Getting Your Jollies

A toast to the indoor wonders of Christmastime in Cleveland.

There's more to the holidays than stale fruitcake, TV reruns, and burdensome in-laws, you know. There's food and drink, too. After relatively unproductive hours spent tossing tinsel at the tree or scouring the mall for something -- anything -- that Mom doesn't already have, we seriously need a break. That's when we don our gay apparel, saddle up the reindeer, and head out for an evening of comfort and joy. And for upscale pampering and great decorations, downtown's top hotel restaurants are hard to beat.

Why would we shiver outside in the wind and cold to get an eyeful of a decked-out Public Square, for instance, when we can accomplish the same thing in warmth and comfort at Sans Souci (24 Public Square, 216-696-5600), the upscale Mediterranean restaurant in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel? Not only do the second-floor windows provide a striking view of the Christmas lights, but the restaurant's richly rustic decor and Chef Ben Fambrough's menu of sunny flavors (think lush lobster bisque and saucy seafood bouillabaisse) stand in deliciously wicked contrast to the blustery conditions outdoors.

But sometimes, even looking outside is more than we can bear. That's when we zip over to Century at the Ritz-Carlton (1515 West Third Street, 216-902-5255), where we can feast our eyes on the colorfully decorated, completely enclosed Avenue at Tower City, and lunch (or dinner) can be a preamble (or conclusion) to a Christmas shopping frenzy. Now through December 30, famished evening shoppers can sustain themselves on chef Frank Belosic's three-course Holiday Tasting Menu ($42), a celebration of black-truffle gnocchi, grilled filet mignon and lobster, and a pumpkin tart with fruit sorbet. Listen up, last-minute shoppers: On Christmas Eve, there will be a four-course feast ($58) ending with bûche de Noël and eggnog crème brûlée.

It's like a lavish Victorian Christmas year-round inside the Old Arcade, where anything that wasn't moving got gilt-covered and spit-polished during the recent renovation. And when the real holidays come around, watch out: Swags, wreaths, and twinkling mini-lights will fill the soaring space with more classic charm than at ol' Fezziwig's gala. One of the most stylish spots for taking it all in is the handsome lounge at the Hyatt Regency's 1890 (420 Superior Avenue, 216-776-4576). Besides the usual martinis and drafts, a special winter collection of liqueur-laced coffees and hot chocolates, each slyly named after a Cleveland neighborhood, is more than enough reason to toast the season.