While private dining is hardly a new concept in the restaurant and hotel worlds, ever-changing pandemic restrictions have forced businesses to get creative when it comes to how they can best accommodate guests, help them feel safe and still provide a memorable hospitality experience. In cities, this challenge has translated to purpose-built sidewalk and curbside structures (with varying degrees of insulation) that afford restaurants more outdoor seating. But at hotels and resorts—which enjoy the luxury of more space and, often, scenic locations—necessity has resulted in a slew of inventive set-ups.
Many luxury resorts already offer “dine anywhere on property” options (think torch-lit dinners on the beach or on a pier), but these pandemic-born opportunities take a slightly different approach by aiming to adhere to current guidelines while still feeling like some type of “normal” shared dining experience, with all the bells and whistles that we miss. From transformed guest suites and a European-inspired hidden alley to a bourbon-fueled homage to Middle-earth, here are 11 dining venues that are both fun and Covid-compliant.
The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences
Set on 3,500 rolling acres in Richmond, Rhode Island, this year-round resort, which opened in 2020, specializes in getting guests out to enjoy such activities as ATV riding, ziplining, kayaking, skiing and rock climbing. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, retreat to one of the two Maker’s Mark Hobbit Houses recently launched in partnership with the bourbon brand. Built into hillside boulders and around tree trunks, the two Middle-earth-inspired houses have round wooden doors, stone floors and walls, and a cozy, whimsical design that takes its cues from the writings of Tolkien. The houses can accommodate up to four or eight diners, respectively, for a multi-course lunch or dinner that will start with bourbon-infused cocktails by the fire, then continue with dishes artfully presented in Le Creuset cookware. An option to pair each course with bourbon—including the Preserve’s excusive Maker’s Mark blend—is also available. Starting at $660 for four guests.
Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel
First opened in 1928, this landmark hotel—of Pretty Woman fame—tells stories of glitz and glamour around every turn. Adding to the magic is this month’s launch of TheBlvd Privé, a pop-up outdoor dining experience hidden away on the hotel’s private cobblestone “boulevard,” which was created back in the 1970s. There, surrounded by lush greenery and gas lamps imported from an Edinburgh castle, diners can enjoy glasses of Ruinart champagne, elaborate cocktails and a menu that celebrates some of the global influence found in Southern California, from Japanese to Middle Eastern. Open five days a week for a limited time, beginning March 3.
Fairmont Banff Springs
Rising like a castle against a backdrop of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, in Canada’s stunning Banff National Park, the historic Fairmont Banff Springs offers lots of opportunities for social distancing out in the great outdoors—including new a private dining option. Launched in February and slated to operate year-round, the 360° Dome is a rustic-chic, igloo-like structure set on the resort’s upper garden terrace, surrounded by views of the mountains and the 132-year-old hotel. Book it for brunch to indulge in make-your-own mimosas and breakfast favorites, opt for an afternoon Grapes session to enjoy cheese-and-charcuterie boards and wine pairings, or go for the five-course gourmet dinner featuring dishes like bison short rib. The dome can accommodate up to six guests from the same family. Brunch and the Grapes experience start at $125 per person and must be reserved 24 hours in advance; five-course dinner starts at $200 per person and must be reserved 48 hours in advance.
Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal
Privacy is already at the core of this newly rebranded Waldorf Astoria resort, which sits on 24 secluded acres on the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. While the resort’s dining venues have long included the cliffside El Farallon restaurant—known for its focus on fresh seafood and premium champagnes—the eatery has recently introduced El Farallon by the Sea, an even-more-private option tucked away in the rocks. Seating up to six guests, the open-air location affords views of the Pacific Ocean and the sunset as you enjoy your multi-course meal. Minimum spend of $1,500 required to reserve the By the Sea table.
The Chanler at Cliff Walk
Perched on the famed Cliff Walk high above Newport, R.I., the Chanler both embraces the resort town’s Old World history and adds a bit of contemporary flair—particularly in its gourmet menus. As of this winter, guests can enjoy some of this creative cuisine from inside one of the charming yurts set up on the cliff-side lawn, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the 150-year-old mansion. Seating up to five diners each, the yurts boast a Rhode Island-meets-Nordic décor, which sets the scene for Michelin-trained executive chef Jacob Jasinksi’s Scandinavian-inspired four-course meals. Each yurt will enjoy its own dedicated servers, further cutting down on social interactions. Prix-fixe dinner starts at $150 per person.
