El Barzon owner Norberto Garita was happy with the amount of business he was getting in his southwest Detroit restaurant in the winter, but the summer was empty.
"Nobody wants to sit inside," says Garita, who decided to build a patio because customers would call all summer asking if he had outdoor seating at his Italian-Mexican fusion restaurant that debuted in 2007. Last summer, after purchasing the parking lot behind his restaurant, Garita was finally able to build a stunning fine dining oasis.
The chef and owner says outdoor dining can be a big boost for business.
"After I did the patio, I see changes."
It's no wonder. Michiganians love the changing seasons, and when it finally warms up, it's time to dine al fresco.
From new spots to old standbys, here's a list of 10 patios, gardens and rooftop decks across Metro Detroit that are worth spending a sunny summer evening on. It's by no means a best-of list, just a select few:
800 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 962-0101
It's the unofficial lunch room of downtown Detroit, and anyone who has been to Campus Martius can see why. The spacious park offers sun, shade and sand. Bring your lunch and have a seat near the Woodward Fountain, which shoots water 100 feet in the air. An outdoor bar and grill offers tacos and other snacks, and food trucks also are popular weekdays around lunch time when you're likely to hear live music.
Nearby: Both Fountain Bistro (inside the park) and Hard Rock Cafe (45 Monroe) have outdoor seating with a view of Campus Martius.
Joe Muer Seafood
GM Renaissance Center, 400 Renaissance Center, #1404, Detroit. (313) 567-6837
There really isn't a bad seat at the rebooted Joe Muer Seafood, which made its debut in the Renaissance Center in 2011, but the patio is especially nice with its elevated view of the Detroit river and Windsor skyline. Enjoy the breeze while dining on seafood paella, New York strip steak, sushi, or something from the raw bar like clams casino, oysters or colossal shrimp cocktail.
Nearby: For more fine dining, Joe Muer's sister restaurant, Andiamo Detroit Riverfront (also in the Ren Cen ), has waterfront dining as well.
Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery
441 W. Canfield, Detroit. (313) 262-6115.
Grab a sour beer and some lunch from the locally-sustainable menu and enjoy a summer breeze on the concrete dining area in front of Jolly Pumpkin's Midtown restaurant. This space is the newest and probably the most kid-friendly choice on our list. Besides, salads, sandwiches and pizza (vegan cheese available), Jolly Pumpkin also has a children's menu.
Nearby: The Whitney mansion (4221 Woodward) has a beautifully landscaped garden dining area, and Motor City Brewing Works (420 W. Canfield) has a rooftop hangout space perfect for summer sipping.
3710 Junction, Detroit. (313) 894-2070
The 100-seat space in the back of El Barzon is so lovely it works well as the main entrance to this Italian and Mexican restaurant in southwest Detroit. Diners sit at white table-clothed four-tops, which can be moved together for larger groups. Relax with a glass of chilled vino blanco from the outdoor granite bar while listening to the cascading waterfall in the corner. House specialties include mole poblano, fajitas and camarones a la diabla (sauteed shrimp in a spicy sauce).
Atwater in the Park
1175 Lakepointe, Grosse Pointe Park. (313) 344-5104.
Another beer- and family friendly spot like Jolly Pumpkin, Atwater in the Park's front yard biergarten is perfect for groups. The pub menu has German staples like spatzle, chicken schnitzel and bratwurst. Pair some Atwater Dirty Blonde Ale with fried pickle spears, or the highly-recommended chopped salad with pretzel-crusted chicken. Smart tip: ages 12 and younger eat free off the kids menu on Sundays.
2922 Biddle, Wyandotte. (734) 285-4885.
This old-school bar and restaurant is cozy inside with stained-glass trim, wooden booths and Pewabic tiles. R.P. McMurphy's, which has been serving steak and martinis for about a quarter century, has made use of its back entrance area by turning it into a dining space and garden with room for large groups, couples or even solo diners at the small outdoor counter. It's a stellar spot for sipping one of the restaurant's ice cream drinks like the Hummer with French vanilla ice cream, Captain Morgan and Kahlua. There will be live music outside on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Nearby: Portofino (3455 Biddle) and Pier 500 (507 Biddle) have outdoor seating with waterfront views.
Social Kitchen & Bar
225 E. Maple, Birmingham. (248) 594-4200.
One of the popular restaurants run by Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Zack Sklar, Social Kitchen has outdoor dining areas on the roof and street level. Sklar, who also owns MEX and Beau's in Bloomfield, has designed a lunch, brunch and dinner menu that focuses on comfort foods with an upscale touch, like blackened shrimp Cobb salad, short rib French dip, and macaroni and cheese. Social also has a large selection of gluten-free items and a wide array of beer, wine and cocktails.
Nearby: European comfort food cafe Bird & the Bread (210 S. Old Woodward), Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro (155 S. Bates) and sandwich chain Cosi (101 N. Woodward) have street-side patios.
Red Fox English Pub
100 S. Main, Royal Oak. 9248) 543-4300.
Our favorite of entrepreneur Brian Kramer's restaurants (he also owns Rosie O'Grady's, Cantina Diablos and One-Eyed Betty's), Red Fox is a dash of Britain in Royal Oak. The rooftop deck was a draw when the space used to be Memphis Smoke, and it's even more attractive with Red Fox's menu of comfort dishes like fish & chips, Shepherd's pie and poutine offered four ways.
Nearby: Many restaurants in downtown Royal Oak offer sidewalk seating. We find the shady and enclosed area behind Lockhart's BBQ (202 E. Third) a great place to enjoy their Sunday bottomless breakfast.
449 N. Main, Milford. (248) 977-0408.
This breakfast, lunch and dinner joint boasts an ever-changing menu with fresh ingredients. Palate also has plenty of craft beer, 40 wines and craft cocktails to pair with the seasonal bill of fare. No plastic deck chairs here; the furniture on Palate's patio consists of stone tables with sturdy chairs and canvas umbrellas.
Fishbone's Rhythm Kitchen Cafe
23722 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores. (586) 498-3000
St. Clair Shore's Nautical Mile has no shortage of terraces and decks to sip tropical drinks in the summertime. Fishbone's spacious patio is attractive because you can take a table or choose to pull up a seat at the bar and catch the game on TV while enjoying one of the restaurant's strong hurricane cocktails. Fishbone's is a good spot for picky eaters, too. With steaks, seafood, Cajun dishes and a full sushi bar, there's something for everyone.
Nearby: Get a view of Lake St. Clair at Mike's on the Water (24600 Jefferson) or Brownies on the Lake (24214 Jefferson).
Coming soon: Outdoor dining areas are getting the finishing touches at Selden Standard (3921 Second, Detroit), Mudgie's Deli (1300 Porter, Detroit) and Zeke's Rock and Roll BBQ (240 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale).