The Outdoor Advantage
Survive the chilly weather with warm drinks at some of the area’s favorite outdoor dining and imbibing venues.
Typically, winter evenings are an excellent time to try new restaurants. When it’s chilly outside, squeezing into a booth to try some homemade mac ’n’ cheese or sitting at a cozy bar with a hot toddy can be an excellent way to warm up. But, unfortunately, this is not a typical time. In light of COVID-19, many states, including Nevada and California, still have indoor dining regulations and likely will through the winter. And while those regulations are subject to shift at any time, it’s probably a safe guess to suggest restaurant drinking and dining won’t be back to “normal” any time soon.
However, most health experts agree that sitting outdoors is much safer, and fortunately, many Tahoe-, Reno-, and Carson-area restaurants have quickly adapted to make that a possibility.
1325 W. Seventh St., Reno
775-787-1177 • Bighorntavernreno.com
The popular Bighorn Tavern on West Seventh Street got a serious upgrade for the winter: a huge new outdoor patio space, which nearly doubles the restaurant’s seating capacity. According to bar manager Allie Shulman, the patio facelift was an idea the staff had discussed in the past, but when the COVID-19 shutdown forced the business to close temporarily, the team decided to take advantage of the downtime and make it happen. The roomy patio currently has fire pits, tiered table seating, an outdoor TV, space heaters, an outdoor bar, and a cover on the way. The patio will be open year round with table service, and guests are welcome to ask for outside tables when making reservations.
According to Engine 8 co-owner Wendi Rawson (along with her husband, Mike), the winery already is taking major steps to ensure guests can taste wine outdoors all winter. The Rawsons purchased additional heaters for their outdoor space to make it pleasant even on the coldest days, and they’re happy to accommodate requests for outdoor tables. Indoors, tables will continue to be spaced out, and musicians (who will perform on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights) will play from behind a plexiglass divider. Since live music will limit indoor capacity, reservations are strongly suggested for those evenings. Rawson cautions that as with most restaurants, it’s still developing the best plan for guests. After all, as Rawson states, “Winter this year is uncharted territory.”
The new Sparks Water Bar, currently slated to open in February, has a distinct advantage when it comes to outdoor dining — a massive outdoor deck running the entire length of the large restaurant. Owners plan to offer outdoor seating year round and indoor seating on par with current Washoe County and Nevada state guidelines. And yes, the popular Wet Woody rum cocktails made famous at Tahoe City’s Gar Woods (which is under the same ownership) also will be on the menu.
According to Dawn Whitten, manager of The Slanted Porch, the staff understands that some guests aren’t comfortable indoors. As such, its owners have expanded the size of the restaurant’s outdoor area and added comfortable seating, heaters, and a fire pit. Indoors, the business is limited to 50 percent capacity (at the time of this writing) and has eliminated bar seating — but guests can, of course, still order cocktails at their tables. Whitten encourages guests to try The Slanted Porch’s new menu of warm cocktails, and she says guests are encouraged to indicate whether they’d like to dine indoors or outdoors when making their reservations.
Alpine Union Bar & Kitchen (inside Hard Rock Hotel)
50 U.S. Hwy. 50, Stateline
844-588-7625 • Hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com
Fans of the indoor/outdoor Alpine Union Bar & Kitchen inside Hard Rock Hotel likely already know its patio is a fantastic spot for outdoor drinks and dining, and according to marketing director Stephanie Hylton, that won’t change any time soon. Alpine Union’s patio will be open all winter, and thanks to both heaters and fire pits, it should be warm enough to use on all but the snowiest of winter days. To make guests feel more comfortable at all its restaurants, Hard Rock released a 17-page document on all the safety precautions being taken at its public spaces and restaurants (available online). And for winter, Alpine Union Bar introduced a new $10 Winter Warmer cocktail menu, featuring drinks for staying warm even in the middle of January. Options such as Chip Shot — made with coffee, Kahlua, Tuaca, whipped cream, and crushed peppermint — are likely to be popular, but classics such as hot chocolate are on the menu, too.
If you’ve been to Truckee this summer or fall, you’ve likely noticed that many more restaurants than usual have outdoor dining. Thanks to a town ordinance, restaurants are now allowed to use the spaces directly in front of their properties for outdoor dining, which the owners of Bar of America are fully using to their advantage. They have added more umbrellas and space heaters to utilize the restaurant’s gated patio space as much as possible, and guests may request outside tables when making reservations.
