Here in Michigan, residents spend a significant amount of time zipping up jackets, remembering umbrellas, brushing snow off vehicles and worrying about flooded basements.
So when the first warm, sunny days of late spring and early summer hit, the desire for a table in the sun — or strategically placed shade — increases exponentially and encourages Metro Detroit restaurateurs to expand their patios, decks, verandas and outdoor dining rooms.
“It’d be nice if the whole restaurant was outside,” said Zach Smith, general manager of Brownie’s on the Lake, a popular St. Clair Shores bar and restaurant that Smith said is the busiest restaurant he’s worked at in his 15-year career.
Brownies recently turned an indoor dining space into a three-seasons room with heaters to add to the breezy seating on the lakefront deck, Smith said. Now the majority of the restaurant is outdoors.
“It’s all white now, with color; it’s got a lot more pop,” he said, adding that their deck has live music nearly every evening. “It contributes to the ‘down in Florida’ feel. That additional area, while it’s outside, it remains covered (and has) heaters so even on nights it gets cold ... you can crank those heaters up and you can still sit by the water and be comfortable.”
Even restaurants that don’t have a view like Lake St. Clair are expanding their outdoor spaces.
Of Joe Vicari’s 11 Andiamo restaurants across Metro Detroit, nearly all have outdoor seating and some have waterfront spaces. Vicari and his staff even added to their al fresco area at the Clarkston location recently, which is said to have the largest patio in the city.
“People do like to sit outside in the summer,” said Vicari, adding they’re turning up the party on Wednesdays in Clarkston with outdoor grilling, tropical drink specials, live Jamaican music and party games like limbo.
Vicari also owns Joe Muer Seafood in the GM Renassiance Center, which has outdoor dining on the Detroit river. When he was working with the city of Bloomfield Hills to open his second Joe Muer restaurant, he said city officials said they hoped a patio would be added.
“It’s going to be enclosed with trees and bushes, with a glass railing,” Vicari said of the new Bloomfield Hills restaurant, which is slated to open Monday. “It’s going to have a Nana door, which opens up into the restaurant, so on a nice day when it’s not 100 degrees out we’ll open that and give the effect of being outside into the restaurant.”
Spring and summer are always going to bring warmer weather, but the increase in demand for outdoor dining may also have to do with pressure to have the perfect dining experience with the best visuals.
“I think the social media stuff is pushing a lot of the demand for outdoor seating,” said Smith of Brownie’s. “As much as people want to post and have the prime picture when the sun’s going down or boats going by or a nice drink sitting on the ledge by the water, I think that’s increasing.
“It’s part of the dining experience no matter where you are, whether you’re looking at your plate or your view.”
Outdoor dining around town
The Whitney, 4421 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 832-5700.
La Dolce Vida, 17546 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 865-0331.
El Barzon, 3710 Junction, Detroit. (313) 894-2070.
The Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place, Detroit. (313) 567-4400.
Assaggi Bistro, 330 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 584-3499.
Cafe Cortina, 30715 W. 10 Mile, Farmington Hills. (248) 474-3033.
Bookie’s Bar & Grille, 2208 Cass, Detroit. (313) 962-0319.
Briggs Detroit, 519 E. Jefferson, Detroit. (313) 656-4820.
1917 American Bistro, 19416 Livernois, Detroit. (313) 863-1917.
HopCat Royal Oak, 208 W. Fifth, Royal Oak. (248) 556-2202.
Red Fox English Pub, 100 S. Main, Royal Oak. (248) 543-4300.
Sedona Taphouse, 98 E. Big Beaver, Troy. (248) 422-6167. (Rooftop patio opening in late June.)
Portofino, 3455 Biddle, Wyandotte. (734) 281-6700.
The Waterfront Wyandotte, 507 Biddle, Wyandotte. (734) 286-9046.
Joe Muer Seafood, 400 Renaissance Center, Detroit. (313) 567-6837.
Andiamo Detroit Riverfront, 400 Renaissance Center, Detroit. (313) 567-6700.
Brownies on the Lake, 24214 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores. (586) 455-8080.
Mike’s on the Water, 24600 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores. (586) 872-2630. (Rooftop deck coming soon.)
River Rat Restaurant, 29370 S. River Road, Harrison Township. (586) 465-6565.
Some hip hangouts
Mudgie’s Deli, 1300 Porter, Detroit. (313) 961-2000.
Central Kitchen + Bar, 660 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 963-9000.
Camino Real Mexican Grill, 1100 Central, Detroit. (313) 297-8804.
Z’s Villa, 42 Piquette, Detroit. (313) 874-2680.
Selden Standard, 3921 Second, Detroit. (313) 438-5055.
Nothern Lights Lounge, 660 W. Baltimmore, Detroit. (313) 873-1739.
The Morrie, 511 S. Main, Royal Oak. (248) 216-1112.
The Fountain Detroit, 800 Woodward. (313) 209-5301.
joebar, 23839 John R, Hazel Park. (248) 291-5711.
The Sardine Room, 340 S. Main, Plymouth. (734) 416-0261.