THESE DISTINCTIVE HEATED PATIOS MAKE OUTDOOR DINING HIGHLY DESIRABLE DURING WINTER IN TORONTO
Whether or not you accept the science behind climate change, there’s no denying that Toronto experienced an unseasonably warm end to 2015, with temperatures reaching the low teens all the way up to Christmas. But now it seems winter’s chill (a modest version of it, at least) has indeed taken hold, ensuring that on most days it’s preferable to be indoors rather than out. Of course, even on the coldest of days there are those of us who yearn for a bit of fresh air and a view of the (slate grey) sky. A handful of Toronto restaurants are set up to oblige our “outdoors, indoors” desires with their popular heated patios.
Toronto’s preeminent backyard barbecue destination (preeminent because it remains pretty much the only such restaurant in the city) is a hotbed for foodies and families year-round. In winter it gains an snug, cabin-like vibe—with lots of heat coming off the grills, and blankets available for a bit of extra insulation.
It’s not a patio per se, but the authentic Mongolian yurt that’s been installed outside the Evergreen Brick Works’ farm-to-table restaurant exudes warmth and intimacy on even the frostiest of days.
The Distillery District’s massive Mexican restaurant is also home to one of the city’s biggest and most popular patios. It’s not completely covered, but it does sport a handful of huge fire pits for ambience—and just as importantly, ambient heat. Gather ‘round: you’ll feel like you’re dining on a beach in Veracruz, but instead of sand at your feet, there’s snow (or at least the possibility of snow).
This King West Italian restaurant was one of the first in the city to sport a retractable glass roof above its patio. (A handful of others have since followed suit.) Don’t be shy about requesting a table within the chic rooftop space. On winter evenings, it’s like you’re dining inside an urban greenhouse.
It may be only partially protected from the elements (though it does have heaters throughout), but the Drake Hotel’s rooftop patio remains a popular perch in winter. The creative class–catering space is often subject to seasonal makeovers; these days it’s decked out like a traditional legion hall.
AND THERE’S MORE!
Have you tried out outdoors dining at all of our recommended spots? Toronto boasts a number of other restaurants with heated patios large and small. Bars like Hemingway’s, Cold Tea and the Mill Street Brew Pub feature winterized spaces for enjoying a cold brew or two, while the colourful rooftop spaces at the likes of Valdez and Playa Cabana Hacienda maintain a muy caliente vibe. This winter has also seen the addition of a few new heated patios, including the sizeable rooftop “deck” at the Financial District’s Cactus Club Café, and the wraparound street-corner space at Bar Raval that’s perfect for people watching.