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Local eateries bring out the 'igloos' to extend outdoor dining through winter

The out-of-the-box outdoor dinning experience that started because of the pandemic continues once more

SIMSBURY, Conn. — On the grounds of Millwrights Restaurant in Simsbury, the landscape has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The property known for its renowned fare, stunning views and scenic waterfall, now also has igloos.

These structures – more like greenhouses than actual ice-made buildings – cover most of the outdoor space at the fine-dining destination. It’s just another way that owner and executive chef, Tyler Anderson, is looking to attract guests.

“This is a special experience,” said Anderson, who installed the igloos last year and is in the process of bringing them back for the upcoming winter season.

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The chef said that due to the constraints of the pandemic, “there was no choice last year.”

“We had to think of something, and it worked,” Anderson added. “So we thought, let’s do it again.”

The team at Millwrights has included all the comforts a guest needs – including a propane heater.

“We are fortunate to have the space for igloos,” Anderson said. “But the igloos are something I certainly didn’t foresee.”

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In Farmington, Tony Camilleri, the owner of a trio of restaurants including Toro Loco, has just set up two of three igloos on the back deck behind his main dining room.

Camilleri is sold on the igloo idea, a concept that helped him through 2020, and he has brought them back for the cooler months to come.

“It’s just another avenue to create a little buzz create some special experiences with our guests and just to make it through and survive,” he said. “You have to adapt.”

RELATED: Challenges continue for restaurants in Connecticut, as they set the tables for months ahead

Scott Dolch, the president and CEO of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, sees the igloo additions as another way to help restaurants stay afloat during what has been an enduring slowdown since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“It’s an incredible dining experience,” said Dolch. “Any way you can continue to welcome guests ... you have got to make it and especially through this winter ahead.”

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at jaltman@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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