To say outdoor dining had a moment this past year is an understatement. In some cases it was mandatory and oftentimes the only way many people felt comfortable dining at a restaurant.
The al fresco trend will continue for 2021 for sure, and many businesses have been preparing with expanded outdoor spaces or updates to existing areas. As we inch toward warmer days, though, it’s time to exit the domes and tents erected for COVID-19 safe dining and breathe in some fresh air with our appetizers.
The city of Detroit has quite a few restaurants that have nice views to enjoy with a craft beverage or spring salad. These range from special occasion destinations like the riverside deck at Joe Muer Seafood in the Renaissance Center to more casual spots like Mudgie’s, where you pick up food from a to-go window and enjoy it in their tiki-inspired patio or in the closed-off street across from the Murphy Playlot.
The Whitney mansion-turned-restaurant in Midtown has a variety of outdoor seating settings that some may know from their garden party series or from private events held there. Now, with many guests preferring to eat outside because of COVID-19 precautions, the historic restaurant is making the gardens even more dynamic.
“It’s surrounded by trees, we put in some lilac trees, it’s got big hydrangeas around it,” says manager Dave Duey of the bricked area with a fountain in the back of the garden that was updated a few years back. “It’s very colorful, very green … and it’s secluded. You’ll hear the urban sounds, but you’re effectively sitting in a green space and we’re expanding on that this year.”
In addition to expanding on a deck area to make it its own “eco-space” with lighting and planters, the Whitney has also set up a few tables on the porch of the mansion.
“The whole point is to create a better environment this year, so we’re going to have light, live entertainment outside all the time,” Duey said, adding that it may be an acoustic guitar player or harp player. “It needs to be a complete outdoor experience for people.”
Parc: If location is important, then Parc has a leg up on many dining destinations. There are many restaurants within steps of Campus Martius, but this is the only one that is in the urban park itself, with views of the ice rink and Christmas tree in the winter and the lush grass and beach area in warmer months. It’s open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sun., brunch Sat.-Sun. and dinner only Mon.-Tues. Parc also has a happy hour with $7 craft cocktails, 9-ounce pours of wine for $10 and $8 small plates like chili honey chicken wings, truffle fries and wood-grilled baby back ribs. 800 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 922-7272. parcdetroit.com.
See also: Central Kitchen & Bar across the park also has ample outdoor dining, brunch service and happy hour.
Lumen Detroit: Another park-side restaurant, this one is just outside Beacon Park. The geometric-looking restaurant is made for a breezy dining experience with a view of the park from the large windows in the main dining room, or at one of the outside tables. The domes and chalets they had for the cooler months are being put away, and come Memorial Day the outdoor service will expand to the rooftop patio as well. Reservations can be made for dining in, but al fresco seating is first-come, first-served. Open at 3 p.m. Wed.-Sun. 1903 Grand River, Detroit. (313) 626-5005. lumendetroit.com.
See also: Over at nearby Capitol Park, sleek and modern Lebanese restaurant Leila will open its sidewalk patio in mid-May, and will take reservations.
Joe Muer Seafood: Few things make a view more impressive than water. Dine on oysters Rockefeller, lobster corn dogs, crab-stuffed Atlantic flounder and sip a strawberry basil lemonade cocktail while gazing at the Detroit River. The outdoor area, which seats 36, currently has a clear covering for protection from weather, but that covering will be removed for the season starting May 1. Diners can make reservations for the restaurant, but not the outdoor seating specifically. Joe Muer is open inside the Renaissance Center for lunch and dinner weekdays and dinner Sat.-Sun. 400 Renaissance Center #1404, Detroit. (313) 567-6837. joemuer.com.
Mudgie’s Deli and Bar: One of the most famous sandwich shops in town, Mudgie’s hasn’t open its dining room since early 2020, but the Corktown deli has made adjustments to safely serve customers throughout the pandemic, including a walk-up window to grab carryouts and online ordering. Guests are allowed to take their order out to the cute and casual outdoor dining area. The side street next to Mudgie’s is also closed to allow more space. The patio is first-come, first-served, and the restaurant prefers orders to be placed ahead of time online. Look for a summer drinks menu to launch soon. Open 11 a.m-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat. 1413 Brooklyn, Detroit. (313) 961-2000. mudgiesdeli.com.
