WHILE MANY ESTABLISHMENT patios have an element of heating, we sought out those with a major element, an important distinction.
The Lux domes, appropriately named, are coming back this winter and resemble camping on the moon, Bio-Dome style. The domes, unlike Milwaukee County’s, are not cheap and seat eight, including a food and drink menu, a take-home mug, and a heater. And no, you can’t camp out on the floor.
Yes, everyone mentions this enclosed patio. In part, it’s because the food is a perfect match. You are heated both from without and within. The biryanis served here are perfect alliances of spice, herb, meat and rice.
Boo Boo’s Sandwich Shop
Almost the entire seating area is a heated patio anchored by a fireplace, including oddball decorations and magazines. The Milly Philly cheesesteak is the menu’s anchor and many customers’ default setting. Boo Boo also has a Sloppy Johnny sandwich with ground beef that is a good deal at $6.50 on a cold day. And the fries are good.
Now we’re moving into a gray area: non-enclosed patios warmed by an often-running fire pit! The newer Colectivo in Wauwatosa has lots of seating around it, enough for multiple groups to get along. Like the other fire pit on this list, the fires are gas-lit. Colectivo, meanwhile, has all the Colectivo stuff, including hot chocolate, hot coffee, and hot coffee plus chocolate.
Explorium Brew Pub
Explorium has scratched out a niche on the side of Southridge Mall, brewing beers named after explorers, e.g. Shackleton’s Endurance Barleywine and Captain Kidd’s Lost IPA. The fire out back is serious in size and softens the Southridge vibes. The menu is equally adventurous and includes the MOAB, which is a gigantic 1+ pound burger thing wrapped in pizza dough and baked in an oven. (There is a range of food.)
Plum’s fire is as much about appearance as it is warmth. For that, there’s a deep whisky menu currently featuring, among other vintages, Lock, Stock and Barrel 13-Year rye whisky.
DIY Heated Patios
Milwaukee has a pretty laissez-faire attitude about fire pits; many of the surrounding suburbs are more strict. If you decide to create your own heated patio, Home Depot sells cheap bundles of firewood leftover from other purposes and safe fire starters (that don’t involve soaking a log in lighter fluid). Also remember that (1) your neighbors do prefer to breathe non-smoky air and (2) a sufficiently hot and close fire will melt or deform vinyl siding.