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When the last of the pandemic dining restrictions were officially lifted in Colorado last spring, things were looking up. Many of us thought we’d be able to dine inside our favorite restaurants this winter without worrying about catching a deadly disease. Then came the Delta variant. Now Omicron. And here we are again, masked and back to feeling safer outside. Luckily, for those comfortable eating out, there are some great options for, well, eating out—literally. From heated green houses to yurts to globes to even gondolas-turned-private-dining-pods, here are our favorite al fresco winter options.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list and was last updated on January 19, 2022. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at email@example.com.
Ace Eat Serve (Uptown)
Chef Thach Tran’s tiger wings and ramen will warm you better than the finest Patagonia puffer, but so will Ace Eat Serve’s heated covered patio and fire pits. Put it all together and you’ve got one of the best outdoor dining options in town. Ping pong, optional. 501 E. 17th Ave., 303-800-7705
American Elm (West Highland)
Turn your heated abode at American Elm into your own private karaoke or dance club—each of its six greenhouses comes equipped with a Bluetooth speaker. Play your own favorites or check out American Elm’s taste in music with their recommended playlist. Or nibble on a French dip and seared scallops while listening to nothing but the sound of your dining companion’s conversation (there’s no wrong choice). 4132 W. 38th Ave., 720-749-3186
Chef-owner Caroline Glover and her team—plus 25 helpful volunteers who lended a hand—moved quickly to erect a tiny village of polycarbonate greenhouses on the extended patio outside Annette’s restaurant at Stanley Marketplace in 2020, and they’re back in action this winter. Cozy up in any weather inside your two- to four-person party’s private structure, made snug with area rugs, space heaters, and wool blankets—plus thermoses of hot toddies and one of the best burgers in the metro area. Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Ste. 108, 720-710-9975
Bar Dough (Highland)
You might mistakenly think that if you’ve dined in one greenhouse, you’ve dined in them all. Not so at Bar Dough, which has taken over the large parking lot adjacent to its West 32nd Avenue restaurant and transformed it into a greenhouse hamlet, where each structure is lined with string lights and oscillating heaters to keep the insides toasty, no matter what Colorado’s weather is up to. 2227 W. 32nd Ave., 720-668-8506
Barolo Grill (Cherry Creek)
Ryan Fletter, owner of upscale Italian Barolo Grill, worked with the mechanical engineers at Denver’s Black Eagle Engineering to create customized dining pods for weatherproof dining via built-in heating and ventilation systems. Reserve one of Barolo’s 15 cozy pods now for a four-course taste of its refined Italian fare—and a glimpse into the future of al fresco dining in Denver. 3030 E. 6th Ave., 303-393-1040
Pizzeria Locale (Boulder)
A bonus to being the casual sister restaurant to the fancy Frasca Food and Wine? Pizzeria Locale Boulder uses Frasca’s luxe alpenglobes when the fine dining mecca is closed. (Translation: book for Sunday or Monday nights, or weekend lunch.) While the pizza spot is currently closed for a refresh, the alpenglobes will be back in action February 10. 1730 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-3003
The Red Barber (RiNo)
If it’s all about those views—and of course it’s all about those views—then the Red Barber’s crystal-clear tent perched atop the Catbird Hotel is where you want to be. The sourdough grilled cheese and seasonal punches go down a little too easily. But try to slow down to enjoy the skyline and mountain vistas. Bonus: The fire pits make frozé a year-round option. 3770 Walnut St., 720-707-4040
Stoic & Genuine (Union Station)
Union Station offers some of the best people-watching in the city, so consider that bonus entertainment when you dine inside Stoic & Genuine’s heated, windowed tent pitched right outside. While all of chef Jennifer Jasinski’s restaurants (Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Ultreia) are open for outdoor dining, this is the only one where you can feast on lobster salad deviled eggs al fresco, and why wouldn’t you want to feast on lobster salad deviled eggs al fresco? 1701 Wynkoop St., 303-640-3474
Tables (Park Hill)
Since its opening in 2005 as a chef-driven sandwich shop, co-owners and husband-and-wife-team Amy Vitale and Dustin Barrett have made their Park Hill restaurant a gathering space for the neighborhood, serving comforting-yet-elevated New American fare. Back again this winter are Tables’ 10 heated greenhouses and large patio tent, complete with music and lights, for al fresco dining that includes the likes of its signature crispy sweetbreads, a killer cheeseburger, and black walnut Manhattans. 2267 Kearney St., 303-388-0299
Tavernetta (Union Station)
Tavernetta’s alpenglobes, two of which are perched right on 16th Street, just might be the most magical seat in the—errr, out of the—house. Reservations for these elegant, real-life snowglobes span three-hours—plenty of time for you to linger over the plates of creamy burrata, lobster tagliatelle with Calabrian chiles, and glasses of Barbaresco you’ll be enjoying. (Alpenglobes require a $300 minimum purchase.) 1889 16th St., 720-605-1889
The Wolf’s Tailor (Sunnyside)
Award-winning chef-owner Kelly Whitaker is known for delivering more than just a meal when you dine at his experimental restaurant in Sunnyside. This winter, the ultimate Wolf’s encounter is one enjoyed by candlelight, basking in the warmth of a fireplace inside a private canvas tent on the restaurant’s garden patio. There, you’ll sup on a four-course donabe (Japanese clay pot) tasting menu; previous menus have included chestnut-ricotta ravioli made from White Sonoran heirloom flour, donabe-braised wagyu brisket, and a rye potato doughnut stuffed with yuzu curd. 4058 Tejon St., 720-456-6705
Bonus: Mountain Town Options
Aurum Food and Wine (Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge)
Where else but the mountains of Colorado can you mix glamping and dinner in the time of COVID-19? That’s the idea behind the luxe yurts you didn’t know you were missing at Aurum Food and Wine in Steamboat and Breck. The canvas-and-wood palaces allow up to eight people (who can pay the $500 food-and-beverage minimum) to wine and dine surrounded by charming mountain decor such as furs, pine boughs, and vintage skis. 209 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge, 970-771-3943; 811 Yampa St., Steamboat Springs, 970-879-9500
Town of Mountain Village (Mountain Village, near Telluride)
One of the most creative outdoor dining opportunities right now is located in the Town of Mountain Village’s Heritage Plaza. Twenty-five first-come, first-served refurbished gondola car dining pods are scattered across the village center, where you can bring your own takeout from any local restaurant you choose. (Close options include Crazy Elk Pizza, Black Iron Kitchen and Bar, and Tomboy Tavern.) There are also 20-foot yurts and other al fresco seating options available—but eating dinner in a heated and well-lit stationary gondola definitely takes the Instagram gold.