Looking for a winter escape? Try these exceptional al fresco set-ups from Denver to Aspen, Telluride and beyond.
Leave it to an industry at its lowest point to come up with some tip-top solutions in order to stay afloat this season. From Denver to Grand Junction and every mountain town in between, restaurants are filling their parking lots, sidewalks and some streets with all manner of personal dining nooks. There are greenhouses and tents, but also gazebos, yurts, gondola cars, even fully designed chalets for your dining enjoyment.
So far, around 130 restaurants across Colorado have received grant money from the Winter Outdoor Dining Fund, which has raised over $1.8 million to date, including $500,000 donations by Xcel Energy and DoorDash. While the list we’ve provided here is by no means exhaustive, it should get you started on your outdoor winter dining adventure. Next, be on the lookout for RoxBox custom shipping containers and Colorado Parklets around your town.
School House Kitchen in Olde Town Arvada offers a handful of winter outdoor dining scenarios — fireside patio picnic tables, single-party clear plastic domes and a converted and heated school bus parked out front. You can also order snacks and drinks outdoors at the curbside bar. schoolhousearvada.com
The French Alpine Bistro has built its own ski chalet for the winter season — a log cabin with private seating for groups of up to eight and plenty of ventilation, not to mention candlelight and cozy throws. frenchalpinebistro.com
Local Coffee‘s outdoor dining nooks remain open-air but feel entirely closed-off from the world. With plexiglass walls and a roof overhead, they’re also somewhat weather-proof. localcoffeeaspen.com
Black Cat Farm’s cabanas are a true escape from the city. Located throughout the property, they’re outfitted with stoves and provide views of silos and rolling, if snow-covered, fields. blackcatboulder.com
Frasca Food and Wine has partnered with American Express to bring cardholders (only) a very special — and very spendy — holiday meal. For $170+ per guest, you’ll get a multicourse meal inside the Northern Italian restaurant’s yurt village. frascafoodandwine.com
Aurum Food & Wine brings a slightly more affordable yurt experience to the mountain towns of Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs. You’ll pay $75 or $115 per person for multi-course meals in plush winter accommodations. aurumbreckenridge.com
Annette‘s private dining yurt at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora doesn’t come with a tasting menu, making it more affordable than some of the others (though there is a $50 minimum per person when you dine inside). See also individual patio greenhouses onsite. annettescratchtotable.com
Beckon has created an outdoor winter escape with a heated and covered patio, fire pits and greenhouses scattered around the bungalows for an elevated at-home effect. beckon-denver.com
Linger‘s rooftop bubbles provide safe outdoor dining with a side of Denver views. You’ll dine underneath the historic Olinger Mortuaries sign (and also the stars). lingerdenver.com
My Brother’s Bar is usually a dimly lit drinking spot for longtime regulars, families and dates alike. But not during the pandemic. Go now for a back patio full of trendy plastic domes. Stay for the burgers and beer. mybrothersbar.com
Tavernetta just debuted its Union Station “sotto le stelle” (under the stars) winter dining. For $125 per person, you’ll get a four-course Northern Italian meal. tavernettadenver.com
The Family Jones Spirit House has set up a row of enclosed gazebos underneath holiday lights and alongside picnic benches and heaters. It’s a fine setting to enjoy house-distilled spirits paired with small plates. (Tip: Pick up a bottle to gift while you’re there.) thefamilyjones.co
The Wolf’s Tailor has erected glamping tents as well as greenhouses in its Sunnyside backyard. Tents are outfitted with fireplaces and cost $125 per person for a Japanese-style tasting menu. Greenhouses are priced at $90 per person for the meal. thewolfstailor.com
The Regional has taken its homestyle cooking outdoors with a patio-turned-campsite, complete with one private dining trailer and more fireside seating by lamplight. theregionalfood.com
Bin 707 Foodbar‘s greenhouse village makes for a festive dinner stop on the Western Slope. The restaurant has also taken over a vaulted foyer in this downtown Grand Junction bank building to create a more spacious dining room indoors. bin707.com
Spice Trade Brewing offers an open-air tent as well as individual snowglobes outside, so small groups can stay for an afternoon with a flight of beers and international street food. spicetradebrewing.com
Acreage has designated “The Back Forty” on its sprawling hilltop property for over 35 private “campsites.” Diners and drinkers will find picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, but they can also bring their own blankets and pop-up tents to get more comfortable. House ciders and food are ordered from scattered QR codes. acreageco.com
The Lake House Kitchen & Tavern backs up to Johnson Reservoir. From the restaurant’s deck, you can literally look out over a frozen lake while dining inside an ice fishing or hunting tent. Walleye sandwich or campfire sausages, anyone? lakehousekt.com
Miracle on Main Street is only temporary in downtown Louisville, but it’s worth a stopover this season if you’re in need of some Christmas cheer. Santa’s village is filled with greenhouses and stocked with alcoholic drinks, charcuterie plates and more. miraclecocktails.com
Pêche is one of the state’s most exciting openings of 2020, and lucky for diners heading to Palisade this winter, the restaurant is prepared with patio clubhouses available by reservation. If you go, you’ll find yourself in one of four themed dining tents: the cabin, the city, the Moroccan room and the study. pecherestaurant.squarespace.com
Sauce on the Blue‘s adorable yurt village features four private dining structures that can each fit up to six diners. They’re decorated with found objects and recall a family cabin filled with home-cooked red sauce Italian. sauceontheblue.com
Snowmass Village is equipped with heaters and plexiglass wind barriers around its various outdoor dining patios. And at the Viceroy, skiers can pick up gourmet bagged lunches from the outdoor Nest bar and lounge in the tented pool area for wintertime drinking and dipping. gosnowmass.com; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/snowmass
Mountain Tap Brewery got a hold of three gondola cars, formerly of Killington, Vt., and transformed them into private dining booths complete with Bluetooth speakers, so you can connect and play music from your phone. mountaintapbrewery.com
Mountain Village will soon have a total of 20 gondola cars spread out among three plazas in the pedestrian center above Telluride. These public dining cabins are first-come first-served, with QR codes to access menus to the surrounding local restaurants.
“The best part? They’re going to outlive COVID,” said Kathrine Warren, public information officer for Mountain Village. So even when the pandemic is over, these red, yellow and blue “cabins” will remain as permanent, public respites from the winter weather. townofmountainvillage.com