Detroit Goes Al Fresco
Seems like every bar nowadays has a sort of plug-and-play solution for
outdoor drinking and dining. You know, the janky green plastic lawn
chair affair or the poser-rific “Cinzano umbrellas mean mod!”
café-terrace scene. Here in Detroit ‘though the al fresco drinking
experience isn’t about pushing patio furniture bought at the CVS or
pretending that you’re sipping Peroni on the piazza or Pernod on the
Left Bank. Nah, outdoor summer drinking here in the city has a certain
je ne sais quoi all of it’s own.
But before you grab your
sunnies and head out the door, stop for a sec and do a little Q&A
with your inner party person. Are you looking for a low-budget,
Pabst-in-a-can experience, or can you spring for a nice bottle of
something- something and tip the bartender twenties all afternoon? How
about the extent of your warm fuzzies towards humanity that day? Do you
want to smile happily at strangers while you nurse that one beer, or do
you hate all people and want to believe that the Earth’s population is
roughly 15-20 warm bodies?
Once you’ve answered those few simple
questions, and SPF-ed yourself, of course, you are officially ready to
rock the Detroit patio. Do not disturb
you wanna lay low, but you still kinda wanna see people? Well, you’re
in luck with a couple of smashing options for whittling away the day
(or night) with your inner circle of choice and forgetting the world
Let’s go old-school first. Sinbad’s
on St. Clair Avenue off Jefferson (about a mile East of the Belle Isle
Bridge) is probably the closest you can get to the Detroit River
without actually falling in it. Kickin’ it close to 60 years now, the
drinks at Sinbad’s are still pretty gosh-darn cheap and flow a plenty.
And those freighters that make you proud to be a Great Laker? Well,
they stream by all day on what starts to feel like your own private
waterfront. So, if you’re feeling like getting out on the water, but
aren’t looking forward to popping Dramamine like Tic-Tacs all
afternoon, head on over to Sinbad’s and get sun, surf, and your very
Now, if you kinda dig the nautical theme, but still like to enjoy the environment at a distance, head to Jimmy Schmidt’s Rattlesnake Club
on Jos. Campau in the East Riverfront area (also off Jefferson) for
some top-notch wine and liquor on the small, intimate back patio with
amazing views of the Hiram Walker. But pitcher beer drinkers beware.
This is top-shelf territory, so think bottles of Justin or single-malt
Scotch before you make the trek over. If you do decide this is the
place for you, try some of the weekly wine-tasting events on the patio
this June, July and August. You may fall so in love with outdoor life
at the Rattlesnake that you might just consider a move to one of the
surrounding River Place apartments or condos.
Over in Midtown, stop off at the Agave
back patio (Woodward and Canfield) which just opened up for the season
this past Cinco de Mayo. Live music, a mean house Margarita and fresh
tortilla chips are on the menu in this intimate (albeit walled-brick)
party space with an amazing view of one of the oft-overlooked
architectural wonders of Midtown, the Willis Heating Plant. Seriously,
how often can you get that close to industrial splendor while enjoying
fresh Detroit air, local tunes and one of the city’s best selections of
Tequila? Run don’t walk. The Patrón Añejo will be waiting.
One the best-kept (yeah, still!) secrets in Detroit is the La Dolce Vita
near McNichols) patio. You’ve heard about it for brunch and those
bottomless mimosas, but come Tuesday evenings, this
flora-and-fountain-heavy haven turns into one of the best dance parties
around town. With DJs and live music all through the summer, La Dolce
has you covered (literally) with its large and comfy shaded tables, and
the shelter of the main bar outside. Even if you can’t make it on
Tuesdays, enjoy the patio six nights a week for great wine and
cocktails and the best bartenders in the land. And just remember, valet
is the way at La Dolce, so even if you go plastic for the evening, make
sure you bring parking money+ phat tip for the boys in the lot.
Other “private” patio mentionables about town:
• Honest? John's
: Out back at this Selden Avenue watering hole, it's no frills and get your own beer. That's the Honest John's way.
• Old Miami:
Can't get more local than the Miami on Cass Ave. The patio's not fancy, but it's stll one of the best backyards in the city.
• Motor City Brewing Works
Yeah, it's in a parking lot, but look, rise above it on the second
floor of the brewery and enjoy a GhettoBlaster and some great Michigan
• Hoot's (the old Shelley's)
: Miss the old Tiger Stadium? No better trip back to the good ol' days than from the back of Hoot's.
• Tom's Oyster Bar:
The second-floor deck at Tom's on Jefferson downtown offers Oyster
Shooters and one of the closest views of the DPM you'll get without
being charged a fare.Gawk and squawk
the ol’ privacy thing wears thin and you just wanna gawk awhile and
giggle with friends — about others, of course. Well, here are a few
places that will feed your cattiness quota while getting you the sun
and fun you were seeking.
There’s no place like home. And for many downtown-dwellers, that means a visit to next-door-neighbors, Beaubien Street
and the Detroiter Bar
Both these places rock the old-skool patio like no other. Complete with
awnings and wrought-iron fences that tuck you safely in yet allow for
great views of Greektown street life, all your classic drafts, favorite
bottled beers (oh, and pitchers!) are always on the bar menu. So if you
wanna go all-out local for the night, pop by either of these joints and
order a cold one before you sit and confab the night away with the man
on the street.
In the heart of Downtown, Pulse
(on Monroe just near the outskirts of Greektown) is the newest player
in the patio scene. With music from DJs piped onto the patio from
inside the swank, modern lounge, and cushy seats that won’t etch a
criss-cross pattern on your bum, Pulse could be a strong contender for
new favorite summer watering hole. And better still, summer drink
specials are scheduled to abound at Pulse, which is a very good thing
because it’s known for stocking only top-shelf, premium booze. Will
that mean Pulse will give birth to the “Premium (Liquor) on Par” Happy
Hour? Those folks sick of “Five O’ Clock” vodka Martini’s can only
(on Cass and Forest) is always a good choice for breakfast, brunch or
dinner, but listen, their front patio is also great spot for checking
out the Cass Corridor happenings, having a nice glass of Pinot (served
in juice glasses, not fancy stemware), and basking in the midday heat.
Even if you're a little sun shy, sit inside near the French doors and
feel the breeze waft in around you. You may just decide to make an
evening of it, too. Bookie’s Tavern
on Washington Boulevard (near Trolley Plaza) is the little bar that
could. Slowly building a good rep as the place to hang before or after
a game, this establishment in the historic Book Building has also set
up shop on the street for warm days. With draft and bottle beer
selections up the wazoo, Bookie’s is also a great location to monitor
the progress on the Book-Cadillac or even debate whether or not the red
erector set should have been torn down. Either option will surely bring
that ol’ “I Heart Detroit” smile to your sunburned mug.
Other people-watching spot mentionables:
: Tigers Game. Summer. Meet lots of drunk new friends. Need we say more?
• Majestic Café:
and imbibe with the Midtown scenesters, and, if you're lucky, local
Larry and his milk-crate drum kit will provide the hot night BGM.
La Dolce Vita
Small Plates and the Detroit Beer Company on Broadway
The Old Miami Backyard
Beaubien Street and The Detroiter
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger