Food & Drink

Lakeside Patios & Rooftop Views: The Best Outdoor Drinking Spots in Cleveland

Published On 05/25/2016 Published On 05/25/2016
Nikki Delamotte/Thrillist

It's a Cleveland tradition: every year on the first day that the temperature cracks above freezing, we put on shorts and look for the nearest patio. Luckily, you don't have to look far for something a little different. You can watch freighters pass by, dance the night away on a boat, or relax by the lakefront beach. We have plenty of places to eat and drink outdoors, but consider this your bucket list to the art of less-ordinary patio lounging.

The Rusty Anchor

The Rusty Anchor

West Bank of the Flats

The aptly named Rusty Anchor is the best place to snack on calamari as you watch freighters pass you by on the Cuyahoga River. The seafood and steak counterpart to the jumping Music Box Supper Club, Rusty Anchor serves a full menu even to those who aren't filling up on live concerts. Grab a table outside, where you'll sit bridge-side in the sun. The bands may not be playing out on the wooden deck, but you can still sip on music-inspired cocktails like the balanced Ol’ Blue Eyes, with gin, blue Curaçao, triple sec, and soda. Still feeling nautical? You're not far from the Cleveland Aquarium, where sharks dart by in their archway of a tank overhead.

Passenger's Cafe

Ohio City

Anyone who's stayed overnight at the Cleveland Hostel (or been lucky enough to be in the audience at an Accidental Comedy Club secret show there) has been let on to the little secret that the Cleveland Hostel has one of the best views of Downtown -- and a close-up of the picturesque West Side Market doesn't hurt either. Unfortunately, that used to mean you either had to fork over the cash to stay overnight or know someone who knows someone who knows someone to get you guest listed. Not so anymore. The forthcoming Passenger's Cafe aims to draw people to the Hostel, even if they're not bunking. Anyone who stops in for a coffee or a snack, like local bagels and toast, gets access to the deck. Fuel up on coffee, then take your energy to nearby shops like Room Service and Salty Not Sweet or grab a beer at Market Garden Brewery. No velvet rope required.

Azure Rooftop Lounge/Facebook

Azure Lounge at the 9

Downtown

The swanky Downtown development The 9 may be all glitzy and high voltage glam, but the rooftop is decidedly sleek and modern. Right in the heart of Downtown, Azure Lounge looks out over the city in all its glory. That means it's particularly glittering at night, but its sophisticated details also make it a go-to for a top-of-the-world happy hour. For a full staycation, book a night in one of the plush hotel rooms, suit up in your black-tie best, and drink Prohibition-era cocktails in the Speakeasy-inspired Vault, a former 1906 bank vault, before climbing to Azure. When you wake up, mosey over to the 9's restaurant, Adega, for the bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. (Or Miller Lite, if you're into that.)

Flickr/Edsel Little

Greenhouse Tavern

Downtown

There’s already plenty that deems Greenhouse Tavern unique. An annual METAL AS FV@K dinner complete with those juicy burgers served on a black bun (\m/) and its whimsical opposite, Wes Anderson Day, in celebration of both Chef Jonathon Sawyer and Anderson's birthday (and there's never a wrong time to toast to Bill Murray). Combine that with a rooftop patio overlooking the brick-lined E 4th St, and you have a bird's eye view of one of the most buzzing districts in the city. It's even hosted rooftop yoga up there. Those who'd rather zen out with a cocktail, animal frites, and roasted pig's head are just as welcome, as always.

The Lockview

Akron

Akron treasure the Lockview is loved for its gourmet grilled cheeses paired with craft beers and artful cocktails. This joint has always kept it laidback and fun, in no small part due to its 1930s-built tiki-style rooftop patio. Keeping an intimate vibe, this escape from the Downtown strip is an upbeat but relaxed respite for unwinding with friends. And eating those roasted garlic mashed potato and gravy grilled cheese sandwiches.

