Drinking in the Sunshine
Oh, you know you want it. The cocktail in the sun, the clouds above, the friends around, the chance to prove to the world, once and for all, that you are not a mole, a vole, a grub, or any kind of underground dweller whatsoever--no!
As a Midwesterner, you have inalienable summertime rights, like the right to big skies, big clouds, big leaves, and a big drink to reward you for getting through that big, big winter.
So here it is, your clip-and-save guide to the best patios for a drink this summer.
900 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.338.0062
Spanish tapas, white Rioja, the stars above, and the cuties bobbing to house music all around. How fun is it that one of America's best tapas bars has budget wines by the bottle, cheap beer on tap, and a rooftop deck that makes Minneapolis seem less Midwest and more Madrid?
1400 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.824.8898
The prettiest view of downtown is seeable from the hottest drinking spot in Uptown. Doesn't downtown look like the Emerald City, stacked like towers of blocks in among all those green, fluffy trees? At lunch the Kobe beef burgers can't be beat.
1400 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis; 612.259.1400
(Try the other Bilimbi Bay locations for the same great drinks, albeit without the skyline view: 14889 Florence Trail, Apple Valley; 612.259.1400; 13000 Technology Dr., Eden Prairie; 612.259.1400)
Bring binoculars to the second-hottest drinking deck in Uptown. Get one of those insane tiki drinks wherein a piece of dry ice is anchored to the bottom so that it periodically burbles like something from a zombie movie. Drink it. If you don't like the cuties in designer T-shirts around you, use your binoculars to look up at the ones on deck at Tonic. Go to Tonic. Peer through binoculars at Bilimbi Bay. Beer goggles ain't got nothing on rum binoculars.
1 E. 26th St., Minneapolis; 612.872.0812
Which isn't to say anything bad about beer goggles, especially if they're snazzy, German-on-tap ones, used to survey the art students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and other neighborhood bohemians drawn to the Black Forest for their supremely pretty patio, the one with the retractable rain screens, burbling fountain, elaborate vines, and greenery, and vibe of middle-European art luxury. Of course, the fries are some of the best in the city, and that Reuben can't be topped.
1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.3908
The premier downtown hideout, it's hard to say what is the biggest draw of Brit's secret back lawn: the surprise of the swath of green in the middle of the city? The chill pints of lager? The marriageable pool of giddy young professionals in $100 sunglasses slamming them back? Or is it the fish and chips, crisp and fresh as this morning's freshly printed résumé? Be sure to send drinks to the table with that intriguing someone, because you never know who could be your next HR director.
931 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.904.1000
Have you seen that episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte and Carrie sit at a sidewalk café and score the, um, uh, let's say, desirability of the passers-by? Well, the best real estate in Minnesota for such a game are those prized tables in front of the Local: Grab a pint, grab a pen, and go. It helps that the pints contain the best-poured Guinness in Minnesota, nitrogen-pumped and fresh as a naughty limerick.
428 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.375.1971
One of Minneapolis's elite chefs, Tanya Siebenaler, has made a name for herself delighting budget-minded diners with her under-$5 "One-Bite, Two-Bite" menu, full of treats like a wasabi potato cake with peanuts ($2.50), fennel flatbread with coriander tomato sauce ($1.50), or plum-ancho barbecued ribs ($3). Add a couple of glasses of well-chosen $5 Spanish wine to the table, factor in the free parking right across the street, and you'll see why Sapor is on the short list of half of Minneapolis's designers and architects. While you're sitting there, surrounded by handsome, artsy welded planters, looking out on Warehouse District views, Minneapolis is so very SoHo, but when you get the check, voilà! Thank heavens, you're back in the Midwest again.
1624 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis; 612.486.5900
A long wine list, a Cosmo-and-kitten-heels crowd of legendary cuteness, fries as attention-riveting as a bucket of cash--Bar Lurçat has a lot to recommend it. But have you ever thought about the fact that Lurçat has the best outdoor patio in town for those many, many days when there's a chance of showers? Indeed, sitting inside Lurçat during a summertime rain shower is a true Minnesota pleasure, the smell of the ozone off the park, the sight of hipsters splashing in puddles, the knowledge that when it clears up you'll have a good chance at one of those prized tables within the confines of the fence. Admittedly, the chance of showers is an odd thing to think about when considering an outdoor drink, but if you've lived here long enough you, too, know it's an important consideration.
