Food

The Most Charming Outdoor Bar and Restaurant Setups Around DC This Winter

Fire pits, mini-lodges, and winter wonderscapes.

Hook Hall's Viking Village. Photography by Fredde Lieberman
Winter Fun

About Winter Fun

This article is a part of Washingtonian’s feature: Winter Fun Indoors & Out. Our editors and staff pulled together the best things to do this winter, including snowball fights, cozy places to get a drink, ice skating, and more.

This winter already feels long, which is why we’ve been craving a hot drink by an ever hotter fire. These bars and restaurants around DC have gone beyond the usual patio heaters with cozy outdoor setups filled with al fresco fireplaces, string-lit structures, and private mini lodges, greenhouses, and igloos.

Obviously the more enclosed a structure is, the less truly outdoors it becomes. Don’t forget your mask, pay attention to local mandates on group limits, and if you’re in a private, enclosed space, stick to your household or pod (and consider checking with the restaurant on their safety and service policies). Some businesses, such as HalfSmoke in Shaw, welcome a discussion between servers and patrons about their interaction comfort levels, and food/drink can be exchanged outside the igloos.

Viking Village at Hook Hall
3400 Georgia Ave., NW
Roaring fires, smoked turkey legs, mulled wine, and mead are all part of the atmospheric viking setup at Park View bar and beer garden Hook Hall. Patrons can book seats around open-air fire pits ($15) or themed huts for up to six (starting at $125 ) that come with a bottle of Champagne, heaters, and optional food and drink packages filled with items like warm Bavarian pretzels and Scandinavian beers.

Chimineas on the front patio at Lulu’s Wine Garden. Photograph courtesy of Lulu’s.

Lulu’s Wine Garden chimineas
1940 11th St., NW
The indoor/outdoor setup at Lulu’s (formerly Vinoteca) has always been warm thanks to the desert-inspired Southwest touches. A semi-sheltered streatery is protected by an airy wooden structure hung with plants and basket lamps, while wood-burning chimineas keep things toasty on the front and back patios. There’s also a “warm up” menu—all contact free QR code service—with hot thermos cocktails, cheesy chicken tortilla soup, and blankets available for purchase. You can even adjust your table’s heater on your phone.

Tabletop bonfires and s’mores with homemade marshmallows at Glover Park Grill. Photograph courtesy of Glover Park Grill.

Winter wonderland at Glover Park Grill
2505 Wisconsin Ave., NW
The newest restaurant concept from the Schlow Group (Tico, Alta Strada) is getting in the winter spirit with a weekly Sunday pop-up from noon to 9 PM (starting January 17). Patrons and families can head to the outdoor heated terrace where they’ll find individual “bonfires” (i.e. large tabletop vessels from Rockville’s City Bonfires) for roasting s’mores with pastry chef Alex Levin’s homemade marshmallows. There’re also “Après Ski Towers” loaded with pigs in blankets and mini sandwiches, plus cocoa (spiked and non). Tickets ($25 to $45) are available here.

Fried chicken at Dacha Navy Yard’s winter beer garden. Photograph courtesy of Dacha Navy Yard.

Dacha Winter Lodge
79 Potomac Ave., SE
Dacha beer garden has always toughed it out through winter with the help of heaters and hot cocktails. But things are getting extra cozy this year at the Navy Yard location. Chef Jerome Grant, who helms adjoining bistro Jackie, designed an outdoor menu full of warming eats like Filipino-style chicken noodle soup—a nod to his grandmother and Filipino heritage—fried chicken with garlic rice, or a hefty lodge burger. If you’re still cold, try hot cider and cocoa, a fire pit seat, or fleece blankets (available for purchase).

Individual chateaus at Le Diplomate. Photograph by Danny Kim.

