Restaurants available for Christmas

Many have seen the holiday movie “A Christmas Story” where the family loses its Christmas Day dinner to their dogs and ends up having its meal at the local Chinese restaurant.

Whatever the reason you might be looking for a restaurant to eat at Christmas Day, your choices of local dining options that are open are few.

Most places are closed to give their staff a chance to celebrate the holiday with their families, owners said, but they were open Christmas Eve and plan to open the day after Christmas in most cases.

But like the family in the movie, if you went searching on Christmas Day, you would find some Asian restaurants – as well as a few others – in the area open, like the Yamato Restaurant, the Ramada Inn and Altoona Gourmet Buffet.

The Ramada Inn at 1 Sheraton Drive will be serving up Christmas dinner today buffet-style, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with kitchen staff expecting to serve more than 500 people.

“We’re going to be carving ham, carving turkey” with fruit and cranberry sauces for each, said executive chef Tom

Pulliam. “It’s actually an extensive menu.”

Also featured is broccoli chicken alfredo and shrimp pomodoro, with a variety of sides available including stuffed cabbage, cheesy haluski and more traditional options like mashed potatoes with gravy and homemade stuffing.

Assorted cakes and pies, as well as sugar-free options, will be available for dessert, he said.

It’s Pulliam’s second Christmas with the Ramada, and he said he’s expecting a mixture of couples who don’t feel like cooking, as well as large parties of up to 10 and 15.

“It keeps me paying my bills,” he said, laughing.

Yamato owner Xin Liu said his restaurant, 601 Pleasant Valley Blvd., has welcomed customers for several years on Dec. 25, especially those of different religious faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas.

“Most people know that we are open on Christmas,” Liu said.

In fact, Liu said some families have made it a tradition to come to his restaurant every year for their holiday dinner.

“They’re more like friends to us,” he said. “They’ve been coming here for a long time, every Christmas Day for dinner.”

In preparation for the special day, Yamato’s offers dishes on Christmas Day that wouldn’t usually be served on weekdays, such as live lobsters and other dishes prepared in a ginger garlic style, he said.

Of course, the restaurant, which has been open for 10 years and features Japanese and Chinese food, will still have its full range of sushi items, he said. Liu said sushi is one of the items that has slowly caught on with locals, and he’s added more types to the menu as its popularity has grown.

“Every year, sushi has increased in popularity customer-wise, which is surprising, so there are more new kinds that we have,” he said.

A little further down the street is another Asian restaurant that also welcome diners on Christmas Day. The Altoona Gourmet Buffet at 518 W. Plank Road will open its doors at 11 a.m. to greet hungry customers, Manager Sammy Cheng said.

“We know a lot of customers have asked for us to be open,” Cheng said.

The restaurant is open for several reasons, he said. As Liu said, some people don’t celebrate the holiday. Others have different reasons for wanting to eat out on Christmas Day, Cheng said.

“We may get a couple who didn’t want to cook for just the two of them,” he said.

Whatever the reason, the restaurant is open until 9:30 p.m. to accommodate customers. As with the Yamato, the Gourmet Buffet switched things around for the special day. Crab legs are on the menu, usually a weekend item, but moved to Wednesday for a holiday treat. The restaurant also features steaks, in addition to Asian cuisine for those who like traditional fare.

Cheng said the restaurant would probably see several hundred people move through its doors by the end of the day, especially if the weather cooperates.

As for the employees, he said many of them do celebrate Christmas, but they were given the option of working on Christmas Day and several chose to work.

“They’re OK with it because they celebrate at night when they go home,” he said. “They didn’t have to work if they didn’t want to. It was left up to them.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich contributed to this story.