When you were a young Michigander, nice weather meant no more teachers, no more books, summer vacation and outdoor cooks. When you got older, nice weather meant the same old work, the same old books, a lot more sweating and, man, this is depressing.
But there’s one thing grown-up you has over young, impressionable and much more flexible you – outdoor drinking. The good founders of Ann Arbor realized this glorious fact when they established the city in 1824 (I have no facts to back this up), and today your frosty outdoor cup runneth over with wonderful patio options where you can sit, sun, sip and enjoy the best this town has to offer in outdoor drinking.
If you sit inside when you go to Dominick’s, please stop reading this right now and punch yourself in the stomach. Hard. Dominick’s is the premiere Ann Arbor patio experience, on par with riding the tallest and fastest roller coaster or kissing the girl and/or boy with the biggest lips and perfect amount of spit. The food is good (let’s just get that out of the way). Try the pizzas or the appetizers, but the showcase is the sangria and the Constant Buzz (a magical concoction as effective as advertised). Sit in the front patio or cluster at one of the many picnic tables in back and sip manna from heaven from mason jars. Just don’t stand up too fast after that second jar. Trust me. It’ll sneak up on you.
An oasis of cocktails and Sunday brunch Bloody Marys in the heart of Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown, aut Bar’s semi-shaded patio gives patrons a chance to enjoy hot summer days outdoors, people watch and celebrate being a grownup. At night, the Christmas lights twinkle above you, providing dreamy ambience, while the packed in tables and chairs surrounded by the buildings gives the patio a cloistered courtyard feel that makes it all the more intimate. The drinks are pretty standard, and the food is a few steps up from a diner (not a bad thing). But it’s the brunch that you should visit for. Reservations are highly recommended, as are the aforementioned Bloody Marys.
The last Saturdays of June, July and August are a gift from the German people to the residents of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. It’s on these joyous days that the German Park Recreation Club throws open its gates to invite people to drink buckets of German beer, sample authentic German fare, watch dancers of all ages perform in the pavilion and share giant communal picnic tables, making new friends that will last a lifetime (or at least until the sun sets). German Park gets really busy and there are limited opportunities to enjoy the fun, so circle the last Saturday of every month on your calendar right now and live life like the Deutsch.
Old Town (two front booths)
Though technically not a patio, this is a tip for those of you with fair skin, sun allergies or in a deep and complicated love affair with air conditioning. The two front booths at Old Town beat 90% of the patios in Ann Arbor for comfort and the view. Did you know that Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski (The Office’s Jim Halpert) and the rest of their showbiz friends cracked wise in these booths all summer long last year? Hollywood types know the score, and now you do too. You might have to show up early to claim one of these spots, but once you do, hold on tight. The service, booze and food at Old Town are all above par, and they’ll deliver you bowls of free peanuts if you ask really nice. Kind of my favorite thing in the world.
Jolly Pumpkin Roof
If it’s sun, beer and altitude you want, Jolly Pumpkin is here to serve. The secret rooftop patio (okay, not so secret, but not as well known as you’d think) is an oasis of fine beer and great food located high-ish above Main Street and the ubiquitous patios on street level (I see you way down there Ravens Club!). Drink some of summer’s best brews in the intimate setting and feel like one of those fancy people on TV with friends who own fancy real estate and invite you over for drinks where you talk about the world and how great everything is. Ideal for one on one hangouts or small gatherings, but it does fill up fast.
Espresso Royale, Main Street
It doesn’t all have to be about the booze. There are plenty of patios that cater to the teetotaler set, and the best is located in front of Espresso Royale on Main Street. There’s extremely limited seating, but the tables and chairs are on a quieter section of Main Street are not as honky or Violin Wolfy as the Starbucks on Liberty. I recommend actually purchasing a beverage or tasty baked treat from the shop before staking out the outdoor seating to keep your karma in check. Sip away, my sober friend. Sip away.