Tuesday, May 22, 2012

[HOT LIST] Outdoor drinking (Midtown edition)

The Alley Deck. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

This list started out as a more straightforward list of best patios. They I narrowed it down specifically to drinking patios, because dining al fresco and long outdoor drinking sessions are two very different things. Then I realized that two of my top five best outdoor drinking options were in Midtown. So, fine. Midtown - you win this round.

#1 The Old Miami
The beer selection sucks but everything else about this place is fantastic so drink your crappy overpriced beer and bite your tongue like a grown-up.

The Old Miami.
Inside it's an old Vietnam veterans bar filled with war vet paraphernalia ("Miami" actually stands for "Missing in Action Michigan"), and once upon a time (before Detroit became the "Official Cool-Kids Destination") this place was literally just an (crazy) old veterans bar, but now it's pretty regularly crawling with - here's that word again! - hipsters. (And until someone comes up with a better word than "fauxhemian," which as L Magazine points out fails to capture "that (fading) inflection of 'hipster' that actually refers to those individuals who led the way ... the first appropriators," I will continue to use it thusly. Because "first appropriators" is a bit cumbersome and "fascists in wool caps," as recommended by EID's Co-MFIC, just sounds harsh.) Inside there's a fireplace and couches for napping (what? They're for napping!) and it pretty much looks like a frat house's Salvation-Army-sourced living room/flophouse. On any given night there may be a techno show, a rap show, a punk rock show, a burlesque show or any other variety of cultural randomness. But outside! "Urban oasis" is an overused term (hell I've sad THAT enough times for it to be an overused term) but here, it's like opening the cupboard in a C.S. Lewis novel to a whole 'nuther world. Swinging chairs, lawn furniture, a koi pond ... it is glorious. Crappy overpriced beer aside.

#2 Seva
Located in the quiet heart of Midtown's cultural center behind the George N'Namdi Gallery, Seva offers some welcome respite from clamor of the Cass Corridor. They've got a big, beautiful patio with places to lock your bike up, all done up in the same urban chic motif as the interior. It might not have a river view or be surrounded by a garden, but the space itself is pretty and that makes it tranquil enough. They've also got a fantastic selection of craft beers, wines and cocktails - people seem to get so caught up in their vegetarianness that they totally overlook this very important thing. And while we're on the topic, yes it's a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, and it's awesome. You should try it.

#3 Z's Villa
You can skip the food but don't skip the backyard. Z's Villa is sort of hidden in plain sight (located in a house, which is vaguely villa-like), but out back they have a massive patio with a beach volleyball court. A volleyball court! And a horseshoe pit and fire pit too. They offer shuttle service to/from sporting events and also have WiFi, so regardless of your particular needs (recreational, professional, or a mix of both) they've got you covered. And if you don't skip the food, look no further than their pizza, a unique take on the signature Detroit style that tends to get overlooked in almost all discussions of Detroit pizza.

#4 Jumbo's Bar 
Because you see things like this (left). If for no other reason.

This is a straight-up shot-and-beer place, a total divey neighborhood bar that isn't divey in a trendy way, but divey in a divey way. It's a locals joint where everybody seems to know everybody and the staff is sassy and fun. When you want to escape the trappings of trendy dives (and Midtown has its share), head to Jumbo's. Great Internet jukebox, cheap booze, good people (the grizzled regular types), and a small patio but hey, they have one. Where you can possibly see things like this (above).

#5 The Alley Deck
The only problem with the Alley Deck, located on the rooftop of the Majestic Complex, is that if there's a show going on at the Magic Stick you can't get up there without paid admission. The Deck itself is often used as an additional venue space for the whole complex (DJs on Sundays, that sort of thing), but it's also a great place to grab a cheap drink after work (they have great happy hour specials) and enjoy the sunshine without being pan-handled by passersby (an unfortunate reality of sitting on the Majestic's sidewalk patio). And if you are at a show at the Stick, the Deck can be a nice place for a break between sets or during that crappy opening band you had hoped you got there late enough to miss but didn't because bands always go on late there. Amiriteoramirite?

Bubbling under The Whitney, Motor City Brewing Works, Bronx Bar, Traffic Jam and Snug, Honest John's Bar and Grill, Harry's Bar and Grill