Courtesy of LockKeepers

LockKeepers

Valley View

This upscale Italian restaurant is known for more than some of the freshest house-made pasta in the city. Its wrap-around outdoor patio offers a lush view of the surrounding greenery overlooking the historic Ohio and Erie Canal. Expect everything to be decorated in elegance, excellent service, and a great bottle of wine.

The Harp

Detroit Shoreway

You know about the traditional Irish dishes, like shepherd's pie and a smorgasbord of boxty. You know about the live music. But a lesser known hidden gem is the spectacular view from this contemporary Irish pub. So raise a pint of Guinness and toast to the Cleveland skyline. Everyone's Irish for the day at the Harp. Lucky you.

Courtesy of Pier W

Pier W

Lakewood

By now you've heard it a million times. The cliffside perspective of the shimmering lake and Downtown precede Pier W's reputation for some of the best fresh seafood in the city, its stellar happy hour, and its indulgent brunch. And who's really surprised by that? The panoramic window views have been stunning guests for more than 50 years. In 2013, Pier W took things one step further and opened their patio for an alfresco experience. That means there's little between you, the lake, and an evening watching a spectacular sunset.

Fat Cats

Tremont

Quickly approaching its 20th year in the neighborhood, the eclectic fare of Fat Cats remains timeless despite the modern additions to historic Tremont. Speaking of which, Cleveland's skyline may promise changes in the future, but the view from this staple still remains a classic. Blink and you might miss this cozy covered patio. Colorfully artsy indoors, the funky bistro's patio counterpart is as welcoming as the home of an old friend. Ready for a night cap? Keep the night low-key by hitting the laid-back Hoopples for another great view of the city.   

Flickr/Edsel Little

Alley Cat Oyster Bar

East Bank of the Flats

The East Bank is a playground these days, and Alley Cat fits in perfectly with the fun. As restauranteur Zack Bruell's most casual concept, it's a destination made for a day of leisurely walking along the boardwalk and a bite to eat. And its industrial-chic aesthetic -- with emphasis on the chic -- is just right for its backdrop. The upstairs outdoor patio is an elevated view of not only the Cuyahoga River, but all the new activity cropping up around it. Slurp up a few oysters waterside and you might just be inspired to hit the pool party at FWD Day + Nightclub.

Luca

Ohio City

This place is pure romance, down to the rich pasta and bottles upon bottles of wine. So after sharing all the small talk, flirtations, and glasses of vino, a stroll along the Superior Viaduct is all the dessert you'll need. So fear not if you can't take a seat on the patio -- the interior is lavishly decorated with works of art. But if you do nab a seat outdoors, you'll look out against the brightly lit skyline. But closer to dark is where the stunning views are brought into focus. On the right night, you'll even be serenaded by the sounds of whatever act is passing through Nautica Pavilion spilling over to your table.

Whiskey Island Still & Eatery/Facebook

Whiskey Island Still & Eatery

Whiskey Island

Two words: beach volleyball. Sure, the fare at this marina ain't fancy, but you're not necessarily there for the food. You're there for a place where everyone can gather around the picnic tables, throw back some summery ales, and relish what we have left of those warm summer days. Though this little slice of secluded paradise may seem a bit hidden to the unacquainted, when the bands start playing, the games get going, and the boats hit the waves, it's one of the liveliest places to waste away the afternoon in the sun.

Merwin's Wharf

West Bank of the Flats

This Cleveland Metroparks-run restaurant is tucked into one of the most Cleveland corners of the city. The waterfront views are a tranquil sight, of course, but you're also right next to the Crooked River Skatepark, where the half-pipe comes alive under the bridge. To your other side is Hart Crane Memorial Park, where sculptures honor the late Northeast Ohio-born poet. And when you're ready for an after-dinner drink, just head down the street to craft brewery Brick and Barrel. Soak up the rays on Merwin's patio in the summer and cozy up by the fire pits come fall.

