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Santa's Little Helper

When the work is done, canny bar elves know where to throw one back.

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Once the tree is up and the stockings stuffed, it's time to pop a cork or sip some suds. Here are some ideas:

For holiday décor that's over-the-top, Lemaire at the Jefferson Hotel is this city's classic sparkler. Can Can in Carytown is all lighted up and golden. Bistro Bobette brings cozy, subtle charm in Shockoe. And Santa kitsch rules at so many places it's difficult to count with all those twinkly lights in our eyes.

To see and be seen, get to Max's on Broad downtown, the Daily Kitchen & Bar in Carytown and its wiser, across-the-street neighbor, Secco. Try glammy Estilo in the West End, Viceroy for making noise in the Museum District, and for the food cognoscenti, savory little Magpie in Carver — among many others that share the love.

For late-night snacking, Café Verde serves up vegan tacos and cupcakes till 2:30 a.m. on weekends. Fan beauty Balliceaux puts out disco fries with beef gravy and cheddar until last call. Or for Jewish flavor, the creative team at Dinamo near Virginia Commonwealth University makes matzo ball soup, rugelach and all manner of pastries, paired with espressos and futuristic art.

Sometimes elves need to escape the caroling masses. They could grab a craft brew at the Well or Commercial Taphouse in the Fan, tequila from Tio Pablo in Shockoe Bottom, smart sustenance at Black Sheep in Carver, retro comfort at Franklin Inn in the Museum District, or the cozy bubbles of Amour in Carytown, for a tucked-away experience that's personal.

This, the elves say, is the tip of the iceberg — and at independent restaurants across the city, premium cocktail ice is ready to meet its reward.

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