Al Fresco Dining

. May 1, 2015.

Here in Michigan outdoor dining is an inalienable right that we pay for while shivering and shoveling all winter. And now that it’s here, let’s talk about how we celebrate our right to dine al fresco: under expansive umbrellas and shade-giving trees, on breezy rooftop decks, while tippling something frosty, noshing something tasty, the sun and sky are a daydream reflected in our shades. And here’s where we do it: 

Sidetrack Bar and Grill

56 E Cross St

The Setup: Two fenced-in seating areas, one close enough to the tracks to feel the rumble of passing trains, the other below a cool ivy-covered brick wall.

Number of Tables: 40

Overhead: Red, yellow, blue, and green, sun-bleached umbrellas.

To Eat: Famous handcrafted burger.

To Drink: Two Hearted.

Best For: A spontaneous midweek calorie splurge. 

Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery 

720 Norris St

The Setup: Outdoor beer grotto in a sunny, grassy courtyard. And true to the brewery’s name, sapling trees dot the area.

Number of Tables: 15-20 picnic tables, 10-15 small tables.

Overhead: Open sky.

To Eat: Poutine fries.

To Drink: Big mug of Buzzsaw IPA, brewed on site.

Best For: Throwing back a few craft brews while playing cards and board games with sunglasses on.

Bona Sera 

200 W. Michigan Ave

The Setup: Below a brick building with red and green trim, a number of 4-top tables squeeze together for a main-drag, downtown sidewalk vibe.

Number of Tables: 10

Overhead: Funky colored and patterned umbrellas.

To Eat: Shrimp ‘n’ grits, bacon mac ‘n’ cheese.

To Drink: Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer.

Best For: Creative dishes and friendly service.

Jolly Pumpkin

311 S. Main St

The Setup: A rooftop deck at once hidden and smack dab in the middle of downtown.

Number of Tables: 17

Overhead: A few umbrellas dot the deck, and a pergola screens the wicker couch lounge area in the southeast corner.

To Eat: A truffle, shiitake, and chevre pizza.

To Drink: Every beer they offer.

Best For: Drinking nationally recognized, award-winning craft beer. 

Beer Grotto

303 S. Ashley St

The Setup: Street corner real estate gives Beer Grotto patrons a royal view of the comings and goings at Ashley and Liberty.   

Number of Tables: 8

Overhead: Sun and sky.

To Eat: Truffle popcorn.

To Drink: Anything by Greenbush.

Best For: Beer drinking and people watching.

Bill's Beer Garden 

218 S. Ashley St

The Setup: A large green gate opens to a parking lot beer oasis fringed by well-trimmed, shade-giving trees.

Number of Tables: Long picnic tables, a few round patio tables under the pavilion on the east side of the lot.

Overhead: The sun and sky.

To Eat: Bring in something Mexican, Indian, Asian, or Spanish from the neighboring Mark’s Carts.

To Drink: Bell’s Oberon.

Best For: A beer or two with the kids in tow.


216 E. Washington St

The Setup: Tucked away in a brick courtyard with sleek grey table arrangements and a few potted plants for a typically Spanish natural feel. 

Number of Tables: 11

Overhead: Shaded by the building walls that make up three sides of the courtyard.  

To Eat: Garrotxa, gazpacho, brussel sprouts with pistachios, honey, and créma fresca. The splurge: Paella Aventura.  

To Drink: Gin and tonics with fruity Spanish twists.

Best For: Warm nights with good company and enough time to eat a slow, multi-course meal.


812 Monroe St

 The Setup: Three outdoor options at this University mainstay: two levels of rickety, frat-like, ski-lodge-esque front porch seating, and a backyard patio equipped with a gazebo, a fountain, and plenty of picnic table seating.

Number of Tables: Lots—and standing if need be.

Overhead: Covered front porch. A pavilion shades a few tables in the back, while the majority of the backyard seating goes unveiled.

To Eat: It’s all pretty standard pub fare, with a slight Italian influence. So… Wings? Quesadilla? Pizza? Pasta?

To Drink: Sangria or the Constant Buzz (a pink booze-coolatta), both served in mason jars.

Best For: The house party feel you left behind when you stopped hanging out on South U—oh, wait.

Aut Bar

315 Braun Ct

The Setup: Braun Court, an all-brick common edged by early 20th century workman’s homes now converted into shops and restaurants.

Number of Tables: 20 plus. 

Overhead: Tree branches and colorful party runners stretching from one side of the courtyard to the other.

To Eat: Chilaquiles.

To Drink: Signature Mimosas, Bloody Mary.

Best For: Mexican brunch. 

Zingerman's Delicatessen 

422 Detroit St

The Setup: Like a law of the universe, Zingerman’s culinary empire is forever expanding. With this year’s addition of a rooftop deck, the outdoor dining areas have been upped to 4: rooftop, indoor/outdoor seating behind a set of roll-up garage doors, pavilion seating, and a few tables on the walkway between the deli and Zingerman’s Next Door–a coffee and dessert shop.  

Number of Tables: 13 rooftop, 40 combining the pavilion and the walkway, 13 indoor/outdoor. 

Overhead: Umbrellas, pavilion, sun, clouds, birds—careful, wear a hat!

To Eat: Binny’s Brooklyn Reuben—pastrami, Swiss cheese, brinery kraut, Russian dressing, pumpernickle.  

To Drink: French soda. 

Best For: Bringing out-of-towners for a quintessential Ann Arbor eating experience. 


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