The weather is warming up (more or less), and Detroiters are outside biking, swimming, running, and enjoying great outdoors any way they can.
But to take full advantage of sunny days, you need the perfect space for drinking and eating al fresco. There are few things more enjoyable than drinking a cold beer on a picturesque patio or eating from a barbecue skewer on a lawn chair.
To help you make the most of the weather, here are our suggestions, presented in no order, of the best places to eat and drink outside:
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 carefully curated spread, nothing matches the natural splendor, weather, recreational activities, or views of Belle Isle.
There are lots of great ways to approach the island as well. You could ride bikes along the riverfront, pick up a pie to go from Belle Isle Pizza, or grab snacks from Eastern Market and take the Dequindre Cut.
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
While the creators of this one-of-a-kind food truck, Guerrilla Food, is expanding with a brick and mortar in Palmer Park, the Pink Flamingo is a can't-miss summer dining experience.
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 special is the setting. The food truck sits in a community garden on Vermont Street 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. Also, keep an eye out for weekend brunches this summer.
The Old Miami
There are lots of great bars in Detroit to enjoy a drink outdoors: Motor City Brewing Works, Northern Lights Lounge, Batch Brewing Company, to name just a few.
However, when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors with a beverage in hand, nothing comes close to the ambiance of 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 are jams playing over the speakers. But on a perfect summer evening, there's no better place to drink.
There's a lot for the senses to feast on when visiting Eastern Market on a Saturday, but one of the most familiar smells and sounds come from Bert's Marketplace.
Karaoke Saturdays have been a staple of Eastern Market for 15 years. People of all ages come to sing all day long, their voices broadcast on Russell Street along with the smell of ribs cooking on the grill, as Model D chronicled last year
. "It's like you're sitting at your kitchen table and you never know what is going to pop off at the table," says owner Bert Dearing. "We have some people here every Saturday—this is their outing."
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. The possibilities are endless.
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 enjoying cocktails 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.
Mosaic in Clark Park
We already gave you our favorite picnic option, but we also recommend going to Clark Park in Southwest Detroit for an outdoor spread. Of course, the park is great to enjoy at any time of day and with your typical picnic fare, like tacos from any nearby truck, 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.