Chateaus n’ shacks at Le Diplomate and St. Anselm
1601 14th St., NW; 1250 5th St NE
Leave it to perfectionist-restaurateur Stephen Starr to roll out more than just a tent outside his DC restaurants. At Le Diplomate, individual “streetside chateaus” for up to four diners are heated but still open on one side for airflow. At more low-key tavern St. Anselm, a similar setup is billed as “shacks” (though these shacks aren’t too shabby). The restaurant emphasizes that all spaces are cleaned and sanitized after every use.

The sap house bar at Nina May. Photograph courtesy of Nina May.

Sap House at Nina May
1337 11th St., NW
The team at Shaw’s seasonal American restaurant is channeling winter cabins in Vermont and Canada for its frosty pop-up. A lodge-like winter outdoor bar serves drinks like mulled wine and maple old-fashioneds, while a sap house menu boasts dishes like soups and a duck confit tart for lunch, or rosemary-roasted bone marrow come Sunday supper. There’s seating outside on patios and a streatery with heaters and tent coverage.

Waterfront igloos at Del Mar, Fiola Mare
791 Wharf St., SW; 3100 K St NW
Are faux igloos a little ridic? Yes. Does it seem overly indulgent to rent a plastic orb for $150? Probably. That being said, we wouldn’t complain if someone in our pod reserved one of these tricked out snow globes at Fabio Trabocchi’s seafood-centric restaurants in Georgetown or at the Wharf—and then treated us to a shellfish plateau. (Note: rental fees vary by time, and there’s a six person limit.) 

The firepit at Lena’s. Photograph courtesy of Lena’s.

The Loft at Lena’s – Winter Lodge
401 E Braddock Rd., Alexandria
The Yates family went above and beyond when reimagining the outdoor space at Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap during the pandemic. The huge indoor/outdoor venue is channeling vintage Aspen for winter with a big outdoor fire pit and an indoor loft that boasts an après ski lodge vibe. In addition to the usual pizzas and Italian fare, look for seasonal dishes and drinks like lobster carbonara and mulled wine. 

Cabanas at Wunder Garten. Photograph courtesy of Wunder Garten.

Wunder Garten Alpine Cabanas
1101 First St., NE
NoMa’s huge outdoor beer garden wrapped up its Winterfest celebration, but there are still plenty of spiked hot drinks and fire pits to go around. Patrons can also reserve Alpine-style cabanas that are woodsy yet open air, and equipped with heaters and/or fire tables to keep things warm (prices vary by day and time).

Winter lodges at Bresca for two. Photograph courtesy of Bresca.

Winter lodges at Bresca
1906 14th St., NW
As part of its reopening for dining, Michelin-starred Bresca set up cute “lodges” on 14th Street that seat two. Diners a deux can go a la carte, opt for a four-course $75 prix-fixe dinner, or splurge on a European-style Sunday lunch filled with decadences—think canapes, caviar, Champagne, and suckling pig ($65 per person). The structures are decked out with heaters, blankets, and speakers for playing your own mood music. Reservations require a $20 per person deposit but there’s no additional charge. 

Winter wonderland at HalfSmoke. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Winter Wonderland at HalfSmoke
651 Florida Ave., NW
Owner Andre McCain recently debuted a big “winter wonderland” pop-up outside  his Shaw restaurant with socially distanced seating for 100 guests. The patio is set with 12 heated and ventilated igloos for two-to-six that can be reserved, breakfast through dinner, as well as open-air picnic tables.

The garden outside Ambar Clarendon with individual glass houses. Photograph courtesy of Ambar.

Winter garden at Ambar Clarendon
2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Restaurateur Ivan Iricanin built an all-season outdoor structure around his Balkan restaurant in Clarendon designed to keep diners warm in winter and cool in summer. Diners can book little glass houses in the garden (which will be more garden-y come spring) for the restaurant’s signature all-you-can-eat Balkan feasts at dinner and brunch (look for 25-cent, almost-bottomless drinks for the latter). The restaurant also recently debuted shareable street-style sandwiches.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.