Spring is in the air—as is a surging sense of optimism about eating out. As more states ease their indoor dining restrictions and the CDC has given the all-clear (for the most part) to the fully vaccinated for both traveling and small gatherings, restaurants are starting to feel alive again. The only problem is, with cases plateauing and variants still causing concerns, restaurant diners are not totally out of the woods yet. So the best option might be to split the difference and find a place that is lively and scenic, and also designed with safety in mind.
For that, look to a hotel. When indoor dining restrictions first went into effect, many standalone eateries struggled with finding enough outdoor space—whether on the sidewalk or in a parking lot—to make things worth their while. But hotels and resorts (at least, those that were able to stay partially open during the past year) that enjoyed the benefit of having extra space were able to get creative, with some creating private or socially distanced dining options in converted courtyards, around the pool, in the gardens and even in reconfigured suites.
One standout option, though? The rooftop restaurant, which comes with the added perk of great views. From the first-ever rooftop venue for a London icon to the first-ever rooftop restaurant period in a smaller Virginia town, here are six hotels—and one tourist attraction—that took their dining options to new heights during the pandemic.
Since 1931, The Dorchester has been treating generations of loyal guests to five-star service, gourmet dining and exclusive experiences fit for its clientele of royals, celebrities and jetsetters. But one thing it has never offered is a rooftop restaurant—until now. To celebrate its 90th birthday, the grande dame opened it’s first-ever rooftop bar and restaurant—simply named The Dorchester Rooftop—on April 12. (The hotel itself will fully reopen on May 17.) Surrounded by views of Hyde Park and East London, the space will feature a series of culinary pop-ups throughout the spring and summer, with operations overseen by executive chef Mario Perera.
First up in the kitchen is The Grill’s Tom Booton, the youngest chef ever to oversee a Michelin-starred restaurant, who will be serving menus that celebrate British summer products from the land, sea and garden; expect dishes like prawn Scotch egg with curry sauce and barbequed leeks with ricotta and salsa verde. Following Booton will be Jean-Philippe Blondet from Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, who will be cooking up light and elegantly informal small plates such as hummus with seaweed crisps and lemon confit, grilled octopus with confit pepper and grapefruit, and lobster with spiced avocado and shiso leaves. Subsequent chefs will continue to feature Mediterranean, French and modern British flavors, while a separate lounge will offer Champagne and cigars along with live music and DJs. Tables will be limited to six guests and, given the unpredictable London weather, the terrace will be equipped with heaters, blankets and standing umbrellas. The Restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner, with the lounge open until 1am. Contact email@example.com to make a reservation.
Shutters on the Beach
When pandemic restrictions hit, this quintessential beachside getaway was quickly able to offer al fresco dining options on its patios and promenade, as well expanded in-room menus. In February, the hotel took things to the next level by opening Pacific Terrace, a limited-time-only restaurant set on the rooftop poolside terrace, overlooking the ocean. Currently slated to operate through the early summer (though exact timing is still in flux), the open-air space features socially distanced tables, heaters and a living room-style lounge with décor by Veuve Clicquot. Champagne from the brand is also available, as is a menu of light bites and shareable dishes like tartare, crudo and pizzas. Pacific Terrace is currently open to locals and hotel guests from Thursday to Monday, on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel
Since opening in 2016 in an abandoned 130-year-old skyscraper, The Beekman has helped revitalize its Lower Manhattan neighborhood with a (pre-pandemic) buzzing bar and dining scene, the latter overseen by Tom Colicchio. When the hotel reopened in August 2020 following a several month closure, Colicchio and his team aimed to raise the bar again, this time by creating a new dining experience on the rooftop terrace. Located on the West Terrace, in a space adorned with greenery and wisteria, Temple Court on 10 seats a maximum of 96 diners a night for four-course menus inspired by seasonal produce and fresh seafood and meats. Expect such starters as scallop tartare or salted baked beets, second courses of glazed lobster or white asparagus carbonara, main dishes like oak-smoked lamb shank or poached turbot with Gulf of Main mussels and desserts like tableside s’mores. Cocktails and sommelier wine pairings are available, and the restaurant will also start serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning on April 25. Four-course dinners start at $125 per person, with an additional $70 per person for the wine pairings. Reservations are recommnded and are based on availability and size of the party.
