The groundhog says we have (at least) six more weeks of winter, but these Connecticut restaurants are ready. COVID-19 protocols have kept indoor dining rooms at half-capacity for months, and many are still apprehensive about eating inside, but these restaurateurs have crafted creative pop-up spaces for diners to enjoy a meal outdoors despite the cold and snow.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, West Hartford
Fleming’s installed five heated and ventilated greenhouses in January, offering two nightly seatings at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and sanitizing and airing out each structure for 30 minutes in between parties. The greenhouses hold four guests comfortably (up to six “if you don’t mind being close,” managing partner Liz Kiyak said in a Facebook post.)
Diners can order from Fleming’s a la carte menu and enjoy full bar service, and food and beverage minimums apply (deposit will be taken at time of reservation.) Call 860-676-9463 to book. flemingssteakhouse.com/locations/ct/west-hartford.
Toro Loco, Farmington
At Toro Loco, the igloo experience features heaters, Bluetooth speakers and a chef’s tasting menu, including a margarita carafe and a culinary sampling of Toro Loco’s dishes. Cost is $50 per person; minimum of four guests requested. You can make reservations on OpenTable. torolococt.com.
In November, Millwright’s introduced greenhouse structures in its outdoor space overlooking a picturesque waterfall. The heated and ventilated spaces seat up to eight people (with only one party booked per night) with a special $75 four-course menu. Parties of two are seated in heated pods along the bridge stretching over the waterfall. Details and bookings at millwrightsrestaurant.com.
Puerto Vallarta, Danbury
Enjoy tacos, fajitas and margaritas in one of Puerto Vallarta’s six heated igloos. The pop-up structures hold a minimum of four and maximum of eight guests, and they’re fully sanitized between parties. Reservations are required, and they’re booking up one to three weeks in advance, according to a Q&A on the restaurant’s website. Details: puertovallartausa.com/danbury.
Sign of the Whale, Stamford
Reservations for Sign of the Whale’s heated rooftop igloos have been going fast. Parties of four to eight guests are recommended, with spend minimums per hour depending on the time and day of the reservation. signofthewhalect.com.
Dockside Brewing, Milford
Dockside went big with its outdoor setup, creating an “igloo park” with 10 structures, each offering a different theme. Experiences include a “shipwrecked” pirate motif, a miniature jungle, a man cave with a leather couch, a spaceship, an enchanted forest, an ice castle and a nightclub design, with disco ball. Igloos seat up to eight people, depending on the structure, and are available for reservations at noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. A $150 minimum spend is required for each igloo. Details and bookings: docksidebrewery.com.
Fire pits and heaters warm the semi-open individual cabanas set up in Rizzuto’s parking lot, and guests love it, even on the coldest days of the year so far, said owner Bill Rizzuto. The restaurant completes the experience with fun music, hearty winter dishes and spiked hot chocolates.
“We’re trying to make it fun for people,” he said. “We tell people dress warmly, pretend you’re going to a tailgate at a November football game.” rizzutos.com/locations/westport.
Kokomo’s Restaurant & Beach Bar, Old Lyme
It might not be traditional beach weather, but Kokomo’s still offers enviable waterfront views, with six plastic cabanas set up on its Plexiglass-surrounded patio. The ventilated, heated structures seat a maximum of five guests apiece, with reservations highly recommended. kokomosrestaurant.com.
Jealous Monk, Mystic
The Olde Mistick Village restaurant and beer garden installed four heated plastic igloos as temperatures dropped, and reservations began filling up immediately. Each igloo seats up to eight people (with a minimum of four guests) and they’re only available for a few time slots per day, to be cleaned and aired out between parties. Reservations must be booked ahead at jealous-monk.com.