Dec. 25 is the worst day of the year for dining out.
Even Chinese restaurants and fast-food places, historically the most reliable options, are hit and miss. There’s no feeling as lonely as the one that strikes while peering into the window of an empty Taco Bell on Christmas Day.
But a little digging reveals other options for dining out Friday, Dec. 25, in Sacramento. Among establishments serving meals are the Hyatt Regency hotel, which is putting out a giant brunch buffet ($64.95 adults; $32.95 children; 916-443-1234) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; East Sacramento’s Hoppy Brewing Co., offering a limited menu from 2-9 p.m., and midtown’s Southern restaurant The Porch, open from 1-8 p.m.
The Porch had been in business only a few weeks when it served its first Christmas Day meal, in 2011. We spoke to co-owners John Lopez and Jerry Mitchell about what is becoming a holiday tradition.
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Q: You were a very new restaurant when you served your first Christmas Day meal. Did you do it because you needed the business?
A: JM: Definitely. Opening any new restaurant, you have more money going out than coming in. That first year, we did it for a financial reason. Employees were begging to get work, and we said, “Let’s do it.” And then we discovered a whole other side to it that wasn’t just for our need.
JL: We had an overwhelming response (in 2011), and every year since, we’ve heard different stories of how grateful people are to have restaurants open on Christmas Day.
We have heard more heartfelt things recently, like on Thanksgiving, from people who have had things happen in their life. We just had someone who is in hospice. (People) are looking for a place to go to have a nice Thanksgiving or Christmas meal they don’t have to worry about.
Q: What’s on the Christmas Day menu?
A: JM: We will have some of our traditional items. Fried chicken will be on there. We also will have shrimp and grits, which is kind of a staple we offer our customers. We’ll also have Beeler’s ham, which will be served in the chicken (dinner) way, with two sides, and biscuits.
Q: Do you get a lot of people on Christmas Day?
A: JM: We were sold out as far as reservations (last year). We were able to take some walk-ins. Most of them ended up going in the bar because the dining room was full.
Q: I looked at online reservations for Friday, and there are very few spots. Will that change at all by Friday?
A: JM: What we find on holidays is people will make multiple reservations, and then they choose (one restaurant). We will probably have 5 percent cancellation.
Q: Do your employees mind working Christmas?
A: JM: I am going to say, yeah, of course, they probably do in some ways. There is a certain amount of employees who would rather have it off. But the same people will tell you how much they depend on the holidays for their income (to compensate) for slower days.
JL: We take requests for their top-priority day off and try to honor at least one of their priorities.
Q: Are guests more generous on Christmas Day?
A: JM: Definitely. It is obvious from the minute they walk through the door. People are over-the-top grateful. Anybody is happy if you give them a good meal (any time). But it seems like on holidays, they are more willing to tell you it as well.
It’s actually a fun day. It’s a hard day, but it’s a fun day, because people are in such great moods.
John Lopez and Jerry Mitchell
The owners of midtown Sacramento’s The Porch Restaurant and Bar (1815 K St., 916-444-2423) have served Christmas Day meals since opening the Southern-food restaurant in 2011. The Porch will be open from 1-8 p.m. Dec. 25.