Story by Cathy Shouse
Heated outdoor dining in Indiana
There’s some good news for Hoosiers. The pleasures of outdoor dining that so many enjoyed in milder temps have now been extended into the winter months. Toasty, cozy spaces with amazing meal and refreshment offerings are available around the state.
Lindsey Skeen is marketing and media director for the Indiana Foodways Alliance (IFA), a nonprofit that promotes member restaurants statewide. She says restaurants have created new ways to keep outdoor dining going year-round. “Restaurants are getting innovative and creative in order to provide service and follow the safety guidelines,” Skeen said. “In Jeffersonville, you will enjoy the heated patios of Portage House and also Parlour. In New Albany, you can count on The Exchange and Floyd County Brewing Company to provide a heated patio and sidewalk seating. And there are even more options throughout Indiana.”
More than 30 Fort Wayne restaurants invite foodies to enjoy heated dining. Outdoor igloos are available at Three Rivers Distilling Company, and Club Room and Crescendo Coffee and More offers fire pits and heaters.
Alison Million, retail coordinator at Three Rivers Distilling Company, said reservations are required for the igloo enclosures that are covered in plastic, heated, and let you choose your own music piped in on Blue Tooth. “Many of the most popular times, like around six o’clock on Friday or Saturday, are booked through March,” Million said. “We have other times open. It’s been very, very popular.”
Three Rivers requires a minimum food purchase for an igloo, which holds eight people maximum. But the mac and cheese, cheesecake, and traditional ramen and all the menu choices will be worth it (https://www.3rdistilling.com/igloos). Visit Hamilton County Indiana lists more than twenty heated outdoor restaurant options.
Over at The Cake Bake Shop’s Carmel location, you can have your cake and eat it there too, plus stay warm and be in outdoor air. Shelby Clester, office administrator at The Cake Bake Shop said, “At our Carmel location, our patio is still inside except we open all the windows and we have heated floors. Our most popular flavor is Gwendolyn’s Famous Earls Court Chocolate Cake.”
The Firehouse BBQ Blues in Richmond offers outdoor dining in igloos, according to Nancy Sartain, Leisure Marketing Director for the Richmond~Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau. You can make it a night on the town, too. “It’s in a former firehouse and sometimes there’s music. The delicious meat is all smoked,” Sartain said. “The Depot District nearby is so walkable, fun and vibrant.”
In 2012, downtown Indianapolis got a head start on some heated streets and walkable spaces when it hosted the Super Bowl. Morgan Snyder, public relations director for Visit Indy, said the city has upped its game recently.
“Many of Indy’s restaurants have worked hard to extend their outdoor patio space and to purchase heaters,” Snyder said. “In fact, the city provided an up to $2,500 reimbursement per restaurant for restaurant owners to prepare for winter. Gallery Pastry Shop–one of my absolute favorites–just extended their outdoor patio space for social distancing and purchased new heaters. Great place for special occasions–dessert, champagne, brunch, etc.” (www.visitindy.com/indianapolis-winterized-patio-dining)
Jill Boggs, CEO of the Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “One of our visitor favorites is the Cerulean Restaurant, located in the Village at Winona. We’re delighted that six people or more can experience one of their four igloo outdoor dining huts for two hours. Reservations are required.”
The “South Shore” region in Northwest Indiana has several outdoor dining options. The Station at Embers has what they call “Emberdomes” for 2-6 guests.
You can enjoy lunch or dinner in an igloos at Fair Oaks Farms (reservations are made in two-hour increments and walk-ins are allowed if available). Byways Brewing has extended their outdoor patio season by installing clear vinyl panels on their pergolas and outdoor heaters for those that want to dine outdoors. If you aren’t feeling very hungry, but want to get out of the house to enjoy a handcrafted beer; pop over to Ironwood Brewing Company to sip on a festive holiday brew in an outdoor igloo. Or if you prefer wine, Shady Creek Winery has one too.
The new trend is a win-win. “Heated outdoor dining allows the customer to have the unique experience while the restaurant is continuing their service,” said IFA’s Lindsey Skeen.
To get in on the adventure, do your research because the possibilities for Indiana’s food experiences continue to evolve.