Outdoor dining hamlets begin popping up around St. Louis
With indoor dining temporarily banned for many local restaurants, restaurateurs are extending the outdoor dining season. As autumn merges into winter, temporary structures of all shapes, sizes and colors appear in the local restaurant landscape.
At Sasha’s on DeMun, owner Alan Richman recently installed several igloos for two to four people as well as a number of tents for two on the terraces on the first and second floors. “Just one more way to deal with the temporary ban on eating indoors and the reluctance of some guests to eat indoors,” he says. Richman also wrapped the deck in Plexiglas to act as a windbreak, but admits that “heaters, blankets, and bubbles can only do this much when the weather gets really cold,” wondering if the extra work of cleaning it up and waiting for these actions “Lower or increase the bank account.”
In Olio, Ben Poremba is putting the finishing touches to his Winter Village, a series of mini-greenhouse structures designed for one-party restaurants. He arranged the temporary structures for two to four people to look like a scaled-down neighborhood, then sprinkled them with fire pits, fairy lights, and outdoor seating areas. “They were so well received that we added more,” says Poremba. “We now have 12, all heated with mini propane heaters, and I’m ordering a few for Nixta” to complement the four existing outdoor tables there. “You create something visual that we didn’t have before,” he says.
Piggybacking on the success of the three “backyard” tents behind The Crossing in Clayton, owner Jim Fiala ordered four 10 by 10 footers for the terrace at his sister restaurant Acero in Maplewood. They are the perfect size for four to six guests. “The customers love them,” he says, “but is surprised that the weather is not yet a deterrent. We had people in all three tents at The Crossing last night. It was cold outside, but it’s not halfway in the tents so bad.” ”General Manager Adam Gnau adds that three more tents will be set up on Acero’s adjacent lawn. “We have Schlafly [Bottleworks] thank you for it, “he says.” It’s your place. ”
The last time we checked in at Café Napoli in Clayton, the only igloo was busy every evening and could accommodate six to ten “guests in the bubble with people in the bubble,” said co-owner Kye Pietoso. When no additional smaller igloos were available, he ordered four tents for four to eight people. “Between the 20-foot decked-out tree, fairy lights, fire pits, and tents, it’s as inviting as possible, given the weather and indoor seating restrictions,” he says.
“This week we’re preheating the tents to ward off the cold,” says Pietoso. “And we’re ready to add another mini propane heater to anyone if needed.” To cover the increased costs, Napoli is asking for a minimum of USD 300 per table for reserved seating (no minimum for walk-ins), which is “easy to get to for groups of four or more, but a bit more difficult for groups of four or more”. Pietoso admits.
In the last two weeks, another tent village was built in Rock Hill, which took up part of the spacious terrace of the Mexican restaurant Hacienda. Twelve tents open up to a kind of boulevard, the scene of which is decorated with Christmas trees, lights and garlands. “The moment we pitched the first tent, people wanted to eat in it,” recalls co-owner Alex Rodriguez. “We didn’t have the heaters or even the tables and chairs installed, so we knew we were into something,” she says.
“We always decorate the restaurant for the holidays,” she added. “We were half finished inside, then personal eating was temporarily banned, so we moved the decorations outside.” The Hacienda’s heated holiday tents can be reserved for groups of two to ten people. “We just want people to remember us and keep supporting us,” says Rodriguez. “We just want to create a memorable holiday experience like we always do.”
Editor’s note: After going to press, SLM learned that some of the tents that were damaged by wind over the weekend will be replaced this week with similar sized cabins that Rodriguez said are “private and with lots of airflow.”