It's springtime in Michigan. You know the drill. Just when Mother Nature hurls an 80-degree-plus, bust-out-the-shorts day, she decides to plunge you back into the chill for another week. But as we begin our long, slow warming trend, it's time to start thinking about where to dine al fresco. Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes.
Andiamo Lakefront Bistro 24026 E. Jefferson Ave., Harbor 9 Marina, St. Clair Shores; 586-773-7770: Andiamo features two different outdoor areas: the main floor deck, which serves their restaurant menu — ribs, steaks, chops, seafood, homemade pastas — and the upper-floor Bar Lago, which has a more casual menu, including pizza, fish tacos, salads and burgers. The upper deck even has a fire pit and "the best view of Lake St. Clair the Nautical Mile has to offer."
Anita's Kitchen 22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680: The food is what really shines at Anita's, but the covered patio is a real treat in the summer, while you nosh on the salads and veggie-intensive appetizers that fill a good portion of the menu. As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese is considered to be a very balanced, healthy diet. If meat is your thing, you can easily fill up with kebabs or one of a few fish dishes. The ideal sampler is Anita's "mixed mezza" — a plate of hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush and crunchy pickled vegetables with a touch of heat and a few other plates. There are even a few unique pita pizzas. For a fine finish to a meal, order a pot of Turkish coffee and a tender, not-too-sweet piece of baklava.
Antonio's in the Park 15117 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-821-2433: Known for traditional Italian cuisine, this eatery's menu includes 11 veal entrées, 13 classic pastas and a variety of seafood dishes. If you don't want to fill up on food, venture to their outdoor seating area for 25 to enjoy a glass of red wine on a breezy summer day.
Arbor Brewing Company 114 E. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-213-1393: A cheerful brewpub with house-brewed suds and good, upscale pub food, Arbor Brewing Company has a streetside patio with about 10 tables, some picnic-style and some patio-style with umbrellas. A good place to rest your feet, choose from dozens of beers, have an appetizer (or some ribs) and chat with friends while staying in the middle of the action in downtown Ann Arbor. (The people-watching is great.)
Aut Bar 15 Braun Ct., Ann Arbor; 734-994-3677: In the summer months, historic Kerrytown's Aut Bar spills out onto a quiet courtyard. Functioning as a restaurant and a bar, the second level is 21 and older only. And, since 1986, there's been a popular Sunday brunch (10 a.m-3 p.m.) and, more recently, even a weekday lunch (11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). For brunch, Mexican specialties are standouts, including breakfast burritos or huevos motulenos. The Aut Bar caters to the LGBT community and their friends, families and allies.
Beach Grill 24420 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores; 586-771-4455: "Deck space" doesn't begin to cover it. The Beach Grill has 5,000 square feet of it, with 32 tables and a full tiki bar, along with a dance floor and a spectacular view indoors or out. Enjoy burgers and pizza on the patio or filet mignon inside, or take in an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch overlooking the water. It's not Cancún, but the breeze and the sunlight will do you good just the same.
Beirut Palace 105 S. Main St. Royal Oak; 248-399-4600: Falafel-heads come year-round for Beirut Palace's fresh raw juices, fresh bread, and daily vegetarian soups and specials, but the palace packs them in during the warm months with their commodious outdoor seating area for 80, where you can have your gherkins and gawking together.
Bert's Marketplace 2727 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2030: On summer Saturdays, Eastern Market seems to be bursting at every seam. Stalls and sheds overflow with colorful produce as merchants set up shop along Russell Street. But Bert's is different. Not only do you have a great place to sit, do some Eastern Market people-watching and enjoy some serious barbecue, you get a front seat to some of the most unusual karaoke performances ever!
Boulders 1020 W. Ann Arbor Rd., Plymouth; 734-459-4190: With 20-odd tables on a covered patio and a casual atmosphere, Boulders is a good place to catch up with friends or watch the game. They serve Mexican food, ribs and deli-style sandwiches, and usually have an attractive special or two as well. And the entertainment goes most of the week, offering such entertainment as open-mic nights, karaoke-and-trivia nights, live DJs and cover bands. The people are friendly and the food is good, and the patio is a plus on warm nights — which we should be getting any time now.
