New Year’s Eve Dinner Services for the Whole Family
While New Year’s Eve is traditionally thought of as an adult holiday—with free-flowing bubbly and raucous entertainment—many restaurants across the country are making an effort to welcome families to the celebration.
And with enticements ranging from early seating times to non-alcoholic cocktails to all-ages fun, plenty of families are heeding the call, heading out of the house to leave the cooking and cleanup to the professionals. Here, experts from two major restaurants share their plans for the last night of the year, along with tips on keeping everyone happy.
Flexibility is key when it comes to families on New Year’s Eve, according to Stephen Oakes, general manager of Mastro’s Steakhouse in Chicago. The River North hot spot opens an hour early at 4 p.m. to accommodate those with younger kids, and keeps the kitchen going past midnight to satisfy the night owls.
“A lot of people who want to celebrate New Year’s will come early, showing up at 4:30,” he explains. “We book like a normal night, so they can come in with their children, sit in a booth, have a nice dinner, then go home and relax.”
With 1,300 covers to 1,450 covers on an average New Year’s Eve, Oakes said using Mastro’s a la carte menu keeps service running smoothly, with a mix of seasonal options, high-end steaks and special-occasion splurges, and children’s favorites ranging from chicken fingers to mac ‘n’ cheese. Live entertainment ensures that spirits stay high.
“There’s live Top 40 music until 1 a.m.,” he says. “It’s an all-acoustic, three-piece band, and it’s what everybody comes here for.”
Kelley Jones, president and chief operating officer of Hospitality Alliance, a consultancy and management group with projects throughout the country, sees success with families on New Year’s Eve in the finer details.
“We have the Sound View Hotel in Long Island, N.Y., where we operate all the food and beverage, and we’re offering a prix-fixe menu for New Year’s Eve that includes mocktails—non-alcoholic cocktails perfect for children,” says Jones. “Our menus are both for adults and those under 18, and it’s a fine dining experience because we’d rather educate the preteens and younger than do a standard kids’ menu.”
That education includes an introduction to a few classic holiday recipes.
“We do a beef Wellington, which is very traditional and comes out with a great presentation,” he explains. “There’s filet mignon and puff pastry with foie gras, we have prime rib, and we’ll even do a seafood dish like lobster thermidor.”
The hotel’s restaurant, called the Halyard, offers two New Year’s Eve seatings, one at 7 p.m. and another at 9:30.
“The later seating includes the midnight countdown, with a champagne and sparkling cider toast, along with views of the fireworks,” Jones adds.