Food & Drink

Outdoor dining in winter? These hot spots make it happen with pop-up igloos, heaters and fire pits

It’s always sad when restaurants close up their decks, patios and gardens as summer ends. But if you don’t want to hibernate indoors all winter, these spots embrace the cold months with outdoor pop-up igloos, heated spaces, hot drinks and stick-to-your-ribs fare.

TAP Sports Bar at MGM Springfield

1 MGM Way, Springfield



MGM’s outdoor skating rink is back for the holiday season, but that’s not all the Springfield casino is offering for winter fun. Pop-up igloo seating is now available through March on the patio outside its popular TAP Sports Bar, featuring seating inside three plastic dome-shaped tents. You won’t freeze, though — each igloo is equipped with a heater, blankets and pillows.


Bonus: the igloos have Bluetooth speakers, so you can be your own DJ.

The igloos are available by reservation only on Fridays and Saturdays, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations are made for two-hour blocks, accommodating four to eight guests at a time, and require a $25 nonrefundable reservation fee that counts toward a minimum food and beverage spend of $100.

Cocktails ($10 to $13) include boozy hot chocolates, Irish coffees and rum-spiked cider. Large-format drinks ($100) are designed for four to six guests, like a “Ginger Beer Man” with vodka in a 108-ounce mule mug with light-up straws; a “Golden Goose” served in a goose-shaped container with Absolut Elyx vodka, rosemary-infused cranberry juice and Aperol; and the Holiday Layover, with four to six cocktails on crushed ice served in a MGM-branded suitcase.

Other packages, ranging from $150 to $300, include a choice of large-format or individual cocktails and food items, like giant pretzels, fried pickles, cheese curds, a s’mores board, wings, a dozen mini cider doughnuts or mini pumpkin muffins, and cotton candy.

Elm City Social

266 College St., New Haven


Elm City Social’s rooftop has transformed from tiki bar to ski lodge for another year, but this season comes with a bonus: igloo seating with chairs, tables, blankets and seasonal decorations, warmed by electric heaters. Three geodesic domes debuted on the roof in mid-November, and they’ve proven immediately popular, says chef-owner John Brennan.

The igloos are available by reservation ( Sunday through Thursday, for groups of eight to 10. Packages start at $250, with food and beverage options like a bucket of White Claw hard seltzers, bottles of wine and Veuve Clicquot and cheese and charcuterie platters. The seating is first come, first served Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and also on Thursdays if the igloos aren’t already reserved.


Elm City Social also offers a “ski lodge” menu in its rooftop’s vestibule for the duration of the winter, with $11 cocktails like spiked hot cocoas, a sweet tea toddy with Larceny bourbon and an evergreen vodka tonic, with fir and cucumber flavors. Food specials ($12 to $18) include chicken and waffle bites, baked Brie, poutine, roasted squash grilled cheese, a cheese and charcuterie board, and chicken fingers with hand-cut fries.

116 Crown

116 Crown St., New Haven


116 Crown’s outdoor garden is “such a nice space for us here,” says owner John Ginnetti, and while measuring the area and considering ways to make use of it in the winter, he realized it had room for a small village of pop-up igloos.

The craft cocktail bar’s garden will feature three of them throughout the cold months, with different themes: a “dining room” igloo with room for six to eight at a table, a game room that fits eight to 10 guests and a drawing room lounge-style space that can fit up to 15. The igloos are heated, and blankets are provided. Cold-weather food and drink items include clam chowder and hot buttered cider.

Ginnetti says the igloos (which must be reserved in advance at will be up through March, possibly into April, as he’d like to roll it into the regular garden season. “It’s cool; people want to embrace the cold,” he says.


High George

9 High St., New Haven


High George, the rooftop bar at The Blake Hotel, opened in late June with food and drink inspired by New England summers — raw bar, lobster rolls, fried clams and easy-drinking spritzes perfect for warm nights. With the seasonal shift, the space has been transformed into a winter garden, framed by evergreen trees, branches, pine garland and twinkling lights. Drop-down panels keep the elements out, and heaters and blankets are present to ward off any chill.

The menu is also appropriately winter-heavy, with “tasty and cozy things” ($8 to $12) like cheese and chocolate fondue; smoked corn dogs; butternut bisque and melted raclette scraped over seasoned hand-cut fries.

Drinks include a mulled wine Collins, a “free rider" with rum, amaro, spiced pumpkin puree, lemon, vanilla whip and almond crumble and “shot skis." Hot libations include spiked hot chocolate, cider and a hot toddy with choice of spirit.

Red 36

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2 Washington St., Mystic



In the summer months, Red 36 is a bustling Mystic destination, with an enviable waterfront location in the Seaport Marine and a menu full of beachy cocktails and fresh seafood. But to maximize the winter stretch, the restaurant began turning the outside bar and lounge area into a “ski chalet” three years ago, says owner Angela Kanabis, enclosing the area and adding heaters and fire pits to create a warm atmosphere.

“Apres-ski” food specials ($12 to $20) include soul-warming plates like chili, a cheese fondue board, tomato soup with truffle bacon grilled-cheese sticks and spicy BBQ pork nachos. A “Chalet 36” take on s’mores features smoked chocolate mousse, graham cracker crumble, dark chocolate fudge and vanilla marshmallow.

Hot cocktails ($10 to $12) include a hot toddy with Monkey Shoulder scotch, caramelized apple cider and allspice dram, and a Bombardino with Real McCoy rum, cognac, zabaglione and walnut nocino whipped cream.

The restaurant has partnered with Real McCoy, Adventure Mystic Sports and Stratton Mountain, encouraging customers to come dressed in apres-ski style and post pictures with the Red 36′s “ski lift” on social media, tagging the restaurant and partners. Each week, the most creative posts receive prizes from the partners, including ski passes and snowboards.

Leeanne Griffin can be reached at