The days are shorter, the temperatures are colder, so of course, we’re newly in need of some apres-WFH comfort and cheer. While getting out for a winter vacation might be a bit more difficult in 2020 than in years past, you may be able to escape the drudgery of the city without ever leaving D.C. Some of our favorite restaurants are braving the cold winter months by offering creative new spins not only on their menus, but on their physical spaces as well, transforming patios into firepits, dining rooms into ski chalets, and large outdoor spaces into a modern take on Valhalla.
Here are some of our favorite places to hang out this winter — don’t forget to check back often as new options are listed.
Whether you’re checking out the Ivy City or the Navy Yard outposts of one of D.C.’s original breweries, you’ll be able to do so in a warm(er) outdoor environment thanks to the addition of firepits and electric heaters.
The original Ivy City location has outfitted its patio with not only firepits, but couches as well so that you can get warm in all the ways. And to ensure that you’ve enough to eat, the brewery is also offering a range of special food popups throughout the week, including Buttercream & Burrata on Sunday, December 6, and Sexy Bird every Saturday in December. In the coming weeks, the Half Street location is planning on adding electric heaters to its lineup of outdoor picnic tables, so you can enjoy your pizza and beer without freezing your tail off.
You’ll never be too old for a treehouse, and no one knows this better than El Techo, the Shaw hot spot that has updated its all-weather roof with an impressive HVAC heating system that should be able to withstand the boldest elements this winter.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the rooftop magical, with hanging lights made all the brighter with geometric mirrors, burning candles, and plenty of greenery. And to ensure that diners are kept safe even in the out of doors, the restaurant has installed both a MERV-13 air filtration and UV lighting systems. And because the rooftop is retractable, this is a true all-weather space.
Also helping to keep you warm is a new menu of seasonally appropriate cocktails, including a Jalisco Old Fashioned with Mexican bitters, chipotle syrup, and tesoro mio tequila; Hot Coco, featuring homemade chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, all spice whipped cream, and spiked with either tequila or rum; and finally, Infusion Tea, a black tea cocktail flavored with lavender, apple, cinnamon, lemongrass, and honey, and spiked with rum.
Hot Coco at El Techo // Photo Credit Violetta Markelou
D.C. doesn’t have all that many Swiss restaurants (and neither, for that matter, does the United States at large), but this cozy H street hideaway is turning its restaurant into a series of private ski chalets that replace the more traditional (read: boring) tables.
Reopening for the first time since mid-March, Stable has set up five individual ski chalets in the back of the restaurant – each with their own walls and vented roof overhangs – to create appropriate social distance as well as some privacy between guests. The front will remain the base of Stable’s carry out operation and to-go market, offering bread and pastries baked fresh daily as well as Swiss wine (which yes, you should try).
Stable owners Silvan Kraemer and David Fritsche have kept busy with their temporary fondue pop up, Little Stable, but are now returning to their more established restaurant.
“Our outdoor fondue pop up was a hit, but with temperatures dropping, there was no guarantee how long Little Stable would remain viable. Given that, we came to the realization that we had to open Stable for indoor dining in order to survive the winter, but we wanted to do it in a way that went above and beyond the COVID guidelines by providing additional separation between guests”, says Silvan Kraemer, co-owner and beverage director at Stable. “We naturally thought of ski chalets as they evoke Switzerland in the winter and provide an escape from reality that I think we could all use. The only question was how to bring them inside the restaurant.”
And of course, the answer lay in Instagram. The team collaborated with aritsan Jake Charrow, who has constructed five individual chalets in two sizes — one for six guests, and one with four guests. Inside the chalets, guests will be able to enjoy Stable’s full menu of Swiss classics — don’t miss the fondue or the raclette (because there’s truly nothing better than having melted cheese scooped atop your every bite) — as well as cocktails and other beverages.
For those opting not to dine indoors, Stable has added outdoor seating outfitted with heaters and wool blankets with capacity for 20 guests on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. Chalets require reservations via Resy and 12-hours advance notice for cancellation, but it seems unlikely that guests will miss out on this unique opportunity to experience Switzerland from DC.
Stable is located at 1324 H Street NE
Fight Club, the delightfully creative new restaurant proving that gourmet sandwiches can indeed be worth an entirely standalone concept, is outfitting its outside-only space with fire pits available to reserve for private parties of four to six. In addition to its signature sandwiches (as well as a range of delectable appetizers), the fire pit is offering hot honeycrisp cider with maple foam, mulled wine, and yes, s’mores.
To make things even more comfortable, Fight Club is providing guests with blankets, and of course, the creative bartending team has dreamed up a brave new menu of winter-specific drinks to warm you up from the inside out, and served in vintage copper tea kettles because presentation is everything. Fire pit reservations are available at www.fightclubdc.com, and require a $50 deposit that will be applied to guests’ final bill.
Fight Club is located at 623 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Hook Hall has become a Viking village just in time for the winter months. The enormous bar and event space in ParkView has recently reopened in brave new fashion, complete with themed Viking huts, rows of firepits, and yes, a Viking-inspired menu that includes food and beverages.
While Hook Hall is generally outfitted with a series of cabanas, the next few months will instead feature sectional lounge seating, blankets, and lots of open flame. Themed huts include a welcome bottle of champagne, heaters, and the option of keeping the doors open or closed for more (or less) privacy. All huts are weather-proof, keeping the elements (and the Vikings) outside.
For a particularly distinctive experience, guests can opt for a “Viking experience” for up to six with the aptly named Feast of Valhalla. For $60 a person, the menu starts with a winter salad, moves into a two-pound Bavarian hot pretzel, reaches its apex with a shield (or tray) of assorted meats, and conludes oh so sweetly with a massive cookie. The drink pairing, at an additional $30 a pop, features mead, Viking beer, dark Scandinavian beer, and finishes off with so-called Thor’s Hammered hot cider.
If a private hut isn’t for you, other options include firepit seating — reservations last 2.5 hours and cost $15, and come with blanketed benches and a personal firepit. The team is also offering weekend brunch with specialties like Ragnar’s fried chicken and biscuits and Scandinavian smoked salmon flatbread. And it wouldn’t be Thor-like unless there were bottomless drinks offered as well — those options include mimosas, bloody Mary’s and Hook Hall lager.
Hook Hall is located at 3400 Georgia Avenue NW
Featured image via Fight Club