SLS South Beach
Set right on the water, SLS South Beach was created by partners including designers Phillipe Starck and Lenny Kravitz (yes, that Lenny Kravitz) and culinary icons like Jose Andres and master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi. It’s with the latter that the hotel in March unveiled a new dining option that’s part rooftop restaurant, part private dining experience. Available for just one reservation at a time, the Omakase Suite dinner takes place in the lavish, 1,044-square-foot Tower Penthouse, which was designed by Kravitz. Guests will be treated to an introduction to the Omakase tradition by chef Hiro from Katsuya, followed by a specially-curated menu of dishes, each paired with sake. After the meal, guests can order more drinks to enjoy in the penthouse—which comes with a collection of vintage vinyl—or to take out onto the private, 552-square-foot rooftop terrace to enjoy views of the ocean and Hyde Beach. The Omakase Experience starts at $325 per person for a minimum of six guests and a maximum of 10. Reservations required, and must be made at least seven days in advance. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
The Beverly Hilton
Three-hundred-and-sixty-degree views of Los Angeles set the scene at Sant’olina, the rooftop restaurant atop the storied Beverly Hilton that opened in March. Operated in partnership with the H. Wood Group, the pop-up restaurant—currently slated to be open until Labor Day—was the vision of SLAB’s Burt Bakman, best known for his Texas-style brisket. Here, however, Bakman and his culinary team serve vibrant and veggie-forward dishes that draw from influences in and around Israel and the Mediterranean; think cauliflower tabbouleh, lemonfish crudo, zucchini keftedes and harissa-cured salmon. Sant’olina is currently open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday and brunch on the weekends. Reservations are recommended.
The Bristol Hotel
Set in the landmark 1925 Reynolds Arcade, which over the years has served as both a hotel and office building, the Bristol is located in a city that straddles the borders of Virginia and Tennessee and that features influences from both—particularly on the food and beverage front. You can get a taste of that up at the Lumac Rooftop bar and restaurant, which opened this year to address Covid-19 restrictions. Not only is Lumac’s upgrade to a full restaurant new to the hotel, but this is also the only rooftop bar in the Tri-Cities region, so it has proved popular for its killer sunset and Appalachian Mountain views. Enjoy the setting while digging into southern-inspired dishes like cornmeal-fried calamari, truffled deviled eggs, fried green tomato Caprese, grilled meatloaf sandwiches and burgers topped with bacon, Vidalia onion jam and pimento-blue cheese sauce. Wash it down with small-bath brews, cocktails and barrel-aged whiskeys. Lumac is open daily from 3pm-9pm; the bar is open until midnight on the weekends.
Vista Patio by 71Above
Okay, so this one isn’t at a hotel—but it is located in a space that, pre-pandemic, was mainly frequented by tourists. In the “before times”, the 69th floor of the US Bank Tower building was home to the Skyspace attraction, a short glass chute that allowed visitors to “slide” off the side of the skyscraper; an adjacent terrace—which also required tickets to access—served a rather uninspiring menu of light bites. With the slide now closed, however, the operators of the Tower’s 71Above fine dining restaurant were able to take over the terrace space and create a venue to address the current need for al fresco options. Dubbed Vista, and opened on April 6, the pop-up eatery offers 360-degree views of the city from 904 feet above street level—making it one of the highest outdoor dining venues in the country. While soaking up the views, guests can savor a mezze-style menu of Mediterranean-inspired favorites such a fattoush salad, moutabel, muhammara and a twist on hummus made with cilantro, roasted poblano and jalapeño. Proteins like an organic beef tartare and yellowfish crudo are also available, as is a well-edited menu of specialty cocktails, craft beers and wines by the glass. Open daily for dinner; reservations recommended.