Enjoy a meal or drinks in a cozy outdoor dining globe

Heat lamps, fire pits and plastic domes are expanding options for outdoor dining this winter.
people cheersing with wine in a dome
Photo by Kristi Schalow Photography

If you had asked me last February if I would like to dine outdoors during the snowy peak of a Wisconsin winter, I would have responded with, “But, why?” With increasing restrictions on the number of people allowed to eat indoors due to COVID-19, outdoor dining has blossomed. Heat lamps, fire pits and plastic domes are expanding options for outdoor dining this winter. Wrap yourself in a cozy sweater, blanket, jacket or all three for an intimate date night, or gather your quarantine crew for a night out on the patio.

Brix Cider

brix cider family in an ice shanty with domes in the back

Photo courtesy of Brix Cider

Crush the winter blues with a dining dome or an ice fishing shanty rental at Brix Cider in Mount Horeb. The dome has a space heater and a wooden picnic table that seats six, and there are also space heaters in five ice fishing shanties. Deluxe shanties can fit up to four or five, while pop-up shanties create a toasty space for two. Listen to a Packers game on the included radio and settle in while enjoying a Gouda grilled cheese with pesto or a brick-oven pizza. Sip Brix’s most popular winter cider, Wisconsin Old-Fashioned, whose name is a play on our state’s favorite cocktail. “We age the apples in Wollersheim brandy barrels, then steep it in Door County cherries and bitters,” says co-owner Marie Raboin (pictured right with her two kids). “It’s delicious.” The apples are sourced from local orchards. Domers and shantiers are encouraged to spend $25 or more after paying a small rental deposit of $5. “We all have to get through this winter together,” says co-owner Matt Raboin. “Bring your squirrely family to get out of the house, get some work done or have a date night.” The dome and shanties can be booked in one hour time slots with 15 minutes set aside between each booking to ensure time to clean and air the spaces out. They also have blankets and fire pits on the patio. 119 S. Second St., Mount Horeb, 437-2749, brixcider.com

Café Zuzu
Café Zuzu has been a gathering place for Henry Vilas Zoo-goers and families since 2005. This winter, four clear, bell-shaped tents dot the patio. Each tent has its own metal table for four inside, but the tents aren’t heated, so pick a sunny day and dress warm. Order at the counter and your selections will be delivered to your patio tent. Warm up with lablabi, a traditional North African breakfast with garbanzo beans and spices, topped with an egg and served with a side of pita. To drink, ask for a Miss Molly — a hot coffee beverage with chocolate, vanilla and whipped cream. Café Zuzu also makes its own cafe baked goods including black bottom (cream cheese and chocolate) and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. This is a great space for work-from-homers craving a change of scenery. Managing partner Sabri Darsouni originally planned to keep the tents only through Christmas, but they remain open, weather permitting. 1336 Drake St., 260-9898, facebook.com/ZuZu.Cafe.in.Madison

Forage Kitchen

two plates of food on a table in a dome

Photo courtesy of Forage Kitchen

Safely nestle inside one of Forage Kitchen’s clear domes, located in the heart of Hilldale Shopping Center. The two Instagram-famous domes are each furnished with a heater, strings of lights, an area rug, a wooden dining table and chairs. “We wanted to create a fun environment,” says Forage Kitchen-Hilldale’s General Manager Clark Heine.Forage unites healthy, local foods with earthy flavors in nutrient-dense bowls and bright beverages. Cozy up to a cup of vegan chili topped with crispy tortilla chips and onion. Add a kombucha, made in Fitchburg using organic teas, tropical hibiscus flowers, ginger and pineapple.Dome food and drink packages like locavore boards and mulled wine can be ordered upon arrival. The full menu is also available. “We’re excited to provide a sense of life before COVID for people. During the cold, lonely Wisconsin wintertime, this is something people can do,” says regional manager of Forage Kitchen Bryan Gerber. Domes are sanitized and fogged between visits and will stay up at the Hilldale location until spring. 715 Hilldale Way, foragemadison.com, 819-6223