1610 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis; 612.904.1163
Joe's Garage expanded dramatically last year, and now the inside part is all about drinking cheap. They have two happy hours every day, from 4:00 to 6:00 and 10:00 to midnight, featuring two-for-one Summit beer, rail drinks, and selected wines, along with half-price appetizers. Meanwhile, the famous rooftop deck, with its awe-inspiring view of the Basilica dome and Loring Park, remains about living the good life, unpretentiously. Look this summer for lots of daily special burgers, like a bulgogi beef burger with kimchi, or mini coconut-shrimp burgers with cilantro mayonnaise. As of press time, owner Joe Kaplan was thinking of adding wine-tasting gatherings this summer, complete with passed hors d'oeuvres--seem like a good idea to you? If so, tell him that the next time you're in.
125 Main St. SE (in St. Anthony Main), Minneapolis;
Tap beer, leafy trees, sweet breezes, and Mississippi River views, the Aster is an ace in the hole when you want to take a date on a romantic stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge, but don't have the deep pockets of a James J. Hill.
222 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.623.3301
Northeast's most romantic outdoor patio is tucked between two pretty brick buildings in the heart of the pub-crawling district of Near Northeast. This is important because if you have a special date, the kind you hope will go well and last for hours, there is no better place to reserve a table then Bobino, because after dinner it's just a step or two to Nye's Polonaise, the Starlite Lounge, the Times, Keegan's, Boom, the Front, and so many, many more.
W.A. FROST & CO.
374 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.224.5715
St. Paul may have fewer outdoor patios than its sister to the west, but that's kind of like saying that a person with one St. Bernard has fewer dogs than a person with three Chihuahuas: Technically, sure, but try telling the St. Bernard that. Frost's patio is bigger than other patios; it's an arboretum with Pimm's Cups. It's a chef-driven gourmand destination with lush mussels in a chorizo broth (thanks, Russell Klein!) which you can set next to a $20-something bottle of Spanish Jumilla. It's a brunch buffet for Grandma's birthday. It's a romantic midnight beneath the rustling trees. It's a chance to combine panna cotta with firefly sightings. The beverage program is one for the ages too: Name another place where one of you can get a blender drink like the Razzbaretto (don't ask), another can get a glass of amontillado sherry, and the rest can pick from one of the best wine lists in town, with bottles for connoisseurs both rich and pauvre. Indeed, as the Grand Canyon is to other holes in the ground, so is Frost's to other patios.
452 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.221.1061
The calamari at La Grolla are quickly becoming a Twin Cities legend because they're as crisp as coins and as light as sunshine. But if you think of La Grolla as all steamy winter warmth, please know that they've also got a sunny summer patio, so you can have your calamari and eat them too, toasting the August night with a bottle of pinot grigio, just like they were doing a few hours earlier in the evening in summertime Italia.
VINTAGE WINE BAR & RESTAURANT
579 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.222.7000
Why is it that all the best St. Paul patios are on a half-mile stretch of Selby? Genteel and graceful, the Vintage's patio is one of the sweetest, its wrought-iron gates twisted through with flowers, pebbles crunching sweetly underfoot, birds darting about, and a sweet neighborhood vibe weaving it all together. A great place for a gin and tonic.
CESARE'S WINE BAR
102 S. Second St., Stillwater; 651.439.1352
E-Bay is all well and good, but if you don't want to deal with any more Red Wing vases that got chipped "in shipping," you'd best drive yourself out to Stillwater for the day. While you're there, put some zinc on your nose and treat your date to a patio position and a crack at one of the best wine lists in the state. What's the point of all that nesting you do all winter, if not to nurture the people in there with you? Spring for a bottle of something nice--a $15 Loire rosé? A $100 Super Tuscan?--look deep into the eyes of the person who so kindly didn't throw your precious possessions into a snowdrift all winter, and tell them how happy you are to have made it to summer.
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