Urgh, Christmas dinner.
Does anyone actually enjoy it? Seriously. For the majority, is it not the same every year: dried (previously frozen) and perfectly overcooked turkey, canned cranberry sauce, plaster-like mashed potatoes, powdered gravy, and some centuries-old Christmas pudding? Why do we bother? I suppose somehow we think that maybe, just maybe, this year we’ll finally crack the code and execute it perfectly. What an absurd assumption. I mean, we only make it once a year—how do we honestly expect to perfect it?
I say throw tradition out the window, or if you didn’t ever embrace it in the first place, make one up by heading to a restaurant or ordering in for Christmas dinner. Let’s do what we all know is best and leave it up to the professionals. I’ve rounded up a list of the best (and only) places in Mississauga—and some in Toronto, if you’re prepared to make the trip—that are ready to save you the trouble and feed you on Christmas Day.
A Canadian Tradition
Who hasn’t heard of the Festive Special? Apparently many (or at least three out of the three people I polled). It was my family’s tradition to order it at least once during the holiday season. Also, this year marks 25 years since it was first added to the menu.
Basically, it’s their typical quarter-chicken dinner with four very important additions: stuffing, cranberry sauce, five Lindor chocolate truffles, and a Festive Contest scratch-and-win card. Okay. Fair. The standard is probably not that far from what I described above as the typical Christmas dinner (i.e., very low). However, does your home Christmas dinner include a scratch-and-win card? I doubt it. Also, where else can you get what’s essentially a two-course meal for $13?
I’ll wholeheartedly concede that Swiss Chalet (the nearest location to UTM being the one at 1170 Burnhamthorpe) isn’t open on Christmas Day—the one day a year that they are closed—but the lovely man who answered my phone call confirmed that that they are open on Christmas Eve until 4 p.m. So why not have a nice lunch out that day? Or a post-Boxing Day dinner? Or, even better… both.
Fancy Shmancy Christmas Buffet
If your standards are slightly higher than a chicken dinner, then your next-best option is not that far off. Actually, it’s across the street from UTM at the Glen Erin Inn (1695 The Collegeway). The gorgeous hotel and spa is situated on two acres of estate grounds with a Tudor-style mansion and carriage house at the core. On Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., they’re taking reservations for their Christmas buffet, which has been held every year since the early ’90s. That said, their food and beverage manager informed me that at this point only 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. time slots are still available, so get on it if you’re interested!
Their buffet is thankfully all you can eat and features a selection of breads, soup, salads, breakfast items (until 3 p.m.), fish dishes, hot entrees, turkey, roasted rib eye, baked ham, desserts and cheeses. It does come at a cost, though: $57.95 per person plus tax and gratuities.
But, hey, eat your money’s worth and don’t be afraid to ask for a doggy bag and you’ll probably be full enough to tide your stomach over for a few days. If the price is still off-putting, they do offer a holiday lunch buffet from December 8 to 19 on Mondays to Fridays for $29.95 per person plus tax and gratuities with a condensed version of the selection available on the big day.
If you feel like making your way into Toronto on Christmas Day (buses and subways will be running on Sunday schedules) I recommend going diner-style. Yes, 24-hour diner style. Why not be really anti-tradition and grab some greasy grub at 3 a.m. before you open presents? Or a stack of pancakes and an unhealthy pile of bacon in the middle of the afternoon? (You know you’ve always wanted to.)
If you want to go old-school, head to Fran’s in Toronto (you should be ashamed if you haven’t been since starting at U of T). They have three locations downtown, as well as one randomly in Barrie, but my favourite is the one at College and Yonge. Without a doubt, my go-to menu picks are their meatloaf with the garlic mashed potatoes and rice pudding (warmed, though!) for dessert. Like Swiss Chalet, don’t go expecting high-quality cooking—go for the atmosphere.
If you’re pretentious and would prefer a slightly more hipster-take and just generally more respectable diner option, then try the Lakeview Restaurant at 1131/1134 Dundas Street West. During last year’s infamous ice storm, I took shelter in one of their wooden booths and ordered their Benny of the Day, which that particular day included some fine Montreal smoked meat and the pie of the day (à la mode, of course). The restaurant first entered my life through an appearance on Food Network’s Diner, Drive-in, and Dives (one of the few Canadian restaurants to be featured). I’m waiting for the day I return and do as Guy did and order their apple pie milkshake. Other ungodly milkshake additions include deep-fried Mars bars, peanut butter cups, and Nanaimo bars.
“Peking” at the presents
Taking a note from the famous holiday movie The Christmas Story, if all else fails, just order a trusty Chinese takeaway to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. In this case, after making a few phone calls, I found out that our beloved Mandarin (3105 Dundas Street West) is one of surprisingly few Chinese restaurants open on Christmas Day in Mississauga. Nonetheless, they do the job, with all the fixings you’d expect from a reliable Chinese restaurant, from lemon chicken to beef fried rice. Their takeout prices are reasonable, whereas the buffet itself is $19.99 per person for lunch or $28.99 for dinner on holidays. No matter what, though, don’t forget the fortune cookies.