(WTNH) — The cold months are rolling in, and in the past, that would mean it was time to ditch outdoor dining.

But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, dining options have changed. When eating indoors became too much of a hazard, restaurants adapted. No longer are patio lunches exclusively for the summer season.

According to Yelp, nearly 18,000 restaurants in the U.S. have expanded their horizons to include outdoor dining options since the pandemic. Here in Connecticut is no different, residents love the outdoor scene.

And yes, even in the winter! There’s no shortage of unique ways to dine outdoors as the cold weather settles in for the season.

Creative Winter Dining Options in Connecticut:

Covered & Heated Patios

Stay warm and safe under the rooftop and cozy heater that most restaurants are adding to their outdoor venues! If you’re craving a nice meal on a patio or just want to be in the fresh air, sit outside next to a heated lamp at one of the dozens of Connecticut restaurants. Or, bring a blanket from home to keep yourself warm!

Check out these hot spots if you need some inspiration:

  • Oak & Almond in Norwalk
    • Hand-crafted cuisine with a beautiful outdoor patio
  • J Restaurant & Bar in Hartford
    • Has a beautiful covered patio and heated, roofless tents
  • Rebel Dog in Plainville
    • Constructed a steel-supported roof frame with eight heat lamps!
People sit in an outdoor dining area on Market Street amid the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Heated Tents

Private and warm, a heated tent is a perfect option for outdoor seating! Lots of restaurants with extra green space have added personal tents to their outdoor seating, complete with heating lamps inside! They can usually accommodate anywhere between two people and a whole party, just call ahead to find out!

Some fun local options include:

  • The Oyster Club in Mystic
    • Sit back and relax in their heated outdoor tents with fresh sea-to-table dishes
  • The OG Social Club in Old Greenwich
    • Heated tents, a patio, and heaters complement the American fare dining
  • Restorante Luce in Middletown
    • Italian cuisine under Christmas-string lights and a heated tent to boot
Colder temperatures are providing a new challenge for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, but there’s a solution being developed in Fulton Market. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


Igloos!? Don’t those snowy homes only exist in the arctic?

Nope! They’re the latest spin on a heated tent and make for a unique winter dining experience. You can sit in your igloo (which is oftentimes made of clear material for people watching), warm up, and pig out!

Check out these CT spots for the igloo experience:

Plastic igloos, used for outdoor dining, line a street in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Heated Rooftops

While the heated patio is a game changer, the heated rooftop is easily an upgrade. Look out at the city lights from a warm, lit balcony with your favorite foods and drinks.

One amazing rooftop restaurant in Connecticut is the Cava Restaurant in Southington. The lavish decor and atmosphere of the rooftop bar are unique, especially around the holidays. It’s got old-world charm and fine-dining cuisine that will rock the winter weather.

Photo shot of rooftop restaurant with the night view

Fire Pits & Fire Places

Usually, when we think of fire pits we think of fall weather, but this winter they’ll be the coolest places to dine. What better way to warm up than beside a blazing fire pit with your favorite meal?

At Aquila’s Nest Vineyards in Newtown, they’re taking the fire pit to a whole new level. Their warm fireplaces will be the perfect wintery backdrop to wine, charcuteries, cheese, and crudités boxes.

Plus, calling all Harry Potter fans! You can reserve the “Forbidden Fireplaces” section, which is themed after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sip your wine and fine dine surrounded by the flags of your favorite Hogwarts Houses!

Perfect place for luxury time spending. Calm room in the restaurant with a table full of champagne glasses and a beautiful fireplace.