W Aspen & The Sky Residences
W’s first (and, so far, only) North American ski resort is set at the at the base of famed Aspen Mountain, within easy access of the slopes and hiking trails. Take in the views—and some eats—in one of the new Geo Dining Domes, which are located on the hotel’s rooftop and terrace. Insulated and heated, each dome is 16-feet wide and 12-feet tall and features a 12-foot-wide enclosed bay window framing the alpine panorama. Each dome seats up to eight diners at a circular table and is available to book for lunch, après ski and dinner; the terrace dome is also available for breakfast. The à la carte menu is full of elevated comfort food favorites, from pastrami sandwiches topped with Swiss raclette to a Boston cream pie ice cream sundae, and guests can also opt for pre-set menus such as interactive burger stations and grilled cheese bars, family-style appetizer selections and Italian- or Mexican-themed diners. Set menus starting at $65 per person; à la carte also available.
Dunton Hot Springs
Occupying a restored former mining town, the Dunton Hot Springs resort celebrates the history of Dolores, Colo., in everything from the Western décor and the on-site experiences (like soaking in natural hot springs) to the shared meals enjoyed over a long antique table in the saloon. Since the pandemic, however, many guests have requested to dine separately, and one of the most popular locations for that has been the full-scale teepee set up in the middle of town. In addition to privacy, guests will enjoy the complete restaurant experience, with menus that showcase sustainably sourced ingredients from Colorado’s short but bountiful growing season. Starting at $450 for up to four guests, including food and both soft and alcoholic drinks: Reserve list alcohol is extra.
Surrounded by views of the St. Lawrence river, Old Quebec City and the castle-like Chateaux Frontenac hotel, Canada’s intimate, Relais & Chateaux-member Auberge Saint-Antoine enjoys a storybook setting. Guests can soak up the vistas even in winter weather thanks to the new heated mini-greenhouses that can be set up on the terrace of your room or suite. Made of clear polycarbonate panels and strung with lights, the pods can accommodate up to five people for breakfast, afternoon tea (or hot chocolate) or a candlelit dinner “under the stars”. The experience is available at any time for hotel guests, while non-guests can book a greenhouse dinner during the week.
The Line Austin
Last December, the Line Austin partnered with American Express and Resy to launch the Yurt Village, an intimate dining experience set in heated private yurts scattered around the hotel’s pool deck. The set-up has proved so popular with both the Austin, Tex., locals and hotel guests, it’s now been extended through May 2. Seating up to eight diners each, and equipped with ceiling portals and air purifiers, the yurts have been transformed into mini-versions of the Line’s Arlo Grey restaurant, and feature a menu of large-format cocktails and four courses of family-style dishes crafted by Chef Kristen Kish for the occasion. Starting at $100 per person for a four-course prix fixe meal, not including alcohol.
Detroit Foundation Hotel
Formerly at the helm of Chicago’s Sixteen, which he helped earn two Michelin stars, Chef Thomas Lents returned to his hometown of Detroit to launch the Apparatus Room, the Midwestern ingredient-driven restaurant at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. To encourage guests to enjoy a relaxed meal while also adhering to Michigan’s indoor dining restrictions, the hotel recently introduced a private suite dining option, in which up to six diners can access the full Apparatus Room à la carte menu from one of the hotel’s guest rooms, which will be transformed into a dining room for the occasion. Book one of the pods to savor dishes such as coq au vin, pumpkin and parmesan risotto and 60-day vintage ribeye steaks. $50 extra charge for the private suite; 24-hour advance booking required.
Carneros Resort and Spa
California has mastered the art of indoor-outdoor living, and you’ll find the best of both those worlds at the new Farm Under the Stars experience at Napa Valley’s Carneros Resort and Spa. Seating multiple socially-distanced parties at once, the heated, see-through, open-air tent has been set up in a field and outfitted with chandeliers, dim lighting and a fireplace. Enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set over the valley, then enjoy a meal crafted with ingredients pulled from the restaurant’s 1,300-square-foot organic garden. Prices based on à la carte menu.