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Dockside Brewery in Milford has an “igloo village” with each structure boasting a different theme.

In the fall of 2020, COVID cases crept up again just as Connecticut restaurateurs faced the loss of outdoor dining with the coming cold and snow. With restrictions on seating capacity, and reluctance from diners uncomfortable eating indoors, restaurant owners around the state moved quickly to build creative outdoor seating options: plastic igloos, greenhouses, cabanas and other heated, ventilated spaces.

A year later, restaurants have broken out their winter structures again, with plans for holiday decor and special menus. These started as an essential need for extra seating and customers' comfort level, but now owners are looking to these outdoor spaces as desirable amenities, offering enjoyable cold-weather experiences.

Here's a look at special outdoor seating around the state. Note: reservations are required or strongly suggested.

Jealous Monk in Mystic, a restaurant and beer garden in Old Mistick Village, brought back its igloos for the winter, with an eight-guest maximum per seating (dogs are allowed!). Seatings are for 90-minute periods, with a minimum spend per meal: $50 for weekday lunch, $100 for weekend lunch, $150 each evening after 5 p.m. 27 Coogan Blvd., Building #20, 860-536-6665, @jealousmonkct

Dockside Brewing in Milford went big with its outdoor setup, creating an “igloo park” with 10 structures, each offering a different theme. Experiences include a miniature jungle, a man cave with a leather couch and a log cabin. Reservations open up to 30 days in advance, and are available for a minimum of four guests. 40 Bridgeport Ave., 203-693-3900, @docksidebrewery

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Kokomo's Restaurant & Beach Bar in Old Lyme has brought back its plastic cabanas for fall and winter dining.

It might not be traditional beach weather, but Kokomo’s Restaurant & Beach Bar in Old Lyme still offers enviable waterfront views, with plastic cabanas set up on its Plexiglass-surrounded patio. The heated structures seat a maximum of five guests apiece. There’s no charge for the cabana seating, but guests are required to dine from a special $48 three-course menu. 88 Hartford Ave., 860-390-6403, @kokomosrestaurant

 Last year, Millwright’s in Simsbury introduced greenhouse structures in its outdoor space overlooking a picturesque waterfall. They’re back again, as heated and ventilated spaces seating up to 12 people. Parties of two are seated in heated pods along the bridge stretching over the waterfall. Make reservations on OpenTable. 77 West St., 860-651-5500, @millwrightsrestaurant

The Wheel in Stamford offers a private heated igloo experience with two-hour time slot reservations available for parties of four to six guests. Special menu additions include fondue and build-your-own s’mores, along with seasonal growlers from Cisco Brewers. A $25 igloo fee per person will be added to the check. Make reservations online at OpenTable. 4 Star Point, 475-270-1300, @thevillagewheel

Enjoy tacos, fajitas and margaritas in one of Puerto Vallarta in Danbury’s heated igloos. The pop-up structures hold a minimum of four and maximum of eight guests, with a 90-minute dining limit, and reservations are required. 98 Newtown Road, 203-826-3977, @puertovallartausa

Rizzuto’s Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Westport boasts 10 structures that seat up to eight guests comfortably, says owner Bill Rizzuto. To book, choose “outdoor seating” on the restaurant’s OpenTable page. On weekends, the igloo reservations fill up about two weeks out, Rizzuto says, but there is more availability on weekdays. 540 Riverside Ave., 203-221-1002, @rizzutos_oysterbar_westport

Rizzuto’s Wood-Fired Kitchen & Bar in West Hartford, a modern Italian restaurant in Blue Back Square, features eight greenhouses seating two to six guests apiece. Diners can order from the regular menu, with no minimum spend requirements, but reservations are strongly suggested. Reserve “outdoor seating” via OpenTable. 111 Memorial Road, 860-232-5000

Heated rooftop igloos are back at Sign of the Whale in Stamford, with lounge-style seating, soft coverings and pillows. Two-hour time slot reservations are available for parties of up to eight people, and there’s a minimum $50 food and drink spend per person. 6 Harbor Point Road, 203-883-8282, @signofthewhale

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in West Hartford installed heated and ventilated greenhouses in January 2021, which seated up to six people per structure. They’ll return this winter, according to managing partner Liz Kiyak, but due to construction on the restaurant’s patio, there isn’t an official date. Once they’re up and running, diners can order from Fleming’s a la carte menu. A deposit will be taken at time of reservation. 44 S. Main St., 860-676-9463,,@flemingswesthartford

The igloo experience at Toro Loco in Farmington features a chef’s tasting menu, with a four-course culinary sampling and a margarita carafe. Cost is $60 per person. Igloos seat four to six people, but reservations are available for groups of two and three Tuesday through Thursday. 1274 Farmington Ave., 860-470-5944, @torolococt

Leeanne Griffin is the food and consumer reporter for Hearst Connecticut, handling coverage of restaurant openings and closings, trends, events and general news about Connecticut food and beverage businesses.

This article appears in the January 2022 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.