As cracks in Detroit’s seemingly impenetrable silver lining (aka, the sky) start to appear, it seems that we’re ready to rush out and enjoy the few fleeting and sweet months of Bob Seger’s favorite season. While holing up in a dark, dank dive may have its appeal in the light-deprived winter months, by the time spring hits, it’s imperative to recharge batteries with some sunlight, a patio, and numerous pints. With this in mind, these are Detroit's finest bars that let you imbibe in the fresh (or fresh-ish) air.
The Alley Deck
Watch from the comfort of iron patio furniture as history is made with the light rail being installed right out front.
Motor City Brewing Works
This rooftop patio is a perfect addition to a Midtown outdoor bar crawl.
Vegan mumbo-jumbo aside, Seva has one of the most attractive patios in the city and some damn fine cocktails to boot.
If rubbing shoulders with ghosts and big spenders is your thing, don’t skip out on cocktailing in the Whitney’s garden this summer.
There’s never not a reason to go to The Bronx, so may as well add a small patio as another reason to belly-up here.
3rd Street Saloon
Ring toss, pie, and live music. What more do you want?
The Old Miami
We give The Old Miami a lot of attention, and it’s hard to deny the unconventionally large backyard. If you want to soak up suds and sun, this may be your best bet.
You and your beer-geek friends can compare notes on the open-air patio at this newly opened Midtown joint celebrating its first summer.
Green Dot Stables
You’ve probably been shuffled out to the patio before while waiting for a table, but in the summer, you should request it.
McShane’s Irish Pub & Whiskey
A sports bar across the street from what used to be Tiger Stadium, this is THE place to go if you want to try and tan those pale Irish legs of yours.
This yard rivals Old Miami's in size and hosts a few great parties each summer, as well as the city’s most famous fish fry.
This extraordinarily hip new spot occupies excellent real estate and offers up plenty of patio space for outdoor tomfoolery.
PJ’s Lager House
It may not win any pageants, but the Lager House’s Tiki patio can be a nice little oasis for catching up with friends over a wide selection of brews.
Mercury Burger Bar
This patio is literally a hidden gem in Corktown.
Slows Bar BQ
You may have better luck finding a spot on this patio for day-drinking than in the restaurant for dinner. Don't let the suburbanites scare you -- this is a great spot for a drink or four.
Campus Martius Park
If you've never visited Campus Martius in the summer, you may be surprised to find that you can actually sit in a lawn chair with your feet in the sand and enjoy a cocktail in the middle of Downtown. Yes, an adult sandbox with booze and occasionally live music. It's almost as strange as it sounds, but definitely a great place to come and not take things so seriously.
With a prime view of Tiger Stadium, this rooftop bar has all the sports-bar charm you need. It's also probably the best place to bring your dad. Very dad-approved.
Foran's Grand Trunk
Known for an impressive Michigan beer selection and all things fried, Foran's has a great, albeit small and highly coveted, patio for Downtown people-watching -- inside and out of this character-filled pub.
This super-swanky joint is newly renovated and has some of the best views of the city at night. If you aren’t good looking enough, read on for more options.
Whiskey In the Jar
A solid fenced-in patio never lacking in excitement -- about as good as it gets in Hamtramck.
It ain’t fancy, but if you need a space to drink outside in Hamtramck, consider these plastic chairs.
Outdoor seating (and volleyball) at an unpretentious joint with excellent pizza.
This Southwest culinary delight upgraded with a large patio a couple years back -- perfect for when the tequila calls.
La Dolce Vita
A lovely garden ideal for sipping wine, eating brunch, and watching the hardworking streetwalkers along Woodward.
Because who would want to drink margaritas inside?
If you can’t have fun with outdoor karaoke and barbecue, you simply can’t have fun at all.
There is no better place to watch a hydroplane boat crash than the patio of Sindbad’s, a Detroit River landmark, which is also a great place to stop before or after Jobbie Nooner. Vodka makes an excellent disinfectant.
Sign up here for our daily Detroit email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Motor City has to offer.
1. Motor City Brewing Works Inc470 W Canfield St, Detroit
2. Seva66 E. Forest St., Detroit
3. Bronx Bar4476 2nd Ave, Detroit
4. Old Miami3930 Cass Ave, Detroit
5. Nancy Whiskey2644 Harrison St, Detroit
6. PJ's Lager House1254 Michigan Ave, Detroit
7. Mercury Burger Bar2163 Michigan Ave, Detroit
8. Slows Bar BQ2138 Michigan Ave, Detroit
9. TV Lounge2548 Grand River Ave, Detroit
10. Bookies Bar & Grille2208 Cass Ave, Detroit
11. The Old Shillelagh349 Monroe St, Detroit
12. Whiskey In The Jar2741 Yemans St, Hamtramck
13. Kelly's Bar2403 Holbrook St, Hamtramck
14. El Barzon3710 Junction St, Detroit
15. La Dolce Vita17546 Woodward Ave, Detroit
16. Los Galanes3362 Bagley St, Detroit
17. Sindbad's Restaurant and Marina100 Saint Clair St, Detroit
This is where Ghettoblaster was born and (arguably) where the golden age of Michigan microbrewing first started to take hold. True Detroiters will gather here to munch on brick oven pizzas and enjoy a pint on the rooftop terrace.
Seva provides a haven of flavor for hungry vegetarians in Midtown. The restaurant’s original Ann Arbor location has been serving up quality vegetarian and vegan fare since 1973, and its younger Detroit spot doesn’t disappoint. Menu highlights range from small plates like yam fries with spicy mayo and vegan barbecue sauce to entrees like the TLT, a wheat wrap made with tempeh, cheddar, guacamole, tomatoes and greens. There’s fresh squeezed juices for diners on a detox and floral, fruit-forward cocktails for those who prefer to sip and savor. The space itself is bright and open, making it a decent lunch option for groups.