See also: Elsewhere in Corktown, Italian restaurant Ottava Via has a small, appealing outdoor nook in back, as does Mercury Burger Bar. Slows Bar BBQ is only open for outdoor dining in their enclosed backyard until April 28 at the earliest.
UFO Factory: Another casual eatery nearby is the UFO Factory on Trumbull. The bar specializes in gourmet hot dogs, sliders and grilled cheese sandwiches, plus snack-y sides and lots of vegan options. Grab a dog and a Tiki drink like a Mai Tai, zombie, daiquiri or the blue mermaid – with silver rum, blue curacao, absinthe, lime, grenadine, orange bitters and grapefruit – and head up to the Cloud Deck where you can gander at the blue sky and nearby developments. No table service; just order inside. Open 4-11 p.m. Tues.-Sun. 2110 Trumbull, Detroit. ufofactory.com.
Cøllect Beer Bar: Sip craft beer from this rooftop deck overlooking Eastern Market. You can order food from Chinese restaurant Bunny Bunny downstairs. On Sundays, Big Girl pop-up serves burgers and biscuits out of Bunny Bunny. Open at 4 p.m. Mon. and Wed.-Fri. and noon Sat.-Sun. 1454 Gratiot, Detroit. collect-beerbar.com.
Selden Standard: This modern chef-driven spot with national acclaim has a cute backyard patio with a floral mural and some greenery. Reservations for eating inside are highly recommended, while outdoor seating is available for walk-ins as weather allows. Selden is currently open for dinner Wed.-Sun. 3921 Second, Detroit. (313) 438-5055. seldenstandard.com.
The Whitney: This date-night favorite is currently serving a streamlined dinner menu with four-courses and choice of entrees like beef Wellington, herb polenta or Faroe Island salmon. For al fresco dining, the mansion has tables on balconies, the front porch and in the garden, and is working on updates to its deck for more casual service. Look for tulips, hydrangeas and lilacs in the garden this spring and summer. The Whitney is currently open for dinner Thurs.-Sun. Reservations are strongly suggested. 4421 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 832-5700. thewhitney.com.
El Barzon: The plaza-style patio at this Mexican-Italian destination restaurant is a particularly gorgeous for enjoying wine or a margarita with a plate of enchiladas or a caprese salad. El Barzon is open for dinner Tues.-Sun. Its sister restaurant next door, La Noria, also has open-air dining options. 3710 Junction, Detroit. (313) 894-2070. elbarzonrestaurant.com.
La Dolce Vita: Another Italian destination known for a having an enchanting outdoor space with greenery, lighting, a large ivy-covered wall and wrought iron fencing. You can make a reservation for inside, but the patio is seated on a first-come, first-served basis. For now they’re open for dinner Tues.-Sat. and lunch and dinner Sun. La Dolce Vita also has a bit of a dress code; business casual or semi-formal dress required. 17546 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 865-0331. ldvrestaurant.net.
Coriander Kitchen: Enjoy farm-fresh cuisine (really: the owners also have a farm not too far from the restaurant) near the canal at this former marina on the city’s east side. Picnic tables are seated on a first-come, first-serve basis, but you can rent one of the fire pits ahead of time. The menu is seasonal items like Great Lakes fish dip, grilled lamb shoulder and a fantastic cheeseburger. There’s a bar, too, with cocktails, beer and wine. 14601 Riverside, Detroit. (313) 822-4434. corianderkitchenandfarm.com.
See also: Nearby EastEats is an outdoor dining experience that features an ever-changing menu, guests chefs and other pop-ups in a former empty lot turned urban oasis with in-dome seating. Also not too far from Coriander, Marrow restaurant and butcher shop is another farm-to-table experience with a well-manicured outdoor space.
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