th Street; 212-391-7560)

For an open fire on a cold night: Ici. One of Fort Greene's most charming bistros serves up classic Gallic fare in a relaxed setting. During the holidays, they'll be open Christmas Eve for dinner (but they['ll be closed on the 25th). (Christmas Eve dinner: $55, reservations required; 246 DeKalb Avenue; 718-789-2778)

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HolidaysChristmasRestaurantsDining and DrinkingDustin HoffmanWoody AllenWest Village
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