Cafe Luwak 42 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-482-8050: A deck in the building rear as well as modest table seating by the storefront are comfortable spots to enjoy a sandwich, coffee or dessert in Ypsilanti's historic Depot Town, but, indoors, the walls decked out with local art are just as welcoming on a rainy day. They have more than 20 different kinds of sandwiches served hot, cold and wrapped, made with meats roasted in-house, veggies or even meat substitutes like tempeh.
Café Zola 112 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020: A coffeehouse in the European tradition: a place for gathering, eating and enjoying coffee, espresso, hand-selected teas, and sweet and savory crêpes made fresh, one at a time, and served hot and delicious. In true European style, there is outdoor seating on the sidewalk.
Como's 22812 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-5005: Whether it's pizza, pasta, or anything that can conceivably be breaded and deep-fried, this fixture on the corner of Nine Mile and Woodward has been serving it up since 1961. Rain or shine, Como's sheltered outdoor dining area offers a place for al fresco eating and open-air boozing.
Compari's on the Park 350 S. Main St., Plymouth; 734-416-0100: Outdoor dining here tends toward the teeming on a good summer night. Several tables take over a generous portion of the downtown sidewalk during lunch or dinner, shaded beneath white umbrellas. Spring and summer specials are in the works.
Copper Canyon Brewery 27522 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-223-1700: In addition to their indoor space, Copper Canyon Brewery has an outside area that seats about 70, and it's open till the wee hours if the weather's good. There are plenty of umbrellas, so you can sit in the shade while you have a beer — the seasonal ones are sometimes cheaper on the deck. Along with sunny skies, the deals can make your happy hour that much happier. And the food ain't too shabby either — steaks, ribs, pasta, fish, burgers, pizza, soups, salads and desserts all keep this microbrewery going. And if the weather decides to suck, they've got a game room inside to keep you entertained out of the rain.
Dominick's 812 Monroe St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-5414: Located south of U-M's Ann Arbor campus is a restaurant decked out with a sprawling patio and lots of sangria. Dominick's serves up pizza, pasta, apps and sammiches. A favorite is the chicken quesadilla (which you can never go wrong with) and tomato bruschetta on a toasted baguette. Michigan microbrews are also on tap. Outdoor seating available in three spots: the balcony, the front or the back yard — your choice!
Great Baraboo Brewing Co. 35905 Utica Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-792-7397: They've got 17 tables on their covered patio, so you can stay dry until it starts raining sideways. They have three 42-inch TVs, so you can watch the game while you chow down on all-you-can-eat Mexican. Plus, it has a patio! So enjoy the breeze while you bask in the glow of happy hour, every day from 3 to 6 p.m. with appetizer deals and drink specials.
Guy Hollerin's Sports Bar 3600 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-769-4323: The words "Sports Bar" and "with patio in view of sand volleyball court" go together like ... well, sports bars and volleyball. On top of the volleyball and patio and overall chill atmosphere, they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with a brunch on Sundays. Sandwiches are in the $5-$7 range, with entrées $8 and up, and it's no-frills, just good food. So take a load off, play some trivia or Virtual Golf, and just hang out and enjoy the summertime.
Honest John's Bar and No Grill 488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646: Serving up breakfast till noon on weekdays and till 3 on weekends, Honest John's is sure to keep you going, with Bloody Marys and Ghetto Blaster Ale and a full bar at any time of day. As many as 30 to 40 people can sit outside, complete with Waspinators to keep your eating adventure clean and fun.
Jox 543 N. Main St., Rochester; 248-650-8170: If the fancy won't suit your needs, situated right below the Europa Bistro is newly renovated Jox Sports Bar. They have 10 TVs to catch the game on and burgers and appetizers and pizzas (oh, my!) for your eating pleasure. If the inside bores you in the summer, Jox has the capacity to fit more than 120 people outside, with a wide selection of domestic beers on tap.