According to marketing director Christina Lennon, while table requests aren’t guaranteed, guests are welcome to wait for tables to open if they’re more comfortable outdoors. The restaurant recently switched to its winter cocktail menu, which features Bulleit Bourbon on special through March. So if an après-ski hot toddy is your Saturday tradition, swing by Bar of America on your way home.
“It’s very important to us to offer our guests the ability to feel ‘normal’ again, let loose, and enjoy excellent food and drinks in a fun-loving environment,” Lennon adds.
8791 N. Lake Blvd., Kings Beach
530-546-1000 • Calientetahoe.com
Caliente fans know that the Southwestern restaurant’s rooftop palapa is the place to be for lunch on summer weekends. But in light of COVID-19, Caliente’s staff plans to offer lunch service on the roof into winter, weather permitting. The restaurant’s managers recently launched a winter menu, and tequila fans will be happy to know the restaurant’s popular ChupaCabra Thursdays will continue through winter.
Though Edgewood offers outdoor dining at two of its restaurants — Brooks Bar & Deck and The Bistro — its management has no plans to extend outdoor dining into the winter. However, enjoying drinks outdoors on the Brooks deck or main lodge deck is encouraged, and servers will be making the rounds for guests who don’t feel comfortable going indoors. A lakeside skating rink also is being built, in partnership with Veuve Clicquot; it will have outdoor seating, drinks, and light bites. One of Edgewood’s new cocktails, perfect for enjoying against a snowy background, is the Ginger Smash, made with local Bently Heritage Estate Distillery’s Juniper Gin, chilled apple cider, ginger root, cranberries, lemon juice, and a hint of sweetness.
Great news for fans of the organic: 30-year-old Sprouts is planning to offer outdoor dining this winter. The Sprouts team plans to build walls from heavy snow to insulate the outdoor space, as well as add fire pits and heaters.
“Bring your puffy coat when the sun doesn’t shine,” says owner Tyler Cannon.
For this winter, he recommends drinks with ginger and cayenne pepper to help strengthen immune systems. Sprouts’ extensive winter drink menu includes everything from wellness and ginger shots to hot drinks and smoothies. And if there’s already a drink you love, no need to try something new.
“Just add some cayenne or ginger to it to warm you up.”
At the time of this writing, California restaurants were closed for all on-premise dining due to COVID-19. Please contact the businesses directly for details on outdoor dining availability.
Many other area establishments, such as those listed below, are planning to offer outdoor dining and drinking in some capacity this winter, weather and snow permitting. Call to check before visiting, as ever-changing COVID-19 regulations (and snowstorms) could impact offerings. Please note: This is not a comprehensive list.
Alibi Ale Works Alibialeworks.com
Big Water Grille Bigwatergrille.com
Bistro 7 Bistro7reno.com
Brasserie Saint James Brasseriesaintjames.com
Bridgetender Tavern Tahoebridgetender.com
Chihuahua’s Grill & Cantina Chihuahuasgrill.com
Cold Water Brewery & Grill Tahoecoldwaterbrewery.com
Cucina Lupo Cucinalupo.com
Estella Tacos Y Mezcal Estellareno.com
Fat Cat Bar & Grill Fatcatrestaurants.com
Fire Sign Café Firesigncafe.com
Gar Woods Garwoods.com
Great Full Gardens Greatfullgardens.com
Homegrown Gastropub Homegrowngastropub.com
Jake’s on the Lake Jakestahoe.com
Liberty Food & Wine Exchange Libertyfoodandwine.com
Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats Moodysbistro.com
Noble Pie Parlor Noblepieparlor.com
O’skis Pub & Grille Oskispub.net
Peavine Taphouse Eats and Beats Peavinetaphouse.com
Pignic Pub & Patio Pignicpubandpatio.com
Prost Biergarten Prostnv.com
Red’s Old 395 Grill Reds395.com
River Ranch Lodge Riverranchlodge.com
Stateline Brewery & Restaurant Statelinebrewery.com
Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge Sunnysidelodge.com
The Eddy Theeddyreno.com
The Lodge Thelodgereno.com
The Union Theunioncarson.com
Tunnel Creek Café Tunnelcreekcafe.com
Twisted Fork Twistedforkreno.com
Von Bismarck Vbreno.com
Washoe Public House Washoepublichouse.com
West Shore Café Westshorecafe.com
Whispering Vine Wine Co. Whisperingvinewine.com
Wild River Grille Wildrivergrille.com