It’s been two months since Michigan’s bars and restaurants started reopening for on-premises service following months of partial closures due to novel coronavirus. While the ongoing pandemic still deservedly consumes much of the world’s attention, in Detroit many establishments are trying to make the most of Michigan’s meager outdoor dining season and the new coronavirus-driven laws and fast-tracked permits that have allowed patio seating to expand.
Restaurants with tiny indoor dining spaces are particularly vulnerable to the limits of 50 percent capacity and six feet of social distance. Some establishments have elected not to open at all given that the cost of reopening would outweigh any potential earnings from a more limited number of customers. Other small operators with the means to adapt to patio service have done so in record time, transforming parking lots into outdoor oases and spilling tables out onto closed streets. Unpredictable weather is also a part of summer in Detroit and some businesses have constructed tents and covered pergolas to give customers a drier (or shadier) seating option during a rainstorm.
Eater asked photographers Michelle Gerard and Jenna Belevender to take photos throughout July capturing the view from 2020’s highly unusual summer dining scene in Detroit.
Ima in Corktown is smaller than the group’s other locations in Madison Heights and Cass Corridor, meaning owner Mike Ransom had to think creatively about how to reopen the space. This summer, Ransom made the dining room a carryout-only space and expanded all dine-in seating outdoors to a covered patio and a new, extended uncovered seating area with and a minibus that will be used for outdoor service.
Detroit Shipping Company has cautiously moved from carryout service to dine-in service in an outdoor-only setting. The shipping container food hall in Cass Corridor has socially distanced tables set up in its courtyard and has also spilled out onto a neighboring parking lot where a beach and additional tables and tents are set up for customers.
One of Detroit’s newest and most anticipated restaurants may have debuted amid the pandemic, but the team at Coriander Kitchen and Farm is still making the best of summer by the water in Jefferson Chalmers with picnic tables, striped umbrellas, and lots of social distancing. Coriander takes orders online and prepares the food outdoors for pickup, to help limit contact with service staff. The restaurant is also offering carryout.
Southwest’s popular food trailer Detroit 75 Kitchen expanded its outdoor seating area to both sides of the trailer in an effort to keep distance between customers ordering food and those who are seated at the cart’s patio.
With it’s extremely narrow dining room and limited seating, seafood spot Mink decided to transition to patio-only seating with counter service for the summer. The restaurant takes orders at the counter on disposable menus and serves food on disposable tableware that customers bus themselves at the end of their meal.
At Mink’s sister restaurant and butcher shop Marrow in West Village, customers can reserve a table indoors or outside on the patio for a prix fixe meal. The set menu allows Marrow to limit the amount of contact between waitstaff and tables, reducing the opportunity for transmission of novel coronavirus.
A number of metro Detroit restaurants have resumed dine-in service. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the state of Michigan’s coronavirus tracker. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Detroit Approves Street Closures and New Sidewalk Seating for Restaurants Amid Pandemic [ED]
• A Guide to Detroit Restaurants Offering Carryout or Patio-Only Seating During the Partial Reopening [ED]
• How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Detroit Food and Beverage Industry [ED]