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The 6 best places to eat and drink outside in Detroit

Belle Isle

Spring has finally broken through for good in Michigan. Detroiters are outside biking, swimming, running, and enjoying the weather any way they can. 
 
But to take full advantage of the great weather, you need to know the best spots to drink and eat outside. There are few things more enjoyable than drinking a cold beer on a perfect patio or eating from a barbecue skewer on a lawn chair. 
 
To help you make the most of the weather, here's our suggestions, presented in no order, of the best places to eat and drink outside:
 
Belle Isle
 
The best place to picnic in the city. Whether you're renting a shelter to barbecue on site or posting up near the Blue Heron Lagoon with your own prepared food, nothing matches the natural splendor, weather, recreational activities, or views of Belle Isle. 
 
There's lots of great ways to approach the island as well. You could ride bikes along the riverfront, get some takeaway from Belle Isle Pizza, or grab snacks from Eastern Market and take the Dequindre Cut. There's a couple of food vendors on Belle Isle as well, including one for ice cream. 
 
Though you can't drink alcohol on Belle Isle since it's run by the Department of Natural Resources, bringing beverages for a spritzer is a great secondary option.
 
The Pink Flamingo

Pink Flamingo's airstream trailer

 
A one-of-a-kind food truck, the Pink Flamingo is a can't miss summer dining experience. We only wish it were open more than once a week (Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m.).
 
The Pink Flamingo's owners converted a beautiful airstream trailer into a mobile kitchen from which they cook some seriously delicious food. It's hard to describe what kind of cuisine it is, and the menu changes depending on the season, but the rice balls are a tasty staple. 
 
What makes the experience really special is the setting. The food truck sits in an open lot behind the Spaulding Court rowhouses in North Corktown. There's usually a bonfire going, music playing, and people eating on wood benches or logs, soaking in the evening ambiance. 
 
Set aside a Thursday (or two or three) in the near future to check it out. 
 
The Old Miami
 
There's lots of great bars in Detroit to enjoy a drink outdoors: Motor City Brewing Works, Northern Lights Lounge, Batch Brewing Company, to name a few.
 
However, nothing tops the Old Miami in the Cass Corridor. With what has to be the biggest outdoor yard of any bar in Detroit, how could another establishment top it? Grab a cheap drink indoors—as a dive bar that used to cater to Vietnam veterans, the inside is pretty special as well—and lounge next to the bonfire, mini-fountain, deck, or any other section in the hundreds of square feet of yard space. 
 
Sometimes there's live music. Sometimes there's jams playing over the speakers. But on a perfect summer evening, there's no better place to drink. 

Ottava Via

The patio at Ottava Via


Like Detroit's bars, there's also plenty of great restaurants where patrons can eat outside: La Dolce Vita, Seva, El Barzon Restaurante.

But our personal favorite spot is Ottava Via. In the back of the restaurant facing Elizabeth Street, there's a pleasant patio with benches and tables near a wood-fire oven. But the true attractions are the bocce ball courts. At least once this summer, reserve one with some friends and play a game of bocce while drinks are brought courtside.

None of this would matter if the food wasn't good. But fortunately the food at Ottava Via is great. From the pizza to the truffle pasta to meat and cheese plates, you can't really go wrong here.
 
Le Petit Zinc
 
To be enjoyed to its fullest, brunch needs to be eaten outside. There are few pleasures more exquisite than welcoming the day with a cup of coffee, an omelette, and a clear sky. Or in the case of Le Petit Zinc in Corktown, a cappuccino and crepe. 
 
We love this establishment for outdoor brunch because its patio is cute, intimate, and perfectly appropriate to the experience. Patrons sit at wrought iron tables in a stone garden with flowers and sculptures, just like you would in a Paris cafe—or so we presume.
 
Other brunch spots have great food and great outdoor seating. But nowhere else does the combination of food and ambiance work as well as at Le Petit Zinc. 
 
Clark Park

Mosaic in Clark Park
 
We already gave you our favorite picnic option, but we recommend going to Clark Park in Southwest Detroit for a specific kind of experience. Of course, the park is great to enjoy at any time of day and with your typical picnic fare, like tacos from any nearby stand, or during dessert with a piece of tres leches cake.
 
But we recommend trying this sometime. Wake up early, preferably as the sun is rising, head over to Mexicantown Bakery (open at 6 a.m.), grab a coffee and warm pastry or pastelitos, and sit anywhere the sun hits you in Clark Park. It's the best imaginable way to start your day.
 
What are your favorite places to eat and drink outdoors? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @modeld.

All photos by Marvin Shaouni.

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is the managing editor of Model D and a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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