On Friday, when you’ve gathered with your family to count your yuletide blessings, be sure to include this one:
In Las Vegas, finding an open restaurant for Christmas dinner is relatively easy.
That’s not true in every city, or even most cities, across the country, where a fast-food burger is elusive and dining out on Christmas invariably means a visit to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
But thanks in large part to Las Vegas’ tourist culture and 24/7 nature, Southern Nevadans seeking a Christmas repast seldom have to look far. A simple phone call will uncover whether a favorite spot is open.
This year, Bob Ansara, who has been observing Southern Nevada’s culinary scene ever since opening his first Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant in 1979, thinks it possible that more restaurants than ever will be open on Christmas Day.
In a year that hasn’t been kind to restaurant owners, “definitely, (restaurant) operators want to capture as much revenue as they can,” Ansara explains.
Beyond that, there is a demand among a sizable segment of holiday diners here for an easier alternative to a cooked-at-home Christmas Day feast. Chalk it up, in part, to a fading of the traditional Norman Rockwell-style image of several generations gathered around a family dinner table.
Today, families are “spread out,” Ansara says, and “if you don’t have 15 or 20 people coming … the tendency is to say, ‘Hey, let’s go out.’ “
In addition, Ansara continues, “this certainly isn’t a condemnation, but I think folks don’t cook as much or as well as they used to. I think the boomer generation is a generation brought up on the concept of eating out. So as the boomers become empty nesters, I think they — we — have a tendency to go out.”
It’s also possible that Southern Nevadans may simply have become accustomed to the 24/7 model of meal-catching found here on every other day of the year, and expect the same to hold true on Christmas.
In fact, the most obvious places to catch Christmas dinner in Las Vegas are hotels and resorts on the Strip, where restaurants already will be geared up to serve tourists all day long. But, luckily for locals, the Strip’s model of 365-days-a-year restaurant service also has expanded to locals-oriented casino chains across town.
Southern Nevadans, notes Heather Pressley, director of marketing and administration for the Nevada Restaurant Association, “are fortunate that the feel of the Strip carries over (to) so many casinos and hotels that are off the Strip.”
Not to mention independent restaurants, too. Ansara notes that, for the first 25 years of its existence, his Ricardo’s restaurants were closed on Christmas, as well as on New Year’s Day and Easter.
But Friday will mark the fourth Christmas Day that Ricardo’s, 4930 W. Flamingo Road, will be open. Even though Ansara will have to staff the restaurant to serve crowds more akin to those typically seen on busy weekends, Ansara says it makes sense financially.
“The restaurant business is one that is filled with tons of fixed costs, and those costs are there whether we’re open or not,” he explains. “So I think it pays for us to be open.”
New to Christmas Day dining this year will be Buca di Beppo, which has restaurants at 7690 W. Lake Mead Blvd. and 412 E. Flamingo Road.
Keri Keep, sales manager of the northwest valley location, which will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, says the restaurant this year opened for the first time on Thanksgiving Day and was “quite busy.”
“We are optimistic” that Thanksgiving’s good fortune will carry over to Christmas, too, Keep says.
Also new to Christmas Day dining this year will be the Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery at 530 N. Stephanie St. in Henderson.
Manager Hyekyu Kim says Marie Callender’s traditionally is “never open on Christmas Day.” But, this year, she notes, the company is giving Christmas hours a trial run at her location.
The restaurant will open at 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for pie purchases, Kim says. Then, the dining room will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a full kids’ menu and a limited adult menu, featuring such entrees as turkey and pork loin dinners and chicken potpie.
Meanwhile, the Big Dog’s and Draft House restaurants operated by Big Dog’s Hospitality Group will be open on Christmas Day just as they are every other day of the year. To give their menus a holiday twist, Robert Snyder, the company’s chief financial officer, says the restaurants will offer afternoon specials of a ham dinner, featuring ham glazed with Big Dog’s-brewed root beer, and prime rib.
Actually, the prime rib dinner is on the menu every Friday, Snyder adds, but regulars have come to expect it every Christmas Day, too.
“It’s a tradition with the company,” Snyder adds, just as, for many Southern Nevadans, is having their Christmas dinner at a Big Dog’s or The Draft House.
“It’s just kind of built up over the years,” Snyder says. “We try to provide an outlet for people who don’t want to cook at home and don’t have family here.”
Linda Voelker, who owns two local Blueberry Hill Family Restaurants, says the company’s seven Southern Nevada locations also will be open as usual on Christmas Day.
“Normally, from 8 in the morning until 12 or 3 in the afternoon, we’re very busy,” she says.
“What it is mostly is families who come in and have breakfast,” Voelker adds, although the restaurants also do well at lunch and dinner serving customers — families, singles and, Voelker says, a “surprising” number of seniors — turkey dinners and other dinner entrees.
For frustrated-elsewhere Christmas diners for whom Chinese food has become its own tradition, Cathay House, 5300 Spring Mountain Road, is one Asian-flavored, open-on-Christmas dining option here.
Manager Albert Wong says the restaurant will be open during its usual hours Friday, and that Christmas Day clientele usually is split about evenly between locals and tourists.
Also on the roster of the valley’s open-on-Christmas ethnic restaurants is Origin India, 4480 Paradise Road.
“Christmas is very busy for us,” says Tony Davis, a member of the restaurant’s serving staff, who estimates that about 75 percent of Christmas Day diners are locals, compared to the tourist-heavy mix seen on typical long weekends.
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.Christmas dining specials in Las Vegas