The Madison Club

Dome covered in snow

Courtesy of Madison Club

Peeking through tree branches overlooking the Monona Terrace are two skylit domes in downtown Madison. The greenery and lights attached to the roofs of these lakeside enclosures are barely visible. The mysterious patio domes belong to The Madison Club, a members-only club founded in 1909. The Madison Club has weathered the 1918 flu pandemic, World War I and World War II. When COVID-19 hit, general manager Mary Gaffney-Ward explored ways to offer a fun and safe dining experience. She was inspired by snow globes in Chicago, Minneapolis and Europe, so she brought two to Madison. The snow globe menu changes seasonally, but expect delectable and plentiful hors d’œuvres platters for six from executive chef Adam Struebing. Save room for dessert: The Milky Way package comes with Mexican hot chocolate, churros, a petite dessert tower and chocolate-pistachio-covered strawberries. Other packages are also available. Order individual cocktails or add a self-serve cocktail station to your snow globe. Two domes are available for two hours at 5 and 8 p.m. each night, with one hour reserved between sessions for cleaning. “This is the best view of the lake, even if it’s frozen,” says Sarah Lensmire, membership and marketing director. Domes are available for members and their guests. “We’d love to have a snow globe village someday,” says Lensmire. 5 E. Wilson St., 255-4861, madisonclub.org

At Nineteen09, every globe is adorably staged with a wine barrel table, lounge furniture, a potbelly electric heater and plush blankets and pillows. Nineteen09 wine bar opened in July 2019 in Cross Plains, and owners Katy and Dale Ripp renovated the 1854 building to be a gathering place for the community. Nineteen09 keeps a rotation of 16 wines on tap at a time, in addition to beer, cider, cocktails and mocktails. Try a pinot noir from California’s biodynamic Benziger Family Winery or a Wisconsin riesling from Botham Vineyards. Three globes are perfectly spaced on the patio, providing warmth, comfort and intimacy. You can bring your own food or order one of Nineteen09’s food and beverage packages. The Wisconsinite features a spread of fruits, cheese and meat garnished with sprigs of rosemary. The Family Date Day package includes cookies and hot chocolate or hot cider. Domes, along with dining and drink packages, can be reserved online in advance for two-hour time periods. Each dome seats a maximum of eight people. 1909 Main St., Cross Plains, 798-0974, nineteen09.com

Robinia Courtyard
Co-owners Jon Reske and Armando Magaña and their staff used to stare out at their frozen cityscape patio off East Washington and cry. They explored putting in a winter curling lane or ice-skating rink before executive chef Kyle Cozine shared a photo of dining domes at Café Benelux in Milwaukee. Robinia Courtyard was ahead of the dome craze, as Robinia’s domes debuted in 2019. Its seven weather-tested domes now sit amid an enclosed landscape of lights and trees. Ceramic heaters will help keep your crew warm, but bring cozy clothes with you. This year, you can enjoy family-style meals, charcuterie boards and warm, boozy drinks inside your own little igloo. Kick back with a Robinia whisky cider — a hot drink with warm spices steeped in Rishi chai tea. “We’re really trying to pivot away from six people who don’t really know each other pulling a table together,” Reske says. He strongly encourages guests to enjoy a dome with their household or inner circle. “We’re catering to that family moment more,” he says. One of seven domes can be booked with a $50 deposit for an evening. Domes are rented out once per day. Reservations and food orders can be made online. 829 E. Washington Ave., 478-0110, robiniacourtyard.com

Patio Hot Spots

Cafe Hollander
This brunch mecca in Hilldale Shopping Center has two dining domes, a large heated tent on its main-floor patio and tabletop heaters on its top-floor patio. Cafe Hollander’s parent company, Lowlands Group, celebrates all things Benelux ( a European region encompassing Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg): bikes, bier and camaraderie. Want to eat like a true Hollander? Try the Dutch American pancakes or the eggs Benedict served with hollandaise sauce and Hollander breakfast potatoes. Of course, you’ll need a Belgian beer to go with all that goodness — the High Speed Wit is a traditional Belgian-style witbier with hints of orange, lemon and cinnamon. 701 Hilldale Way, 237-3168, cafehollander.com


people eating dinner on a patio in winter clothes

Photo courtesy of Food Fight

This toasty, three-sided patio provides a respite from the elements. Eight heat lamps on a wood-clad ceiling provide warmth for five well-spaced tables. Everly is great for vegetarians and vegans, but also has comfort food classics like grilled cheese and beef brisket pot roast. To stay warm, pair your meal with a hot miel latte. 2701 Monroe St., 416-5242, everlymadison.com

This 3-year-old Middleton favorite has three fire pit tables that seat four. Pull up a patio chair, bask in the warmth of a gas fire pit and enjoy gooey cheesy deliciousness in the form of Milwaukee’s Clock Shadow Creamery cheese curds. Share with your group by building your own charcuterie board with items such as Marieke Gouda from Thorp or Rushing Waters smoked trout from Palmyra. Enjoy a long beer list, including traditional European-style beers like the House Lager from Dovetail Brewery in Chicago, exclusive to Longtable and sister restaurant Brasserie V. 7545 Hubbard Ave., 841-2337, longtablebeercafe.com

Hannah Wente builds community through her freelance and nonprofit work.