GOODTIME III/Facebook

Nautica Queen

Goodtime III

West Bank of the Flats

Sometimes patio day drinking just won't do. Luckily, when you fuse our waterfront with cruise ships like Nautica Queen and the Goodtime III, your problem is solved. The quadruple-deck Goodtime III hosts voyages from lunch-time jaunts to -- we're inclined to recommend -- a Friday Dance Cruise. The morning after a dance cruise, hop right back on board with the Nautica Queen's bottomless brunch. Surprise! There's. Even. More. Dancing. DJs and never-ending waffles is a combination we can get behind. And after two nights of maritime soirees, your palate will be cleansed for returning to another landlocked Sunday Funday on the patio of your neighborhood pub.

The Tinkers Creek Tavern/Facebook

Tinkers Creek Tavern

Walton Hills

Nestled away near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, this quaint escape is the perfect stop to recharge after a day of hiking. Out on the patio, you'll be right up against the rocks splashed by the rushing creek. The food is as colorful and comforting, a fitting match for the friendly service.

Courtesy of Hyde Park Restaurant Group

Jekyll's Kitchen

Chagrin Falls

The roaring falls of this old-fashioned town are an attraction in and of themselves. There are few better ways to experience them than a visit to Jekyll’s Kitchen. Dishes are as varied as a menu of sushi rolls to rustic pizzas. As for a sweet ending, ice cream cones at the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop are a time-honored tradition.

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Nikki Delamotte is a Cleveland-based freelance writer whose idea of a successful weekend is one spent on a cruise ship's dancefloor. Follow her patio adventures on Twitter at @nikkidelamotte.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Rusty Anchor 1148 Main Ave Ste 200, Cleveland, OH 44113

The aptly named Rusty Anchor is the best place to snack on calamari as you watch freighters pass you by on the Cuyahoga River. The seafood and steak counterpart to the jumping Music Box Supper Club, Rusty Anchor serves a full menu even to those who aren’t there for the live concerts. Grab a table outside, where you’ll sit bridge-side in the sun and still sip on music-inspired cocktails like the balanced Ol’ Blue Eyes, with gin, blue curacao, triple sec, and soda.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Passengers Cafe 2090 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Ohio City)

Anyone who’s stayed overnight at the Cleveland Hostel has been let on to the little secret that the Cleveland Hostel has one of the best views of downtown -- and a close-up of the picturesque West Side Market doesn’t hurt either. Inside lies Passengers Café, which aims to draw people to the Hostel, even if they’re not spending the night. Anyone who stops in for a coffee or a snack, like local bagels and toast, gets access to the deck.

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3. Azure Lounge at the 9 2017 East,9th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115 (Downtown)

The swanky downtown development The 9 may be all glitzy and high-voltage glam, but the rooftop is decidedly sleek and modern. Right in the heart of downtown, Azure Lounge looks out over the city in all its glory. That means it’s particularly glittering at night, but its sophisticated details also make it a go-to for a top-of-the-world happy hour. For a full staycation, book a night in one of the plush hotel rooms.

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4. The Greenhouse Tavern 2038 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115 (Downtown)

This downtown gastropub is a tails-to-trotters kind of place: from barbecue-roasted pig’s head to pan-fried pork chop saltimbocca, there’s a meat-forward bent to this market-driven menu. Helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer, the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly options don’t disappoint (pro tip: get the yucca fries), and a full bar means an array of craft beers and seasonal libations for imbibing. If you can’t snag a table in the sleek, modern space (note the bicycles hung throughout and the lamps made from repurposed wheels), don’t worry: the outdoor patio makes for a perfectly delightful evening.

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5. The Lockview 207 S Main St, Akron, OH 44308

Outside of LeBron, Akron's pride and joy is this comfort food and booze mecca, with 150 bottles, 12 taps, and grilled cheese sandwiches that kids would be weirded out by.

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6. LockKeepers 8001 Rockside Rd, Valley View, OH 44125 (Valley View)

Come to LockKeepers and enjoy some of the finest Italian food in Cleveland.