La Dolce Vita 17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331: It's not the grandest outdoor dining area in metro Detroit, but perhaps it's the contrast between the walled-in, vine-covered oasis and the gritty urban streetwall it hides behind. Either way, it's like a bit of Tuscany just off McNichols. Plus, La Dolce Vita's classic Italian cuisine is already terrific, only enhanced by the open air. Call ahead to find out about their live DJ parties or inventive brunches.
Le Petit Zinc Crêperie & Café 1055 Trumbull St., Corktown; 313-963-2805: An oasis of calm just a block from the main P.O., Le Petit Zinc is already serving outside, among raised beds of herbs, hanging plants, and a few fanciful items that include a tin rooster and a child-sized picnic table. You can almost imagine the sun is Mediterranean as you slurp latte from a great big bowl and eat salade Niçoise or ratatouille. When it's reliably warm, hours will be 10 to 10. All that's lacking now is the beer and wine license owner Charles Sorel is seeking.
Mitchell's Fish Market 370 N. Adams Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-340-5900: Mitchell's large outdoor dining area complements a large selection of fish (12 varieties at any given time), with menus reprinted over the course of the day to reflect changes in availability and with seafood items detailed as to origin. Summer is the season for soft-shell crab as well as an Alaskan halibut, though there's a short window in early summer when high-quality Copper River salmon from British Columbia will be on offer.
Moose Preserve 43034 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-858-7688: Northern exposure aura with outdoorsy grub to match. Spicy venison, buffalo steaks and campfire whitefish wrapped in foil make it like camping (without the bugs or tent or drive to some remote area without cell phone reception). They have a half-covered patio in back with plenty of tables for those nice days, when you want to actually soak up some nature.
Motor City Brewing Works 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700: Right across the street from Traffic Jam, this brewpub has a quirky tiled interior, with its concrete bar molded in PVC, its Wednesday-night art shows, and its sturdy menu of pizzas and small plates. For less than $10, you can get a pizza made with ingredients from as local as possible, or a cheese, baguette and salametti plate with your choice of mustard. The beers are excellent. And those Wednesday night art shows are a tightwad's dream. Better still, head up to their rooftop patio for a bit of sun with your suds.
Picasso Café 39915 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-427-0600: Picasso Café is not your ordinary sandwich café. Their special-recipe tuna, chicken and turkey salads are made from scratch every day. Deli sandwiches are made from the highest quality meats and are served on breads baked fresh daily. They have quite an assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches and espresso beverages — as well as a patio with a few tables you can park it on outside. It seats about 15 to 20 out there. But the highlight of Picasso is by far the ever-changing local art that changes on the first of every month.
Pronto! 608 S. Washington St., Royal Oak; 248-544-7900: If you're going to Royal Oak to eat, but you want to avoid the pricey, overcrowded Main Street restaurants, go to Pronto!, where brightly colored walls add to the lively feel of this often bustling restaurant. The sandwich menu is creative and fun. Settle into a sidewalk table and enjoy.
Seva 314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-1111: A few steps above the street, the raised patio offers diners a bit of respite from downtown Ann Arbor's bustle. The eclectic dishes change weekly and range the globe, converting traditional meat-based fare into vegetarian or vegan. They also offer a full bar and juice bar, smoothies and cocktails, with a long wine list.
Shores Inn 23410 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores, 586-773-8940: Shores Inn specializes in regional and creative American cuisine. Featuring a huge dark wood bar. Enjoy one of more than 150 beers from around the world (ask about their "Hall of Foam"). About 60 diners can fit in their outdoor dining area.
Slows Bar-BQ 2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit, 313-962-9828: Featuring a slew of sauces and sandwiches, brews and appetizers, Slows Bar-B-Q has some dynamite baby-back pork ribs. Customers can sit outside and enjoy service surrounded by beautiful decor and live music once summer kicks into gear.
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