Where to Observe Your Jewish Christmas (Places to Eat Out on Christmas Day)

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Merry Christmas from Gut Check! We'll return Monday to wrap up the Year-End Bonanza. In the meantime, Aimee Levitt suggests which restaurants to visit on Christmas itself. -- Ian

Of all Jewish holidays, Christmas is one of the most pleasant. It's a day free of the pressures of professional and familial life. Sometimes people give you presents. Nothing is open, so you have a perfect excuse not to run the errands that normally eat up your weekend. The only thing that's required is that you sleep late, watch bad TV and, if you feel up to it, go to the movies.

But, like anything else, there is a downside. While the world's Christians are dining on goose and turkey and ham and frosted sugar cookies and plum pudding with their loved ones (at least, this is what we imagine from years of watching Christmas movies), the Jews must wander through the midwinter darkness in search of post-movie refreshment.

Fortunately, this year Gut Check is here to help! Behold: our list of the top ten places to eat out this Christmas, plus one more for Christmas Eve.

Traditionally, Jews prefer Chinese food on Christmas. This is because Chinese restaurants traditionally stay open on Christmas Day. (In his book River Town, Peter Hessler explains that Chinese people have great esteem for the Jews because the Jews produced both Einstein and Marx, but that probably is not the reason Chinese restaurants stay open on Christmas.)

In St. Louis, you can dine at House of Wong (Creve Coeur location only: 12366 Olive Boulevard; website), Shu Feng (8435 Olive Boulevard) (but be sure to make a reservation) or Wonton King (8116 Olive Boulevard; website) if you're in the mood for dim sum.

If you want to branch out into other Asian cuisines, Riverfront Times' Best Thai Restaurant of 2009,  Basil Spice Thai Cuisine (3183 South Grand Boulevard; website), will also be open.

Alas, Banh Mi So #1 - Saigon Gourmet (4071 South Grand Boulevard; website) is closed Christmas Day, but you've still got to eat Christmas Eve, right? So if you get a craving for Vietnamese, you can go there.

Why don't Jews go out to eat their own damned food? you may be wondering. Well, that's because the local delis aren't open all day. However, Protzel's Delicatessen (
7608 Wydown Boulevard) is open till noon and Kohn's Kosher Market (10405 Old Olive Street Road; website) will be open from 8 till 10 a.m., which gives you time to stock up on sandwiches and other provisions for dining at home, though it does cut into the whole sleeping late thing.

If you want to grab brunch before your movie, Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House (3 locations, including
3427 South Kingshighway) will be open from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Some years, though, it's hard to get into the spirit of Jewish Christmas. Maybe too much regular Christmas spirit has made your blood curdle. Maybe you have to work.
Maybe you normally celebrate Christian Christmas, but for some reason it's not happening this year. Instead, you're stuck with anti-Christmas, observed by staying home with a box of Hamburger Helper and the worst TV marathon you can find until the dive bars open.

Or you could fully embrace Jean-Paul Sartre's dictum that "Hell is other people" and go to the casino. This plan also gives you the opportunity to get rid of the money you didn't spend on crappy holiday gifts. Both Harrah's St. Louis Casino & Hotel (
777 Casino Center Drive; website) and Lumière Place Casino & Hotel (999 North Second Street; website) will be open and serving food

Is that not a depressing enough anti-Christmas for you? Are you terrified by the prospect that you might actually win something or even enjoy yourself? Don't worry. There's always Hardee's, the St. Louis-based burger chain with the tacky commercials (many area locations, including
2110 Hampton Avenue; website). Yep. You can settle your butt into a plastic molded seat and chow down a biscuit or Thickburger. Guaranteed: The Western Bacon Thickburger will not give you an orgasm the way it did for Padma Lakshmi. But it will sure depress the hell out of you.