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7. The Harp 4408 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Ohio City)

Located in Ohio City, this pub features a menu of traditional Irish & American fare. On almost any night you can experience live music or community events, but the real draw to this joint is the lake views. The Harp’s lively crowd and attentive service makes for a fun, inviting atmosphere.

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8. Pier W 12700 Lake Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107

Pier W has been serving up seafood in an elegant setting for 50 year. Great views make this a romantic spot.

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9. Fat Cats 2061 W 10th St, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Tremont)

The eclectic fare of Fat Cats is timeless despite the modern additions to historic Tremont. The view from this staple still remains a classic, but blink and you might miss this cozy covered patio. Colorfully artsy indoors, the funky bistro’s patio counterpart is as welcoming as the home of an old friend.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Alley Cat Oyster Bar 1056 Old River Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113 (The Flats)

This lakeside, industrial chic bistro focuses on fresh seafood and seasonal fare. With 10 kinds of oysters on the half shell daily and house specials a plenty, the Alley Cat is a surefire neighborhood spot.

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11. Luca Italian Cuisine 2100 Superior Via, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Ohio City)

Luca is a romantic Italian eatery, down to the rich pasta and bottles on bottles of wine. Fear not if you can’t take a seat on the patio -- the interior is lavishly decorated with works of art. But if you do nab a seat outdoors, you’ll look out against the brightly lit skyline, but closer to dark is where the stunning views are brought into focus. On some nights, you’ll even be serenaded by the sounds of whatever act is passing through Nautica Pavilion spilling over to your table.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Whiskey Island Still & Eatery 2800 Whiskey Island, Cleveland, OH 44102

The fare at this marina isn't fancy, but you’re not necessarily there for the food. You’re there for a place where everyone can gather around the picnic tables, throw back some summery ales, and relish those warm summer days. Though this little slice of secluded paradise may seem a bit hidden to the unacquainted, when the bands start playing, the games get going, and the boats hit the waves, it’s one of the liveliest places to waste away the afternoon in the sun.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Merwin's Wharf 1785 Merwin Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113 (The Flats)

This Cleveland Metroparks-run restaurant is tucked into one of the best corners of the city to soak up the rays on Merwin’s patio in the summer and cozy up by the fire pits come fall. The waterfront views are a tranquil sight, of course, but you’re also right next to the Crooker River Skatepark, where the half pipe comes alive under the bridge. To your other side is Hart Crane Memorial Park, where sculptures honor the late Northeast Ohio-born poet.

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14. Nautica Queen 1153 Main Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Downtown)

A waterfront cruise ship favorite, the Nautica Queen, accommodates up to 330 passengers and the perfect place to dine and take a little boat ride around Cleveland. The Nautica Queen is also notorious for the bottomless brunch, complete with dancing, DJs, and never-ending waffles. This dance cruise offers the perfect maritime soiree.

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15. Goodtime III 825 E 9th St, Cleveland, OH 44114

Sometimes patio day drinking just won't do. Luckily, when you fuse our waterfront with cruise ships like the Goodtime III, your problem is solved. The quadruple-deck Goodtime III is a luxury ship that holds up to 1,000 passengers on the Great Lakes, and hosts voyages from lunchtime jaunts to -- we're inclined to recommend -- a Friday Dance Cruise.

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16. Tinkers Creek Road Tavern 14000 Tinkers Creek Rd, Walton Hills, OH 44146

Nestled away near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Tinkers Creek Road Tavern is a quaint escape and the perfect stop to recharge after a day of hiking. Out on the patio, you’ll be right up against the rocks splashed by the rushing creek. The classic American food is as colorful and comforting, a fitting match for the friendly service.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
17. Jekyll's Kitchen 17 River St, Chagrin Falls, OH 44022 (Chagrin Falls)

The roaring Chagrin Falls in this old-fashioned town are an attraction in and of themselves, and there are few better ways to experience them than a visit to Jekyll’s Kitchen. Dishes are as varied as a menu of sushi rolls to rustic pizzas and steaks. As for a sweet ending, ice cream cones at the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop are a time-honored tradition.

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