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"Ms. Okun: Are there any nice restaurants open on Christmas Day in Western New York? My husband and I were the ones who entertained for every holiday, but now all our family is gone, and we are considering dining out. Based on the recommendations you made for Thanksgiving dining, I found out the hard way that it is crucial to make reservations very early. Thank you for any assistance you can provide."

-- Lancaster Resident

"Greetings. Please suggest a restaurant that will serve Christmas morning breakfast/early luncheon. My family will attend Christmas morning church services downtown. I am serving dinner for 14 later in the day and because of this, my family does not want me to cook breakfast. Tough inquiry, I know. Thank you very much."

-- Lynn

Ho ho ho. Yes, the holidays are coming; people will be hungry, but there are alternatives to a family meal at home.

Since you will be downtown at church anyway, you can stop in at the Atrium in the Hyatt Regency, 2 Fountain Plaza, serving from 6 to 10 a.m. This will not be the usual elaborate buffet, but you can get an abbreviated menu featuring the likes of eggs or pancakes. The surroundings will look pretty and Christmas-y, and the meal will give you the strength to feed the hordes to come.

A good way to stoke up for Christmas is to visit ethnic restaurants. The Nosh Cafe, 7900 Transit Road, Amherst, is an example of what we mean. It is a Jewish deli, and it will be open from noon to 8 p.m. You can order anything off the menu. Like what? Like hearty soups, bagels with lox, eggs any style (with salami is terrific) and maybe later in the day, hot and cold sandwiches or burgers, too.

Dim sum makes a terrific breakfast. Actually, in China it often is breakfast. Visit Peking Garden, 3666 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas and enjoy the likes of Siu Mai, Shrimp Balls and Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves.

It really is sort of a restaurant cliche, but just about every Asian restaurant is open on Christmas Day for lunch and dinner. Some suggestions (there are many more):

* Tao Sushi and Grill, 3200 Orchard Park Road, Orchard Park. You can even sit at a hibachi table here.

* The Golden Duck, 1840 Maple Road, Amherst, open from 4 to 9:30 p.m. You will see several Chinese/American families here enjoying the excellent food, banquet-style.

A more elaborate dinner? The Buffalo Chophouse, 282 Franklin St., will be open from 2 to 8 p.m., and I am talking major lavish, in terms of both decor and menu. Steak, steak and steak, of course, but also fine seafood and poultry.

Oliver's, 2095 Delaware Ave., is traditionally open on Christmas Day and will be serving its usual excellent food from 1 to 8 p.m., with five or six entrees -- popular standards and contemporary -- to choose from and very festive ambience. With all these suggestions, it is best to reserve.

Longtime Buffalo News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun answers your dining questions and responds to your comments through this column. Email her at janiceokun@aol.com.