Dimly lit, graffitied, and complete with a shot board and pool table, the Bronx bar is everyone's favorite dive. Sure, the staff is exceptionally cranky in a city where "cranky" is often a best-case scenario, but with juicy burgers, and a make-your-own-Bloody Mary bar on weekends, they've gotta make concessions somewhere.
The Old Miami wears its heritage on its sleeve, starting with the “Thank you, Veterans” printed in large white lettering on the bar’s forest green awning. Established in 1975 as a haven for Vietnam veterans, the Old Miami has served Detroit for decades as a hybrid music-venue-meets-drinking-den. The walls are lined with military memorabilia, and a jukebox plays Patsy Kline next to the pool table. If you’re not swaying to the music on the dance floor, chances are you’re cozied up in one of the oversized couches or chairs near the fireplace chatting up a fellow patron whose past is inevitably a lot more interesting than yours.
Established in 1902, Corktown’s Nancy Whiskey holds one of the oldest liquor licenses in Detroit. Besides pour whiskey, the Irish pub, inhabiting the ground floor of an old corner building, does other thing right: fry seafood. Fish ’n’ chips, battered cod and seafood tacos are all the rage at a weekly fry. Live music on the weekends and television sets reliably tuned to Lions, Tigers and Wings games keeps the ‘Cheers’ atmosphere alive.
This longstanding Corktown joint is known for raucous rock shows, Cajun fried fare, and its rowdy vibes. Case in point: back in the 2000s', PJ's played host as a hangout for the likes of rowdy DET indie rockers The White Stripes and The Von Bondies. Come for the mosh pits, and stay for the gumbo and fried pickles!
Mercury is a diner-style burger joint that serves a long list of creative, greasy burgers and milkshakes among other American cuisine staples like hot dogs, tater tots (poutine tots are by far the best), and the coveted Fried Bologna Sandwich. In our opinion cheese is king, so we favor the Juicy: a beef patty stuffed (and topped) with cheddar cheese with all the fixings. Swig some of Michigan’s finest craft brews at the wrap around bar that, along with the low ceilings and plethora of booths, reminds you of every iconic diner on TV. It’s notoriously hard to find a seat in this lively Corktown favorite, especially on the weekends, so plan accordingly just in case you get seated on the spacious patio beer garden.
From the award-winning and rightfully TV-famous Yardbird sandwich to the 100+ beer selection, this pork-packed mainstay has thoroughly earned all the attention it gets. The Cooley’s (who own the place) have done almost as fine a job boosting other businesses in Corktown as they have boosting the average local waist size.
TV Lounge is the premier dance and electronic music bar in Detroit, and hosts plenty of Movement Festival after-parties and hip-hop acts as well.
Bookies Bar & Grille is equipped to be the perfect game-day stop: a shuttle to Comerica, a 16ft projection screen to watch the game in-house, a rooftop patio, and sweet specials like a pitcher and four shots for $15.
The Old Shillelagh is an iconic Irish pub in the heart of Detroit's Greektown. It’s old, it’s dingy, but that means you're getting the authentic and time-honored pub drinking experience. Shillelagh's regularly hosts a band on its upper level; downstairs, you'll find your standard order of Guinness, Jameson, and Jager. With a St. Paddy’s Day celebration this unparalleled -- you can't ask for better!
Named after an Irish-folk-song-turned-Metallica-classic and situated in a Polish neighborhood, Whiskey in the Jar sets its cultural bar high. But thanks to a diverse crowd and an even more varied selection of beers, bar-goers shed their differences at the door and unite for evenings of singing, dancing, and, of course, drinking. Here, wood-paneled walls are bedecked with beer advertisements, Christmas lights are posted all year long, and -- perhaps most importantly -- the digital jukebox performs songs of all genres, all night long. After a few drinks, you’ll want to snap a photo with the resident “ratalope,” a taxidermied rodent whose dignity was once stolen and replaced with antlers.
Kelly's is a Hamtramck dive bar with cheap drinks and tasty food. Be sure to go on a Thursday, when tacos are 50 cents, and domestic beers are two dollars. Locals, bikers, and hipster clientele flock to this Irish spot for its gritty IDGAF attitude, generous pours, and the likelihood that when it gets late, the scene will get rowdy.
Since its debut in 2007, this Southwest Detroit spot has garnered a loyal following of regulars and significant acclaim for its unique Mexican-Italian menu. Helmed by chef Norberto Garita (who cut his culinary teeth in New York's fine dining scene), the kitchen serves upscale renditions of classic dishes like chicken Milanese and mole poblano, staying true to the staples of each cuisine. El Barzon also boasts a solid cocktail menu of vibrantly colored margaritas, top shelf liquors and rare mezcal selections. Combined with an inviting outdoor patio (decked out with lush plants and Christmas light strung from the wooden rafters ahead), it's a popular spot for relaxed yet refined dinners.
A double-threat, La Dolce Vita is equally capable of satisfying you with bottomless mimosas and shrimp benedicts in the early hours or wowing your date with lobster-stuffed ravioli and house-made gnocchi in the evening. When the weather allows, don't settle for anything less than a spot on the patio as you fatten up to jazz music.
While you could take the easy way out and go with a few tacos wrapped in doughy flour tortillas, take our advice and order the wet burrito, which comes grilled instead of baked and doused in mole. One (or many) of the 11 Mexican beers and the dozen tequilas on the menu will keep you company through the night.