A couple of weeks ago I went out with a friend of mine for a few drinks and, it being a pleasant evening, he wanted to go somewhere outdoors. However, he couldn't think of anywhere besides his usual haunts--Beaubien St., Motor City Brewing Works--so he turned to me for my unique expertise in the matter. And so it was I thought to myself, "Hmm."
And from that "hmm" came this little guide to dining in Detroit alfresco-style (or, in some cases, just drinking). I will pre-empt this by saying, yes, I know I missed some things (parts of Corktown, all of Southwest Detroit and Hamtramck, a handful of spots in Greektown); you're just going to have to forgive me for that. This isn't meant to be an all-inclusive list, but rather just one to get you by (and by "get you by" I mean "could probably navigate the bar scene better than most locals").
I've separated it by neighborhood this time around (we'll just go ahead and pretend I didn't already do something similar to this last summer on that other blog, as it was long before this one was officially launched and you fine readers deserve your chance to be informed), and stopped just shy of making a Google Map for you. I need to leave you SOME fun of your own!
Now that the weather has finally reached above-60 at night (what is it now? July?), it's the perfect time to enjoy outdoor wine tastings or a burger and a frosty cold beer in the sunshine. Bon appetit!
Central Business District & Campus Martius
Detroit Brewing Company: Home to some of the best beer and bar food in the city.
Enoteca Campo Marzio: Sip a glass of Sauvignon Blanc as you watch the action at Campus Martius and chat with the best staff in town.
Foran's Grand Trunk: The "patio" is tiny, much like the bar itself, but the atmosphere is always welcoming and sometimes you might even find a techno DJ spinning. Also, some of the best corned beef in town.
Pulse: Tiki torches will keep you warm on a chilly evening; so will the martinis.
Small Plates: The plates really aren't that small, but they appeal to a wide range of tastes and budgets with a great cocktail and wine list to match. A sure bet every time.
The Well: The daily drink specials are great (my favorite is the $2.00 Labatts on Thursdays), but be warned: the area vagrants are aggressive here.
Hoots on the Avenue: It's a hip-hop and R&B crowd that is always jammin'. Good only if you like hip-hop and R&B. Go for the homemade Mac & Cheese and the weekly Friday Fish Fry.
PJ's Lager House: Now serving food! Gilmore's Grill operates from the back patio on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until close. The menu includes botanas, hamburgers and veggie burgers, chicken wings and hot dogs.
Le Petit Zinc: Magnifique! A wonderful creperie and cafe tucked away in a desolate corner of Corktown with a cute 'lil patio where you can sip a superior capuccino and nibble on a crusty baguette sandwich. It's a little hard to spot from Howard St., but if you find yourself in an area where there seems to be absolutely no life, you've found it. All the life you need is inside, trust me.
Slows Bar-B-Q: One of the trendiest eateries in the city (and the country!), Slows Bar-B-Q regularly packs in a sizable crowd. To skip the lines and enjoy the outdoor breeze, head there mid-afternoon or late-evening mid-week.
Bookies Bar & Grille: Do I have to repeat myself? The rooftop deck is massive and can easily accommodate large parties (as it did during Movement and for Opening Day); also, the food is great.
Harry's: Classic bar burgers and a sports-friendly atmosphere make this a pre-/post-game favorite. And much like its rival down the street (Bookies), the patio is enormous.
Beaubien Street Saloon: A great dive, right next to another great dive with a patio, the Detroit Bar
The Detroiter Bar: See Beaubien Street Saloon
Exodus Lounge: They serve food until 1:00AM and thump out the beats--whether it be jazz or techno--until much later. Located on the roof of the Golden Fleece Restaurant.
Niki's Pizza: On the same stretch as Beaubien Street and the Detroiter Bar, but can (and does) handle large after-hours crowds (they serve food until 4:00AM on Fridays and Saturdays).
The Bronx Bar: COMING SOON! The owners promise that the addition of the outdoor patio will not detract from the much-loved well-worn indie vibe of the place, and if this is true, the patio can only make it better. Also, they offer a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar Saturdays AND Sundays noon-5:00PM. Beat that!
The Magic Stick/The Alley Deck: You can't always access the Alley Deck for free (it is attached to the Magic Stick, so when there is a concert there you won't have access to the roof unless you have a paid ticket), but when you can it is the most rockin' deck in Detroit. Be sure to order a PBR (when in Rome...).
Motor City Brewing Works: I like pizza! And the kitchen is open 'til midnight or later daily. Nom nom nom.
The Old Miami: Remember all those backyard high school graduation parties you went to where there was BBQ food and lots of beer and someone's friend's band was playing? It's kind of like that. Brilliant. And probably the biggest backyard in the city. No lie; it's an oasis.
Z's Villa: This is one of my favorite unknowns. They have no website and they get very little press, but in the summer they've got a great outdoor patio with volleyball courts and there's always a few good techno parties here during Movement. It's a hidey-hole still fairly hidden...enjoy that while it lasts!
Cuisine: Excellent food and wine in a relaxing, tucked-away atmosphere; Chef Paul is amazing and the whole staff incredible. Also be sure to check out their weekly Friday wine tastings, held every Friday evening at 5:00PM on their patio.
La Dolce Vita: Brunch on the patio here should go on your list of things to do before you die. It's like stepping out of Detroit and into Florence, Italy. Just make a right at the Deja Vu.
Andiamo on the Riverfront: One of the stronger offerings from the Andiamo chain has a lovely view of the Detroit riverfront, and also hosts weekly wine tastings every Thursday.
The Rattlesnake Club: Weekly Wednesday wine tastings on the gorgeous riverfront patio all summer long, as well as one of the best happy hours around.
River's Edge Grille: They maintain some of the traditional Irish menu from the former McNarney's and also CHEAP BEER ($2.50 for a 20-oz. domestic draft beer, all the time). And a huge patio that's always empty, save for the occasional techno or jazz event.
Tom's Oyster Bar: We've already made peace, Tom. The patio overlooking Jefferson Ave. with a view of the Ren Cen is pretty cool, too.