This was a tough one because my criteria seemed to eliminate most of the possibilities. First, each of the ten on the list had to be a Chinese restaurant or mostly a Chinese restaurant, and second, it had to be open Christmas Day. That left out popular choices like Cafe Zen, Green Leaf, and so on.
Then, too, as I've said before on this blog, I'm not a wild fan of Baltimore's Chinese restaurants. I feel as if they pander to American tastes too often. That makes picking a top ten all that much harder.
I put a little more emphasis on atmosphere than I would normally because it is a holiday meal after all, even if you're there because you're not celebrating the holiday.
I have the feeling I'm leaving out a restaurant that should be included, but I can't think what it could be. If you have a suggestion, please post below. And remember, it shouldn't be pan-Asian (or closed Christmas Day).
Here's my list:
*Bamboo House, 26 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville, 410-666-9550. Its glory days are a bit past -- it once had a branch in Harborplace -- but it is dependable. On Christmas Day you're justified in having lobster -- pick your own out of the tank. The Bamboo House is Joey Chiu's sister restaurant.
*Hunan Manor, 7091 Deepage Dr., Columbia, 410-381-1134. This is Howard County's favorite Chinese restaurant; and not only that, USA Today anointed it "one of the 10 greatest places to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the nation" a few years back. The menu, LIVE reviewer Karen Nitkin says, lists over 800 dishes.
*Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, 10215 Wincopin Circle, Columbia, 410-964-9193. This branch of a popular local group of restaurants is the one that's most purely Chinese. On Christmas Day, as usual, it will be serving dim sum at lunch and the regular menu all day.
*Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn gets my vote more for the setting and service than the food, which is, let's admit it, very geared to American tastes. You can get a steak and a rack of lamb here as well as Chinese food. In fact, maybe I should have included it in non-Chinese restaurants open Christmas Day.
*Jumbo Seafood, 48 E. Sudbrook Lane, Pikesville, 410-602-1441. It's been awhile since I've eaten there, but I remember with pleasure the traditional Cantonese dishes, generous portions, a good choice of vegetarian dishes and seafood crystal wonton soup. BYOB.
*Olive & Sesame, 2 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, 410-494-4944. The draw here is that you can get "healthy" Chinese food; but the good thing is if you crave the fried, the sweet-and-sour sauced and the heavily sodiumed, those dishes are available too. There's another location in Pikesville.
*Orient in Towson just barely qualifies since it has Japanese food on its menu beyond sushi. But it seems to consider itself primarily a Chinese restaurant, and there is plenty of room for large parties if you want to make it an extended family affair.
*Sonny Lee's Hunan Taste in Reisterstown is the place to go if you're craving Peking duck for Christmas dinner. It's the house specialty, and as good as you'll find in the area, but there's plenty else to like at this pleasant, low-key restaurant.
*Szechuan House, 1427 York Road, Lutherville 410-825-8181. I have a soft spot in my heart for this restaurant because it was the first time I took Good Eater David out to dinner, and he ordered the red-cooked beef tendon. I knew then he was going to become Good Dining Companion David. Besides the usual suspects, there's the "Country Side Taste" part of the menu, which is much more authentic.
Bonus selection: Commenter Extraordinaire Eric either e-mailed me or posted this as a comment. I saved because it because it sounded intriguing:
Paul Kee off Georgia Ave in Silver Spring, but I guess that's too close to DC. It's as authentic a Cantonese restaurant is going to be so say my mainland Chinese friends.
(Photo by Tony Berardi/Chicago Tribune)