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Gathering spots to eat, drink over the holidays

For many reasons, “A Christmas Carol” is one of our all-time favorite tales, but especially what the food and drink embody.

From Fezziwig’s raucous holiday party and the Cratchit’s meager Christmas dinner overflowing with love to a feast of forgiveness for Scrooge — it’s about being together.

It got us to thinking about out-of-the-gift-box-ways to celebrate with friends and family at local restaurants especially over the last two holiday weeks of the year. Here are some game plans to get you and yours making merry, so let’s go a-wassailing.

A Don Draper lunch

After brown-bagging it all year, indulging in a leisurely holiday lunch is highly appealing. Several nice restaurants extend lunch hours for December and come with a cheaper price tag than dinner.

Betty and Jack Lydon, of Buffalo, enjoy their brunch in Break'n Eggs Creperie. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Daniels (174 Buffalo St., Hamburg) extends its normal Friday lunch hours in December to noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

“When I took over in 2015, we got requests from customers and business owners who wanted to come in for lunch. We tried it and it worked,” said chef/owner Scott Donhauser.

The same is true at Lombardo’s Ristorante (1198 Hertel Ave.). Regular Friday lunch extends to Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Dec. 23.

“We’ve been doing it for about 10 years,” said Tom Lombardo Sr. “We had many requests from our customers so it was a no-brainer.” He notes that, “people don’t go out for lunch like in the old days,” (a la "Mad Men"?), but the holidays are an exception.

“People celebrate. They have drinks, maybe some dessert, then head home instead of back to work,” Lombardo said. We’re all for that plan.

For something a little Downton Abbey-ish, the Asa Ransom House (10529 Main St., Clarence) serves tea year-round from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, by reservation.

Traditional tea includes teas, coffee or hot chocolate with finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastry. The Tea Royal adds a Kir Royal (champagne with Chambord liqueur). Lunches are served Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. through December as well.

Who else opens for lunch: Oliver’s Restaurant (2095 Delaware Ave.) fall/winter lunch hours are from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Orazio’s (9415 Main St., Clarence) serves December lunches Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Salvatore’s Italian Gardens (6461 Transit Road) has a holiday lunch with a special menu that runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in December, and is served in the swanky Chandelier Bar.

A free-form celebration

For those who eschew planning, flexibility and wide open spaces are the way to go. A group can meet up and go from there. Happy hour, lunch or an evening get-together are all on the table at these places, so to speak.

The large community tables at Rocco's Wood Fired Pizza are a good place to meet up with a large group of friends or family. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza (5433 Transit Road, Clarence) has big community tables in the bar area. Manager John Barile said Rocco’s accepts reservations for eight or more.

“We have a nice lounge area nearby too for people to sit and visit,” he said. Rocco’s also serves wood-fired pizzas and wings, cocktails, craft beers and wines. Tons of big-screen TVs mean you can actually schedule a party during a game without upsetting the drink cart.

Keeping with the pizza/wing/drink theme, Resurgence Brewing (1250 Niagara St.) allows folks to reserve tables and permits guests to bring or have food delivered from licensed purveyors like pizzerias or restaurants (bring a receipt).

Notably, La Nova Pizzeria (371 W. Ferry St.) is close to Resurgence. The brewery also serves food including pizza, plus shareable items like a BreadHive bread boule with homemade dill dip and for the winter a barley jambalaya will be on the menu.

Where else: Remington Tavern (184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda) has a big bar with tables and a lovely fireplace at the center of the action, plus live music Mondays and Wednesdays. At Walden Galleria, Gordon Biersch has a huge bar and solid bar food: sliders, tacos, small plates, flatbreads, pizza, burgers etc. Pretend the giant glass boot on display is the lamp from “A Christmas Story.” Did we mention the beer?

Cocktails, coffee, dessert

Sometimes a full meal isn’t in the cards, but meeting up for drinks, coffee and dessert is doable. Here are places that do all three, and do them well.

The Chocolate Bar (114 Chippewa St.) extensive drink menu has something for everyone, from craft beer, wine and mojitos to martinis, champagne and flights like three mini martinis. Indulge with a booze-spiked hot chocolate. Note to gal pals: Monday Martini & Manicures is from 7 to 10 p.m.

Belgian chocolate mousse cake with a candy cane martini at Chocolate Bar. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Romeo & Juliet’s Café has four locations so finding common ground is easier (1292 Hertel Ave.; 5199 Sheridan Drive, Amherst; 2512 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda and 4572 Clark St., Hamburg.). The café serves beer and wine, plus coffee, espresso, cappuccino and those fantastic Italian desserts and cookies we cannot get enough of.

Where else: Caffe Aroma (947 Elmwood Ave., 884-4470) is small, cozy and serves booze along with coffee and desserts. Think out of the box, too. A swanky place that’s tough to score a dinner reservation to might have later openings for drinks, dessert and coffee.

Rise, shine and shop local

You might have missed November’s Shop Small Saturday, but the shops are still there. Here are breakfast and brunch places located near shopping hubs other than a mall. Fuel up for the day ahead with your fellow shoppers .

If heading to East Aurora to visit Vidler’s (676 Main St.) or the Marilla Country Store (1673 Two Rod Road), the Roycroft Inn (40 S. Grove St.) serves breakfast 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, Sunday brunch starts at 10 a.m. Less formal are Taste (634 Main St.) and Elm Street Bakery (72 Elm St.). Both open at 7 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. weekends.

Elm Street Bakery in East Aurora is an attractive place to stop during the holidays. (John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo)

[Related: 100 Things on Vidler's in East Aurora]

Break'n Eggs' The 33 is a strawberry crepe with fresh strawberries and strawberry honey butter, topped with whipped cream. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Early-bird Williamsville shoppers a few places starting with Break’n Eggs Creperie (5235 Main St.) which opens at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday (no reservations).

Milos (5877 Main St.) opens daily at 7 a.m., while the Original Pancake House (5474 Main St.) opens at the crack of dawn at 6:45 a.m.

Buffalo has fun and funky choices for breakfast/brunch. Betty’s (370 Virginia St.) serves breakfast at 8 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday and has a Sunday brunch starting at 9 a.m.

Merge (439 Delaware) has a Saturday brunch starting at 11:30 a.m., while Providence Social (490 Rhode Island St.) serves Saturday and Sunday brunch at 10 a.m.

For something quicker, Sweetness 7 Café (220 Grant St.) opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with a Brunchy Feasts menu.

For those who cut straight to the carbs, we suggest Five Points Bakery, open at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Have a specialty toast, like Power Bread with goat cheese, followed by a scone or one of the addictive cinnamon rolls.

Where else: Perks Café (448 Elmwood Ave.) in the Elmwood Village opens at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. weekends.

The Daily Planet (1862 Hertel Ave.) opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday.

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